Although Labour’s draft manifesto was leaked somewhat early, this week was ‘Manifesto Week’, where the main parties outlined their plans, pledges, and policies for government. The Conservatives launched theirs in Halifax on Thursday, under the banner ‘Forward, Together’, representing the steps the UK takes forward as we leave the European Union in 2019. However, you only have to flip over to page 2 to see the true meaning and message of their election campaign: ‘Theresa May’s Team’. This has been a campaign built on the idea of her against Corbyn, rather than the Tories against the Labour Party.
The Manifesto certainly matched the conservatism brand of politics, but in terms of what the Conservatives stand for, and their audience, it can be argued there’s definite change. So, what were the key pledges? Those with assets over 100k will now have to pay for care out of the value of their house, immigration will be reduced to the tens of thousands, companies will be charged to employ skilled workers from outside the EU, the pension triple-lock will be scrapped, Britain will leave the single market, grammar schools reintroduced, increased funding for education and health, and corporation tax lowered.
Once again, the date to end the budget deficit has been pushed back. In 2010, we were told a surplus by 2014. By 2014, it was 2017. And now, it’s the middle of the next decade. This isn’t the only policy or pledge rehashed or pushed back. The 2015 manifesto said, “Yes to the single market”, and the 2017 manifesto says the opposite. The 2015 manifesto wanted to ‘eliminate’ child poverty, and the 2017 edition wants to ‘reduce levels’. This wasn’t on a manifesto, rather a bus, but there’s no sign of the extra £350 million a week for the NHS; just like Boris, it’s message carrier.
Unlike the Labour manifesto, this document just doesn’t add up, and features little costings. Labour’s manifesto was fully costed for, and left wiggle room to even move towards a surplus. This manifesto doesn’t, and it’s clear they haven’t even been worked out. One key example of this is the pledge to reduce immigration levels to less than 100k, including international students. International students are huge contributors to the economy through their tuition fees and daily living costs, and not removing them from the figures is not only naive, but downright stupid.
It’s also unsure where the extra funding for the NHS and education is coming from. As Corporation tax is lowered, and tax thresholds increased, simply less money will be brought in. Leaving the single market will also be catastrophic for Britain, and British businesses, and contingency plans need to be in place, as the UK will lose out on business, and profit, to other EU countries. Introducing T-Levels into the education system also won’t be cheap, and the manifesto fails to add whether extra funding into education will be included for this.
The word that springs to mind with this manifesto, is incompetency. May and the Tories are implementing a new form of conservatism that will further wreck living standards, prospects, and our nations standing in the world. And all for a narrow-minded ideology. Many say that May will use a larger mandate to implement a softer Brexit, but the manifesto tells a different story. They have committed to leaving the single market, reducing immigration to hurtfully low levels, and charging companies to hire workers from outside the EU.
They have even started turning on many of their core voters, including those more likely to vote, the over 60’s. Scrapping the triple lock on pensions, not providing answers for social care, and implementing the so called ‘Dementia Tax’ has the potential to harm support in this demographic, as May tries to market herself to Labour’s core voters. However, as I highlighted last week, manifestos are only a fraction of what matters to a voter, and the Tories are seen to be economically credible, handling Brexit, and to have strong leadership.
This is why May and the Tories are so confident, and their manifesto shows it. This campaign and manifesto is more presidential than any the UK has ever seen. It’s why the manifesto mentions the PM’s name a record number of times, it’s why they’ve been using the slogan ‘Theresa May’s Team’, and it’s why they are focusing on leadership. Theresa May currently leads Corbyn as the public’s preferred PM by 49% to 21%, she leads Corbyn and Labour on handling Brexit, and leads Corbyn on handling the economy. That’s why there are no costings, because they are seen to have the edge on economic credibility. It’s why the impact of Brexit isn’t stated, because they are seen to have the edge on securing the best deal for Britain.
There is a lack of credible politics in the UK right now, and one of the main issues for this is the lack of a formidable opposition. The Tories know they will win in June, and they know that May will continue to trounce Corbyn in the polls. They are simply running on autopilot, knowing that Corbyn and Labour will do their job for them, and it’s why this uncosted, and untested manifesto has been released. Whether it’s incompetency, or pure confidence, it’s dangerous for Britain.