From immigration to the housing crisis, what are the key issues of this UK election?

A record-breaking number of over 4,000 candidates in the United Kingdom are actively campaigning for the upcoming general election on July 4. Recent polls indicate a possible shift in power. Polls suggest that more than a decade of Conservative leadership will come to an end. However, the contest has become a little interesting due to the rising popularity of the hard-right Reform Party led by Nigel Farage. Key issues are expected to include concerns regarding economic stagnation, the housing crisis, rising living costs, immigration policies and foreign policy.

The state of the UK economy

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has positioned the Conservative Party as the party of the future, with an emphasis on economic stability and national security. He claims that the Conservatives’ extensive experience in government makes them better suited to lead the country than Labour. Sunak has made significant promises to grow the economy and halve inflation, a goal he has nearly achieved. However, the cost of living crisis remains a serious issue, affecting working-class voters of all political affiliations. Sunak’s government has had to manage the economy amid high inflation, partly driven by the war in Ukraine and subsequent energy price hikes. Although wages are now rising faster than prices, economic growth remains sluggish due to weak investment, slow productivity and labour shortages. The national debt is at levels not seen since the 1960s, and the government faces high costs to service this debt. Sunak’s fiscal policies include a promise of £17 billion ($21.6 billion) a year in tax cuts, including a 2 percentage point cut in National Insurance contributions. This is in contrast to Labour’s approach, which includes reforms to the National Health Service (NHS), home-building and the energy sector, funded by £7.4 billion ($9.4 billion) in tax increases.

Crisis on the NHS

The NHS is in a state of crisis, characterised by record waiting lists, staff shortages and deteriorating facilities. According to a Reuters report, the average Briton now waits several weeks for non-urgent care, and waiting lists for hospital treatment exceed 7 million cases. NHS dental care is also facing significant issues, with an estimated 12 million Britons unable to access essential dental services. The Conservatives have struggled to address these problems, facing criticism for not funding the NHS adequately or not resolving health worker strikes. In their election manifesto the Conservatives have promised to increase the NHS budget, but many see these efforts as inadequate and delayed. Labour has promised to cut NHS waiting times by adding more than 40,000 health appointments each week and doubling the number of cancer scanners to reduce delays in treatment. Starmer’s party aims to address inequalities in health care access, particularly between rural and urban areas, and invest in improving working conditions and pay for health care workers.

Immigration, deportation and asylum

Immigration remains a controversial issue in British politics. The Conservative government has prioritized reducing irregular immigration. Despite the plan being blocked several times by courts, Sunak says the first flight will depart by July 24 if the Conservatives win the election. Sunak’s government has also focused on reducing small boat crossings across the English Channel, a concern for both “red wall” voters and traditional Tory supporters. However, the high daily number of arrivals continues to challenge government policies.

Housing crisis looms

Britain is facing a severe housing crisis, with rising property prices and rents and a severe shortage of affordable homes. The Conservatives have been unable to meet their target of building 300,000 new homes annually and have faced criticism for not addressing unfair evictions. The 2022 mini-budget exacerbated the crisis, increasing mortgage repayments for millions of homeowners. The number of temporary accommodations rose by 89 per cent in a decade due to a shortage of social housing, highlighting the growing pressure on local councils.

Climate change

Climate policy represents a key dividing line between the main parties. Sunak’s government has rolled back key climate policies, delayed phasing out fossil fuel cars and scrapped the northern leg of HS2.

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