The Conservatives' Manifesto: “Solid Conservatism” With a More Active State and a Tough Brexit

 Ten Key Pledges

  • Deficit will be eradicated by 2025

  • Winter fuel payments for pensioners will be means-tested

  • Increasing the threshold where pensioners stop paying for their own care to £100,000 from £23,500 of savings and assets

  • Listed companies to publish the ratio of executive pay to the broader UK workforce ​

  • A fixed cap on energy tariffs, to be set by the regulator Ofgem and reviewed every six months

  • Commitment to build 1.5 million extra homes by 2022

  • A pledge to bring net migration down to “tens of thousands” will stay -  but with no “arbitrary” target date

  • Raise the tax-free personal allowance to £12,500 by 2020

  • Maintain the triple lock pension guarantee until 2020, then replace it with a double lock so pensions rise in line with earnings or inflation, whichever is highest

  • £4bn more for schools by 2022, paid for by ended universal free school lunches for children aged 5 to 7

Economy

“Firms and households cannot plan ahead if the government’s thirst for their cash threatens higher taxes and cuts to vital services and investment; and when things spiral out of control, it is ordinary, working people who are hit hardest.”

“The Conservatives have laid these essential foundations. Ten years after the banking crisis, the deficit is back to where it was. The independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that the national debt is finally about to start falling.”

Taxation

“By 2020, we will, as promised, increase the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate to £50,000. We will continue to ensure that local residents can veto high increases in Council Tax via a referendum. And we will not increase the level of Value Added Tax.

Corporation Tax is due to fall to seventeen per cent by 2020 – the lowest rate of any developed economy – and we will stick to that plan, because it will help to bring huge investment and many thousands of jobs to the UK.”

Industry

“Boards should take account of the interests not just of shareholders but employees, suppliers and the wider community. To ensure employees’ interests are represented at board level, we will change the law to ensure that listed companies will be required either to nominate a director from the workforce, create a formal employee advisory council or assign speci c responsibility for employee representation to a designated non-executive director. Subject to sensible safeguards, we will introduce, for employees, a right to request information relating to the future direction of the company.”

Brexit

“The negotiations will undoubtedly be tough, and there will be give and take on both sides, but we continue to believe that no deal is better than a bad deal for the UK. But we will enter the negotiations in a spirit of sincere cooperation and commi ed to ge ing the best deal for Britain. We will make sure we have certainty and clarity over our future, control of our own laws, and a more united, strengthened United Kingdom. We will control immigration and secure the entitlements of EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU.”

“As we leave the European Union, we will no longer be members of the single market or customs union but we will seek a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement.”

“We will enact a Great Repeal Bill. Our laws will be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardi and Belfast, and interpreted by judges across the United Kingdom, not in Luxembourg. The bill will convert EU law into UK law, allowing businesses and individuals to go about life knowing that the rules have not changed overnight.”

Education

“We will make it a condition for universities hoping to charge maximum tuition fees to become involved in academy sponsorship or the founding of free schools. We will introduce new funding arrangements so we can open a specialist maths school in every major city in England.”

“We will lift the ban on the establishment of selective schools, subject to conditions, such as allowing pupils to join at other ages as well as eleven. Contrary to what some people allege, offcial research shows that slightly more children from ordinary, working class families attend selective schools as a percentage of the school intake compared to non- selective schools”

Housing

“We will fix the dysfunctional housing market so that housing is more affordable and people have the security they need to plan for the future. The key to this is to build enough homes to meet demand.”

“We will meet our 2015 commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and we will deliver half a million more by the end of 2022. We will deliver the reforms proposed in our Housing White Paper to free up more land for new homes in the right places, speed up build-out by encouraging modern methods of construction and give councils powers to intervene where developers do not act on their planning permissions; and we will diversify who builds homes in this country.”

Health and Social care

“First, we will increase NHS spending by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next ve years, delivering an increase in real funding per head of the population for every year of the parliament.”

“We will ensure that the NHS and social care system have the nurses, midwives, doctors, carers and other health professionals that it needs. We will make it a priority in our negotiations with the European Union that the 140,000 staff from EU countries can carry on making their vital contribution to our health and care system. “

Analysis

Not Mayism but “good solid Conservatism”, the Prime Minister said when she launched the Conservative manifesto. Yet this is a very different policy package than we have been used to from Conservatives for a long time.

There is an irony that both Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher’s popularity stems from the suburban values that they espouse. However, whereas Thatcher’s values came from her father’s grocery as much as Milton Friedman, May’s Conservative comes from the vicarage she grew up in and the type of populism espoused by Edmund Burke or, more recently, Joseph Chamberlain. In many way, May is more authentically suburban than Thatcher.

May has defined the extremes of politics not just in the leftism of Jeremy Corbyn but the individualism of the right. In between these is where she is hoping that there is a popular centre ground Toryism.

Differences aside there is enough to please small state, low tax Tories even if some of the more post-liberal policies such as an industrial strategy and greater regulation of the energy market displease them.

Unlike Labour’s offering, the Conservatives have gone for fine words and sentiments without too many hard offers for voters - especially on taxation where they hope their traditional advantage will give them credibility. There is very little to say about health care - and May certainly didn’t pull a £350m rabbit out of her hat.

The Tories have been broader in the problems and challenges that the country faces - and touger in their approach, especially on social care.

Where the manifesto is most oblique is in its section on Brexit. Yes, May will not negotiate for Single Market or Customes Union membership - also it was re-iterated that no deal was better than a bad deal - but there was little else here except broad aims, a sign perhaps that May knows that she will not please everyone.

This is not an attempt to repudiate Thatcherism but to soften it with pragmatism. Will it work though?

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