​Labour vs Tories: RT asks ‘What’s the difference?’

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and leader of the opposition Labour Party Ed Miliband. (Reuters/Toby Melville)
Regardless of how the British public votes today, one outcome is guaranteed: the UK will end up with some form of either a Labour government or a Conservative government.

The two largest political parties in Britain have several differences in policy.

The Conservatives support a referendum on UK membership of the European Union (EU), for example, something which Labour is strongly against.

Labour, meanwhile, pledges to introduce a mansion tax for the wealthy, a move the Tories are opposed to.

Beneath these differences however, much of the two parties’ policies reflect a Westminster consensus.

RT explore three important issues of this general election that Labour and the Conservatives agree on, but which remain highly contested among the general public.

Trident

Britain’s nuclear deterrent has become a hot topic in this election, with several smaller parties such as Plaid Cymru, the Greens and the Scottish National Party (SNP) describing it as “unusable and indefensible.

These center-left parties pledge to dismantle Trident when it comes up for renewal next year.

Both Miliband and Cameron have accused each other of “playing politics” with Trident in the general election. Despite the accusations, both parties support a renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons program.

Labour’s manifesto states: “Labour remains committed to a minimum, credible, independent nuclear capability through a continuous at-sea deterrent.”

The Conservative manifesto states: “We will retain the Trident continuous at sea nuclear deterrent to provide the ultimate guarantee of our safety and build the new fleet of four Successor Ballistic Missile Submarines – securing thousands of highly-skilled engineering jobs in the UK.

However beneath Labour’s official policy there is a significant level of dissent among the party’s prospective parliamentary candidates.

A survey by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) found 75 percent of Labour’s electoral candidates oppose Trident renewal and want to see a nuclear-free Britain.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a secretly negotiated, free-market pact between the European Union and the United States.

Advocates claim it will create growth and jobs across Europe, but critics say it will result in decreasing living standards, massive deregulation, and will remove all barriers to the market and privatization. One controversial clause also enables corporations to sue governments if legislation adversely affects their profits.

The Conservatives support the agreement in line with their traditional commitment to neoliberal economics. Their manifesto states: “We will push for freer global trade, concluding major trade deals with the US, India and Japan and reinvigorating the World Trade Organization.

Labour also supports the partnership, stating in its manifesto: “We support the principles behind the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Treaty (TTIP).

However, Labour insists it will “hold the European Commission to account on issues of concern,” which includes the impact of public services and the protection of the NHS from privatization.

Austerity

Austerity is a policy of government spending cuts in a bid to reduce the deficit (the difference between its annual expenses and revenues) and national debt. In the UK, these cuts have taken the form of reduced welfare, redundancies across the public sector and a reorganization of the military.

Despite being widely criticized by prominent economists and even the International Monetary Fund (IMF), both Labour and the Conservatives promise more austerity if they come to power.

Tory Chancellor George Osborne pledged dramatic spending cuts of £33 billion which would reduce government spending to 1930s levels in his autumn statement last year.

Labour meanwhile promises cuts of £7 billion – its manifesto pledges “not one” of its spending commitments requires extra borrowing and that it will “cut the deficit every year.

In a letter published in The Guardian, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman attacked Britain’s “obsession” with economic austerity as a “distinctly British delusion.”

Focusing on Labour, he added: “If the political opposition won’t challenge the coalition’s bad economics, who will?