The parties are drawing up their "red line" policies. Photo: Flickr/bixentro
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Forming alliances: a run-down of the parties’ red lines

Hung parliament preparations.

As the polls have narrowed and the smaller parties are bigger than ever, a hung parliament in May 2015 is looking increasingly likely. The parties have started laying out their red (and pink) lines for when it comes to forming alliances next year.

Here’s what we know so far:
 

The Conservatives

An in/out EU referendum in 2017

David Cameron has made this a “cast iron” guarantee, promising that he will not “stand as Prime Minister” unless he can secure a referendum on the European Union in 2017.

Having caved into pressure from backbenchers and Ukip tugging incessantly at his arm, he had little choice but to make an EU referendum a “red line” once he’d finally promised one.

What will be more difficult for Cameron is his long-anticipated renegotiation of Britain’s membership. The Lib Dems, still his most likely allies if there were to be another Tory-led coalition, have essentially agreed to allowing the Conservatives an EU referendum; Nick Clegg said in October he had been a major advocate throughout his “adult political life”.

However, the Lib Dems’ idea of what the renegotiation should look like could clash with the Tories’ intentions. Clegg has warned Cameron’s renegotiation would be “largely synthetic”, and is against the Tories wanting to “reinvent the wheel” with their 2017 referendum pledge.

 

Labour

Because the party refuses outwardly to contemplate a coalition or alliance following the election, it has not set out its red lines explicitly.

However, what it is likely to hold sacred in negotiations includes:

  • Repealing the bedroom tax. The party has been banging the drum on this for some time, and it would be a severe let-down to voters and economically rather pointless to U-turn on it.
     
  • The energy price freeze. Possibly the party's most distinctive policy proposal.
     
  • £8 minimum wage. Seeing as the party is encouraging the Living Wage and making plans for stopping the exploitation of migrant workers, we can probably take an increase in the minimum wage as a given.
     
  • Repealing the Health and Social Care Act. This ties into continuing to protect the NHS, which is the party’s rather unsurprising first election pledge.
     
  • Sticking to the McKay Commission’s answer to the West Lothian question as a response to English Votes for English Laws. As a government, it can’t afford the loss to its authority the latter would bring.

 

The Liberal Democrats

It’s easier for the Lib Dems to lay down their red lines, because they can be open about forming a coalition with either the Tories or Labour next year.

During their party conference in October, some of their non-negotiable priorities were revealed – notably Clegg’s hinted acceptance of the Tories’ promised referendum meant a vote on Britain’s EU membership wasn’t one of them.

 

Improving mental health services

This was the Lib Dems’ big promise during their conference: to guarantee treatment within six weeks, or 18 weeks at the “absolute maximum”, and spend £120m on improving mental health services.

A Lib Dem spokesperson said this would be “smack bang” on the front of their 2015 manifesto, making it a red line issue. However, it’s unlikely any party they could form a pact with would refuse – it’s not exactly politically contentious.

During their conference, it was also reported that keeping the European Human Rights Act in place, and disallowing another welfare crackdown are “non-negotiable” for the party.

Shortly after this, a photo of the party’s strategy chief, Ryan Coetzee, taking a draft of the manifesto revealed some other policies likely to be red lines. These include: balancing the budget by 2018, cutting income tax by £400 for low and middle earners, equal care and waiting times for mental as well as physical health, protecting education spending.

Also, the party's flexibility on the EU referendum may be used as a bargaining chip for, say, constitutional reforms.

 

Ukip

An in/out EU referendum in July 2015

This is Nigel Farage’s “price” for propping up the Tories in a confidence-and-supply agreement after the general election. It is also thought that Ukip could demand a leader other than Cameron, although it’s rather unrealistic they would be in such a position to demand a different prime minister.

 

The SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Greens

Scrapping Trident

Although each of these parties have different priorities, they have all agreed that if they are to ally with Labour in Westminster, then their red line would be on Trident.

They gave a joint press conference on Monday, saying they would not enter government with Labour unless they secured a pledge from the party not to renew Trident. Labour has committed to replacing the nuclear fleet, in spite of the £80bn cost.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

Screengrab from Telegraph video
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The Telegraph’s bizarre list of 100 reasons to be happy about Brexit

“Old-fashioned light bulbs”, “crooked cucumbers”, and “new vocabulary”.

As the economy teeters on the verge of oblivion, and the Prime Minister grapples with steering the UK around a black hole of political turmoil, the Telegraph is making the best of a bad situation.

The paper has posted a video labelled “100 reasons to embrace Brexit”. Obviously the precise number is “zero”, but that didn’t stop it filling the blanks with some rather bizarre reasons, floating before the viewer to an inevitable Jerusalem soundtrack:

Cheap tennis balls

At last. Tennis balls are no longer reserved for the gilded eurocrat elite.

Keep paper licences

I can’t trust it unless I can get it wet so it disintegrates, or I can throw it in the bin by mistake, or lose it when I’m clearing out my filing cabinet. It’s only authentic that way.

New hangover cures

What?

Stronger vacuums

An end to the miserable years of desperately trying to hoover up dust by inhaling close to the carpet.

Old-fashioned light bulbs

I like my electricals filled with mercury and coated in lead paint, ideally.

No more EU elections

Because the democratic aspect of the European Union was something we never obsessed over in the run-up to the referendum.

End working time directive

At last, I don’t even have to go to the trouble of opting out of over-working! I will automatically be exploited!

Drop green targets

Most people don’t have time to worry about the future of our planet. Some don’t even know where their next tennis ball will come from.

No more wind farms

Renewable energy sources, infrastructure and investment – what a bore.

Blue passports

I like my personal identification how I like my rinse.

UK passport lane

Oh good, an unadulterated queue of British tourists. Just mind the vomit, beer spillage and flakes of sunburnt skin while you wait.

No fridge red tape

Free the fridge!

Pounds and ounces

Units of measurement are definitely top of voters’ priorities. Way above the economy, health service, and even a smidgen higher than equality of tennis ball access.

Straight bananas

Wait, what kind of bananas do Brexiteers want? Didn’t they want to protect bendy ones? Either way, this is as persistent a myth as the slapstick banana skin trope.

Crooked cucumbers

I don’t understand.

Small kiwi fruits

Fair enough. They were getting a bit above their station, weren’t they.

No EU flags in UK

They are a disgusting colour and design. An eyesore everywhere you look…in the uh zero places that fly them here.

Kent champagne

To celebrate Ukip cleaning up the east coast, right?

No olive oil bans

Finally, we can put our reliable, Mediterranean weather and multiple olive groves to proper use.

No clinical trials red tape

What is there to regulate?

No Turkey EU worries

True, we don’t have to worry. Because there is NO WAY AND NEVER WAS.

No kettle restrictions

Free the kettle! All kitchen appliances’ lives matter!

Less EU X-factor

What is this?

Ditto with BGT

I really don’t get this.

New vocabulary

Mainly racist slurs, right?

Keep our UN seat

Until that in/out UN referendum, of course.

No EU human rights laws

Yeah, got a bit fed up with my human rights tbh.

Herbal remedy boost

At last, a chance to be treated with medicine that doesn’t work.

Others will follow [picture of dominos]

Hooray! The economic collapse of countries surrounding us upon whose trade and labour we rely, one by one!

Better English team

Ah, because we can replace them with more qualified players under an Australian-style points-based system, you mean?

High-powered hairdryers

An end to the miserable years of desperately trying to dry my hair by yawning on it.

She would’ve wanted it [picture of Margaret Thatcher]

Well, I’m convinced.

I'm a mole, innit.