Who says what – the manifestos compared

The last four years have seen the most far-reaching set of domestic constitutional reforms for a century. The question of Europe remains unanswered. And evidence of global interdependence is becoming more and more visible all the time. So, when dealing with these issues, how do the political parties compare?

We reprint some extracts from the manifestos of the three main parties, covering the issues of most interest to federalists:

  • The British constitution
  • The euro
  • The future of the EU
  • Global institutions

It seems that no party has a monopoly on all the good ideas; nor on all the bad ones, come to that.

The British constitution

Conservatives We will abandon the Government’s plans for a new tier of regional politicians in England. We will abolish many of the national targets and plans that local councils are forced to follow by Whitehall. Only English and Welsh MPs will be entitled to vote on Government Bills relating to England and Wales. And English MPs alone will vote on the remaining laws which apply exclusively to England.
Labour In 1997, we said that provision should be made for directly elected regional government to go ahead in regions where people decided in a referendum to support it and where predominantly unitary local government is established. This remains our commitment. There is no case for threatening the unity of the UK with an English Parliament or the denial of voting rights to Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland’s MPs at Westminster.
Liberal Democrats We will, in the long term, develop written constitution for the United Kingdom. We will take steps towards the creation of a federal United Kingdom where services are delivered at the lowest level possible. As we move to a more federal United Kingdom, we will build on the present devolution settlement and strengthen the powers of the Scottish Parliament. We will allow the Welsh Assembly the right to pass primary legislation and to vary taxes.

The euro

Conservatives We will keep the pound. Labour’s plan for early entry into the euro is the biggest single threat to our economic stability. By keeping the pound we will keep control of our economic policy, including the ability to set interest rates to suit British economic conditions.
Labour We have made it clear that, provided the economic conditions are met, membership of a successful euro would bring benefits to Britain in terms of jobs, investment and trade. The Labour party says that, if it is in our national economic interest, the decision should be made by the British people in a referendum.
Liberal Democrats Membership of the euro at a competitive and sustainable rate would offer Britain considerable benefits. It would end the exchange rate instability which has destroyed many thousands of jobs, safeguard the investment in hundreds of thousands of further jobs by overseas firms, and reduce the costs of trade with the rest of the EU. We will give the British people their say on whether we join the euro, via a referendum.

The future of the EU

Conservatives The European Union has, with the prospect of enlargement, reached a fork in the road. Down one route lies a fully integrated superstate with nation states and the national veto disappearing. The alternative is a Europe of nations coming together in different combinations for differing purposes and to different extents. We will not ratify the Nice Treaty but will renegotiate it so that Britain does not lose its veto. Should any future Government wish to surrender any more of Parliament’s rights and power to Brussels they should be required to secure approval for such a transfer in a referendum.
Labour The main sources of popular legitimacy in Europe remain national governments and national parliaments. Labour wants the next Inter-Governmental Conference in 2004 to address public concerns about the way the EU works, spelling out in a clear statement of principles what should and should not done at European level. It is vital we ratify the Treaty of Nice which is essential to enlargement; Labour in government will do so. Labour is pledged to do all it can to enable the first group of applicant countries to join in time to take part in the next European Parliamentary elections in 2004.
Liberal Democrats Establish a Constitution for the European Union to define and limit the powers of the EU ensuring that decisions are made at the most appropriate level. The Charter of Fundamental Rights should be at the heart of a Constitution for Europe. Maintain the veto in areas of vital interest to the UK. Support a European Common Foreign and Security Policy that includes significant defence capability consistent with our membership of NATO and other international institutions. Push for early enlargement of the EU.

Global institutions

Conservatives The world is changing. The old powers blocs are declining in importance. Nations, and networks between nations, are taking centre stage. We will lead the campaign for a trans-Atlantic free trade area, encompassing the EU and NAFTA. In a world where geography matters less, Britain is not on the periphery of anything. A Conservative government will be outward-looking, using our influence to the full.
Labour At the UN, we support a more modern and representative Security Council, with more effective peace-keeping. The World Trade Organisation must be reformed, not rejected. We are committed to encouraging universal observance of human rights. Governments that are democratically elected will be firmer allies for peace; open societies that respect individual freedom will be more reliable trade partners. We will work to make the International Criminal Court a reality, with Britain as one of its first members.
Liberal Democrats We will seek to strengthen the powers of the UN. The UN needs a more active role in holding member states to account for gross and persistent breaches of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We will press opponents of the International Criminal Court to recognise its authority. We will work to reform the WTO so that environmental objectives and principles are fully integrated into its activities and poorer countries are helped to participate fully within it. We would press for a global competition authority within the WTO.

More information

Conservative party

Labour Party

Liberal Democrats

About the Author