Don't vote Conservative on June 8 2017. Here's why...

Contents

The NHS

Summary of this section

Introduction

“The NHS offers some of the highest-quality, most efficient and most accessible healthcare in the world and tops polls of what makes people proud to be British. That’s a lot to be proud of. Yet in 2016 the NHS is underfunded, underdoctored and overstretched.”

The people who work in the NHS — the doctors, the nurses, the support staff — are all in agreement: the NHS is in a state of crisis. It is underfunded and understaffed, waiting times have risen and the quality of care has fallen.

This crisis has happened under the Conservatives.

A vote for the Conservative Party in June will be a vote to continue this state of affairs.

NHS funding

Before the Conservatives launched their 2017 election manifesto, the funding increase set for the NHS was as follows:

NHS funding increase: 2016/17

1.3%1.3%

NHS funding increase: 2018

0%0%

NHS funding increase: 2019/20

0.3%0.3%

Source: The Kings Fund (PDF, Nov 2016).

However, in their 2017 election manifesto, the Conservatives have pledged to increase funding for the NHS by at least £8bn by 2022/23. Note: this does not mean an extra £8bn per year until 2022/23, it means £8bn spread over 5 years. This will still cause a large funding gap for the NHS.

“Under the Conservatives’ plans, health care spending would increase by an annual average of 1.2% a year between now and 2020/21. This is the same rate of NHS funding growth as under the coalition government (2009/10 to 2014/15).”

...

“The Conservatives’ funding pledge is below the independent Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) projection of funding pressures on the service.”

Conservative manifesto pledge will deliver extra money for NHS but leave £12bn funding gap by 2020/21 (Health Foundation, 18 May 2017)

How do we compare to other European countries on health spending?

The UK spends a lower proportion on health than other EU countries like France and Germany.

Health spending as a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2015:
Germany 11.1%, France, Sweden 11%, Netherlands 10.8%, UK(estimated) 9.8%

Source: OECD Health Statistics

What does this GDP figure mean in practical terms?

“The result, as you would expect, is fewer beds, doctors and nurses per patient in the UK than the big spenders. But a number of these countries achieve that by taxing more. Would the UK public stomach that?”
Number of doctors per 1000 people (2014 figures)

Source: OECD Health Statistics

Waiting lists have risen steeply under the Conservatives

There are 3.7m people on NHS waiting lists: a 44% increase since 2012 (Source: BBC News).

“Patients waiting for a hospital operation are meant to be seen within 18 weeks. But there are currently more than 360,000 patients on the waiting list who have waited longer than that, which is one in 10 of the total - a proportion that has almost doubled in four years.”

More recent analysis by the Health Foundation, an independent health charity, also revealed a marked increase in hospital waiting times.

“The Health Foundation review of official NHS data between 2011-12 and 2016-17 found longer waits for cancer, A&E and routine operations.

Last year the NHS missed all three targets for the first time in its history - and researchers warned it could get worse before it improves.”

Crisis in elderly care

The elderly are bearing the brunt of Conservative cuts to social care, with women affected the most. Figures for 2015 show England and Wales have suffered the biggest annual rise in deaths for almost fifty years. (The Telegraph, 16 Feb 2016)

“Deaths in 2015 were substantially greater than in 2014, representing the greatest percentage increase for almost 50 years. This increase seems to be continuing in 2016, with the number of weekly deaths since mid-October 2016 exceeding that in any of the preceding three years”

...

“The older population particularly relies on a functioning health and social care system, and it has been suggested that the increase in mortality 2015 could be related to austerity and the resulting health and social care cuts. There is already evidence linking austerity and increasing suicide rates and dependence on food banks.”

Hospitals are overstretched and understaffed

In January 2017, an unprecedented 20 hospitals issued an Operational Pressures Escalation Level 4 (OPEL 4) alert: a situation where the hospital can no longer guarantee patient safety and provide their full range of services (this was widely reported in the press as a ‘black alert’). In addition, 65 hospital trusts issued Level 3 (OPEL 3) ‘emergency alerts’. (The Telegraph, 13 Jan 2017)

Hospitals are struggling to fill nursing vacancies

“Data from a BBC Freedom of Information request shows that on 1 December 2015, the NHS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had more than 23,443 nursing vacancies - equivalent to 9% of the workforce.”

Official figures show that 96 percent of hospitals have nurse shortages.

“In total, 214 of 224 acute hospitals failed to fully fill their day shifts last October- a rate of 96 per cent - while 190 (85 per cent) were understaffed at night. Both figures are the worst since tracking began in 2014.

Nurses said they were being reduced to tears regularly, with one describing an “overwhelming feeling of sadness” at failing to deliver the care patients deserved.”

The Conservatives will abolish bursaries (i.e. full payment of student fees) for student nurses on 1 Aug 2017. The announcement was made by the Conservatives in Summer 2016. This has a led to a slump in applications to study nursing.

“The number of nursing applicants in England has fallen by 23% since 2016, according to the latest figures from UCAS, the universities admissions service.

