Experts weigh in on key policies from the 2024 General Election Manifestos

Experts weigh in on key policies from the 2024 General Election Manifestos
Stuck on who to vote for? Want to get more informed but feel overwhelmed by how much information there is? Or simply want to hear what experts think? Don’t worry! We got you!

We’re almost there. After six long weeks, voters will finally go to the polls in an election that, if polls are to be believed, is something of a foregone conclusion. That being said, your vote matters. Indeed in many constituencies, where the results are on a knife edge it could be the deciding vote as to who represents you and your interests in Parliament for the next five years.

For the election period we’ve been platforming the stories of those who have been missing from the conversation in our series ‘Missing Voices’ as well as those who have been organising to create a better world in our series ‘Cut Out’. Now, we bring you the key policies on some of the biggest issues facing the country from Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative Party manifestos, along with the opinions of experts in each field. They’ll set out the good, the bad and the ugly and then will speak on what the policies that they think are needed, so whoever your representative is come Friday, you can better hold them to account and push them to fight for the change really needed.

Immigration and Asylum

The election of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister in 2019 on a mandate to deliver Brexit, saw an empowered anti-immigration, pro-Brexit faction take key positions in the late-stage Conservative government (particularly Priti Patel as Home Secretary). With that has come an increasingly hostile environment towards immigrants, particularly asylum seekers, as boat crossings across the English Channel spiked. The Illegal Immigration Act 2023, set out provisions for the detention and removal of undocumented migrants living in the UK who arrived by boat, either to their home country or a “safe third country” – Rwanda. While no one has yet been removed from the UK as a result of it, scandals around detention centres including the Bibby Stockholm, Manston and Brook House have seen reports of abuse, unsafe conditions and alleged breaches of human rights. And it’s not only undocumented migrants facing the hostile environment over the past 14 years – the 2018 Windrush Scandal saw hundreds of Black Britons, who had lived in the UK for decades wrongly detained and deported.

My journey through the immigration system shows things must change

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Much of the Labour manifesto focuses on keeping people out of the UK by increasing visa restrictions, increasing border policing, sending back “failed” asylum seekers and reducing reliance on foreign workers in sectors where they are important. They are scrapping Rwanda though.

The Tory focus is to cut migration numbers as much as possible, making it harder for people to get legitimate visas, and “deter” asylum seekers from attempting to come to the UK by doubling down on their Rwanda policy. They will introduce a physical cap on legal migration, while signing more return deals with other countries.

The Lib Dems are proposing a more understanding approach to asylum seeking and migration, allowing them to work and penalising trafficking gangs rather than asylum seekers themselves, while upholding the Human Rights Act and scrapping Rwanda plan.

The Greens want to end the criminalisation of migration and asylum seeking, and will break up the Home Office to create a new Department for Migration and Department for Justice. They also plan to make visa and asylum applications simpler and fairer, and remove costs that profit off of people making them.

Migrant rights activist and expert Zoe Gardner has given her take on each of the party’s manifesto offering over on her TikTok.

Expert Analysis from Ravishaan Rahel Muthiah, Communications Director, JCWI

"We have seen politicians from all parties call for change, that's one thing they agree on. But it’s the substance of that change that matters. We must welcome people who seek sanctuary in the UK, not throw them onto barges or put them in detention centres indefinitely. Instead, we should provide housing in our communities and the right to work for people waiting for their asylum decisions. People who come to our country should have the right to public services so they can feel safe and live with dignity. Legal aid has been decimated, meaning those in greatest need have no access to justice. We must restore equal access to justice for all. The next government must invest in and expand legal aid, so people have access to free and high-quality legal advice. And finally, the next government must re-centre community. There should be an immediate end to immigration raids that rip our communities apart. If we start with these basic policy changes, we will begin to build a country that treats people with decency and reaps the benefits of migration."

Policing and protests

In recent years, police forces – particularly London’s Metropolitan Police – have been embroiled in repeated scandals. From a serving police officer kidnapping and murdering Sarah Everard, the strip searching of a Black 15 year old girl Child Q at school, to an official report finding pervasive racism and a “culture of misogyny” in Charing Cross police station in 2022. It’s been so bad that in September 2023, 1,000 Met Police officers had been suspended or put on restricted duties. Meanwhile, a global movement calling for the end of police brutality against Black people broke out in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd, and put into focus the institutional racism of policing in the UK. Yet despite the system’s visible flaws, the Conservative Government has increasingly given the police hardened powers, with increasing use of facial recognition technology and the ability to curb protests with the 2022 Police, Crime and Sentencing Act and 2023 Public Order Act. And those powers have been used – banning Extinction Rebellion from protesting in 2019, increasingly aggressive action against pro-Palestine protestors, and arresting 27 Just Stop Oil protestors “on suspicion of planning to disrupt airports this summer” last week.

