Ian Swanson: Vote is about much more than Brexit and indyref 2

Prime Minister Theresa May is looking to increase her majority
Prime Minister Theresa May is looking to increase her majority
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THE parties are scrambling to select candidates and put together manifestos for an election no-one expected. All the polls point to a comfortable Conservative win, with commentators predicting disaster for Labour and questioning whether the SNP can hold on to the massive haul of seats they made last time.

But what is this general election really about?

Theresa May says she called the June 8 vote to strengthen her hand in the Brexit negotiations, though cynics might think she simply succumbed to the argument, made since she first moved into Number Ten, that she should take advantage of Labour’s weakness to secure a commanding Tory majority in the Commons.

After initially saying the election was an opportunity to reinforce the demand for a second independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon now insists it is not about independence because she already has a mandate for another referendum.

But, of course, it is not for politicians to tell the people what they should be voting on.

Brexit and indyref2 are clearly the issues dominating politics at the moment and both have far-reaching implications for everyone’s future.

But this election, like all others, is about choosing a government which will make decisions on a vast range of issues which also affect our futures and our day-to-day lives.

So as well as potentially giving Mrs May the go-ahead for a hard Brexit or strengthening the SNP’s case for a fresh vote on independence, the result will help decide what happens on tax, public spending, pensions, immigration and a whole lot more.

Just over a week into the election campaign, there is already speculation about tax rises if the Tories do get back. Chancellor Philip Hammond signalled he wanted to abandon the 2015 Conservative pledge that there would be no increase in income tax, national insurance or VAT for the next five years.

It may have been an unwise pledge in the first place, but to scrap it sends an unmistakable signal that the self-proclaimed “low tax party” is about to put up taxes.

And the speculation is that VAT could be the first to rise. Opponents point out David Cameron insisted in the 2010 election he had “no plans” to increase VAT, then put it up from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent, costing a family with two children £450 every year.

The Tories may also drop the “triple lock” pension guarantee which promises rises in line with inflation, average earnings or by 2.5 per cent, whichever is higher.

But they are talking about a cap on energy prices, a policy they criticised when Labour proposed it.

Labour says it would continue the pension guarantee, promises any tax rises it brought in would be on the rich and proposes more holidays, a £10 minimum wage and a ban on zero hours contracts.

And Labour and the SNP both claim the election is about whether people want a “right-wing Tory government” imposing austerity policies while giving tax cuts to the richest.

These are extraordinary political times. The Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election as US president last year tossed many long-established assumptions in the air and have left people asking big questions. But in the meantime everyday life goes on and bread-and-butter issues matter to voters just as much as the future of nations.