We read the party manifestos so you don't have to
Last week we saw that politicians are hammering the North with charm in an attempt to woo disillusioned voters. Party strategicians believe that Brexit is the key issue here but the NHS, austerity, affordable housing, the environment, social care and disability benefits are all issues with incredible importance to northerners.
Where the money goes power and decision-making will follow
While we can’t cover all the issues, we sifted through the party manifestos to find out what the main political parties have promised the North on three major issues – productivity and growth; transport and the environment.
Read on to find out what politicians are promising you, making sure you are registered to vote and details of a special results day breakfast at the People's History Museum.
Productivity and growth
While the North’s key skills lie in innovation, with areas such a health, digital and advanced manufacturing being strong, the Manifesto for the North claims there is productivity gap of around 25%. This needs to be addressed by investment in research and development (which is lower in the North) and education and skills.
Promising more investment for the North is par for course across all manifestos, albeit in fairly non-specific ways. The Lib Dems say they want to “continue to champion investment in the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine, putting significant capital resources into infrastructure projects across these regions.”(p16). One specific policy does stand out - the party also has ideas for the tourist industry, which is important to major northern cities such as Liverpool and Manchester, including allowing regions to charge tourist levies and potentially allowing cultural institutions to charge entrance fees.
Meanwhile, sticking with the vague theme, the Conservatives say: “Through bodies like the Northern Powerhouse, Western Gateway and Midlands Engine we will drive greater levels of foreign investment into the UK, promoting our towns, cities and counties around the world.” (p29)
The manifesto also says: “We will give towns, cities and communities of all sizes across the UK real power and real investment to drive the growth of the future and unleash their full potential.” (p29). Considering that the Northern Powerhouse is a Conservative policy that has been hyped for many years now, its appearance in the manifesto seems very low-key.
While not mentioning the Northern Powerhouse by name (it is a Tory policy after all), Labour promise to “shift the political centre of gravity by placing the National Transformation Fund Unit, a key part of the Treasury, in the North of England" (p14). Where the money goes power and decision-making will follow, is the main idea. The National Transformation Unit will be in charge of specific fund worth £150 bn to replace, upgrade and expand schools, hospitals, care homes and council houses nationally.
On perhaps less grandiose lines, Labour also promise: “We will act to bring services – from bin collections to management of local leisure centres – back in-house within the next Parliament, improving service quality, saving money and ensuring the people who deliver vital local services are treated decently,” which will be popular with residents who complain about poor service from contractors such as Amey.
Addressing the misery of public transport in the North could be a real vote winner, so it is not surprising not to see each party address the issue slightly differently.
The Conservatives promise to invest in ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ (also known as HS3) and the Midlands Rail Hub, saying “We will build Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester and then focus on Liverpool, Tees Valley, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle.” The wording of this does seem a bit vague, at least when it comes to the second part of the plan, and the Conservatives also seem to be walking back on HS2, conceding “will now cost at least £81 billion and will not reach Leeds or Manchester until as late as 2040”, saying they will have to “consider the findings of the Oakervee review into costs and timings and work with leaders of the Midlands and the North to decide the optimal outcome.”(p27)
When it comes to local rail, the Conservatives say “we will end the complicated franchising model and create a simpler, more effective rail system, including giving metro mayors control over services in their areas,” (p27) which should please Andy Burnham, who has been frustrated by the situation with Northern Rail. However, at an earlier speech, Johnson warned that city regions may have to raise their own money to achieve all they want.
Labour also commit to connecting Manchester and Leeds, saying “We will introduce a long-term investment plan including delivering Crossrail for the North [aka HS3] as part of improved connectivity across the northern regions,” going on to promise: “We will also unlock capacity and extend high-speed rail networks nationwide by completing the full HS2 route to Scotland.” (p20).
More generally, Labour are committed to bringing the railways back into public ownership, in order to “rebuild the fragmented railways as a nationally integrated public service, cut the wastage of private profit, improve accessibility for disabled people, ensure safe staffing levels and end driver-only operation” (p20) which may be one way to sort out the mess of Northern Rail etc at a national level, bypassing the metro mayors and creating one joined-up system.
The Liberal Democrats also promise to invest in a "continued commitment" to HS2. The Green Party, on the other hand, call HS2 “damaging” and prefer instead to switch the funding to upgrading existing lines, upgrading freight capacity and electrifying all lines. The Brexit Party also want to scrap HS2 and use the potential funding for other purposes.