There were 43,800 applicants in England in January 2016 and 33,810 in January 2017.

This means 9,990 fewer people have chosen to study nursing compared to last year.

The Royal College of Nursing has consistently warned the Government that the decision to charge fees to nursing students in England, and replace NHS bursaries with student loans from September 2017, would result in decreased applications.”

The impact of Brexit on the NHS

Although we haven't left the EU yet, the impact of the EU referendum vote is already having an effect on the NHS. Since the Brexit vote, the number of EU nurses coming to the UK has fallen by 90 per cent.

The Conservatives have delayed the publication of NHS performance data until after the election

Regulator NHS Improvement has been asked to delay publication of figures revealing the state of hospital deficits in England. Figures from 2015-2016 showed that virtually all hospitals in England were in deficit. In the 2015-16 financial year, hospitals and other trusts ran up deficits totalling £2.4bn.

There are government rules preventing the announcement of administrative or legislative changes during an election period: so-called ‘purdah’ rules. The rules around ‘purdah’ are not set out in law, but are issued in the form of guidance for people working in Government.

However, it's clear that the publication of key financial data by NHS Improvement does not fall under these ‘purdah’ rules. The financial data is a routine release of statistics, the date of which was set well before the election announcement.

“The publication of key financial performance data from the NHS in England will be delayed until after the election, the BBC understands.

Regulator NHS Improvement had wanted to publish data on the scale of hospital deficits but was advised against it by the government.”

...

“Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "It would be wrong to try and hide this vital information until after the election.

The public deserves to know the scale of the financial crisis facing the NHS before they vote.”

Claims made by the Leave side during the EU referendum campaign

We all remember this bus during the EU referendum campaign:

Brexit bus from the leave campaign suggesting £350million could go to the NHS if we leave the EU

“I mean, the concept that the people running the Brexit campaign would care for the National Health Service is a rather odd one. I seem to remember Michael Gove wanting to privatise it. Boris [Johnson] wanted to charge people for using it. And Iain Duncan Smith wanted a social insurance system. The NHS is about as safe with them as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python.”

What can you do to support the NHS on June 8 2017?

Don't vote Conservative.

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Education

Summary of this section

Education cuts are on their way

In 2015, David Cameron committed to freezing school spending per pupil in cash terms. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), rising inflation and living costs, coupled with rising pupil numbers will mean an 8% real-term cut in school spending per pupil.

“This amounts to the biggest fall in spending on each pupil in 30 years.

The National Audit Office estimates that schools will have to make £3bn worth of cuts as a result of these factors.”

This unprecedented £3billion worth of cuts prompted 500 head teachers to sign their names to an open letter to Theresa May. In the letter, they say

“On the steps of Downing Street you promised a country that works for everyone. That begins with our children.

Yet schools are facing real-terms cuts of £3billion. This will have a massive impact on young people and standards of education.”

...

“The future of our country depends upon the next generation. Their skills, their knowledge, their confidence and their creativity.

Let’s stop seeing education as a cost and instead see it as an investment in the future. A good place to begin would be to reverse the £3billion in cuts.”

The full letter was published in the Daily Mirror (28 Apr 2017).

Conservatives promise new schools funding in their manifesto

The 2017 Conservative Manifesto pledges an extra £4bn of funding for schools. However, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, this will still mean a 7% real-term cut in per pupil funding.

“Once expected inflation and student numbers growth are accounted for, Conservative plans would imply a real-terms fall in school spending per pupil of 2.8% between 2017–18 and 2021–22, which makes for a total cut of 7% between 2015–16 and 2021–22.”

The Conservatives will scrap free school meals

Free school meals for all infant pupils will be scrapped and replaced by cheaper-to-fund free breakfasts instead (BBC News, 18 May 2017).

The Conservatives have said their plan for free breakfasts will cost £60m.

“But critics have calculated that if the country’s 4.62 million primary state school pupils were fed a free breakfast on this budget for 190 school days each year, each meal would have to cost no more than 6.8p.

Even if just half of those pupils took up the offer of free breakfast, these meals would cost just 13.6p each.”

Record numbers of teachers are leaving the profession

Figures from the Department for Education show that nearly 1 in 10 teachers left the profession in 2015 - the highest proportion for a decade.

In addition, teachers are leaving the profession faster than ever before: 25 per cent of teachers who started in 2012 had left the profession within three years, which is the highest since records began in 1996. (School Week, 30 Jun 2016)

Higher Education: England has the highest tuition fees in the world

According to the OECD, the average cost of tuition fees in England are now the highest in the world. (The Telegraph, 24 Nov 2015)

Tuition fees for university degree courses were introduced by the Labour party in 1988 and were capped at £1,000 a year. In 2006, Labour raised the fees to £3,000 a year maximum. It remained at this figure until 2012.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat Government formed in 2010

In 2012, under the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition, tuition fees tripled to a maximum of £9,000 a year. The majority of universities in England adopted this maximum figure.

