It seems like a lifetime away, that sunny May afternoon in the garden at Downing Street. David Cameron and Nick Clegg improbably putting their differences aside and agreeing to govern as a coalition in the country’s interest.
General Election Series
Ahead of the general election each of the six main parties were invited to contribute to Click on Wales about why they should have your vote on the 7th May. This series will run an article from one party each day up until the general election. Read all of the articles here.
The transformation in the following five years has been profound, with record levels of economic growth and stability in the financial markets, keeping interest rates low. Plenty to be proud of, but more work to do.Go back a few years further and that scenario would scarcely have been conceivable, but it is easy to forget what a royal mess Labour had made of the UK economy. The worst recession since the War, the country’s gold reserves gone, unemployment, debt & deficit at record levels. A note left behind by the outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury that read, simply: “there’s no money left”.
Between 2013 and 2014 a staggering 780,000 more people found jobs, the biggest annual rise in a quarter of a century. We have given a tax cut to 26 million hardworking people, all of whom now have more money in their pockets than under Labour.
Here in Wales, more than 150,000 people have been taken out of paying tax altogether and since the Coalition took office in May 2010, and the claimant count in Wales has dropped by 38%.
Why would anyone want to undo all of that progress?
As the election date has loomed ever closer on the horizon, Ed Miliband’s plans to ‘weaponise’ the NHS have backfired spectacularly.
Financial security has enabled the Conservative-led coalition to protect NHS spending in England, whilst Labour’s brutal slashing of the budget in Wales has had devastating consequences and made it one of the election’s key battlegrounds.
Here in Wales, where patients have been subjected to a 16 year ‘case study’ on how the health service fares under Labour, one in seven are on a waiting list. It’s not a record to be proud of. It’s not a record anyone should wish to replicate elsewhere in the UK.
In contrast, the UK Government has taken difficult decisions and focused on investing where it can in our great public services, whilst working to create a more balanced economy and improving public service delivery.
In education, for example, there are over a million more English children being taught in schools rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ than in 2010. Here in Wales, meanwhile, Carwyn Jones freely admits to having taken his “eye of the ball” and his government has left a generation of Welsh pupils a hostage to fortune, whilst Wales slides meekly down the international rankings.
Voters are understandably wary of politicians who describe an election as a “once-in-a-lifetime” choice. That’s invariably rank hyperbole, but it’s fair to say that the UK does find itself at something of a crossroads on the 7th of May.
For the first time in many years there is genuine divergence between the parties. Voters have a clear choice: a steady hand, guiding us back to calmer waters – or the party who led us into the storm in the first place, and who freely admit their only plan is to borrow and borrow again.
The manifestos for 2015 have only just been published, and yet Labour’s big-ticket ‘Mansion Tax’ pledge has already been spent eleven times over.
They preach evangelically about fairness and ‘progressive politics’, but the reality is that every time a Labour government leaves office it does so with progressively higher unemployment than when it arrived.
They talk about ‘government spending’ as though there is such a thing as government money, but there isn’t. It’s your money and you have a right to expect responsible governance, not a Prime Minister – in Ed Miliband – who would be willing to ramp up the borrowing and stake the future of our country on a reckless financial gamble.
Ed Balls’ economic thinking may still hold sway in Transport House, but outside of Labour circles even he can’t name a single business who backs his plans. Bill Something? Or someone. It’s all proof that a Labour government would hit you in the pocket. And that’s the fundamental difference between Labour and the Conservatives.
To keep the recovery on track and avoid this nightmare, vote Conservative on 7 May.
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