We must honour the lives lost at the hands of the police

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Labour will increase neighbourhood policing, while focusing on targeting serious youth violence with prevention plans for young people caught with knives and banning sale of machetes, swords and big blades. They will also create specialist rape and sexual offence teams in police forces, and introduce “Respect Orders” to tackle public drinking and drug use – sound like ASBOs?

Tories will focus on heavy-handed policing, increasing numbers and giving them more powers and more resource to incarcerate people with more prisons. They will also double down on their attacks on the right to protest, giving police more power to prevent them in the first place, while banning acts of protest (pyrotechnics, climbing on war memorials).

The Liberal Democrats focus on investing in the criminal justice system, from community policing and the courts, while focusing on rehabilitation in and after time spent in prison. They will also scrap Conservative anti-protest laws and facial recognition.

The Greens aim to end oppressive policing structures – banning facial recognition technology and stop & search – while focusing on preventative measures for crimes with greater youth funding and diversion programmes rather than imprisonment.

Expert analysis from Francesca Cociana, Senior Associate, Hodge, Jones & Allen

“The parties’ manifestos seek to address the crises within the criminal justice system, and more broadly some of the social justice issues that feed into and off it, in very different ways. The Conservatives’ approach of increasing policing powers and criminalisation of protest is no different to what has been enrolled over the past few years. Rather than alleviate the crises, it’s likely worsen it, by deepening the already existent divisions in society and encourage more overt form of protest. Their support for facial recognition is of particular concern, given the multiple studies demonstrating the racial bias that underpins it. More promising is the proposed investing in rehabilitative services, echoed by the Lib Dems and Greens manifestos, but surprisingly not Labour. In terms of preventative measures, the latter touches on the need for youth workers and mentors placed in the community but fails to go further than this. Instead, Labour backs, inter alia, the introduction of further offences and sentencing review, and reforming how domestic abuse and rape cases are dealt with, yet falling short of any much needed funding pledge. In stark opposition to the main two parties, the Greens and Lib Dems agree on scrapping anti-protest laws and facial recognition software. The Lib Dems are the only party to explicitly acknowledge the backlog of court cases and pledging much needed investment into the Criminal Justice System, whereas the Greens are the only ones to propose the decriminalisation of drugs and diversion programmes over incarceration. The last two policies combines no doubt would have a huge impact on the pressures faced by the CJS, including the prison crises.

The Criminal Justice System is facing enormous pressure from all angles. There is a desperate need for investment into legal aid to stop legal aid lawyers leaving the profession and improve access to justice. The Court buildings are crumbling, and without more funds reserved for the Courts and their staff there is no hope to resolve the long standing backlogs which affect defendants and victims alike. The usual approach around increased criminalisation and policing powers, including controversial technology is part of the problem, not the solution. It’s time that those in power change their approach around dealing with offenders and public order by focusing on investments that will prevent people from offending, not punishment. With regards to protest, the introduction of increasingly draconian legislative powers has done nothing to reduce it. Instead they have shown how easily democracy can be interfered with for the sake of protecting the interests of the few who hold power.”

Climate and environment

As each day goes by, the climate crisis isworsening. In 2022, Pakistan was hit by deadly unprecedented flooding, Australia saw 24 million hectares (the size of the UK) of wildlife burnt through in 2019/2020, and in the Philippines, super typhoons have become seven times more likely than in the six years before 2022. Closer to home, communities in Norfolk are watching their homes crumble into the sea. With war in Ukraine and a rise in demand for energy as the world began to recover from the COVID-19 lockdowns, global energy prices soared. It caused a cost of living crisis in the UK and provided an opportunity for the Conservative government to make reaching net zero a culture war issue, as Rishi Sunak scaled back on the government’s targets in 2023 – vowing to “max out” oil reserves in the North Sea and announcing a plan to issue over 100 new licences.

I lost my home to crumbling cliffs – my coastal community is the canary in the coal mine

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Without nationalising the whole energy industry, Labour will set up a publicly owned company Great British Energy, which will aim to dramatically increase renewable energy by 2030, reduce carbon, increase jobs and establish “energy independence”. They will also force water companies to clean up the rivers.