The award for weirdly specific commitment on the environment goes to the Conservatives' promise to make the northern Coast to Coast walk (from St Bees to Robin Hood Bay) a National Trail (p40).
Labour, on the other hand, go straight for the national emergency angle, saying: “We will provide an extra £5.6 billion in funding to improve the standard of flood defences and respond to the increased risk of flooding, prioritising areas at risk in North West England, Yorkshire and the East Midlands that have been neglected by Conservative investments." (p23). The Conservatives themselves promise £4bn for flood defences, though without the regional prioritisation specified by Labour (p27). Considering the perceived imbalance in response to flooding in Yorkshire versus earlier flooding for the south, this is an area where the Conservatives might have followed Labour's lead.
None of the manifestos specifically mention the Northern Forest (which was originally endorsed by Theresa May), so while trees are a popular feel-good promise in all the manifestos, this particular idea might not come to pass. While you might not be surprised to learn the Green Party is very keen on trees, the Brexit Party also commit to planting millions of trees and Labour want to create an 'NHS Forest' to offset carbon produced by the service.
The green economy is a favourite theme in all the manifestos, and as the Northern cities want to take the lead on developing 'the fourth industrial revolution', what the various parties are promising on merging business and environmental considerations will be important to job growth here.
Labour says "Just as the original Industrial Revolution brought industry, jobs and pride to our towns, Labour’s world-leading Green Industrial Revolution will rebuild them, with more rewarding, well-paid jobs, lower energy bills and whole new industries to revive parts of our country that have been neglected for too long," (p12) which is only bettered in self-aggrandising vagueness by the Conservatives saying: "It is precisely because we understand the concept of aspiration, and enterprise, that the UK is now leading a new green industrial revolution." (p3).
The Lib Dems do rather better on the specificity by promising: "the successful economies of the future will be those which adopt ‘circular economy’ techniques, cutting resource use, waste and pollution by maximising recovery, reuse, recycling and remanufacturing. This will cut costs for consumers and businesses, protect the environment and create new jobs and enterprises. We will introduce a Zero-Waste and Resource Efficiency Act to ensure that the UK moves towards a circular economy."
The People's History Museum is inviting people to be inspired by Britain’s democratic story on a visit to its galleries: register to vote at the museum, reflect on historical materials from past elections and continue the debate with a post-election breakfast. Pop along early on the morning after polling day, have a bite of breakfast and a cuppa, watch the results and discuss the outcome (Friday 13 December, 7am-11am).
For those who are not registered to vote, in the entrance to People’s History Museum there is a registration station where you can fill in details to register. This is a simple process that needs to be completed by midnight Tuesday 26 November; visitors will also be welcomed by colourful infographics that explain the electoral process created for PHM by artis Alex Gardner. You can also register online.
While we've had a look at promises to the north, you probably still want to know what the parties promise on the NHS, social care, taxation and more.
You can read the full manifestos on the links below or take a look at these quick bullet points:
- Bring back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to Parliament before Christmas to achieve Brexit by the end of January
- £20.5bn additional funding for the NHS in England by 2023-24
- 20,000 more police officers over the next three years in England and Wales
- No rises in income tax, National Insurance contributions or VAT
- Introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system, which treats everyone equally regardless of where they come from
- 400bn national transformation fund, including £250bn for energy, transport and the environment, and £150bn for schools, hospitals and housing
- £75bn for 100,000 new council homes a year by 2024 and 50,000 affordable homes a year through Housing Associations
- Free full fibre broadband for every home and business in the UK by 2030
- £10-an-hour minimum wage for all workers
- Holding referendum on Brexit
- Stop Brexit, which the party argues will release money to be spent on public services over the next five years
- £20bn a year for five years to tackle climate change
- 1p rise in income tax to invest in health and social care, allowing the NHS budget to be increased by £26bn a year by 2023-24
- Recruit 20,000 more teachers and increase schools funding by £10.6bn a year by 2024/25
- £130bn investment in infrastructure
- £100bn a year for a decade to tackle climate change - mainly paid for by borrowing
- Net-zero carbon emissions in the UK by 2030
- Pursue a "green new deal" including a "structural transformation" of the way the economy works
- Create more than a million new jobs through green investment
- Introduce a People's Vote Bill to implement another referendum on Brexit - will campaign to Remain
- Leave all institutions of the EU
- Negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU with a new deadline of 1 July 2020
- Leave the EU and move to WTO trading rules if a free trade agreement cannot be struck
- £200bn spending programme on infrastructure, wi-fi and services for young people
You can also check who is standing in your area with this finder.