As the general election looms, Stylist quizzes the party leaders on the issues that matter to you.
As next week’s general election fast approaches and a sense of political uncertainty remains, Stylist decided to get the lowdown straight from the horse’s mouth.
Over the last few weeks, prior to the release of most political manifestos, we approached the nine main party leaders and asked why you, the Stylist reader, should give them your vote. We wanted to know the ins and outs of how their policies on three key areas – Brexit, healthcare and climate change – will directly affect you. We visited Jeremy Corbyn at his London HQ and spoke to other leaders over the phone.
As expected, not everyone was prepared to divulge. Boris Johnson cancelled a promised face-to-face meeting at the very last minute, instead leaving his press team to answer questions over email. Nigel Farage’s team showed initial interest when they knew we’d spoken to other leaders, but then ignored our following six emails. His Brexit Party released what they call a ‘Contract With The People’ instead of a manifesto, pushing for a “clean-break Brexit”.
The DUP didn’t want to speak to us either, replying, “It isn’t going to work out. Apologies.” They have released a document called ‘Let’s Get Northern Ireland Moving Again’, which talks about restoring the assembly and wanting to see a Brexit deal that doesn’t leave Northern Ireland behind. At the time of publication, their website promises a more relevant Westminster manifesto is “coming soon”.
Here’s what the rest of the party leaders had to say.
“We’ll be able to use our freedom from the EU to abolish tampon tax”
BORIS JOHNSON, CONSERVATIVE PARTY
Brexit - The vote to leave the EU was a vote for change, but over the last three years, nothing has changed. There’s only one way to get Brexit done, and that is to return to a Conservative government so we can focus on these priorities. We’ll be able to use our freedom from the EU to improve our tax regime, not least by abolishing tampon tax.
Healthcare - Our NHS deserves the resources it needs to thrive. We’ve consistently made clear that the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade deal, nor the price it pays for drugs. Since I became prime minister, we have confirmed a record £34 billion of additional funding. We pledge to deliver 50,000 more nurses, giving students a £5,000 to £8,000 annual grant they won’t have to pay back. We’re also delivering 6,000 more doctors in GP clinics and 6,000 more primary care professionals. The NHS visa we’ll introduce will fast-track entry for qualified doctors and nurses from overseas.
Climate change - We are the first major industrial nation to make a target of net zero emissions by 2050, and it’s one of the six guarantees I’m making to voters. I recognise that the genius behind clean, green tech needs support, not heavy taxation. So we’re investing in technologies that will deliver that target, while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. We will make sure that everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid electric vehicle charging station.
For the full manifesto, go to vote.conservatives.com
“We’ve set up a new investment bank to focus on getting to net zero emissions”
NICOLA STURGEON, SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY
Brexit - The SNP is the strongest Brexit opponent, we want to see it reversed. Scotland didn’t vote for it. The Fawcett Society says women will be disproportionately affected by Brexit because they are disproportionately workers in, and users of, public services. So there’s a gender risk that makes it all the more important we don’t allow ourselves to be dragged into it. We would back a second Brexit referendum and we would favour revoking Article 50 rather than having no deal. Of course, we favour Scottish independence – which would mean Scotland couldn’t be removed from the EU when we don’t want to be.
Healthcare - The NHS and healthcare is devolved – in Scotland we directly fund the health service and we keep it in public hands. In a general election context, one of the things that is of huge concern is the threat to our NHS from trade deals – we don’t have responsibility over trade deals. So there’s big concern about the possibility of our NHS being privatised in the future.
Climate change - In Scotland, we have just legislated for new climate change targets – we’re working towards net zero of all emissions by 2045. Last year we planted 84% of the trees planted in the UK. We’re doing a great deal around de-carbonising our electricity system. We’re also looking to get private investment into some of the big infrastructure challenges we face. We’re setting up an investment bank with a primary mission of supporting that transition to net zero.
For the full manifesto, go to snp.org
“It’s important to us to get more women into politics and to change the culture”
ADAM PRICE, PLAID CYMRU
Brexit - We strongly believe in remaining in the EU. It’s the best future in terms of the impact on our economy and on us as individuals with freedom of movement. Leaving would mean less money for public services and it could mean that you or your family are affected by the job losses. We’ve announced a fairly historic cooperation with two of the pro-Remain parties, the Green Party and the Lib Dems, which is 60 seats across England and Wales to maximise the pro-Remain voice. We have a number of women in strong, winnable seats and it’s important to us to get more women’s voices in politics and change the culture.
Healthcare - One of our key policies is getting more doctors, nurses and dentists into the NHS. It’s a massive problem in Wales, as it is in England. It’s become very difficult to get appointments, and some areas don’t have any access to NHS dentistry. We are campaigning for 1,000 new doctors, 5,000 new nurses and 100 new NHS dentists in Wales. I’m a strong supporter of equal rights. We’d be very supportive of people having access to IVF through the NHS because it’s a fairly basic human need.
Climate change - We’d like to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2030 and aim to become zero-waste and plastic-free. We’ve set out a plan for a green jobs revolution, the idea being to invest £20 billion in tackling climate change. This includes rail electrification, offshore wind power and improving broadband.