The cap on how much universities can charge students for each year of their course has now been lifted by the Conservatives for students in England.

In 2016, the Conservatives also scrapped means-tested maintenance grants. All students in England must now apply for loans.

Education is a devolved matter for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and so fees differ for each nation. The current fee situation is listed below.

Tuition fees for England

2017: £9,250 a year maximum

2018 onwards: The Conservatives have lifted the cap on fees and they will rise in line with inflation. It's likely that fees will break through the £10,000 barrier in the next few years (BBC News, Jul 2016).

Tuition fees for Northern Ireland

2017: £4,030 a year maximum for Northern Ireland residents

Tuition fees for Scotland

2017: £0 for Scotland residents

Note: £1,820 a year is the annual university tuition fee for Scotland residents but it is paid for by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).

Tuition fees for Wales

2017: £9,000 a year for all UK residents

Tuition fee comparison: how much do students pay in Europe?

These figures are for undergraduate degrees for EU students at public universities.

Austria

€0

Denmark

0 DKK (Danish kroner)

Finland

€0

France

€184 annual fee for most Bachelor degrees.

Some courses attract slightly higher fees at different levels of study (e.g. Medicine, Pharmacy). These can vary from €256 to €512.

The average annual fee for Engineering courses in 2016 was €610.

Germany

€0 (this includes international students)

Universities normally charge a small administration fee per semester to cover administration costs and the use of student facilities.

Ireland

€0 + €3,000 student contribution fee

Students pay no tuition fees, but they must pay a student contribution fee. This is capped by the Government and for 2015/2016 was set to a maximum of €3,000 per year. Students can apply for means-tested grants (based on household income) to help with the cost of the student contribution fee.

Italy

€ varies

Tuition fees vary by institution. In academic year 2009/2010, the average fees were approximately €940 in public universities.

The overall contribution students pay to cover management and services costs cannot exceed the 20% of the state funds allocated to universities.

Netherlands

€2,006 for most courses (2017/2018 academic year)

Norway

0 NOK (Norwegian kroner)

Spain

€ varies

Universities charge students for the number of credits they are studying. The 2015/2016 cost of a credit ranged from €9.85 to €29.70. Bachelor programmes generally have 240 credits for the entire course.

Sweden

0 SEK (Swedish kronor)

Source for European tuition fees: Eurydice

Tuition fees don't tell us about the quality of teaching or research. Or of the facilities available to students. However, the figures above illustrate the enormous gulf between tuition fees in England and Wales and other European countries.

Student loan repayments: Conservatives break their promise

In 2010 the Conservatives pledged that the salary threshold for paying back tuition fees would rise with average earnings from April 2017. But in 2015, the Conservatives broke that promise and froze the salary threshold at £21,000 until at least 2022.

What does this mean? Students start paying back their tuition fees when they begin earning a salary of £21,000. They pay 9% of their salary above the £21,000 threshold. By freezing the threshold, rather than letting it rise in line with wages, students will be paying hundreds of pounds a year extra. What's more, students who started their studies in 2012 and later are effectively having the cost of their loan retrospectively hiked.

Before the threshold was frozen, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills ran a consultation to gauge responses to the freeze. 95% of those who took part in the consultation were against the change. Only 5% were in favour. The Conservatives went ahead with the changes regardless.

More information:

What can you do to support publicly funded Education on June 8 2017?

Don't vote Conservative.

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Transport

Summary of this section

Railways: we have some of the highest fares in all of Europe

It's over 20 years since rail was privatised by the Conservatives (a situation that continued mostly unchanged under the Labour government of 1997-2010).

Much has changed in those 20+ years.

Stations, track and signalling on some routes have been upgraded. Some routes have more frequent services or new trains. However, commuters also suffer overcrowding, delays and disruption.

One change familiar to every commuter is the cost of a train ticket: we now have the some of the most expensive rail fares in all of Europe.

Although cheaper fares for some routes can be bought by booking in advance, the reality is that, for most passengers, travelling by rail is expensive.

Campaign group Action for Rail recently published research showing that UK commuters spend up to 6 times as much of their salary on rail fares as other European passengers.

Action for Rail is a campaign group organised by the main rail unions (ASLEF, RMT, TSSA) and by the TUC and Unite union. They campaign against rail privatisation.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with their campaign stance, the high cost of UK rail fares cannot be disputed.

Season ticket comparison: UK vs Europe

UK

Luton to London St. Pancras (35 miles)

Monthly season ticket cost: £387

UK

Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Piccadilly (32 miles)

Monthly season ticket cost: £292

Germany

Dusseldorf to Cologne (28 miles)

Monthly season ticket cost: £85

France

Mantes-la-Jolie to Paris (34 miles)

Monthly season ticket cost: £61

Italy

Anzione to Rome (31 miles)

Monthly season ticket cost: £61

Spain

Aranjuez to Madrid (31 miles)

Monthly season ticket cost: £75

Source: TUC, 3 Jan 2017

Rail fares have risen above the rate of inflation this year.

