Why Satirical Dismissiveness Dominates Political Imagery

Credit: Byzantine_K

Credit: Byzantine_K

While politicians are often regarded as verbose – especially in their attempts to answer the question they would prefer to have been asked rather than the one actually posed to them – the media that surrounds us is increasingly visual, writes Dr Kevin J. Hunt.

Within the final week of campaigning it is interesting to consider the type of imagery, both official and unofficial, that seems to have dominated the 2015 election. Continue reading

A ‘jobs-led recovery’? Assessing the facts behind the Conservatives and Labour manifestos

WalletIn the run-up to the General Election, the two largest parties have attempted to paint different pictures of the economy, particularly what this means for people’s jobs, in order to justify their Manifesto commitments and – by extension – why they should lead the next Government, writes research fellow Chris Lawton.

The Conservative manifesto emphasises the strength of recovery in terms of the quantity of jobs created since the start of the Parliament in May 2010: “Thanks to the success of our long-term economic plan, Britain is creating more jobs than the 27 other countries of the European Union put together… Over the past five years, 1.9 million new jobs have been created; 1,000 jobs for every single day that we have been in government.” Continue reading

Labour’s rent control plans may have unintended consequences

HousingEd Miliband has pledged that Labour would introduce three-year tenancy agreements for private renters under which their rent increases would be capped at the rate of inflation, writes Professor Michael White.

The Conservatives quickly rounded on the idea of re-introducing rent controls, with London mayor Boris Johnson writing in The Daily Telegraph that it was “an idiotic way to tackle the problem of high rents”.

The history of rent control in the UK has been problematic. Designed to maintain affordability, limits to rent rises introduced in the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (War Restrictions) Act 1915. This was designed to be short term but was kept in force after World War I in some form until 1989. It reduced the investment attractiveness of the private rented sector leading not only to its decline but also creating a significant drop in the quality of private rented accommodation. Continue reading

NHS future looks grim – yet politicians still make election promises they can’t keep

fingers crossedIn every UK election in recent years, the financial situation of the NHS has come pretty near the top of the list of concerns among voters. In 2015, the campaign is taking place against a backdrop of five years of financial austerity that has been seriously affecting public services, writes Professor Malcolm Prowle.

Although the NHS was deemed to be “protected” from the pressures of financial austerity, it was left with a tiny amount of growth in resources each year and was also given a target of making £22 billion of efficiency savings over a four-year period. This contrasts sharply with the first 62 years of the life of the NHS when it received substantial increases in funding each year (even if the voters weren’t always aware of this). Not surprisingly, the service is really feeling the strain. Continue reading

Challenges facing the housing market

Council housingIncreasing house prices, limited housing supply, and problems of affordability characterise the housing market. 30 years of very limited new building in social rented housing have led to increasing numbers of households in private renting and renting for longer. Limited wage growth and risk aversion by banks since the financial crisis has meant that saving for a deposit has become more challenging.

The Help to Buy policy introduced by the Coalition government has tried to address this issue effectively reducing the amount that borrowers need to pay upfront. The Conservative party has indicated that it would retain this policy to 2020 if re-elected in 2015. Continue reading

What can we learn from the words in the Chancellor’s Budget speech?

480880465Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the UK, George Osborne, delivered his annual Budget speech. Just as the broadcast had concluded, a radio show a colleague was listening to was discussing the Budget and had spotted that ‘choice’ was a major theme in Osborne’s speech this year.

This got me thinking that we could compare this most recent speech with his five previous ones (between 2010 and 2014) to see if there are any other words or themes that emerge more prominently than before as the next election looms.

A quick keyword analysis reveals that the following words appear significantly more frequently in yesterday’s speech than Osborne’s previous ones combined:

National, debt, choose, truly, we, share, down, savings, falling, standards, statement, autumn, back, five, powerhouse, you, latest, challenges, row, ago.

Continue reading

Five myths about Europe that need busting before the British general election

EU flagAs we gear up for the 2015 general election, EU issues are bound to feature prominently. Sadly, much of what is being said is hogwash, particularly when it comes to EU membership itself.

The Conservative Party has promised to hold a referendum on EU membership if it wins in 2015. UKIP has of course been long known for its opposition to the status quo. The party’s representatives take every opportunity to talk up the nefarious influence eurocrats have on the lives of ordinary people – from dictating our human rights to undermining our democratic traditions.

And now Nigel Farage is seeking to push for a referendum before Christmas.

The problem is, when British voters are told the choice is a simple in/out decision, they are being lied to. There will be multiple options on the table if the UK votes to exit. And to understand the implications of these, it is important to understand what being in the EU means for the UK.

There are a number of myths circulating about what membership of the EU really means and what would happen if the UK were to leave. Before the UK heads to the polls, we need to bust them. Continue reading

Quality of employment, not quantity, is what matters

Job vacancyDavid Cameron has outlined his plans for the UK to become a nation of ‘full employment’. However, ‘full employment’ was also the aspiration, although never a formal target, of the previous Labour Government.

In a series of policy reviews in 2006 and 2007, including the Leitch Review of Skills, ‘full employment’ was defined as an 80% employment rate – which the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Peter Hain, described as achievable “within a generation.”  At the time, the UK employment was around 73% – it is now back up to this rate, according to the latest Labour Force Survey for October to December 2014. Continue reading