Johnson vs Hunt but what do they promise?

By Tom Court

The fight for Number 10 continues as two political heavyweights race around the country hoping to convince 160,000 party members that they are fit to lead the country and extract us from the European Union. Obviously, the question on everyone’s lips is what path does each candidate intend on taking, and will we reach our destination by October 31st?

Both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson insist that they can renegotiate Theresa May’s deal, despite the EU’s own insistence that they cannot. Failing this, Boris Johnson has assured party members that come Halloween he would take no hesitation in leaving without a deal. Although, he did admit to the press that the chances of a no deal happening were “a million to one” (Ladbrokes beg to differ, and have stated that they will not be offering him a job if he fails to beat Jeremy Hunt). 

Jeremy Hunt, whilst not having ruled out a no deal, believes that the 31st October is nothing more than a “fake deadline”, and that if Parliament rejects leaving without a deal, we could see yet another general election. Hunt has stated that whilst he is prepared to leave without a deal, he would not be tempted if there was a “prospect of a better deal” on the horizon.

Whilst both candidates attend hustings around the country, it is worth looking at what new policies they are planning to deliver. Of course, it is mainly Brexit on the tip of everyone’s tongues, but recently we have had a glimpse of a few policies aimed at the party electorate. Boris Johnson, for example, has pledged to increase the threshold for the higher rate of income tax from £50,000 to £80,000 – affecting around three million workers in the UK. He also stated that the point at which workers start paying national insurance contributions would rise under his leadership, although a new threshold has yet to be specified.

For the property sector, it is no secret that Boris Johnson favours ownership over renting, and it is quite possible that he may wish to return to traditional home ownership territory after recent Tory efforts to court renter votes. During the Conservative Party conference last year, Johnson expressed preference over ownership over renting, and has previously hinted at his support for the continuation and potential extension of the ‘Right To Buy’ scheme.

Speaking of seeing first hand a council flat, occupied by a small family, he stated as his shock of the local council’s lack of action or even enthusiasm to tackle the mould and rot that plagued the property - “I thought what a difference it would make to that family if they had been able to take back control – to coin a phrase. To buy that flat.”

Boris Johnson has also expressed a desire to see fewer affordable homes on new-build developments. Attacking both Labour and Conservative controlled councils, he has argued that the reason as London Mayor he built more homes than Ken Livingstone (Labour) was because he imposed no such constraint on developments, and as a result more housing of all kinds were built.

Not wanting to be bested, Jeremy Hunt has vowed to reduce corporation tax from 19% to 12.5%, the same rate as Ireland, in hope to encourage companies to set up in the UK. He has also similarly expressed support for an increase in the point at which workers’ pay National Insurance, and has further committed to increasing defence spending and cutting the interest on student debt.

On housing however, in an apparent effort to win the hearts of younger voters, Jeremy Hunt has pledged to deliver up to one and a half million additional homes over the next ten years for “Generation Rent”. This can arguably be seen as mirroring Margaret Thatcher’s successful “Right to Buy” scheme with a his own “Right to Own” policy, which is part of his five point pledge to the younger voters both within and outside of the Tory party.

Speaking more on his ambitious housing plans, he stated that “few people can afford to do that now because house prices have rocketed. Margaret Thatcher had a plan which meant that 1.5 million people got on the housing ladder through the right to buy programme. This is a big programme which is going to help lots of young people get on the housing ladder in a way that will allow them to make their dreams come true for themselves or their families.”

Further ideas for Hunt’s Housing policies involve forcing developers to stop sitting on land banks by charging the full council tax rate on plots as soon as they have received planning permission, in a hope of speeding up developments. In order to protect greenspace in cities, he has revealed that he wants to allow city developments to go up to five stories high in a policy known as BUNO (Build UP Not Out).

Both candidates should take joy and comfort in the knowledge that they only really have to please voters who, by definition, would probably vote for them anyway, as outside of the Party the reaction to our potential next Prime Minister has not been particularly favourable. Nevertheless, this time next month Number 10 Downing Street will have a new tenant, the Brexit boat a new captain, and the European Union another British politician to negotiate with. How this leadership election plays out in the long run is still to be defined, but with a by-election just around the corner, Brexit’s big day looming, and whispers of a forced general election on the horizon, it is fair to say that for the Conservative Party the stakes have never been higher.