In Depth

What will a Conservative majority do in government?

Brexit remains front and centre for Boris Johnson

Thursday’s election saw the Conservatives emerge with an emphatic majority, and the prime minister’s party won swathes of historically Labour seats in the North, surpassing even his own campaign’s expectations to secure a resounding victory.

Johnson’s first priority will most likely be to fulfil his campaign promise to “get Brexit done,” although the country waits to see exactly what that means. Undoubtedly now, the UK will leave the EU, but the future relationship is far from being established, and if he will not countenance extending the transition period, a no deal Brexit still looms.

Beyond Brexit, the prime minister has free rein. His party is united behind him, Jeremy Corbyn has announced he will not fight another election as Labour leader, and Jo Swinson has lost her seat. 

“Prime ministers with big majorities have the luxury of choice,” said John Bercow on Sky News last night. He may be right, but in the absence of a particularly detailed Conservative manifesto, and with a cabinet relatively new to their posts, what choices will the freshly-mandated Johnson make?

Brexit

The Tories can now put Johnson’s EU withdrawal agreement through Parliament before Christmas in order to honour the 31 January Brexit deadline.

The PM will seek to negotiate a new trade deal with the EU in 2020 and will likely rule out extending the Brexit transition period beyond the end of the year. That leaves the chances of a “disruptive no-deal Brexit a firm possibility”, says The Guardian.

Health

The Tories have pledged to raise the NHS budget by £33.9bn by 2023-24 and to build 40 new hospitals. A total of £2.7bn has been allocated to construct six new hospitals by 2025, and a further 34 hospitals will receive £100m in initial funding to start developing projects.

Johnson has also pledged to provide a maintenance grant of £5,000-£8,000 a year to nurses for training, as part of a programme to add 50,000 more nurses to the NHS workforce by 2023. Labour branded the pledge “deceitful”, pointing out that 18,500 of the nurses wouldn’t be new recruits but rather “retained” staff encouraged to stay in the profession. A further 12,500 nurses would be recruited from abroad, meaning a total of just 19,000 of the promised posts would be filled by new trainees.

The Conservatives plan to create 50 million more GP appointments each year, by recruiting and training 6,000 more GPs and 6,000 new primary care doctors.

And according to the manifesto, social care will get £1bn of extra funding every year of the next parliament, while the amount of cash set aside for research into dementia will double.

Defence

Chancellor Sajid Javid announced in September that the Ministry of Defence would receive a 2.6% spending increase, equivalent to £2.2bn.

The Tory manifesto pledges to exceed the Nato target of 2% of GDP on defence, and to increase the overall defence budget by at least 0.5% above inflation each year.

The party will also maintain the UK’s commitment to renew Trident.

In addition, new legislation will be introduced to prevent trials of veterans accused of wrongdoing during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The Human Rights Act will be amended so that the law doesn’t apply to incidents that took place before it came into effect in 2000.

Crime and justice

The Tories have promised a 6.3% increase in Home Office spending, to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers over three years.

But according to Sky News, “the first thing to remember is that police numbers have been slashed dramatically in recent years” under successive Conservative governments.

Even with the promised extra police officers, there will still be 3,000 fewer than when the Tories came to power in 2010.

Johnson has said that a re-elected Tory government would give police increased power to stop and search, in an effort to combat rising knife crime.

There will also be longer sentences for violent and sexual offenders, including whole life terms for child killers, and 10,000 more prison places would be created.

The Tory manifesto also pledges to establish a royal commission into the criminal justice system, which judges and former police chiefs have called “struggling” and “broken”, The Telegraph reports.

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Schools

The Conservative manifesto reiterates the party’s commitment to a £14bn boost for school funding, spread over three years.

The plan was announced by the chancellor during his spending review speech in September. “A good school, inspirational teachers, are the most effective engine for social mobility that there is,” he said.

In addition to more cash for schools, the funding plan includes £400m for further education colleges and increased pay for teachers, with starting salaries rising to £30,000 by 2022-23.

However, Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell pointed out that education spending had been cut by £10bn since 2010 thanks to Conservative governments.

Other Tory manifesto pledges include raising teachers’ starting salaries to £30,000 and offering an “arts premium” to secondary schools to “fund enriching activities”.

School heads and teachers will be backed on discipline and given the support to exclude students, and “alternative provision” schools will be expanded for children who have been expelled.

Environment

The Tories have pledged to reach carbon net-zero by 2050 - decades later than the deadlines set by Labour and the Greens, who had pledged to reach the target by the 2030s.

The Tories have also pledged to fund the widespread roll-out of electric vehicle charging points across Britain, and announced plans to review their target of banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 in order to reduce emissions. The party also says they will restrict exports of British waste to other nations.

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