The Conservatives will issue North Sea licences and increase nuclear output, while hoping carbon capture technology can help curb the climate crisis. There will be green energy investment, but mostly only in offshore wind, while making onshore wind and solar more difficult to build/implement.

The Lib Dem focus is on reducing pollution through sewage in rivers, while protecting and increasing nature through planting millions of trees as a means of reaching net zero. Lacking on renewable energy solutions though.

The Greens want to accelerate move to net zero by increasing taxes on fossil fuels and increasing investment in renewables. Energy security would be gained by increasing energy storage capacity, and they will also nationalise water companies

Expert analysis on bringing bills down by Alex Chapman, Senior Economist at the New Economics Foundation

“The parties are surprisingly quiet on tackling poverty and the cost-of-living crisis and particularly on its main driver, energy bills. Bills will rise again this winter but none of the parties have put any money, or other short-term solutions, on the table. To tackle energy poverty and build support for the green transition we need urgent reform so that all households can feel the ‘green dividend’ provided by cheap renewable energy directly in their pockets. At NEF we’re calling for a National Energy Guarantee which would provide every household with a free, or very cheap, block of energy covering their essential needs. This would provide a safety net for all and a reward for our national investment in cheap renewables. Funding for the scheme could be topped up through a proper windfall tax on fossil fuel profits, and by charging higher consumers, typically the wealthiest, for a premium on excess consumption. This premium tariff would also help keep consumption down and incentivise well-off households to invest in energy efficiency.”

Expert analysis on the climate offering as a whole from Tommy Vickerstaff, UK Lead, 350.org

“The manifestos are a mixed bag on climate. Unsurprisingly the Conservative manifesto is weakest and demonstrates their continued lack of ability to join up the climate and cost of living crisis and find solutions that meet either or both of them . The Conservatives, Labour and the Democrats are all in some form still pursuing North sea oil and gas extraction. Lib Dems and Conservatives by continuing to push for dangerous unnecessary new licenses and Labour failing to revoke the existing ones. Liberal Democrats and Labour have good commitments to meet our international Climate targets but are not fully laying out the plans, or most importantly the spending, needed to get us there. Scoring done by Greenpeace and Friends the Earth puts the Green Party resoundingly on top on climate and also on nature. One of the most robust pledges from their manifesto is the commitment to a wealth tax - ensuring that the funding transition to a more justice based energy system both here and internationally would be paid for by those with extreme wealth and who can actually afford to pay for it. To clarify we’re talking about scraping off the top percentage of wealth from billionaires rather than higher taxes for doctors etc. We’re expecting a Labour majority to come to power and the party have truly set themselves up for failure with their own fiscal rules. They’re going to have to backtrack to make any progress on climate action or reliving the cost of living, and a wealth tax is an obvious way for them to unlock huge amounts of money without further impeding on ordinary people.”

LGBTQ+ rights

“Trans rights are human rights”. It should go without saying, but more and more, the existence of trans women in particular is being placed in direct opposition to cis women, in what is probably the most toxic of culture wars. It’s a so-called debate that has filtered into sports, hospitals, and at its lowest, toilets. Talk of biological sex has seen discourse from across the political spectrum over “large gametes”, Rishi Sunak making a joke about “the definition of a woman” at Prime Minister’s Questions as murdered trans teenager Brianna Ghey’s mother visited Parliament, while Keir Starmer yesterday said that trans women do not have the right to use women only spaces, even if they have a gender recognition certificate. The result has been record levels of hate crimes reported against transgender people, with folk being five times more likely to suffer with mental health conditions than cis people.

What it's really like to access gender affirming healthcare as a young trans woman

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Labour have flip-flopped on their support for trans people, with a manifesto that argues for their recognition, yet publicly arguing that trans people do not have the right to use women only spaces, and that trans people in hospitals should be treated in “side rooms”.

The Conservatives are doubling down on their lack of recognition for trans people and children, which they will enshrine in law in the Equality Act.

The Lib Dems pledge to support trans people and affirming their identities. They also pledge to ban conversion therapy.

The Greens will give trans people more legal ways to express and live their identities, including on their passports.

Expert analysis from Mermaids

“Mermaids, along with the rest of the LGBTQ+ community, are extremely concerned about right-wing party policies with a clear anti-trans agenda. Proposal to change the Equality Act to redefine sex as biological sex, risks stripping trans people of their hard-won rights and protections, and will subsequently legitimise the discrimination and marginalisation of the community. Proposed RSHE and trans school guidance fails to reflect best practice according to inclusive educators, supportive parents, and trans young people themselves, and will place trans and non-binary young people directly in harm's way.

