Much of this week’s campaigning, announcements and policy leaks have focused on the upcoming Budget, and accordingly, clues about what Chancellor George Osborne will present to the nation on Wednesday are of interest in gleaning future Conservative policy directions.
The Financial Times has reported that Mr Osborne had found “austerity breathing space” that would permit a “newfound flexibility” running contrary to dire warnings from Labour about the scale of planned Tory cuts.
The same paper reported that the Chancellor was seriously considering a plan to allow pensioners the flexibility to sell their annuities for cash as part of his 2015 Budget, and linked this explicitly to the effort to win support among sympathetic older voters.
There was cause for concern among defence hawks this week as the Financial Times reported that Prime Minister David Cameron had asked ministers to consider whether spending on the intelligence agencies could be counted as defence spending.
The same paper also featured an interview with Mr Cameron, highlighting his primary campaign themes and desire to stimulate growth. In reference to his economic policies, he told the FT: “The first thing is to finish the job”.
This week, Labour unveiled its election pledge card, featuring five key policy promises. Speaking at a Birmingham campaign rally, Labour Leader Ed Miliband outlined his areas of focus.
He promised to provide a strong economic foundation; better living standards for working families; an NHS with “the time to care; immigration controls; and “a country where the next generation can do better than the last”.
The Opposition also returned to a favourite pre-2015 campaigning theme by highlighting a desire to see energy regulator Ofgem take on the power to enforce additional cuts in energy bills by next winter.
Despite having recently confirmed its commitment to retaining the Trident nuclear defence system – a hot-button issue due to the SNP’s implacable opposition, and the possibility of the Scottish nationalists playing some role in forming a future Government – it was reported over the weekend that Labour was considering whether the programme could operate with one fewer submarine.
Labour also relaunched its BAME Manifesto, featuring a breakdown of how key policies are designed to help the UK’s ethnic minority communities in areas such as employment.
The Liberal Democrats entered the housing debate this week with a pledge to offer first-time buyers the chance to participate in a “rent-to-own” scheme whereby they could pay instalments towards the cost of a home on a monthly basis, with no initial deposit required. They would also be permitted to cash in “at any time”, thus gaining the potential to use the monies accumulated for a traditional property purchase.
At the party’s Spring Conference, delegates also backed measures which, it has been reported, could create green transport laws banning high-emission cars by 2040 and slashing speed limits.
Elsewhere, the party also sought to display its civil liberties credentials by supporting an extension of safeguards on DNA in law enforcement to cover images of innocent individuals. This would involve extending the regulatory regime contained in the Protection of Freedoms Act.
Speaking at the Spring Conference, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander promised a crackdown on “tax dodgers” in the party’s upcoming manifesto. He had previously indicated his desire to see these measures in the Budget.
He said: “I want to see those who aid, abet, facilitate, or encourage tax evasion hit as hard with criminal and financial penalties as the tax evaders themselves”.
Coverage also continued of the Liberal Democrats’ promise to spend a further £2bn per annum of energy efficiency improvements, citing domestic energy efficiency as a crucial infrastructure priority. The party has also pledged to protect education spending in real terms.
As Senior Political Analyst at DeHavilland, Anna Haswell leads on financial services policy, as well as covering media issues. In her capacity as Content Marketer, she is also responsible for DeHavilland's briefings and analysis output, working across teams to ensure relevant messages reach current and prospective clients alike. She is a graduate of the University of Oxford and Goldsmiths, University of London.