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UK election manifesto spending pledges indicate end to austerity era

By JONATHAN POWELL | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-11-27 10:28
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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for the Conservative party's manifesto launch in Telford, Britain November 24, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Election manifestos published by the United Kingdom's three main political parties indicate the decade long era of austerity may be coming to an end, with public spending set to rise.

According to economists, the pledges made by Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats in the past week mean there will be a steep increase in funding allocated to public services in the next five years whoever wins.

All candidates for the role of chancellor are seeking to spend more, partly financed via higher borrowing and partly by increased taxes, according to a Financial Times report.

Since Boris Johnson took over as prime minister in July, his chancellor Sajid Javid has allocated even more money to schools, health and the police and there are new promises on social care.

New spending set aside for the next five years under the Conservatives amounts to 100 billion pounds ($128 billion) and their proposals imply state growth from 40 percent in 2019-20 to 41.1 percent by 2023-24, pushing spending to its highest level since 2015-16. The Lib Dems plan to invest more and Labour more than double the Tories.

"The spending taps are going back on, whoever wins," said Torsten Bell, director of the Resolution Foundation thinktank.

A former advisor to Philip Hammond and Sajid Javid in the Treasury said anyone hoping for tax cuts would be disappointed.

"Long-term fiscal pressures from ageing, decarbonization and rising healthcare costs all point to spending increases rather than tax cuts being the direction (in the) medium-term," said Tim Pitt.

Nicholas Macpherson, the top official in the Treasury for a decade until 2016, said there would ultimately be a big bill "for the have-it-all fiscal incontinence of the baby-boomers and their political representatives".

Meanwhile, the chief rabbi of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has strongly criticized Labour, claiming the party is not doing enough to root out anti-Jewish racism.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, are seen during a televised debate ahead of general election in London, Nov 19, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

It comes as Labour launched a "race and faith manifesto", which aims to tackle prejudice and includes policies on how to combat anti-semitism in Britain.

In The Times, Ephraim Mirvis, the Orthodox chief rabbi-the spiritual leader of the largest group of Jewish communities in the country-said "a new poison has taken root" in the party.

He claimed the response of Labour's leadership to threats against parliamentarians, members and staff has been "utterly inadequate" and said it "can no longer claim to be the party of equality and anti-racism".

Corbyn has said Labour is tackling anti-semitism by expelling members.

Mirvis said "the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety" at the prospect of a Labour victory in the Dec 12 general election.

He added that it was "not my place to tell any person how they should vote" but he urged the public to "vote with their conscience".

Later, the Muslim Council of Britain urged people to consider the issue of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party when voting.

In a statement, it said: "This an issue that is particularly acute in the Conservative Party who have approached Islamophobia with denial, dismissal and deceit."

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