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No houses, no lunches, no foreigners: Theresa May launches her vision for Britain

Only death and taxes

Theresa May’s shock announcement has been that her next government would make more people pay for their own social care at home. Under new means-testing rules, pensioners would start to pay for care at home as long as they had assets of more than £100,000, rather than the current £23,500, but the new calculation will include pensioners’ homes. This means that thousands more elderly people would be affected and have to pay for their own care. The policy would work by allowing people to run up the costs and pay for it out of their estate when they die. A “death tax”, as opponents have already labelled it.

It represents another approach to Sir Andrew Dilnot’s proposals, when he was commissioned by the coalition in 2011, under which there would be a lifetime care costs cap of £35,000 – after which the state would pay. Instead, May is proposing that pensioners pay out of anything they own above £100,000 – now including their home.

Baroness Altman on The World at One pointed out that this would mean some elderly people with conditions such as cancer would receive free care at home from the NHS, but other pensioners with conditions that might be just as debilitating, like Alzheimer’s, would have to pay out of their assets. Polly Toynbee has taken a welcome break from sniping at Jeremy Corbyn in the pages of the Guardian to explain how the new policy works, “The lottery of life and death will see some families paying a fortune and losing all but the last £100,000 of their property value, while the lucky who drop dead suddenly pay nothing.”

The manifesto also targets pensioners in other ways, by means-testing the winter fuel allowance, and replacing the pensions ‘triple lock’ with a ‘double lock’. Previously, the Conservatives had protected pensions by the highest figure out of inflation, earnings growth or 2.5%. Now the 2.5% ‘lock’ has been removed, meaning pensions will only rise with earnings or inflation.

This is a stark contrast to Labour’s manifesto, which promises to move towards a ‘National Care Service’, an additional £3 billion of public funds every year, enough to place a maximum limit on lifetime personal contributions to care costs, raise the asset threshold below which people are entitled to state support, and provide free end of life care. Put simply, under Labour pensioners would be better off – and their children would inherit more.

May has clearly taken a gamble, and one that could pay off. If Labour can cut through to make the point that young or old, a Labour government means more care, more cash in your pocket – and without selling your home – they might eat into the Tories’ enormous lead among the over-65s.

No such thing as a free lunch

While Labour’s Angela Rayner gathered plaudits for pledging to introduce universal free school meals for all secondary school pupils, the Tories are winding the clock back. Specifically, back to the days when the Iron Lady was labelled “Thatcher Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”, for scrapping free school milk. Now, Theresa May is planning to take away free hot school dinners and replace them with cold breakfasts.

Currently children in the first three years of school – aged five, six and seven – get a hot meal at lunchtime no matter how rich or poor.

The damage to young people will be that undernourished children won’t eat properly, damaging their long-term educational prospects. A Children’s Society report more than a million children in poverty are missing out on free school meals, and that eating a nutritious meal at lunchtime has important health and educational benefits for children.

And the political cost? That’ll depend on how many parents object to Theresa May pinching their kids’ dinner money. The costs of re-electing a Conservative government for what May calls the ‘just about managing’ classes are increasing with every page of her manifesto.

Third time lucky? 

The manifesto pledges, just as in 2010 and 2015, that the Conservatives would bring net migration down to the ‘tens of thousands’ – a promise widely-recognised as both impossible in practice and economically devastating if it were to occur. It would mean an NHS with fewer nurses and doctors, the agricultural sector lacking in workers, and universities without international students.

The last point is especially important, because despite the huge economic (not to mention academic, social and cultural) contribution that international students make to Britain’s higher education system, they would be kept in the net migration target.

The two policies together are contradictory: May wants to reduce net migration to an arbitrary level, but she won’t reduce that figure through the simple trick of excluding students from it. This could only mean that May is both serious about reducing immigration, and serious about reducing numbers of international students – an economically and academically destructive move.

Labour, quite rightly, has made no such pledge to reduce immigration, and have simply said that migration would be managed but fair.

In other attacks on migrants, the manifesto pledges to double the levy on employers hiring migrant workers, while increasing NHS charges for migrants, to £600 for migrant workers (from £200) and £450 for international students (from £150) – denying a right to healthcare for thousands who live in Britain.

The worst of the rest 

Losing your family home after you die, kids losing their hot dinners at school, and losing your right to stay in the country are just some of the headlines of the manifesto.

