UK parties’ election manifestos: The quick guide


Manifestos are important in any election, but especially so in the U.K.

During Britain’s last election in 2017, the disastrous launch of the ruling Conservative Party’s manifesto cost them the parliamentary majority that they had hoped to expand. Conversely, the opposition Labour Party’s manifesto energized a significant part of the country, and though they did not become the largest party in Parliament, they performed better than expected.

A little over 10 days from British voters going to the polls, here is a look at the manifestos of six U.K. parties: the two largest parties (Conservative and Labour), two minor parties (Liberal Democrat and Brexit), and two regional parties (the Scottish National Party and Democratic Unionist Party).

Conservative Party 

The Conservatives are a center-right party led by Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London. Their main message is to “get Brexit done,” and the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU dominates their manifesto. They want to reintroduce their Brexit bill to Parliament before Christmas and pull out of the regional bloc by January.

They have focused almost solely on Brexit to the exclusion of other issues, but other key policies in their manifesto include: ruling out increases in income tax, VAT, and National Insurance rates; introducing an Australian-style points-based immigration system; and increased police, education, and health spending.

The Conservatives won 317 seats in the last election.


Labour are a center-left party led by Jeremy Corbyn, who hails from the more socialist wing of a party that up until his leadership had been closer to the center. Unlike the Conservatives, Labour has tried to shift the debate away from Brexit. On this issue all they have said is that they will negotiate a new deal with the EU within three months, and hold another referendum on that deal within six months, with the choice being between their leave deal and remaining in the EU.

The party has instead focused on increased public services, which is Labour’s strength as they were the party that founded the National Health Service. Through an increase in taxes for higher earners and increased government borrowing, Labour pledges to set up a £400 billion ($517 billion) national transformation fund, which includes £150 billion for education, health, and housing, and £250 billion for energy, transport and the environment. This is substantially more spending than that offered by other parties. They also pledge to increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour, and give free fiber broadband to the public and businesses by 2030.

Labour won 262 seats in the last election. 

Liberal Democrat Party 

The Liberal Democrats, or Lib Dems as they are known in the U.K., are a centrist party running on an anti-Brexit platform. Their slogan this year is “Stop Brexit” and are positioning themselves as the party of those who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum.

They believe staying in the EU will save the U.K. money, and that this can fund public services. The Lib Dems have pledged £130 billion in infrastructure investment, and £20 billion a year for five years to fight climate change. They will also increase income tax by 1 penny to fund health and social care.

The Lib Dems are led by Jo Swinson and won 12 seats in the last election.

Brexit Party 

The Brexit Party, as the name suggests, is a right-wing party that supports Brexit. It is led by long-time and high-profile Eurosceptic Nigel Farage, who is the former leader of UKIP, another right-wing, pro-Brexit party. The Brexit Party will not stand in seats won by the Conservatives in the last election in order not to split the Leave vote.

Their manifesto is, unsurprisingly, dominated by Brexit: they want to leave the EU and negotiate a free trade agreement with the bloc by July 1, 2020, and if that deadline is missed then trade on WTO rules. The party have also pledged £200 billion in infrastructure spending.

The Brexit Party are newly formed, and as such had no seats in the last Parliament. 

Scottish National Party 

The Scottish National Party, or SNP as they are known in the U.K., is a center-left, nationalist party that wishes to leave the United Kingdom and remain in the EU. The party sits in Westminster but only stands in Scottish seats, which have historically been Labour. Their rising popularity, which has seen them sweep almost all of Scotland’s seats in recent elections, have dented Labour’s prospects of forming a majority government, making a coalition between the two more likely.

Their manifesto is Scotland-focused, of course. They want a referendum on Scottish independence in 2020, more powers for the Scottish Parliament, increased public spending, and an NHS Protection Bill that will block the use of the National Health Service in any future trade talks.

The SNP are led by Nicola Sturgeon and won 35 seats in the last election. 

Democratic Unionist Party 

The Democratic Unionist Party, or DUP, as they are known locally, are a pro-union, pro-Brexit party in Northern Ireland. Northern Irish politics is split along sectarian and ideological lines, between Catholics and Protestants and republicans and unionists.

Their internal politics have not affected the U.K. greatly since the Good Friday Agreement – which is partly why Brexit has been so difficult. Little thought was given before or after the vote as to how Northern Ireland would leave the EU without a hard border with Ireland, which is key to keeping peace in the area. As such, Northern Ireland has gained more prominence in British politics. They supported the previous Johnson’s Conservative predecessor in government, and oppose Johnson’s current Brexit deal.

The DUP’s manifesto is focused on the U.K. and EU. They want to leave the EU along with the rest of the U.K. with no trade barriers or borders between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.

The DUP are led by Arlene Foster and won 10 seats in the last election.

The U.K. will hold its general election on Dec. 12.
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