“Let’s Stay on the Road to a Stronger Economy” was the central message of the Conservatives’ new election poster, launched on 2 January.
Senior Tory ministers rang in the new year with a major press conference in which they launched their General Election campaign with a comprehensive attack on Labour’s spending plans. The party continued to use public appearances by its leaders to drive home the message about its “long term economic plan”.
The party has also vowed to cap public sector redundancy payoffs to £95,000 in the wake of controversy, and will consult on the possibility of extending this measure to cover employees of the BBC.
Elsewhere, plans advocated by the Home Secretary to require overseas students to return home before they are allowed to apply for a new visa have been struck down by the party’s leadership, but not before attracting controversy in the form of criticism from figures including entrepreneur Sir James Dyson.
Appearing on the BBC, the Prime Minister offered a “commitment” not to reduce the regular armed forces further, and expressed his desire for an EU referendum to take place as soon as possible.
The party is also reportedly planning once more to include the re-legalisation of fox hunting in its manifesto, according to senior figures in the Countryside Alliance.
Labour’s stated intention of focusing its General Election attack campaign on the NHS continued apace as Parliament returned, with the first PMQs of the new year permitting Leader Ed Miliband to hang chances of saving the health service on “[getting] rid” of the Conservatives.
He faced a tirade of moral disapproval from the Prime Minister for earlier comments to the BBC about his desire to “weaponise” the issue.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls began the year by claiming that following a Conservative “lurch to the right”, Labour had been left as “the centre-ground alternative”.
North of the border, newly-elected Scottish Labour Leader pledged that 1,000 new nurses would be recruited to support the Scottish health service using funds from the party’s proposed “mansion tax”.
The party also revealed that it was no longer considering a ban on food waste in landfill.
While Labour maintained its official opposition to allowing the Green Party to participate in the televised Leaders’ debates, the New Statesman reported that Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan had departed from this stance by advocating the inclusion of Leader Natalie Bennett.
His hopes appeared quashed in the immediate term by a ruling from Ofcom late last which determined that the Greens could not be considered a major party – though UKIP could. However, the Prime Minister added to the fray by throwing his support behind the Greens’ inclusion and threatening to withdraw his participation otherwise – a move some saw as merely an attempt to avoid the debates.
Labour Leader Ed Miliband in turn argued that if Mr Cameron refused to take part, he should be represented by an empty chair.
The Liberal Democrats began the new year with a plea from the Deputy Prime Minister to let his party form the “heart” of a future Coalition, or the “spine” of a pact with Labour.
The party also appeared eager to steal Labour’s thunder on 6 January when the party announced its intention to increase NHS funding by £8bn by 2020. The pledge was intended to reflect the needs of the health service as articulated in the Five Year Forward View.
Liberal Democrat Schools Minister David Laws continued his newfound antipathy to his Tory Coalition partners by attacking their plans for education spending. The Chancellor’s austerity programme would pose a “huge threat” to businesses with an interest in social mobility, he claimed.
Elsewhere, senior Liberal Democrats were voluble in defence of the UK’s EU membership, with Business Secretary Vince Cable batting away taunts from Conservative Backbenchers during Thursday’s Business Questions, and a wistful Energy Secretary Ed Davey sharing a moment of consensus on the matter with Labour MP Dr Alan Whitehead while appearing before the Energy and Climate Change Committee on Wednesday.
As Senior Political Analyst at DeHavilland, Anna Haswell leads on financial services policy, as well as covering media issues. In her capacity as Content Marketer, she is also responsible for DeHavilland's briefings and analysis output, working across teams to ensure relevant messages reach current and prospective clients alike. She is a graduate of the University of Oxford and Goldsmiths, University of London.