UK election at-a-glance: Bikey, Waspi and the price of nurses
Updated 01:21, 30-Nov-2019
Gary Parkinson
Boris Johnson checks his notes on the way to work (Credit: Dan Kitwood/AP)

Boris Johnson checks his notes on the way to work (Credit: Dan Kitwood/AP)

Today's big news: Conservatives launch manifesto

Prime minister Boris Johnson hopped on the train to launch the Conservative party's manifesto in Telford. As is the way of things in modern politics, most of the big news had already been drip-fed to the media, and given Johnson's soundbite mantras it was no surprise to find the central message is "Get Brexit Done." 

In a move almost designed to generate "Brussels sprouts" jokes, Johnson pledged to bring back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill before Christmas in order to keep Brexit on track for completion by the end of January. Also on the menu is a five-year promise not to raise income tax, National Insurance or VAT - a reiteration of David Cameron's 2015 "triple lock". 

The only major untrailed announcement was the earmarking of $1.128 billion to recruit 50,000 new nurses. When the opposition Labour party queried this, saying they had benchmarked $1.283 billion to train just 24,000 new nurses, it was suggested that the Conservative number would be reached by including foreign recruitment and better retention of nurses. 

Other Conservative manifesto pledges include "doorstep policies" gleaned from listening to everyday concerns, such as a $100 million annual fund toward providing free hospital car parking - although some could have come from closer to home. A $2.56 billion fund for filling pot-holes might have been suggested by the prime minister himself, considering his 2014 newspaper column about how his bicycle, creatively nicknamed "Bikey", had been written off after its frame snapped when he hit a rain-filled pot-hole.

Keeping his rebuttal simple, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted "This is the billionaires' manifesto. They bought it. You'll pay for it."


Video: Five points from the Conservative manifesto

CGTN's Nawied Jabarkhyl digested the Conservative manifesto so you don't have to. Allow him two minutes to digest it for you.

Read more The full transcription of Nawied's video 

Pensions: An emotive issue (Credit: AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

Pensions: An emotive issue (Credit: AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

Policy: Pension compensation

Labour made a play for older voters with a promise of remuneration for a major switch in pension provision early this decade. In 2010 the Conservative-led coalition government accelerated a change which left women who had expected to retire at age 60 forced to wait until they were 65 or 66 to receive a state pension. 

These 1950s-born "Waspi women" - named after campaign group Women Against State Pension Inequality - have now been promised that a Labour government would pay up to $75 billion compensation, averaging at $19,736 per individual but going as high as $40,000 in some cases, to 3.7 million women in order to right a "historical wrong."

Older voters have traditionally skewed towards the Conservatives - polls at the 2017 election suggest fewer than one in four aged 60 or more voted Labour - but women have usually been more likely than men to vote Labour. For the Conservatives, Michael Gove said Labour are "spending money they had pledged not to spend," while the Lib Dems' Jo Swinson criticized "uncosted pledges."

Polls: Conservatives boosted by Brexit Party pullout

The Conservatives have extended their lead over Labour to 19 points, according to the latest Opinium poll in the Observer newspaper. While Labour has stayed on 28 percent of the vote, Boris Johnson's party has added three points - largely from the Brexit party, which will not stand candidates in Conservative seats. When Opinium also asked voters who they would back if all parties ran in their seat, the Conservative lead stayed at 16 points. 

Nicola Sturgeon: not a Corbyn fan, but more so than Arlene Foster (Credit: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Nicola Sturgeon: not a Corbyn fan, but more so than Arlene Foster (Credit: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Political matchmaking (or possibly not)

Despite the polls, the possibility of a hung parliament means various parties are being asked about the chances of power-sharing - with various degrees of enthusiasm or otherwise. 

Jo Swinson reiterated that her Liberal Democrats wouldn't form a coalition with either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn, saying neither are fit to be prime minister.

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon also restated that she would "never ever put Boris Johnson in government," and said the SNP wouldn't go into coalition with Labour either - but could come to a "less formal arrangement" under certain conditions (namely more devolution, no Brexit and no nuclear weaponry in Glasgow). She likened the choice between Johnson and Corbyn as "the devil and the deep blue sea."

If that seemed lukewarm to Corbyn, his ears must have burned when Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster called him "anathema to anyone who believes in the United Kingdom." The DUP entered a confidence-and-supply arrangement to prop up Theresa May's 2017 minority Conservative government, and Foster said she wouldn't rule out working with Labour "if someone else is leading" them. We'll put that down as a "No" for now, then. 

Read more What is a hung parliament?

DUP leader Arlene Foster (right) and deputy Nigel Dodds after a chat at 10 Downing Street (Credit: AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

DUP leader Arlene Foster (right) and deputy Nigel Dodds after a chat at 10 Downing Street (Credit: AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

UK election jargon buster: Confidence and supply

Not every election delivers a winner; when it doesn't, it produces a hung parliament, in which no party has an absolute majority and therefore power. In these cases, the party with the most seats negotiates with other parties to either form a coalition, in which the junior parties will command ministerial roles and a large say in policy-making, or a looser alliance known as a confidence-and-supply arrangement.

The "confidence" is an agreement that the minor party (or even independent MPs, if there are enough of them) will side with the minority government if the opposition attempts to trigger another election via a vote of no confidence. The "supply" refers to budget votes, on matters authorizing government expenditure; if governments (whether majority or minority) are defeated in these, it usually ends in a new election. In all other matters, its members are free not to support the government. In return, the minority party usually seeks policy implementation. 

There have been two examples of a minority governments propped up by confidence-and-supply arrangements. In 1977 and 1978, the then Liberal party backed Jim Callaghan's minority Labour government. After her 2017 snap election left the Conservatives without a majority, Theresa May reached agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party.