The General Election in Britain next week is, in effect, a two-party contest between the Labour Party, which has been in power for the past five years, and the Conservatives.
The General Election in Britain next week is, in effect, a two-party contest between the Labour Party, which has been in power for the past five years, and the Conservatives. They are each hoping to form next government. The third most sizeable party, the Liberals, have on such prospect; their best hope of power is in alliance with one or other of the major parties if the outcome of the election is very close. The issues on which the Labour and Conservative parties have concentrated their campaigns have for the most part been domestic, rather than international.
SYNOPSIS: The Conservatives began their campaign some months ago by attacking Labour's record in providing employment. Labour has claimed that Conservative policies would take the country back to the three-day week imposed in 1974 by the last Conservative government under Mr. Edward Heath, or even to the mass unemployment of the 1930s.
All the main parties are promising to cut taxation. Britain is not the most heavily taxed of the industrial democracies -- though many British people think it is. But a big proportion of its revenues come from direct taxation, and rates on the larger incomes are high.
The Conservatives say this stifles enterprise; they plan to shift some of the emphasis to indirect taxation. They say they prefer to tax spending rather than saving. The Labour party says this bears hardest on people with lower incomes; and that it would drive up prices, increase the cost of living and touch off massive wage claims; in other words, that it would fuel a new round of inflation. They point out that their policies have brought inflation down from twenty-six percent a year to just under ten percent.
The Conservatives plan to achieve most of their tax cuts by reductions in public spending. One of their main targets is the money the Labour government has provided to help ailing British industries. Labour say cut-throat competition will lead to a trail of bankruptcies and lost jobs.
Trades union practices, particularly during recent strikes, have become a major issue. Conservatives accept the right to picket -- but only peacefully.
They recall the dispute at the Grunwick film processing firm eighteen months ago, when coaches brought employees to work through big crowds of demonstrators.
Conservatives want changes in the law, if necessary, to stop "flying pickets' -- people with no direct connection with the dispute -- and "secondary picketing" of firms not directly involved. Labour believes this is better done by voluntary agreement with the unions.
Support for the police, and the problem of "law and order" is one of the firmest planks in the Conservative platform. Their manifesto says a growing disrespect for the rule of law is the most disturbing threat to Britain's freedom and security. The Labour Party agrees with the sentiments, but rejects Conservative criticism of its record in this field.
Britain's relations with Europe is the only international topic to make much impact on the election campaign. Some aspects of the Community's policy are not popular in Britain. The conservatives have accused Labour ministers of making unreasonable attacks on the Community to gain easy popularity at home'; and called for a new effort to rebuild relations from a position of greater economic strength.