At the launch of the Conservative Party manifesto yesterday, Theresa May said voters would not be fooled by “politicians who promise the Earth and claim no tough choices will be required”.
The prime minister pledged that her party would be “upfront and honest about the scale of the task we face”. Such honestly is sorely needed in the UK today, amid ever rising public debt and a reluctance – even in the Tories – to make eliminating the deficit a top priority.
There was, in fairness to Jeremy Corbyn, some frankness in their manifesto the other day about the Labour Party’s plan to pursue a tax and spend agenda, even though critics have said the revenue their proposals will raise will not even come close to bringing in the amounts the party claims they will. In other words, Labour is badly underplaying the tax levels that it will have to apply if it is to meet its profligate spending plans, while the Conservatives are not being candid about the fiscal pain on public services if the books are to be balanced. Even so, voters have a clear ideological choice and this paper believes Mr Corbyn’s platform will not be good for Britain.
More important to unionists in Northern Ireland is the two main parties’ approach to matters here such as the constitutional question and legacy. The Tory document yesterday was unionist in tone, which was welcome. It would have been even better if it had ruled out Joint Authority if Stormont talks fail. Sinn Fein needs to know there will be no reward for destabilising conduct. Ministers have already ruled out Joint Authority, but perhaps the desire to have good relations with Dublin during the Brexit negotiations is why it was not spelt out again in the manifesto.
The document pledges to “work for the full implementation” of the Stormont House agreement, including bodies that address legacy “in fair, balanced and proportionate ways”. A key element of that is the Historical Investigations Unit, to which Gregory Campbell refers opposite. This body will need careful safeguards to stop it focusing on the security forces, who have records, and need lavish funding if there is to be balance.