The Guardian and Mirror have a summary of the major policies, some of which include:

  • Corporation tax will fall to 17%, one of the lowest rates anywhere in the OECD.
  • People must show ID to vote in future elections, which could lead to voter suppression.
  • A new property fund to reduce inequalities across the four nations of the UK.
  • Seeking the best possible deal for the UK with the EU but leaving open the possibility of walking away with no agreement – meaning the country would revert to tariffs and World Trade Organisation rules.
  • New takeover rules to protect critical national infrastructure from foreign ownership.
  • A decision not to proceed with the second part of the Leveson inquiry into relations between the media and police.
  • An expansion of fracking – something Labour had pledged to ban.
  • A free vote on fox hunting before the end of the Parliament.
  • A review of the honours system to ‘better reward’ public service.
  • Repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, allowing prime ministers to call an election whenever they like instead of a formal five-year term. Something May clearly had no difficulty getting around.
  • A capital fund to help schools build nurseries and a presumption that every primary school should have a nursery.
  • A review of schools’ admissions policies on top of May’s well-trailed desire to lift the ban on new grammar schools.
  • Increasing the target of building a million homes by 2020 to 1.5m by the end of 2022.
  • Freedom for employees in the public sector to move towards mutualism “where appropriate”.
  • A series of UK sovereign wealth funds, including cash from shale gas extraction, dormant assets and the sale of public assets, to back British infrastructure.
  • A review of human rights law after the UK has left the EU, but a commitment to staying in the European Convention on Human Rights for the duration of the next parliament. This could mean that Labour’s Human Rights Act 1998 could be scrapped, denying justice for thousands of people who have benefited from the Act over the past two decades, and the rulings arising from it.
  • An extension of the pledge to increase NHS spending by a minimum of £8bn over the next five years, with an increase in funding per head in real terms annually for the length of the parliament.
  • The first new mental health Bill for 35 years will put parity of esteem with physical health at its heart.

Fool me twice… 

Labour have also unveiled a new document today, detailing the broken promises from the Conservative’s 2015 manifesto. Titled, “One Tory Manifesto. Two years of Failure. 50 Broken Promises”, which you can download here, the dossier of dodges starts with a quote from Theresa May from 2007:

“the idea that a lot of voters read manifestos is purely fictional, although of course in the case of some parties, their manifestos are pure fiction.”

Focusing mainly on missed deficit targets, falling living standards, and financial crises in schools and hospitals, Labour set out, by citing the evidence, of no fewer than fifty times the Tories have fallen short of what they pledged in the 2015 manifesto.

Looking at their pledges in the 2017 edition, millions of Britons, from struggling families with hungry children to pensioners facing illness and increasing care needs, might just find themselves hoping the Tories would break a few pledges if they find themselves back in power on June 9th.

8 Comments

  1. Barry Rodin says:

    Thanks for very interesting article, summarising the Tories’ so called manifesto.

    For a party that is supposedly an historical supporter of big business and global capital I am finding it increasingly ironical that the Tories are currently on a road map to a hard Brexit, which will inhibit international trade, commercial activities and staff transfers among British based international companies.

    Furthermore, a party, with one of their supposedly core values being conservation and transfer of wealth from one generation to another, is introducing a death/dementia tax.

    It just goes to show you that nothing is scared in the Tories’ lust for power. Life continues to be full of contradictions.

    It also emphasises the importance in the next three weeks of Labour reaching out effectively to the older generations (where Labour has most challenges re voting intentions).

    It needs to highlight both the negative impact of Tory policies on their well-being and also critically the long-term adverse consequences for the population as a whole.

  2. Tony says:

    There’s a lot of really awful stuff in there.

    In the air campaign, Labour needs to keep going on about the Conservative threat to the winter fuel allowance.

    In the ground campaign, canvassers need to do the same.

  3. Bazza says:

    TORY TRIPLE DOCK 4 OAPs!
    We create the wealth, make society work then when used by rich and powerful all our lives DUMPED BY TORIES – we are surplus to requirements.
    Labour is committed to retirement at 66 (and to look at manual workers retirement – and I would prefer 65 and 60 respectively) and under Tories if under 45 you will work to 68 and 20 year olds up to 70!
    TORY WINTER FUEL BLOCK!
    TORY DEATH TAX SHOCK!
    TORY PENSIONS KNOCK!
    In canvassing I have been putting over the theme that this election is about IDEAS – (AND WE NEED TO BRING BACK THE TERM ‘CITIZENS’) & AS CITIZENS – WE ARE NOTHING WITHOUT IDEAS!
    Solidarity!

  4. Bazza says:

    BREAKING NEWS!
    Tory final election slogan 4 OAPs:
    VOTE TORY – DROP DEAD AND D’ONT GET DEMENTIA!

    1. Steven Johnston says:

      Your grammar is worse than a Socialist Worker headline.

  5. James Martin says:

    The polls continue to show the Tory lead is dropping very quickly and is now (according to the Sunday Times poll today) down to single figures.

    In fact when you look at this in more detail things are even more encouraging. The problem in national polls for Labour continues to be Scotland, and had the Labour vote not collapsed there (and where the SNP now act as the left/social democratic party) then Labour’s current polling would be ABOVE the level of the 35% of the popular vote that Labour got in 2005 when Blair won his third term. Yes, ABOVE. Now I wonder what ‘analysis’ the bitterites and eejits like John McTory will use on that little nugget.

  6. Steven Johnston says:

    Just as well we know that it’s irrelevant what is written in any manifesto and that whoever gets in, capitalism will continue to operate as normal. Business as usual eh? Unless of course we really believe that governments control capitalism?

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