We welcome party policies that treat trans people with dignity and respect. This includes enacting policies that enable trans people to exercise autonomy over their own decisions and authority over their own lives. The trans youth manifesto, which we published in June, outlines what young people need from their elected representatives: they want to feel safe, welcome and protected, and to live in a world where they are celebrated, not debated.”

Housing

Tried to rent a flat recently? Interviewed for a £1,000 a month box room while in competition with 20 others? Put in an offer only to find out it was already gone? The UK’s housing system is utterly broken. Average rents rose by 9 per cent last year as years of neglecting to build affordable homes, Right to Buy eroding the stock of social housing each year since 1981, and next to no protections for renters has left generations with no means to ever gain housing security. Meanwhile for homeowners, the UK’s soaring inflation has seen interest rates and mortgage payments rise (some as high as 50 per cent) and housing providers hiking service fees for those on shared ownership schemes. The situation has left many unable to afford housing, and homelessness rose by 14 per cent over the course of 2023.

What is going on with the London Rental Market?

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Labour plan to build more homes and social homes and increase protections for renters by ending Section 21 and giving them more power to contest rent hikes. They will also focus on tackling leaseholds and work with councils to end homelessness.

While abolishing Section 21, Conservatives will empower landlords by giving them more powers to evict tenants on “anti-social” grounds. They will encourage more homes in dense urban areas, rather than the countryside while also targeting travellers.

Liberal Democrats willincrease building of new homes, with a focus on social homes, while also giving local authorities the power to scrap the Right to Buy and abolishing Section 21 no-fault evictions. They will also scrap the Vagrancy Act and aim to end rough sleeping.

The Greens plan to scrap Section 21 and Right to Buy, as well as build an extensive number of social homes a year. New homes will be made to fit green regulations and they will encourage rent control from local authorities.

Expert Analysis from Conor O'Shea, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Generation Rent.

"All of the major political parties understand that renting in this country is broken and have pledged – to varying degrees – reform intending to improve tenants' situations. The Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens have all promised to abolish arbitrary Section 21 no-fault evictions, but it is worth noting that this was the case in 2019 as well and the government failed to deliver. The next government cannot repeat that mistake; Labour's pledge for an "immediate" abolition is welcome but must become the reality if they were to win the election. 

"Too many of us are forced out of our homes by unaffordable rent rises so any new protections must stop the free-for-all that allows landlords to push rents up faster than tenants' wages. Labour has promised to enable tenants to "challenge unreasonable rent increases". The party's messaging around the issue has focused on bolstering rights in the courts to challenge an increase, without specifying how high that increase can be. In order to sufficiently slam the brakes on soaring rents, there must be a limit on rent increases pegged to the lower of wage growth or inflation."

Expert analysis from Acorn, the union

“We have 4 key policies we want the next government to introduce. Firstly, public investment in a massive public house building programme. We need 3.1 million council homes over the next 20 years, and we want them to be publicly owned. Other policies can tinker around the edges and make some experiences better for certain groups, but without a serious commitment to building council homes and ending the right to buy, we won’t arrive at a place where everyone has a place to call home. Secondly, we want the next government to implement rent controls in the private sector, and are calling for an inquiry to be launched into the best method and model for the UK. High rents are driving down living standards and fragmenting communities. Thirdly, we want everyone, regardless of tenure, to have a safe and decent place to call home. Standards need to be raised across the board, but crucially, local authorities and national regulatory bodies need to be resourced to enforce the new rules. In many cities, local authorities are barely able to scratch the surface of the issues because they don’t have the staff - there’s no point in having a rule you can’t enforce. It must be more costly for landlords and housing providers to ignore disrepair than it is to fix it. Finally, we must end unfair evictions by scrapping Section 21 and ensuring new laws only allow for landlords to evict tenants in exceptional circumstances. Whoever wins, we will continue to fight for these changes and for safe, secure and affordable housing for all.”

