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IN the highly significant pre-Brexit election on Thursday, British voters will be mainly choosing between the centrist Conservative government and a left-wing, populist Labour Party.
All polls and betting sites are predicting that the Conservatives are in the lead, but the gap has narrowed considerably in recent weeks. The recent terrorist outrages in Manchester and London have placed security at the top of the agenda, which on the face of it should benefit the incumbent, experienced, government.
Labour, however, has criticised Prime Minister Theresa May's record as Home Office Minister between 2010 and 2016, notably the 20,000 reduction in police officers.
Stable currency and stock markets indicate that participants are expecting Prime Minister Theresa May to achieve a Conservative victory with a higher majority. Markets, however, would be thrown into turmoil, if Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn turns out to be the victor or heads a left-wing coalition that includes the Scottish Nationalists, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, the Welsh social democrats. A left-wing, hung parliament could be possible if disenchanted young people vote in large numbers, say pollsters.
A feature of the current election has been the surge of 18 to 24 year-old voter registrations since the election was announced in April. Almost half the one million extra voter registrations were young people, raising the total to 46.8 million, according to official figures. Youth are concerned with poorly paid jobs, income inequality, unemployment, Brexit, high property prices and rentals and crowded commuting in run down trains.
In the 2015 election, older voters out-numbered young people by almost two to one, estimate pollsters. If the gap were to close, results could be surprising, according to pollster YouGov which estimates that the gap between the Tories and Labour is only four points.
Political commentators from all sides of the political spectrum agree that Mr Corbyn has conducted a better campaign than Ms May. Large crowds of youthful, potential Labour voters, have attended his gatherings. Tory supporting publications such as The Telegraph, Daily Mail and Express are warning their readers that Mr Corbyn and his coterie have a history of befriending IRA and other terrorist groups. The allegations, however, haven't had much impact on the polls. The Times is favouring the Conservatives and The Guardian, Labour. Labour, which has been active in social media, has also published specifics in its manifesto while the Tories have relied on spin, notably Ms May's mantra, "strong and stable". The Liberal Democrats, who were part of a coalition government with the David Cameron's Conservatives, between the post financial crash years of 2010 to 2015, are well below the political spectrum. The Economist magazine is backing the party because it is strongly in favour of remaining in the European Union (EU) and has promised another referendum on Brexit. The manifesto hasn't impressed voters, according to pollsters and the election is thus a two-party race.
The nub of the party pledges are as follows:
Conservative: Britain needs a strong and stable government to get the best Brexit deal. Ms May has promised to impose tougher restrictions on would-be jihadis who are known to pose a threat but cannot be prosecuted. Her plans include doubling maximum detention periods to 28 days, while she also wants universities to do more to flush out potential terrorists. Other pledges include raising funding for the National Health Service and education, cutting migration down to tens of thousands, aiming for lowest possible individual and corporate tax, boosting infrastructure and home building and balancing the nation's budget by 2025.
Labour: Intends to increase police numbers to cope with terrorism; end austerity by investing heavily in public services; negotiate a Brexit deal that improves living standards; nationalise rail, post and water utilities and also the National Grid; embark on a £250 billion (S$447 billion) economic stimulus package and abolish tuition fees for university students in England. To pay for these promises, corporation tax will be raised from 19 percent to 26 per cent; banks and financial services will pay a transaction tax and individual tax rates will rise for those earning more than £80,000 .