British parties unveil policy ideas ahead of polls

Some polls have given British Prime Minister Theresa May a more than 20-point lead before the June 8 vote.
Some polls have given British Prime Minister Theresa May a more than 20-point lead before the June 8 vote.

LONDON • More holidays, a burqa ban and an end to a hard Brexit are just some of the policies that Britain's opposition parties hope will prevent an overwhelming victory by Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party in the June election.

With some polls giving Mrs May a more than 20-point lead before the June 8 vote, the main opposition Labour Party pledged on Sunday to introduce four new public holidays to try and unite a country deeply divided by Brexit.

The early election, which stunned British politicians, could redraw the political landscape after Brexit exposed deep faultlines in Britain, with Scotland and Northern Ireland voting to remain in the European Union while England and Wales supported an exit.

Some commentators see a dominant Conservative Party crushing left-leaning Labour - an all but "coronation" of Mrs May, who became Prime Minister shortly after Britain voted to leave the EU in June last year, giving her a free hand in the exit talks.

"The four nations that make up our great country have rarely been more divided due to the damaging and divisive policies of this Conservative government," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, announcing his plan to add new national holidays for the four patron saints of the British Isles.

He also promised that commercial providers would be phased out of providing care within the state- owned National Health Service.

His pitch was overshadowed by his comments on suspending air strikes on Syria.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green on Sunday confirmed a Conservative plan to place a ceiling on household gas and electricity prices, appropriating a policy promoted by Labour in the 2015 election.

The centrist Liberal Democrats, the only party to criticise Britain's departure from the EU, said they would offer a second referendum on any Brexit deal.

Mr Tim Farron, the LibDem leader, said voters would get a chance "to reflect on whether they like the (Brexit) deal" and to change the country's direction.

Meanwhile, the eurosceptic UK Independence Party (Ukip) has said it would ban full veils or burqas worn by some Muslim women, but denied that the policy signalled a move to the right.

The Conservatives have a commanding lead over Labour, an ICM opinion poll for The Guardian newspaper said yesterday.

The survey put the Conservatives on 48 per cent with Labour on 27 per cent, both up two percentage points from a poll last Tuesday taken hours after Mrs May announced she would hold a general election.

The Liberal Democrat Party was on 10 per cent, with Ukip on 7 per cent, both down a percentage point.

ICM interviewed 2,024 adults between April 21 and 24. Polls have suggested that Mrs May is on course for a sweeping victory which could extend her majority in Parliament to more than 100 seats.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'British parties unveil policy ideas ahead of polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe