By Jessica Reid
2017 political party conferences: what’s it all about?
Every year, the UK political parties leave Westminster for a couple of days and set up home by the beach or in big cities around the UK.
Not only is it an important time for political parties to come together and decide on their future, but it is also an important time for us, the electorate (plus, there’s usually a few laughs when things go wrong.)
This is our time to get a new feel for what the parties are offering, so here’s a brief summary of who is who and what they pledged:
- Conservative Party – 1-4 October, Manchester:
Theresa May vowed to “renew the British dream” of a better life for the next generation.
We are the next generation, so what does Mrs May propose to improve our future?
Firstly, a pledge to increase social housing. We have all heard of how the housing crisis in the UK will most especially impact young people most, with rents and house prices rising far quicker than incomes. Mrs May has pledged to inject £2bn into housing to create a “new generation” of council houses and affordable homes to rent. The idea behind this policy is to provide those who rent or are waiting for council houses with more security and ensure they are not priced out of the housing market.
Secondly, the student loan repayment threshold is to increase from £21,000 to £25,000. Further to this, a tuition fee freeze at £9,250 and a review into the long-term issues surrounding student loans. The announced changes are designed to help low-earning graduates in the immediate future, although the burden of debt after graduation will not actually be any smaller. However, this policy only benefits students who took out loans post-2012; graduates who took out loans pre-2012 are likely to be facing higher loan repayments.
- Labour Party – 24-27 September, Brighton:
Jeremy Corbyn claimed that Labour was on the “threshold of power.” It is certainly clear that after this year’s general election, the Labour Party is benefitting from some dissatisfaction with the Conservative government. So, what has Jeremy Corbyn been saying? Surprisingly, student debt was not mentioned at this year’s party conference. Instead, Corbyn was focusing more on his dominance of the party after the general election turned out better than expected. However, in past months, Corbyn has promised to “deal with” the student finance system if he came to power. It is clear from interviews with Corbyn that any change would be radical, given his other calls for railway nationalisation and NHS overhaul. It just depends on what changes he would make. It is hard to judge and compare one party with another if they do not specify their policy aims.
Drawing on the tragic events of Grenfell Tower over the summer, Corbyn has promised a “clampdown on gentrification.” He claimed that regeneration schemes are a “cover for ‘social cleansing’” and that Labour would improve the management surrounding social housing. So, how does this affect future generations? Gentrification is the process of renovating and improving an area, so it conforms to middle-class taste. Although this process encourages a new creative class, it risks disbanding local communities and causing local rental prices to increase. While this process has the potential to improve our lifestyle, it can exhaust an already stretched housing market, and cause an even greater housing crisis.
Other party conferences this month from included:
- Liberal Democrats – 16-19 September, Bournemouth:
- Green Party – 7-10 October, Harrogate
- UKIP – 29-30 September, Torquay
Click here for more information on the party conference period.