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Election 2010: What you need to know

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Everyone's been talking, tweeting and ranting about it: the general election will take place on May 6. The political battle ground is well and truly active with the start of campaigns, election debates and slagging matches already under way. But when media coverage is ridden with spin and PR tricks it can be hard to decipher what party to back, especially if you're a first time voter.

No doubt the more politically excitable of your friends have been voicing their opinions on who to vote for but how can you make up your mind without reading hundreds of pages of tedious manifestos?

Well that's where we come in! We've devised a simple profile of each of the three main parties outlining a few relevant policies/pledges they've put forward in their manifestos which are likely to affect students and student values. We've included a highlight and lowlight for each party's pledges of what we think you'll like and what we doubt you'll be too fond of.

There is no doubt that this is one of the most hotly contended elections in recent history and if there was ever a time for an 'every vote counts' slogan, it is now! Many people have become disinterested in politics through lack of trust and respect for those who've taken advantage of their roles but that's all the more reason for you to have a say in this election.

Conservatives

The Conservative's main theme for this election is change. The political scandals and unrest in the last year or so have provided the Conservatives with ammunition against Labour for change.

David Cameron hasn't been shy of publicity with poster and billboard campaigns, although their success is questionable after seeming to have back fired! Recent years have seen the Conservatives move towards the middle ground and Cameron has been trying to appeal to the average voter. Even their rosettes have changed to a nice light blue in place of the old deep Tory blue.

They may have a more aesthetically pleasing leader but what policies do the conservatives have that might affect you?

 

    • Repaying student loans for the top graduates in maths and science who go in to, and remain in, teaching.
 

    • 10,000 extra university places this year.
 

    • Expansion of offshore wind and wave power, again for the eco warriors!
 

    • Access to business mentors and substantial loans for all you would-be entrepreneurs.
 


Highlight: The Conservatives aim to improve the way universities are funded so 'students get a fair deal'. No mention of specifically what the 'fair deal' is though…

Lowlight: Only 10 Tory candidates have pledged not to call for an increase in tuition fees. Comparatively, Labour have 177 and Lib Dems 330 candidates who're all opposed to increasing tuition top up fees.

Labour

The Labour party are pulling out all the stops in this election to try and ensure another term in office. With the Conservatives still ahead in the opinion polls Gordon Brown has been all over the UK in recent weeks meeting with voters, candidates and campaigners to drum up support for the party.

This election has seen Labour focus on 'the choice'. That is the choice between a Labour or Conservative government. Most of us will be too young to remember the Thatcher years but Labour certainly aren't letting people forget. Their viral 'The Road Ahead' uses a clever analogy of the country at a crossroads and outlines the idea that Labour will continue on the road to recovery while a change to a Conservative government would destabilise the economy.

Labour's "a future fair for all" manifesto includes five main pledges. To secure the economy, raise family living standards, build a high-tech economy, protect frontline services and strengthen fairness in communities. Gordon Brown took pride in their polices as being 'rooted in the day-to-day concerns' of the British public but what are they doing that might interest you?

 

    • 20,000 extra university places starting in 2010-11
 

    • 'Kickstart' funding for affordable housing developments, shared ownerships schemes and a new generation of social rented housing. Good news for all you first time buyers and those moving away from home!
 

    • Some 'green' pledges to benefit the environment include aiming for around 40% low carbon electricity by 2020 and banning recyclable and biodegradable materials from landfill.
 

  • A referendum to be held in 2011 on changing the electoral system from first past the post to an alternative vote in the commons and a fully elected and renamed House of Lords.
Highlight: Better services within the NHS including the right to choose a GP in your area open evenings and weekends. Might sound nothing spectacular but how many times have you been unable to get appointments to fit in with uni and work?

Lowlight: You've probably heard about the digital economy bill which gets tough on illegal downloading, no more free movies or leaked music for you!

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats are promoting themselves as an alternative to the Labour vs. Conservative choice. Nick Clegg, party leader, has been appearing in television and radio interviews tirelessly over the last few weeks to raise his profile.

However, the general consensus is that the chances of a Lib Dem government are slim. Their manifesto sounds good on paper but the question is would they have the ability to carry out what they have promised? The party have come under scrutiny for promising some very big reforms and changes that appear impractical in their manifesto.

The Lib Dem's manifesto outlines "four steps to a fairer Britain." These are fair taxes, a fair future, a fair chance and a fair deal.
All 'fair' and well but how do they plan to do it?

 

    • Scrapping tuition fees for all students, including part time, undertaking their first degree over the next six years.
 

    • Ensuring banks start lending responsibly again.
 

    • For those of you concerned with green credentials, investment in to offshore wind turbines and other renewable energy sources.
 

    • Plans to introduce a proportional voting system with the number of MPs being reduced to 150.
 


Highlight: The right to vote at 16 instead of the current age of 18. Some argue against the maturity of 16 year olds but general opinion seems that most people are in favour of the move.

Lowlight:
Introduction of a statutory register of lobbyists. This means if you want to lobby parliament or your MP on an issue, you/your organisation would have to be on a register: unlikely for students and student groups. What happened to democracy?


After looking at the parties policies and pledges it can seem as though they are all very similar. The biggest difference in this election, as briefly mentioned, is the economy. While the British economy is still recovering, Labour and Conservative differ in their approaches to help.

Labour hold that cutting spending now would halt the recovery and worsen Britain's economy. They argue that by continuing with responsible spending by investing in new businesses and enterprises the economy will slowly but surely stabilise.

The Conservatives, however, plan to cut spending asap if they are elected in to power. They believe that we must start cutting now to help pay off the deficit of national debt and keep the economy afloat.

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