Rail fares rose by an average of 2.3% at the start of the year - a figure higher than the rate of inflation. The increase covers regulated fares, including season tickets, and unregulated fares, such as off-peak tickets.

“Even if you allow for inflation, rail fares have gone up by around 25% since the mid-1990s.

Some tickets have spiked by 40% in just a decade.

Why? Because successive governments have been changing the proportion of the rail bill paid for by passengers.

It used to be around 50%. Today it's around 70%.

It does of course mean that other taxpayers, who do not catch trains (and that's most people, frankly), are paying less to run them.

Ironically, the original idea behind the government regulating around half of our rail fares was to protect passengers from big price rises imposed by train operators.

Yet it's often been government ministers who have used the mechanism to put fares up.”

If you want a well-run, publically-funded railway system, here's what to do on June 8 2017

Don't vote Conservative.

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Housing

Summary of this section

Nearly eight out of 10 families across England are unable to afford newly built homes in their local area.

Housing affordability is a nation-wide problem. Limited supply of new housing and a housing market flooded with property speculators has helped keep housing prices high, with demand outstripping supply in many regions.

Recent research by housing charity Shelter reveals that nearly eight out of 10 families across England are unable to afford newly built homes in their local area. (BBC News, 2 Mar 2017)

Broken promises on affordable new housing

In their 2015 election manifesto, the Conservatives promised to build 200,000 ‘starter homes’ by 2020. These are homes for first-time buyers priced at 20% less than the market value. These homes, it was claimed, would not cost more than £450,000 in London and £250,000 in the rest of England. Even with the 20% discount, these prices remain so high that few people would consider them affordable.

Housing charity Shelter conducted its own research into affordability of starter homes and found that even with a 20% discount, many people would struggle to buy these homes.

“Our analysis shows that the Starter Homes programme will not help the majority of people on the new National Living Wage or average wages into home-ownership in England by 2020. It won't even help many people on higher than average wages in many areas of England. The only group it appears to help on a significant scale will be those already earning high salaries who should be able to afford on the open market without Government assistance.”

It's now two years since the 2015 general election and, as of May 2017, not a single 'starter home' has been built. However, in January (2017), the government announced a partnership with 30 local authorities to start building some of these homes this year. (Government press release, 3 Jan 2017)

More recently, a Government policy paper (Jan 2017) has dropped the commitment to produce 200,000 new starter homes.

“...we will change our focus from starter homes to a wider range of affordable housing.”

‘Affordable’ homes built in England drop to a new low

“The number of affordable homes built in England in 2015-16 fell to its lowest level for 24 years, new data shows.

There were 32,110 built, compared to 66,600 in the previous year, according to figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government.”

Home ownership is now the lowest since 1985

“The latest English Housing Survey from DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) revealed a further decline in the home ownership rate to 62.9% in 2016 - the lowest recorded since 1985.

Over the past decade, there has been a particularly marked decline in the home ownership rate amongst young adults (those aged 25-34), traditionally the segment containing most first time buyers.”

“Home ownership levels among today’s young families are way below those enjoyed by their parents’ generation. But the scale of the falls are simply shocking.”

“...the proportion of young families (aged 25 to 34) owning their homes in Outer London has fallen by almost two-thirds over the last twenty years.”

“The proportion of young families owning their home has halved in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester. Other parts of the South East – including Brighton, Reading and Milton Keynes – aren’t far behind and neither are East Anglia, Merseyside or the South West. The struggle to get on the housing ladder truly is a national problem.”

Renting

More and more people are renting as a result of the high cost of buying a home in many parts of the UK. But renting too is expensive:

“The combination of falling home ownership and rising costs in the private rented sector mean that today’s millennial generation will have spent £44,000 more on rent by the time they reach 30 compared to the baby boomers...”

Property is a major source of both wealth and inequality in the UK

Analysis of the Sunday Times Rich List by the New Economics Foundation has found that 26 of the 100 richest people in the UK have property as a major source of their wealth. Much of that wealth has accumulated due to rising land prices.

“Property is by far the biggest source of wealth for Britain’s richest people, dwarfing finance, investment, retail and industry.”

...

“The usual explanation of wealth accumulation is that it comes from innovation, entrepreneurialism and productive investment. But in the UK, most of the increase in wealth in recent decades has come from rising land values. This has contributed directly to a crisis in housing, deepening inequality, poor prospects for sustainable growth, intergenerational conflict, low productivity and financial instability.”

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Welfare

While the Conservatives have been in power:

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Security and surveillance

Summary of this section

Conservatives introduce the Investigatory Powers Bill

Last November (2016), the Conservatives succeeded in passing into law the Investigatory Powers (IP) Bill. The bill gives unprecedented powers to the Police and Intelligence Services to collect information about you. Critics of the bill believe it goes too far and violates individual privacy. The bill was introduced by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary and has been dubbed the ‘Snooper's Charter’.

