Election promises: Wi-Fi chain gangs and maximum wage
What the other 'sensible' parties are proposing
The big three are not the only parties in the coming general election. Here are some highlights the other allegedly sensible parties might have in store for us if elected.
First up, the Green Party, which might just steal a seat in the Brighton Pavilion constituency. Their manifesto (pdf), like those of the Lib Dems and Labour, goes large on the f-word: "fair". However, this is a far more radical effort.
Like the Lib Dems, the Greens struggle with the dilemma of how to impose a radical new vision on society while maintaining some respect for basic individual liberties – and time and again, they end up failing that test. For instance, they demand a "fashion industry ban on size 0 models to reduce pressure on girls to conform to an unhealthy and unrealistic ideal".
Undoubtedly, there is a case for such a move – but the means chosen is nanny-ish in the extreme. The Greens' manifesto is more socialist – and far more feminist – than Labour's. In addition to the very predictable new approach to climate change, there is a serious whiff of fairness through enforced equality: as well as a minimum wage, the Greens would impose a maximum one too.
Far-reaching tax changes would bring about financial and economic equality, both at the individual and corporate level, very much in line with the party's view that an equal society is a happier society.
They have thought hard and widely about issues. They oppose ID cards, have grave concerns over the development of a national dataset, including detailed biometric data, and would like a citizen's right of access to information held on them by government. They would ensure digital access for all – another hostage to state intervention, giving BT an obligation to provide affordable high-speed broadband-capable infrastructure to every household.
They alone would implement a radical reform of drug laws. While it is easy to categorise the detail of their manifesto in terms of old-fashioned politics, what they are proposing does not fit the existing political mould and is worth reading if only for a genuinely alternative view of how politics could be.
UKIP might just bring about electoral upset in Buckingham, where their former leader Nigel Farage is breaking with a political tradition that allows the Speaker of the House of Commons to be returned unopposed and standing against current incumbent John Bercow.
As one might expect, the UKIP manifesto, Empowering the People, has a lot to say about the evils of Europe and how we would be better off without its interference. Like the Lib Dems, they would significantly raise the threshold at which tax begins to be paid – to £11,500. They also float the interesting idea of combining tax and National Insurance into a single system.
They would cut public spending, but invest in job creation. Defence would benefit. So, too, would the nuclear power industry and flood defences. They anticipate many more prisoners – courtesy of a "three strikes" policy - and a prison-building scheme would be put in hand to double prison capacity.
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