Workers rights

While the Tories triumphantly pat themselves on the back for reducing inflation, we are still worse off than we were two years ago. The cost of living crisis is not over, and for many, continues to worsen. At the same time the richest in the UK continue to get richer, while the emergence of AI threatens to take away the livelihoods of millions. The result has seen the highest number of working days lost in December 2023 since the 80s and an unprecedented joint walkout from NHS consultants and junior doctors in September. In response, the Conservatives have introduced the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act, which implements levels of service that need to be reached during strike action in a move to limit their impacts. The past few years have also seen the emergence of the gig economy, with the likes of Uber and Deliveroo giving many opportunities for work and income, but with little to no protections and pay stability typically afforded to workers, while Amazon workers have alleged that their toilet breaks are timed. It’s seen new forms of industrial action emerge as takeaway drivers took strike action, while Amazon has been embroiled in a battle with its workers over unionisation.

Amazon's surveillance culture is 'breaking' its workers

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Labour are aiming to give workers more protections and rights by ending zero hours contracts, fire and rehire, minimum wage age bands, and introducing day one rights to parental leave, sick pay and protection from unfair dismissal.

The Tories aim to cut national insurance as a means of giving workers something, simultaneously cutting benefits (specifically disability), while introducing national service is the manifesto’s tentpole policy.

Liberal Democrats pledge to give gig economy and freelance workers more protections, while increasing welfare safety net – abolishing the two child cap and increasing universal credit.

The Greens will introduce a genuine livable minimum wage at £15 an hour, while giving zero hours and gig economy workers the same rights as fully employed. They will also push for a (not massive) tax on extreme wealth while increasing benefits. The party also have possibly the most radical policy with a 10:1 pay ratio for private and public sector companies, meaning no one in a company can earn more than 10 times the lowest earning worker.

Expert analysis from Henry Chango Lopez, General Secretary, IWGB UNION

"As predicted, Labour’s manifesto lacks any kind of transformative agenda that would help actually change the lives of working people. The watering down of policies, such as the change from banning zero hours contracts to banning “exploitative” zero hours contracts, leaves loopholes open for employers to exploit the most vulnerable. Sadly, due to Labour’s eagerness to appease businesses such as Deliveroo and Amazon, it seems as if some of the most exploitative forms of work will be allowed to flourish, and it once again falls on workers themselves to combat these practices.

As a union that has represented precarious workers who have been neglected by governments and the law for so long, we know the importance of making change through grassroots organising, rather than relying purely on elections or advocacy. If Labour were serious about improving the lives of the working people they would begin to dismantle the various obstacles to building worker power, repealing anti-union and anti-protest laws, removing the trade union levy, making it easier for workers to strike and exercise their democratic rights, and ending the demonisation and persecution of migrant and undocumented workers."

Gaza

The Genocide in Gaza continues to devastate millions in the Strip. The death toll stands at over 37,000, nearly 80,000 injured, while sewage and hospital infrastructure has been completely razed. Israel’s “right to self-defence” has been a consistent theme from British politicians, with Rishi Sunak continuing to peddle the line even after British aid workers were killed in an Israeli air strike, while Keir Starmer told LBC that Israel had the right to withhold power and water from civilians in the Gaza Strip. In the face of it, a global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has emerged, which saw bands pull out of festivals over sponsorships linked to arms sales to Israel while McDonald’s share prices fell by 4 per cent after the retailer’s Israeli franchise said that it had given away free meals to the country’s military. Meanwhile 15 National Marches for Palestine have seen millions take to the streets since October 7 and a May poll showed 73 per cent of Brits supported an immediate ceasefire – a stark gap between public and politician opinion.

The Gaza breakdancing crew helping children escape the trauma of war

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Expert analysis from Na’amod

“Over the last 9 months we have been witness to more depravity than the human heart can bear. Atrocity upon atrocity, aided and abetted by a government that has - at best - chosen to look the other way when confronted with genocide. Come the morning of July 5th, whoever forms the next government will have a real chance to make change.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens have all committed to an immediate ceasefire and hostage deal in their manifestos, but with ICC and ICJ rulings likely years away Labour’s refusal to end arms licenses to Israel without the court ruling on crimes leaves voters asking whether their commitment to a ‘renewed peace process’ is merely lip service.

We have reached the Israel-Palestine event horizon; the deliberate stoking of division between Jewish and Muslim communities, draconian anti-protest laws, the dogmatic clinging to IHRA’s frankly dangerous definition of antisemitism - conflating the Israeli state with Jewish people broadly - have all failed to slow this movement’s momentum. Voters continue to feel betrayed by policies which place the profits of arms manufacturers above human life, despite public opinion being overwhelmingly in favour of a ceasefire.Our next government must commit to ending not only this genocide, but the conditions which have fomented it: an end to Israeli apartheid, and end to occupation, an end to the last 76 years of horror.”

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