For the full manifesto, go to partyof.wales
“I’m very proud of our NHS, I really am, but it’s got to be properly funded”
JEREMY CORBYN, LABOUR PARTY
Brexit - People voted Leave for a reason, people voted Remain for a reason, but no one voted to lose their jobs or rights. We will negotiate a credible arrangement within three months in which we’d be outside of the EU but would have a relationship that protects trade, the consumer, environmental and working rights and a lot of anti-discrimination legislation. We’d also guarantee the rights of EU nationals.
Healthcare - I’m very proud of our NHS, I really am, but it’s got to be properly funded. Our principle would be to bring more services in-house and repeal that section of the Health and Social Care Act that encourages privatisation. Patent medicines are expensive. We should own all or part of the patent, but also set up a drugs manufacturing opportunity within the NHS to reduce costs. That would also help reduce, if not end, the postcode lottery on drugs.
Climate change - I’ve spent my life fighting for environmental issues and biodiversity. I’m really pleased that the whole issue has now moved mainstream thanks to a lot of young people. Our conference said it wanted to be on a path to net zero emissions by 2030, which is a big ask, but we will do everything we can to achieve it. We’ve got very exciting green industrial revolution plans. It’s got to be done on the basis of recognising the opportunity for green energy jobs, for us to work with other countries – Britain cannot do it on its own.
For the full manifesto, go to labour.org.uk
“A Liberal Democrat government would repeal Article 50 on day one”
JO SWINSON, LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
Brexit - Our plan is very clear: we want to stop Brexit and a Lib Dem majority government would repeal Article 50 on day one. It’s going to be really good for our NHS because of the doctors and nurses we rely on from other EU countries. It’s going to be better for our economy, businesses and jobs, and better for security with access to EU databases.
Healthcare - We’ve been really clear that for extra money to go into the NHS, you need to raise that from a mechanism you’ll be able to gather money from every year, like income tax. We think the mental health service is most in need of a big chunk of money, so £11 billion would be put into that over the next five years. We need to increase the workforce because we don’t have enough mental health services. In fact, the biggest gap in consulting psychiatrists is in eating disorders – one in six positions are vacant. It’s absolutely atrocious that the support just isn’t there.
Climate change - We need to be really bold and ambitious on the climate emergency because we don’t have a lot of time. We’re not going to entirely de-carbonise by 2045, which is our aim for net zero, so we have to be taking measures to capture carbon – the most efficient way of doing that is by planting more trees. We will plant 60 million trees a year. It costs about £6 billion to do that and the money comes from capital investment – borrowing, but productive borrowing.
For the full manifesto, go to libdems.org.uk
“We want a higher minimum wage and a four-day working week”
SIÂN BERRY, GREEN PARTY
Brexit - We are in a really good position to get more Green MPs in parliament this election. People should be voting for voices they can trust, holding the parties to account and making sure we get the option to remain. Among our 11 key seats, six candidates are women. We’ve been working hard on renters’ rights, which Brexit puts at risk, trying to get the Mayor of London to push for rent control. We’re also going to introduce universal basic income for everyone: £86 a week funded through higher taxes brought in over the next 10 years. Plus we’d want a higher minimum wage and a four-day working week.
Healthcare - Our amazing NHS is buckling under the pressure of governments failing to provide enough money. Greens will pump in an extra £6 billion every year until 2030, with a focus on dramatically improving mental and reproductive healthcare, as well as ending privatisation. We want to ensure everyone can access mental health therapies within a month and offer services to meet the specific needs of LGBTQIA+ and BAME people.
Climate change - Our huge investment from the Green New Deal, £100 billion a year, will go on infrastructure, energy, housing and transport. We need to put £27 billion into transforming our energy system and £17 billion a year into getting our transport system sorted so we don’t have to use fossil fuel-emitting cars and there are good rail and bus systems. Young people will suffer very little from our tax changes.
For the full manifesto, go to greenparty.org.uk
“I was one of the first people to make the case for a people’s vote”
ANNA SOUBRY, INDEPENDENT GROUP FOR CHANGE
Brexit - If you are young then you’re going to particularly bear the brunt of Brexit, whatever deal is agreed to. I’m a founding member of the people’s vote. Chris Leslie MP and I were two of the first people to make the case for that final say, a people’s vote, because we believe that’s the only way through the crisis. Any deal must then go back to the people for a confirmatory referendum. In blunt terms, Brexit will mean people have less money in their pockets, fewer prospects and diminished rights as workers.
Healthcare - Both main parties are talking about making deeply irresponsible pledges to spend more money. I’m not saying we don’t need to spend more on the NHS, but we need a huge dose of honesty and responsibility. We want it to be a legal right for employees to attend GP and hospital appointments. We need to build our economy so we can keep funding the NHS.
Climate change - I think it’s really important to cut out the tribalism on these big issues and for all the main parties to acknowledge that this is a big emergency. We have to take urgent action and that’s tough action, which means we’re all going to have to change the way we live. We want to achieve carbon net zero by 2045, phase out non-essential plastics by 2025 and move away from the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. We’re looking at investment in electrical battery development. That money comes from taxes because there are no magic money trees.
For the full manifesto, go to voteforchange.uk
Photography: Getty Images