The DUP manifesto - The end of austerity?

27 November 2019 - by Gráinne Walsh

In 2015 the DUP was prepared for a hung parliament with the Westminster Election Manifesto published alongside their Plan for Northern Ireland.

We were advised that while they had ruled themselves out of forming a government, “our votes could be vital in the formation of the next government.”

While the party may have been two years early, the advance planning stood them in good stead in 2017 as they negotiated the Confidence and Supply Agreement (CSA) with the Conservative Party. This time round the party has replicated the two track approach to both policy and general election news. Last week they launched a 12 point plan on getting the Assembly back up and running, and today they launch their Westminster agenda.

They roll out some of their greatest hits as they frame the future with specific CSA funded projects including £6.4m for improving the nursing and midwifery workforce, an Acute Mental Health Facility in Belfast, £6.4m for 38 Sure Start projects, as well as the City and Growth Deals.

Looking to the future, the party is clear - public spending and tax policy should reflect the fact that the era of austerity is over. Based on the principle that money “is better in your pocket than the government’s”, some of the big ticket items in the manifesto include:

  • Increasing Personal Tax Allowance in line with inflation each year;
  • Continued protection of the pension ‘triple lock’;
  • Abolishing the BBC licence fee;
  • Restoration of the free BBC licence to all aged over 75;
  • Increase in public sector pay, focusing on NHS, police and armed forces;
  • Cancel HS2, with the funding to be spent in other areas of public transport and infrastructure network;
  • Build the third runway at Heathrow, with additional flights to regional airports;
  • Leave the EU as one United Kingdom;
  • Develop a points-based immigration system;
  • The pursuit of a strong interconnect strategy including with Iceland;
  • Action on the unfair treatment of women pensioners with a suitable compensatory scheme established;
  • Abolition and replacement of the Apprenticeship Levy;
  • The development of a National Compressed National Gas Fuel network for HGVs, buses and coaches;
  • Zero rating of domestic electricity and gas to reduce bills and encourage take up of more environmentally friendly heating technologies;
  • Build a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland, if feasible;
  • The two-child limit on Universal Credit should be raised to 3 and 4 in this parliamentary term;
  • Reform of the House of Lords, making it smaller than the House of Commons, electing two-thirds of membership through a list system.

With a clear UK wide feel to it and an interesting combination of ideas that reflect an essentially populist approach, this manifesto has something for everyone across the four countries of the UK, and for the two main Westminster parties.
With the most recent polls predicting a clear Conservative majority, this may be more a manifesto of wishful thinking, or advance planning for the next general election. With two weeks to go it’s too early to say. Come the 13th December will there be greater interest in some of these proposals? Could we see the bridge to Scotland become a reality?