The Scottish National Party’s manifesto is the last of the main manifestos to appear. It’s a reflective document, explaining the SNP’s work in opposition, their role in Westminster and some of the things they hope to lobby for. In the field of social security, that includes ‘halting’ Universal Credit – presumably that means halting the roll-out, scrapping the two-child limit, ending the freeze on uprating and protecting the WASPI women. That platform brings them quite close to Labour, who are similarly trying to reverse some of the negative policies of recent years.
I have to accept, reviewing the clutch of election manifestos, that I’d been looking for something that none of the parties is really ready to consider: some thinking about what government should be trying to do for its citizens, what might be done with benefits, what principles we would want to uphold. I had imagined, after the great splash on social care in 2017, or the continuing problems in health care marked by the troubles of A and E, that some party would have run with something more innovative – for example, what should be done by contributions (the German approach to social care), what by different social arrangements (such as the Kerr reforms of urgent health care) or what by redistribution. However, these are not the sort of things that our political system is engaging with. It’s easy to blame Brexit for monopolising everyone’s attention, but I think it goes deeper than that. After decades years of neoliberalism, marketisation and ‘austerity’, there’s little appetite for solidarity, redistribution or the expansion of public service.