In the build up to a potentially momentous election, it is often tempting to over-dramatize the event. Many have described tomorrow’s election as the ‘most significant in a generation’. This belittles the process. Elections are significant, but they are not Holywood spectacles, and neither should they be.
You face an important decision tomorrow. It is not one that will revolutionise society, nor fundamentally undermine life as we know it. But it will contribute to the future direction of the nation. For that simple reason it is a decision worth making.
The question is, who to vote for? Our last-minute revision guide runs through the options:
The Conservatives were elected as the majority party in the House of Commons in 2010, although the party did not win enough seats to form a majority.
Led by David Cameron, the Conservatives boast that they have stabilised Britain’s economy following the global financial crash of 2008. Through spending cuts, the Conservatives have halved the government’s budget deficit (the amount of money it borrows in relation to what it earns through taxes). The Conservatives seek to eliminate the deficit by 2019/20.
The Conservatives advocate lower taxes and ‘spending within your means’. Therefore, the party has pledged to raise the threshold for the 40p income tax to £50,000. The Tories also support a lower benefits cap (down from £26k to £23k), in order to encourage people to re-enter paid employment.
Labour leader Ed Miliband – who has been subject to much criticism and praise over the past five years – believes that fairness should accompany economic prosperity. Miliband has thus pledged to reverse some of the changes made by the Conservatives. Notably, Labour has promised to abolish the Coalition government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’, which denies families a portion of their housing benefit if they are known to have a spare room. Labour would also implement a higher tax rate for those earning over £150,000, which was reduced from 50p to 45p by the Coalition.
A controversial Labour policy is the so-called ‘Mansion Tax’, which would levy an annual charge on properties over £2million in value. Labour has said that the money raised will be used to fund spending on the NHS.
The Liberal Democrats have become (in)famous for their policy reversal on tuition fees. After promising to vote against any future increase, the Lib Dems voted in favour of a rise from £3,000 to £9,000.
Despite this, Lib Dems claim to have achieved numerous successes during their time in government. Notably, the party managed to lift the level of tax-free personal allowance from £6,500 to £10,600, and plan to raise it further if they remain in government beyond 2015. Moreover, the party has guaranteed free school meals for all infants, with an estimated saving of approximately £473 a year for families.
Going into this election, the Lib Dems describe their economic vision as a middle-ground option between excessive Conservative cuts, and reckless Labour spending plans.
Only an option for Scottish constituents, the core policy of the SNP is to bring about Scottish independence through a referendum.
Party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, has voiced her opposition to Conservative spending cuts. Sturgeon has claimed that, if the SNP enters a coalition with a Westminster party after the election, the SNP will push for a more gradual deficit reduction strategy.
The SNP oppose government spending on the Trident nuclear deterrent.
Often seen as a one-man show, UKIP is led by the divisive Nigel Farage.
The party vocally opposes the European Union, and has advocated an immediate referendum in order to decide upon Britain’s membership.
In particular, UKIP is critical of unfettered European immigration, which it claims has put a strain on public resources.
The Greens share many core economic objectives with the SNP and the Welsh nationalist party – Plaid Cymru. Indeed, the Greens have pledged to end austerity and create one million public sector jobs. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has also promised to increase the minimum wage to £8.10 within a year and £10 per hour by 2020.
Of course, the Greens also have a wide-ranging environmental agenda, and advocate an outright ban on fracking.
All the parties have numerous policies not mentioned in this summary. Make sure to go to www.voteforpolicies.org.uk in order to see which party you match with in each policy area.
You can find our election prediction here. The below video provides a helpful summary of the potential election outcomes.