A manifesto is a political party’s public declaration of its policies and aims, to help voters understand what a party plans to do if it is elected. Our manifesto for the 2015 General Election is downloadable as a PDF, and key policy points are listed below. They aren’t the only issues we cared about in 2015, but they should give you a sense of who the Whigs are and what we stand for.
The Whig Party has always promoted free trade and economic liberalism. Since the British economy is subject to global forces that are far outside the control of Westminster politicians, it is not the Government’s role to try to control the economy. The Government ought instead to use its powers to help the economy serve all our citizens in the fairest way. Being economically liberal, the Whigs trust private companies to deliver efficient services within the bounds of government regulation, and without tax exemptions and subsidies. We are also economically literate, so we are realistic about the limits of competition. There are certain areas in which the market cannot provide an acceptable service. These include the NHS, prisons, and defence, and they should remain entirely in public hands.
New taxes should not be introduced while there is an existing ‘tax gap’ between tax that is owed to the Treasury and tax that has been paid. Therefore we call for existing tax evasion legislation to be more rigorously enforced. The existing tax system could also be made more efficient and redistributive. For example, the UK currently has one of the lowest corporation tax rates in the developed world, and we argue that this should be set to a level that better reflects the benefits that companies gain from being located in the UK.
The Whig Party does not believe that eliminating the deficit as quickly as possible should be Britain’s primary economic focus. Our primary focus ought to be increasing productivity and government investment, to increase tax receipts. This will reduce the deficit in due course. The condescending analogy often given is that the Government needs to pay down the deficit as if it were a household credit card. The analogy only works if the credit card holder were immortal, the world’s fifth richest entity, and the card had a 0.5% APR. A more accurate analogy would be a householder who has arbitrarily decided to pay off his mortgage within five years, and has stopped feeding his children to do so.
Human rights need to be fought for constantly. The Whigs will defend the European Convention on Human Rights against any attempts to repeal it, and we argue for three key policies that address the structural inequalities that hold us all back:
Universal free early-years education and childcare
The right to work and the right to a family life are human rights. Universal free early-years education and childcare for two-four-year-olds will enable young parents to balance work and family life, and will reduce inequality in children’s development in these critical years.
Low-quality and overpriced housing causes avoidable poverty and health problems. A distorted housing market is damaging the lives of an entire generation. Britain needs to build more homes, especially on London’s green belt, and local councils should be permitted to borrow against future rental income to build social housing
The most pressing human rights issue in Britain are to do with women’s rights. There is a moral obligation on the Government to intervene in two key areas: violence against women, and equal pay. We call for a nationally funded network of rape crisis centres, and for gender pay audits to be mandatory for large employers.
Representation of women in public life
The lack of equal representation of women in our public life is a national disgrace. Just 16% of High Court judges, 22% of MPs and 24% of FTSE 100 board members are women. We either wait until the end of the century for these figures to organically rise to 50%, or we get to 50% by the end of the decade by investigating quotas. For the good of the country, the Whigs propose the latter.
Freedom of expression
Freedom of thought, of speech, and expression are the cornerstones of a free society. We argue against Tory and Labour attempts to restrict them under the cover of counter-terrorism and security. ‘British values’ include being confident enough to debate those who we disagree with, not silencing them.
Criminalisation of unpaid internships
A culture of unpaid internships is closing off many professions – such as the media, law, and politics – to young people from poorer backgrounds. We all suffer as a result. Young people should not be expected to work for free as part of ‘work experience’, because the experience of work includes the experience of being paid.
Generation gap and wealth gaps are opening up in Britain. Successive governments have privileged the old and rich at the expense of those who don’t vote; the young, the poor, renters, the disabled, and the unemployed. This is socially unjust and economically indefensible.. As well as repealing the Coalition’s bedroom tax and legal aid cuts, the Whigs argue for three key policies.
Means-test pensioner benefits
While we of course defend the needs of poor pensioners, wealthy over-65s who enjoyed free university education, have defined-benefit pension plans, and have profited from rising house prices, are the most privileged group in our society. The state pension, free TV licenses for the over-75s and the winter fuel payment should be means-tested
Decriminalisation of drug use
Throwing people in prison for personal drug use is illiberal and a waste of public resources. Criminal penalties for drug possession should be removed and resources should be directed towards treatment rather than prosecution.
The Consumer Rights Bill should be amended to ban spurious letting agent fees. We call for a national landlord register, and for renters to be ensured security of tenure.
New Reform Act
People should be able to vote online, and the vote should be extended to 16 and 17-year-olds. The day of a General Election should be a Bank Holiday, and the Fixed Parliaments Act should be amended to limit a Parliament to four years.
Moving the House of Commons out of London
The refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster provides an excellent opportunity to move the House of Commons permanently to Manchester or Newcastle. The Lords can stay put in London.
Devolution of powers to English regions
England’s regions should be more empowered, with similar levels of powers now enjoyed by Wales, London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The regions ought to align approximately with MEP constituencies, and the exact powers that a region has should depend on the need of the region.
Increase power of local councils
Local councils should manage their own resources. They should be enabled to set their own council tax bands and business rates.
Love of Country
Protect the NHS from under-investment and privatisation
The NHS needs to be expanded to include social care, and mental health provision needs to be expanded. We call for a Royal Commission to investigate how Britain will provide the founding principles of the NHS in 2045, when Britain will have an older population, higher expectations, and more sophisticated treatment than was even thought possible in 1945.
Abolish university tuition fees
A highly developed society such as ours needs a highly educated workforce. The cost for this should be shared by all of us, not by plunging our youngest adults into a life of debt. If it is decided that too many young people go to university, then employers should be incentivised to employ 18-20 year olds by removing National Insurance contributions.
Defend the BBC from funding cuts
Although the BBC is our greatest global ambassador, it is has been subject to short-sighted, and possibly ideological, Tory cuts. Its funding has been frozen since 2010, and since 2014 the World Service, traditionally funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has been funded from the licence fee. The Whigs will take the side of the BBC in the next royal charter renewal.
Britain’s Place in the World
We are proud to have one of the world’s leading armed forces, but there is no financial, legal, or military justification for Britain to maintain a strategic nuclear deterrence in the 21st Century. We should instead focus on maintaining our conventional forces’ readiness to deploy troops overseas when called upon, including saving lives in the Mediterranean. To ensure that the lessons of the past decade are learned, the Whigs call for an inquiry to understand why the military situation in Iraq and Afghanistan developed not necessarily to Britain’s advantage.
Maintain foreign aid commitment
As one of the richest countries on earth, it is right that we give 0.7% of our GDP to those less fortunate than ourselves.
The Whigs will push for an ‘in’ vote at the EU Referendum
The EU may not be perfect; mainly because it’s young, and Britain hasn’t been involved enough. We can make it more democratic and accountable. ‘Ever-closer union’ may not be in Britain’s interest, but it is far easier to argue for this from a leadership position inside the Union than a bitter and diminished position outside.