How Westminster will be won – five battlegrounds
Our beloved political parties will be formally kicking off their general election campaigns when Parliament is dissolved tomorrow.
In the coming weeks manifestos will come out, unwanted leaflet-clutching guests will appear at all hours of the night banging on our doors, and many of us will be left scratching our heads and thinking, “can I really bring myself to vote for any of this lot?”
It’s enough to make you want to hit the mulled wine early, but to help negotiate the quagmire, here’s our look at some of the main policy areas that will take centre stage as the campaign hots up.
There will be no escaping Brexit in this election. The Tories will want to talk about it a lot, Labour not so much.
Boris Johnson is clear that he is determined to “get Brexit done” (stop me if you’ve heard that one before), so he will be hoping he has exasperated Leave voters on his side.
The Brexit Party could put a spanner in the works, with Nigel Farage standing candidates to oppose the Tory vision of Brexit which in his eyes is simply not Brexity enough.
On the opposite end of the scale is Jo Swinson of the Liberals, whose number one campaign message is “stop Brexit at all costs”.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party wants to let the people decide all over again, although Jeremy Corbyn refuses to say which side of the argument he favours.
There are of course, other issues, and chief among them is the NHS. Mr Johnson has made a number of visits to hospitals since becoming PM, which suggests he is keen for it to be known that health is near the top of his agenda.
He has declared his Government is “putting more money into the NHS than ever before”, while the Conservatives are committed to increasing spending by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years.
People in the West Midlands are certainly keen to see issues resolved involving Sandwell’s Midland Met, Stafford County Hospital and Telford’s Princess Royal.
Jeremy Corbyn has warned that Mr Johnson’s Government is willing to sell off the NHS as part of a trade deal with the US – a claim the Tories deny.
Labour has also said that all A&E patients will be seen within four hours, and that hospital parking will be free.
Meanwhile the Lib Dems say they are the only party with a clear plan for the NHS and social care – with aims to make waiting times for mental health care match those for physical health care and limit the amount elderly people have to pay for social care.
Tackling the country’s sky high crime rate has been prioritised by the Tories, with Mr Johnson appearing in the West Midlands in his first week as PM to pledge to grow the ranks of police forces in England and Wales by 20,000.
Labour has been critical of the Tories on this front, pointing out that police numbers were cut by 20,000 on Theresa May’s watch.
Labour insists it is “tough on crime” and has promised an extra 10,000 officers if Mr Corbyn gets the keys to Number 10.
The Lib Dems have promised to recruit more community police officers, saying that Tory cuts to police budgets have led to a rise in violent crime.
The current Education Secretary Gavin Williamson recently announced a three-year plan to increase spending on state schools in England by £7.1 billion by 2022/23.
Labour, meanwhile, said it will create a unified National Education Service (NES) for England to move towards cradle-to-grave learning that is free at the point of use. The party said the NES will be to the 21st century what the NHS was to the 20th century.
The Lib Dems want to reverse cuts to school funding and guarantee all teachers a pay rise which is at least in line with inflation.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said the next Parliament will be “critical in determining whether we can turn away from our current path, which is leading us straight to climate catastrophe”.
According to a survey by ClientEarth, 54 per cent of Britons said climate change will affect the way they vote and 63 per cent said politicians are not talking enough about climate change.
The Tories say they are tackling the scourge of plastics and improving air quality, and have halted fracking.
The Labour Party’s plan for a Green New Deal includes installing solar panels on almost two million homes, making all new homes zero carbon by 2022 and creating a new Clean Air Act.
The Lib Dems’ plans include banning fracking and preventing 40,000 premature deaths a year by cutting air pollution.