It was voted in by the Conservatives in June 2016 during its third (final) reading in the House of Commons. Labour MPs who were present for the reading (164 of them) voted in favour of the bill, with just two voting against. The Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, and the Liberal Democrats voted against the bill. There were 133 MPs absent at the vote, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Hansard, 6 June 2016). The bill came into effect in January 2017, but not all its provisions have been put in to practice yet.

Everyone will be subject to surveillance

The bill stipulates that ISPs (Internet Service Providers) must keep a record of every website that you visit for at least 12 months. For example, this means a record of you visiting this website will be saved by your ISP (including the date and time of your visit). Only the top-level website address or domain will be recorded, not each page you visit within the domain.

Think of all the websites that you have visited in the past 12 months (you probably don't even remember most of them), all of those sites will be saved by your ISP and available to over 45 different Government departments, agencies, and police forces.

Any emails that you send will also be recorded by your ISP. The content of your emails won't be captured, but the subject line of your email, when you sent the email, and to whom you sent it will be recorded and stored. Text messages and voice calls will also be recorded and saved. As with emails, the content of your phone conversation or text message will not be recorded, but the time, duration, and the person or organisation you contacted will be captured.

The level of surveillance is unprecedented in UK history

The Conservatives say that they have included safeguards in the bill, including judicial oversight, to prevent abuse of the surveillance powers. They also say that only people suspected of being a security risk will have their activities investigated. However, in order to identify who is a security risk, the Conservatives have made it legal to monitor everyone's online behaviour. This is an unprecedented level of surveillance that has been opposed by all major UK privacy and rights groups.

“This snoopers charter has no place in a modern democracy - it undermines our fundamental rights online. The bulk collection of everyone's internet browsing data is disproportionate, creates a security nightmare for the ISPs who must store the data - and rides roughshod over our right to privacy.

Meanwhile, the bulk hacking powers in the Bill risk making the internet less safe for everyone.”

British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web (BBC News, 29 Nov 2016)

The Conservatives want real-time surveillance of everyone's mobile and online activity

A draft technical paper prepared by the Conservatives has proposed ‘live’ surveillance of online and mobile activity of the public.

“Phone companies and internet service providers would be asked to provide "data in near real time" within one working day, according to one clause in the technical capabilities paper.

Such access would need to be sanctioned by secretaries of state and a judge appointed by the prime minister.”

...

“Under the terms of the Investigatory Powers Act, telecoms firms would have to carry out the requirements of any notices to these effects in secret, so the public would be unaware that such access had been given.”

The Conservatives have enabled a 24-hour surveillance society

The best way to support security and police services is to provide them with proportionate powers with strong and strict privacy safeguards. The majority of people in this country are law abiding citizens and not criminals. Blanket, 24-hour surveillance of everyone's online and phone communication is akin to treating everyone as a potential suspect. This is neither proportionate or respectful of our privacy.

Manifesto pledges

In their 2017 election manifesto, the Conservatives have pledged more regulation of the internet and to control what can be published and accessed online if the content oversteps the boundaries they set.

They will make it harder for minors to access “images of pornography, violence, and other age-inappropriate content” by seeking internet companies to implement controls to restrict access. They will also compel internet companies, such as search engines and social media platforms, to remove “hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm.” (Theresa May wants to regulate the internet, Buzzfeed, 18 May 2017)

“We will educate today’s young people in the harms of the internet and how best to combat them, introducing comprehensive Relationships and Sex Education in all primary and secondary schools to ensure that children learn about the risks of the internet, including cyberbullying and online grooming.”

Labour, in their 2017 manifesto, make no mention of rolling back the surveillance powers in the Investigatory Powers Bill. Instead, they say they will introduce:

“...effective judicial oversight...when the circumstances demand that our collective security outweighs an individual freedom.”

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to scrap the surveillance powers introduced by the Conservatives. In their manifesto they say they will:

“Roll back state surveillance powers by ending the indiscriminate bulk collection of communications data, bulk hacking, and the collection of internet connection records.”

The Open Rights Group, a UK charity that campaigns for privacy and free speech online, has produced a comparison of the digital rights policies of the Conservatives, Labour, and Lib Dems:

More information on the Investigatory Powers Bill:

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Brexit

Summary of this section

Disunited Kingdom?

The Conservatives have painted the EU referendum result as a decisive and overwhelming victory for Brexit. But in actual fact, the victory was a narrow one and showed that voters were fairly evenly divided over the issue, although the picture varied across the country.

EU Referendum results: 52% Leave, 48% Remain

In Scotland, the vote was 62% in favour of remain and 38% leave.

But rather than address the many varied concerns from both the remain and leave side of the debate, the Conservatives now treat Brexit as if the entire country is in agreement.

Theresa May acknowledged, when she was Home Secretary, that the EU referendum vote should never be treated as a single issue vote. And yet by holding a simple binary referendum on a complex subject, the Conservatives ensured that the referendum could never be more than that.

