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General Election 2024: A guide to the manifestos

In the first of a series of blogs looking at the general election manifestos, Billy Vaughan explores what the parties are saying about democracy, human rights and migration.

The crisis in public trust in politicians is of huge concern to Quakers.
The crisis in public trust in politicians is of huge concern to Quakers.

We are now just over halfway through the general election campaign. From the nation's racetracks, runways, and rollercoasters, UK politicians are reaching out to the public with their ideas of where to take society in the next five years. The recently released party manifestos provide a crucial lens through which we can evaluate how our values align with the proposed policies and commitments that our political leaders have made.

Of course, we as Quakers have our own ideas of how to go forward. Quakers in Britain have identified four priority areas in this election, and here I will be looking at two: democracy, truth, and integrity, and migration. In this blog post and others in the next few weeks, we will be taking a look at the party manifestos in detail with an eye towards Quaker values and testimonies.

A healthy democracy

It is not particularly controversial to point out that standards in public office and public trust in politicians have taken a nosedive in recent years. A survey published earlier this month stated that "trust and confidence in government are as low as they have ever been" with a staggering 58% who would 'almost never' trust politicians of any party to tell the truth when they are in a tight corner.

We are asking election candidates to publicly announce that they will conduct their campaigns respectfully, and to take steps in the new parliament to strengthen the processes and culture in Westminster to promote truth, integrity and equity.

A crisis in public trust like this is of huge concern to Quakers, who believe in being guided by the testimonies of integrity and truth. This is why we have been undertaking quiet diplomacy with parliamentarians in the last year to try to solve this problem. In the parties' manifestos, there have been acknowledgments of this crisis and how to tackle the problem:

  • The Labour manifesto acknowledges that public trust in politics has been "shattered", and pledges to establish a new independent 'Ethics and Integrity Commission'.
  • Plaid Cymru will make it a criminal offence for elected politicians to knowingly mislead the public. It would be an offence for an elected politician or a candidate to intentionally mislead by making a statement known to be false or deceptive.
  • There have also been promises to reform the political system more widely. Labour, the Green Party, and the Liberal Democrats have all promised to bring in votes for 16- and 17-year-olds.
  • The Green Party, Lib Dems and Reform UK support the abolition of first-past-the-post in favour of proportional representation.
  • On the other hand, the Conservative Party manifesto has no explicit references to standards in politics or how to improve them with meaningful reform.

A humane migration policy

Friends tend to support policies that treat all individuals with dignity and respect, answering "that of God in everyone". As a result, Quakers have a long history of supporting refugees and migrants and advocating for their dignified and humane treatment. The area of migration policy has become a flashpoint in the last few years, with rhetoric hardening against those who come to the UK seeking a better life.

Quakers in Britain have called for the repeal of punitive laws like the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and Illegal Migration Act 2023, which create barriers for refugees seeking safety. We have also called for an end to the UK-Rwanda policy which is inhumane, unworkable and expensive.

  • The Conservatives have pledged to fully implement their Rwanda policy with a "regular rhythm of flights every month" and have promised to "restrict visa access from countries that don't work with us on our national priorities, like illegal migration".
  • Both the Green Party and Lib Dems have promised to end the "hostile environment" policy brought in by the Tory government.
  • Labour have put forward a "returns and enforcement unit" to fast-track removals of asylum seekers, and have promised to end the migration agreement with Rwanda.
  • The SNP has said that the UK's "one-size-fits-all" migration policy does not work for Scotland, and wants to create a bespoke migration system for Scotland "that values those who decide to work, live, study and invest here".

Human rights

Human rights, and the international laws that uphold them, has become yet another contentious area in the last number of years. Conservative government minister Dominic Raab made a controversial but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to repeal the Human Rights Act in 2022.

Quakers are deeply committed to upholding human rights, advocating for policies that ensure the dignity and rights of all individuals. We want the UK government and parliamentarians to protect and promote human rights and civil liberties at home and abroad. Recent legislation that undermines them, such as the Public Order Act 2023, must be repealed.

  • The Labour manifesto has committed to "[protecting and promoting] human rights and civil liberties at home and abroad". However, this passage is firmly couched in a part of the manifesto that emphasises military strength and cooperation with NATO allies.
  • The Green Party, Lib Dems and SNP have explicitly said that they will defend the Human Rights Act, and oppose any attempts to undermine or abolish it.
  • The Lib Dems and SNP will push the UK government to allow non-binary people to record their gender as 'X' on passports, while the Green Party will campaign for the right of self-identification for trans and non-binary people.

Moving forward

As we approach the 2024 general election, Quakers have a role in advocating for a fairer, more just, and compassionate society. Engage with the political process thoughtfully, review party manifestos, and use your voice to champion the values that matter most.

Our commitment to truth and integrity, democracy, human rights, and compassionate migration policies must guide our choices. While the party manifestos provide a framework for evaluating candidates and their commitments, it is ultimately up to each of us to discern, through careful reflection and consideration, which policies and leaders best align with our own values, drawing strength from our shared commitment to making the world a better place.

This is the first in a series of blogs examining the 2024 general election manifestos. Read the blogs on climate justice priorities and peace and security.

Find more Quaker general election resources