2023 appears to be the year of five-point plans. In the last month we have had two sets of five-points plans, from the PM and the leader of the opposition. Let’s compare the two and see how they measure-up.
Yesterday, Sir Keir Srarmer delivered a speech in Manchester setting out his five ‘national missions’ that would define the Labour Party’s next general election manifesto. So what did we learn? The missions cover five broad themes: the economy, the NHS, crime, the climate crisis and education. They will be long-term objectives, rather than consumer pledges, but will be “measurable” so voters can check against performance. The Labour Leader took the opportunity to wheel out the Party’s favourite political catchphrase, countering ‘sticking plaster politics’ in Westminster.
Labour’s missions are:
Securing the "highest sustained growth" in the G7 group of rich nations, made up of the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan, by the end of Labour's first term;
Making Britain a '"clean energy superpower", removing fossil fuels from all of Britain's electricity generation by 2030;
Improving the NHS;
Reforming the justice system;
Raising education standards
By contrast, the Prime Minister’s:
Halve inflation this year to ease the cost of living and give people financial security;
Grow the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country;
National debt is falling so that we can secure the future of public services;
NHS waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly;
Pass new laws to stop small boats, making sure that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed.
There are similarities between both plans. Both leaders have prioritised economic growth which is the key voting issue for the electorate currently. Generally, we see a reversion though to ‘traditional’ Conservative v Labour battle lines. Sunak has placed a much greater emphasis on the economy, with key ‘red wall’ issues thrown in too, such as the NHS and immigration. Starmer on the other hand has designed his missions around traditionally safe shores for the Labour Party - growing the economy to strengthen the nation’s public services. The Labour Leader’s hope is that this resonates with an electorate fatigued by strikes and beleaguered public services.
One glaring omission from both leaders however, which many voters under the age of 40 will agree, is the lack of attention given to the UK’s housing crisis. Which, as we learned from a bombshell report from the Centre for Cities this week, absolutely is a crisis. The report, retweeted by many red wall Tory MPs, highlighted that the UK has a deficit of approximately 4.3 million homes. The lack of effort by successive governments to not upkeep supply with demand has created a bubble, which will soon burst at the hands of the cost of living and high interest rates.
The housing crisis has created a swathe of issues for the UK. The country has more young people living at home than ever before, extortionate rental prices are taking money out of the pockets of those likely to spend it on goods and services, and our ruthless planning laws are hampering our economic recovery by restricting the UK’s ability to physically grow. There have traditionally been good reasons for political parties to build their policies around home owners, which is that the British electoral epicentre - the centre ground - were the millions of homeowners created by Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy Scheme.
Since then, however, first-time deposits have rocketed, house building has slowed, the private rental stock has increased and wages have not kept up with house prices. What this means for political strategists is that ‘The Homeowner’, which in the 90s and 00s were couples and singles in their 20s and above, are now an ageing population, with ‘generation rent’ forming a huge voting block under the age of 45. This is not a radical voting group calling for rent controls and the imprisonment of landlords - but a group merely asking that political parties build, build, build, so that they can join in with the British dream of home ownership.
There is a case to be made that both leaders ignoring these calls for reform will create great apathy amongst this voting block. For many, it seems like a no-brainer that can not just expand home ownership in the UK, but also create the economic growth that Britain needs to make this decade the ‘roaring twenties’.