“This is not a single issue vote. What I have done is looked across a range of issues and a range of challenges that the UK will be facing and this is not a question on the 23rd of June of whether we can survive outside the European Union, it’s a question of what is best for Britain’s future.”

“And I think if we look at the challenges we will face, the challenges of security, of trade and the economy, but actually looking ahead, Britain’s prosperity, the opportunities for people living here in the UK will be more secure, will be better if we’re inside the European Union.”

Are the Conservatives competent to handle Brexit negotiations?

Regardless of whether you voted leave or remain, Brexit is happening. But which party will be best placed to negotiate our exit from the EU? Theresa May says the election on June 8 will strengthen her hand in the Brexit negotiations. But in fact a Conservative majority in parliament will have no bearing or influence on how the EU will conduct negotiations with us.

In January this year, the UK's ambassador to the EU Ivan Rogers resigned over the government's approach to Brexit. In his resignation message to staff, he urged his fellow colleagues to challenge “muddled thinking and... speak truth to power” (BBC News, 4 Jan 2017)

Serious multilateral negotiating experience is in short supply in Whitehall, and that is not the case in the Commission or in the Council.”

Brexit negotiations will be complex and difficult, but Theresa May's claim that the EU is interfering in the general election shows a petulant and confrontational attitude from the Conservatives that is likely to harden opinions in the EU towards Britain. The Conservatives are neither deft or diplomatic in their behaviour, but temperemental and erratic.

The Conservatives care more about their party than the country

The EU referendum result will affect everyone's future. But when David Cameron called the EU referendum, he did it principally to quell dissent within his own party. The Conservatives have long had a vocal contingent of MPs and members who wanted the UK to leave the EU and this was a chance to finally put the matter to rest within the party.

Mr Cameron took the reckless decision to pledge to hold a vote...back in 2013. He had not needed to. The public was certainly not clamouring for one. His motive was to placate his cranky backbenchers.

When voters chose Leave over Remain by a slim majority in the EU referendum, the Conservatives were unprepared and had no plan in place for a Leave result.

Stop and think about that for a moment. The Conservatives called a referendum where the consequences of a leave vote would have a far-reaching and profound impact on the country's future, possibly for decades to come. And yet, astonishingly, they had no plan in place for such an eventuality. Now they ask us to trust them to negotiate Britain's exit from the EU.

“This comes from a Conservative Leave MP...I said to him ‘so where's the plan, can we see the Brexit plan now?’

[The MP]“There is no plan. The Leave campaign don't have a post-Brexit plan...No. 10 should have had a plan.”

Sky's Political Editor Faisal Islam struggles to contain his astonishment after being told by a Tory MP, who backed Leave, that it's not for the Leave campaign to come up with a Brexit plan - it's for Number 10. (Sky News, 24 Jun 2016)

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The way we vote in general elections

Summary of this section

What's wrong with our voting system?

We have a flawed method of electing a government that fails to represent large swathes of the electorate.

The method of voting we use in the UK is called first-past-the-post (FPTP). It's a simple system: the UK is divided into 650 regions or constituencies. In each constituency we elect a single MP (Member of Parliament) to represent that area (and party) in Parliament. The candidate with the most votes in the constituency is declared the winner and becomes an MP.

Note: the candidate with the most votes does not mean a candidate with over 50% voter support. Quite the opposite in fact: most MPs are elected with less that 50% of the vote in their constituency.

Here is a randomly chosen example - the result for Bury North in the 2015 general election:

Percentage of voters who didn't vote Conservative: 58.1%

Winners in this constituency: Conservatives

A first-past-the-post method of voting simply doesn't work when you have more than two parties. As the results above show, when the winning vote is less than 50% of voters, there is no representation of the remaining (majority) votes - those votes essentially amount to nothing.

Analysis of the 2015 UK general election by the Electoral Reform Society — an independent campaigning organisation — showed that 331 of 650 MPs were elected with under 50% of the vote in their constituency, and 191 with less than 30% of the vote. (BBC News, 1 Jun 2015)

More problems with first-past-the-post

‘Safe seats’

Constituencies that always vote for the same party are described as ‘safe seats’. Some people don't even bother to vote in a safe seat because they feel their vote will make no difference. In addition, opposing parties might put little effort in to campaigning in those constituencies if they are considered ‘unwinnable’.

Marginal seats

Marginal seats — where the vote could swing from one party to another in a close contest — are where parties spend a disproportionate of their time campaigning. These are the seats that may tip the balance in favour of them winning the election. This also means the attention given to voters is very unevenly (and one might argue unfairly) divided during an election: marginal seats get the lions share of attention while other regions are neglected.

Tactical voting

Tactical voting is another symptom of a broken voting system. Let's say you live in a Conservative constituency and your preferred party, Labour, have no chance of winning in that constituency. However, another party — the Lib Dems — may just be able to defeat the Conservatives. So even though the Lib Dems aren't your preferred choice, you decide to vote for them because it would be the best way of defeating the Conservatives. Put another way, you don't vote for the candidate you prefer; you vote against the candidate you dislike the most.


