Next Government to also address unresolved budgetary crisis 10th May 2010: The Conservatives have suggested the introduction an annual limit for non-EU economic migrants.
After emerging as the largest party in the general polls held last week, the Conservatives have also suggested severer immigration controls. Even the basis for students entering the UK to study is expected to undergo a change.
This is not all. At a micro-level, the cuts to the UK public sector may well mean hardship for many in the diaspora. The Caribbean community in the UK is employed excessively in the public sector. It is already predicted the government may have to cut as much as 10 per cent of the workforce.
Even if job losses can be limited to 0.1m in the public sector as Unison, the union representing many in the diaspora forecasts effect on payments and visits to friends and family may well be harsh.
It is already clear Britain’s next government will have to address swiftly an unresolved budgetary crisis. The crisis will involve a cut in public expenditure of at least US $24 billion by 2014.
The electorate is under no false impression that this means severe cuts in public expenditure and/or tax increases, but during the election campaign no party leader was prepared to make obvious the detail of what this meant in practice for fear of losing the popular vote.
In terms of policy, the Conservative and Liberal Democrats have said they would repeal Labour’s controversial and discriminatory Air Passenger Duty that places the Caribbean in a higher tax band than the US.
Both parties have said that they will introduce a per plane tax aimed at encouraging a switch to fuller and cleaner planes based on the actual distance flown and possibly on the fuel efficiency of the aircraft used.
The Liberal Democrats are expected to introduce a regional points-based system with a view to ensuring that migrants are only able to work where they are needed; increase enforcement activity; and reintroduce exit checks at all ports and airports.
Importantly for the many undocumented individuals in Britain from the Caribbean the Liberal Democrats would “allow law abiding families” to earn citizenship and “enable illegal migrants who entered the UK up to 2010, who have been in the UK for 10 years, [who] speak English and have a clean record, to earn citizenship.”
Studies undertaken before the election by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, an esteemed think tank, make clear that savings on this scale would require a very large cut in public sector spending. This will also signify freezing social security benefits and testing aspects of the social service provision besides abolishing a range of benefits given to the elderly. This will also necessitate slashing military spending by around one third and cutting spending on prisons, road and rail transport, schools, and teaching. Most politicians believed cuts on this scale would denote political suicide.
All this may sound familiar in the Caribbean but in the UK’s case addressing a budget deficit on this scale will undoubtedly impact on the Caribbean as well. At a macro-level Britain has no option other than to change the way it positions and presents itself in the world.
Britain has to have a defence review and it is likely, especially if the Conservatives win power, that there will be an accompanying foreign policy review.
Both will be driven by cuts in spending. Already defence think tanks are questioning how Britain will deliver the defence responsibility for its overseas territories of which there are five in the Caribbean and which effectively lock the UK into the region. Consideration is also likely to be given from 2011 on to cuts in British diplomatic representation in the Latin American and Caribbean region and to the UK’s trade promotional activities.
The UK elections this time also suggest UK electorate has fallen out of love with its political class and that the Conservative and Labour parties can no longer rely on the pre-eminence of the two party systems.
This is being attributed to extensive public outrage at the way in which Members of Parliament exploited their expenses; disillusion with the rise and rise of career politicians; and a narrowing in the philosophical approach between the main parties that makes one largely impossible to tell apart from another.
The most likely outcome, it seems, will be a minority Conservative government running Britain in the national interest with some form of critical support from the Liberal Democrats as long as there is a commitment to a change in the voting system.
Britain’s May 6 general election accurately reflected the views of the opinion polls and the electorate more generally that there should be no single party with a clear majority. It also confirmed that Britain’s’ first past the post electoral system is broken and in desperate need of reform.
The consequence was an unusually large number of independently- minded and floating voters, and a thirst for a new kind of politics that resulted, to almost everyone’s surprise, in the emergence of Nick Clegg, the young leader of Britain’s third main political party, the Liberal Democrats.