The Conservative and Labour parties are the two dominant political parties in the British system. Over the years, the two parties have modified their policy positions on many issues, to the point that they share similar views in such areas as national defence. However, the two parties continue to differ on many issues, as the London newspaper the Daily Telegraph noted in its examination of the two parties' policy manifestos prior to Britain's general election.
Economy and taxes
Although the Labour Party, under former Prime Minister Tony Blair in the 1990s, stepped away from the socialist policies of earlier times, it differs with the Conservative Party on economics and taxes. The Telegraph reported that the Labour Party's manifesto supports cutting government office expenditures, as well as spending on consulting and marketing. The party also favours spending to modernise Britain's infrastructure and to support business in creating new jobs. Labour's platform also favours what it describes as "fair tax increases." Taxes cited by the manifesto include a tax on bankers' bonuses and a new tax on earnings that exceed 150,000 pounds a year. The Conservative Party, in contrast, favours broader cuts in government spending, including a freeze on public sector pay increases and a 5 per cent cut in salaries for government ministers. It also favours cuts in Britain's corporation tax.
The Conservative Party's position calls for allowing parents, charities and private firms to create their own schools as a means to increasing the variety of schools from which parents can choose. Labour, meanwhile, proposes allowing parents to use mergers and takeovers to place new management teams in failing schools, according to the Telegraph. The newspaper further reported that the Conservatives support reforming Britain's national curriculum and increasing education funding for disadvantaged children. Labour supports broader increases in education spending, including an expansion in free nursery care.
Both parties express support for a "greener" Britain in their policy documents, but Labour's platform includes more measurable goals for achieving this. The party calls for achieving 40 per cent low-carbon electricity by 2020 and creating 400,000 so-called green jobs by 2015, the Telegraph reported. The Conservatives, meanwhile advocated less waste, expanded wind and water power, sustainable water management and more incentives to recycle. Labour also advocates banning disposing of recyclable and biodegradable materials in landfills.
Both parties express support for Britain's National Health Service, created after World War II. The two parties' policy documents both pledge increased funding for the NHS, but also promise different reforms in health care. The Conservatives support greater transparency by allowing online access to NHS performance data. They also favour expanded patient choice and allowing patients to rate doctors and hospitals. Finally, the Conservatives pledge to make the NHS more efficient through managerial reforms. The Labour Party's manifesto advocates expanded diagnostic testing and more preventive checkups for people over the age of 40. The Telegraph reported that Labour advocates a maximum of an 18-week wait for treatment or allowing a patient to seek private care at NHS expense.
The Conservative Party supports annual limits on immigration, especially unskilled workers. Labour rejects this approach as unflexible, favouring instead a points-based system similar to that used in Australia, in order to reduce unskilled migration from outside the European Union. Labour also favours requiring public employees to demonstrate competency in the English language.