All of the situations above are symptoms of the first-past-the-post method of voting. It's an antiquated system that simply isn't fit for a modern democracy. Why then do the main two large parties — Conservatives and Labour — remain in favour of it? Quite simply because it allows them to form a majority government with less than 50% of the vote.

In the 2015 general election, the Conservatives got 36.9% of the national vote but over 50% of the seats in parliament, and thus 100% government rule.

General election 2015 result: Conservatives 36.9%, Labour 30.4%, UKIP 12.6%, Lib Dems 7.9%, SNP 4.7%, Greens 3.8%

The arguments in favour of first-past-the-post

The two most oft-cited ones are:

The Conservatives are particularly fond of the ‘strong government’ argument. But in a representative democracy, parliament's makeup should reflect how people cast their votes. If that means no overall single party majority or smaller parties like UKIP gaining more seats, then so be it. That's democracy.

Can a voting system that delivers a single party government with less than 50% of the vote be considered fair, representative and democratic?

What's the alternative to first-past-post?

The alternative is to choose a voting system where the percentage of votes cast for a party is reflected in the seats allocated to the party in Parliament: a proportional system of voting. It would mean that no matter how you vote, your party choice is broadly reflected in the final makeup of parliament. The devolved Scottish Parliament and the devolved National Assembly for Wales already use a method of proportional representation for their elections.

A proportional system would reduce (but not necessarily eliminate) the problems that come with ‘safe seats’, marginal seats and tactical voting that are so common in our first-past-the-post system.

Although there are many different systems of proportional representation, there is no perfect or ‘best’ voting system. But first-past-the-post is by far the worst system of voting.

Where do the parties stand on electoral reform?

Conservatives

The Conservatives are the most resistant to changing our voting system. They will not consider any changes to the first-past-the-post method of voting. They have no plans to reform the unelected House of Lords either. In their 2017 election manifesto, they state:

“We will retain the first past the post system of voting for parliamentary elections and extend this system to police and crime commissioner and mayoral elections.

We will retain the current franchise to vote in parliamentary elections at eighteen.”

Conservative 2017 Manifesto, p43

Currently, police and crime commissioner and mayoral elections use a less-than-ideal method of proportional voting called the supplementary vote. Astonishingly, the Conservatives want to change this method of voting to an even less representative method: first-past-the-post.

The Conservatives want a less fair method of calling an election

“We will repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.”

Conservative 2017 Manifesto, p43

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act was introduced in 2011 under the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition. It removes the Prime Minister's power to decide the date of the next election. Instead, the date is fixed: the first Thursday in May in every fifth year. Why is the Act important? It means the government cannot choose a date that they feel would be most favourable to their circumstances - a clear and unfair tactical advantage.

Setting a fixed election date is thus a matter of electoral fairness. No reason is given by the Conservatives as to why they wish to repeal the Act.

The Conservatives will make it harder for many people to vote

“We will legislate to ensure that a form of identification must be presented before voting.”

...

“We will...tackle every aspect of electoral fraud.”

Conservative 2017 Manifesto, p43

By forcing people to show a form of identification, many potential voters may be excluded. Although the form of identification has not been specified in the manifesto, it may stop people from voting if they do not have officially sanctioned ID. Will a letter addressed to you from your bank or local council suffice? Or will photo ID be required?

Unlike some other European countries, we do not have a national photo ID card (the exception is Northern Ireland which issues a free Electoral Identity Card). The only official forms of photo ID in the UK are driving license and passport, neither of which are free.

Importantly, there is no evidence of widespread electoral fraud in the UK that would support the Conservative's proposals. The Electoral Commission analysis of the 2015 general election found:

“Just under a quarter of all reported cases (123 cases, representing 26% of the total) related to voting offences, which could include personation (voting as someone else), breaches of the secrecy requirements, tampering with ballot papers, bribery or treating (providing food or drink to influence a voter) or undue influence.”

Ironically, it was the Conservatives who were found guilty of electoral fraud during the 2015 election over the way they used election expenses.

“The Conservative Party has been fined a record £70,000 and its former treasurer reported to the police following a report by the Electoral Commission into its election expenses.”

...

“The Commission also suggested that the advantage gained by the party via spending that was incorrectly recorded “meant that there was a realistic prospect that this enabled its candidates to gain a financial advantage over opponents”.

Labour

Labour make no promises on electoral reform in their 2017 manifesto but say they will create a Constitutional Convention to:

“...examine and advise on reforming the way Britain works at a fundamental level.”

...

“The Convention will look at extending democracy locally, regionally and nationally, considering the option of a more federalised country.”

Labour 2017 Manifesto, p102

Labour will also seek to reduce the size of the unelected House of Lords. They say they believe in an elected Second Chamber but make no mention of timeframes or whether this will be implemented during the course of the next parliament.

Finally, Labour have pledged to reduce the voting age to 16.

Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dems are in favour of electoral reform. Their 2017 manifesto includes the following pledges:

The Greens

The Greens are also in favour of electoral reform. Their 2017 manifesto includes the following pledges:

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Election coverage in the media

Summary of this section

Our national newspapers do not inform, they mislead

Most of the national press in the UK support the Conservatives; this includes The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Express, The Sun, and The Daily Mail. The more left-leaning papers include The Guardian, The Independent and The Daily Mirror.

During election times, these papers seek to sway readers to vote for a particular party. Some newspapers show their support for a party more brazenly than others. Why does this matter? Because these newspapers, regardless of whether they lean to the left or the right, are not concerned about accurate or impartial reporting.

Unlike newspapers, TV and radio news must be impartial and accurate. This is required by law and set out in the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. Ofcom is the UK body that regulates TV and radio.

In contrast to TV and radio news, our national newspapers have no requirement to be honest, impartial or accurate. They can be as mocking, combative, irreverent and critical as they like. All essential qualities in a free press. But our national newspapers also deliberately mislead. They seek to sway readers to their political point of view — not just in their opinion pieces, but in their everyday reporting.

The Conservative-supporting papers, instead of holding the government to account or scrutinising their activities, seek instead to prop them up and encourage voter support for them.

That's why it's important to read news from more than one source. Even if you believe that TV and radio news (and their associated websites) are biased, they are less likely to be intentionally slanted than our national newspapers. If you want to make up your mind about an issue — rather than let a newspaper make up your mind for you — then it's essential to seek out different opinions and sources of news.

Case study: coverage of Brexit

Regardless of whether you voted remain or leave in the EU referendum, the national press weren't providing you with balanced coverage of the Brexit debate. Researchers at Loughborough University analysed Brexit coverage on TV and in the press. They found that coverage, when weighted by circulation, was 80% in favour of Brexit and 20% against (Loughborough University, 27 Jun 2016).

Current election coverage in the press shows the same pattern: neither accurate or balanced. Don't rely on a single source for your news regardless of whether your lean left or right politically.

Double-standards abound in our national press

In 2013, Labour announced that if they came in to power, they would freeze energy bills and force energy companies to pass savings on to customers when wholesale energy prices dropped. The Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron called the proposals a “gimmick”. Here is how the The Daily Mail covered Labour's proposal in September 2013:

Daily Mail headline: Back to the bad old days

Fast forward to our current election campaign. The Conservatives have pledged to impose price caps on energy bills. They say their proposal differs from Labour because they will let an independent regulator set an upper limit to energy bills. Here is how the Daily Mail reported on the proposals (April 2017):

Daily Mail headline: Crackdown on energy rip-offs

Commenting on the Conservative’s price cap plans, the Financial Times had this to say:

Ed Miliband’s promise to freeze energy prices appeared to have been resurrected by Mrs May. “Ministers are poised to unveil a cap on energy prices,” reported the Daily Mail, days before the Conservative manifesto launch.

>But the actual manifesto promise turned out to be less radical: “an independent review . . . to make recommendations as to how we can ensure UK energy costs are as low as possible, while ensuring a reliable supply and allowing us to meet our 2050 carbon reduction objective. Our ambition is that the UK should have the lowest energy costs in Europe, both for households and businesses.”

You can find election coverage from national broadcasters on their websites:

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Who to vote for

Are you voting for a person or for policies?

When you vote on June 8th, will you be voting in favour of a political leader? Or for the policies of that party? (Or both?)

Many of us, when pressed about the policies of a particular party, don't actually know what those policies are. The decision on who to vote for often comes down to personality: the party leader you consider competent and trustworthy.

It's impossible to ignore personality when choosing which party to vote for. For example, in the current election campaign, the Conservatives (and the Conservative-supporting newspapers) are focused far more on attacking Jeremy Corbyn, rather the attacking Labour's policies.

However, it's worth remembering that the policies a party enacts may be in place long after their leader has left office. Ultimately, it's policies that will determine the future of the country. When you vote, don't ignore policy over personality.

What to do on June 8 2017

Although this site has given you many reasons to not vote Conservative, you might be surprised to hear that we won't tell you who to vote for as an alternative to the Conservatives.

There are just two things we hope you will do on June 8:

Voting can sometimes feel like choosing the ‘least worst option’ among the choices on offer. Some issues may be more important to you than others and that may determine who you choose. But don't forego your vote even if none of the parties appeal to you.

If you're in a ‘safe’ Conservative seat, turning up to vote still matters. You may feel your vote makes no difference, but every vote not in favour of the Conservatives adds to the cumulative total of people opposed to them. It may even help highlight our broken method of voting.

Tactical voting, as described in the section The way we vote, is another symptom of our flawed voting system. If you want to consider voting tactically, visit the tactical 2017 website.

Manifesto comparisons

2017 Manifesto links

Note: some of the parties have not yet published their manifestos. This list will be updated when they do.

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