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Theresa May’s Blairite Manifesto

Chatting to Alex Nunns on the Twitter earlier, he suggested the Conservative (and Unionist) Manifesto was a Blairite document. And he’s entirely right. Not because of the substance of the politics, but because what Theresa May and “her team” are trying to do with it.

Looking at the manifesto, if Labour’s was the best manifesto I’ve seen then, arguably, the Tory document is probably their least worst. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot that is deeply discomfiting here. Yet at the same time it’s a patrician (matrician?) work invoking the spirit of manor-house-knows-best Toryism of Harold Macmillan and Enoch Powell. All the one nation lines are in there about tackling insecurity, sorting out mental health, and even a pledge promising to eradicate homelessness by 2027. And no, it doesn’t mean dragging them off to the workhouse. There’s some interesting wonkish stuff about investment banks, working with ‘old’ industries, introducing the variously floated ‘T’-levels to replace the plethora of vocationally-based qualifications, redistributing government bureaucracies to outside of London (hurrah!) and a few other things. It’s all there for the regen geeks.

This togetherness, of repositioning Britain as a giant community in which everyone knows their place and everyone is treated fairly is the running theme of the manifesto. Check this out, for example:

If you are at a state school you are less likely to reach the top professions than if you are educated privately. If you are a white, working-class boy, you are less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you are black, you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you are white. If you are born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you are a woman, you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there is not enough help at hand. These are burning injustices that damage the unity of our country, and we will address them. (p.51)

Can you imagine such lines even appearing in the 2015 Tory manifesto? Incredible.

Or not. Theresa May thinks the Tories have the election in the bag. That’s why the chapter on Brexit is short on detail but long on optimistic rhetoric. A few trade treaties and technical terms are thrown into the mix to convey the impression the government know what they’re doing. Though their persistence with the “no deal is better than a bad deal” idiocy shows they really don’t. It’s also why costings are entirely absent from the manifesto. Labour always get a hard time about such things. If they so much as want to repaint a school bus up pops talking heads demanding to know where the money’s coming from. Not so with the Tories. There might be a day of froth before it subsides. After all, Dave got away with it last time. The size of her predicted victory is why May feels comfortable going out of the way with her bastardised Milibandism. The petit bourgeois-types usually suspicious of big statism have nowhere else to go, and May sniffs a big opportunity to inflict major damage on Labour that could take years to recover from.

And it’s also why she may have made a big misstep. As the Tories are in the business of constructing a cult of the personality around a woman completely lacking in personal qualities, the leadership fetish commands an expression of toughness. And here it is:

First, we will align the future basis for means-testing for domiciliary care with that for residential care, so that people are looked after in the place that is best for them. This will mean that the value of the family home will be taken into account along with other assets and income, whether care is provided at home, or in a residential or nursing care home.

Second, to ensure this is fair, we will introduce a single capital floor, set at £100,000, more than four times the current means test threshold. This will ensure that, no matter how large the cost of care turns out to be, people will always retain at least £100,000 of their savings and assets, including value in the family home.

Third, we will extend the current freedom to defer payments for residential
care to those receiving care at home, so no-one will have to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for care. (p.67)

In 2010, David Cameron attacked Gordon Brown’s proposals about using a person’s estate to posthumously pay for care costs as a “death tax”. And here it is, again. Rather than releasing monies to deal with the growing adult social care crisis they are shifting the costs onto individuals and their families. Well, not all. In the name of obligationism, this would not effect the very poorest elderly, but it would hit millions of better off pensioners. Some are bound to pass ownership of their assets to the children in the manner of the rich dodging inheritance taxes to get round it, but most won’t. To be sure there’s going to be a lot of people in Daily Mail land deeply upset about this.

May thinks she can get away with it because this is the core vote and the Tories reason they have nowhere else to go. Are leave-voting pensioners going to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and his plans to nationalise window cleaning? This is why this manifesto is a Blairite manifesto. With the core vote in the bag, the party is free to reach out well beyond its base to gain the thumping majority May craves. Clobbering pensioners’ estates with care costs and rowing back on the triple lock might be enough to persuade younger voters that the Tories aren’t just about the oldies and that they’re trying to address age-related injustices in social policy.

Here, the Tories may have miscalculated. Looking at the polls, politics appears to have undergone a realignment again with the total collapse of UKIP (remember, we did this). Yet the vote the Tories have drawn in from UKIP is highly volatile, which is why the purples were always a declining force, even when, paradoxically, they were on the rise. That vote, which is mostly old, are going to have to weigh up how much a vote for Theresa May is going to cost their families. It will certainly put some off and, even though a switch to Labour might not be on the cards, them staying at home, or voting for another party threatens the prospects of a Tory landslide. If you’re going in for voter suppression, then going after the new supporters you’ve just won over should do it.

This Blairite manifesto is ultimately another episode in keeping the balance of Britain’s class forces tilted toward capital. It’s conservatism doing what conservatism does: adapting, shifting, changing, responding to new situations and protecting what’s theirs. The adoption of a Blairite approach to politics is from a position of perceived strength, but one that is not as certain as that enjoyed by The Master 20 years ago. It is our job in Labour to seize this and drive home what could be the Tories’ most serious mistake.

11 Comments

  1. Mervyn Hyde says:

    I’m sorry phil I stopped reading this article half way through, it is probably the worst I have read of yours, in truth it’s full of Tory platitudes Ed Miliband suffered for exactly the same reasons.

    That is precisely what people are rejecting, do you think for one minute that anything they say will either hold water or promise last beyond the election.

    The fact is that Neo-Liberal politicians of all colours promise change but continue with asset stripping the state and talk about balancing the books, neither can be sustained economically. The Tories have nowhere else to go other than raid ordinary peoples stored wealth, in this case their homes.

    That of course transformed Labour’s position in the polls, it is a clear win now for Labour as we can capitalise on the fact that whilst they give tax cuts to the mega rich they are now coming full on to ordinary peoples stored wealth.

    Blair and his third way gradually began to fail because he indebted people just as Thatcher did but without a sustainable economy to enable them to pay for it. private sector borrowing needs an increasing income to keep pace with the debt burden, falling wages combined with the debt bubble could only end up with a crash.

    We are currently heading in the same direction, private debt ratios are now above those of the previous crash, it’s now a matter of not if but when the crash comes.

    The Tories promise you the earth but only end up taking it away from you.

  2. John P Reid says:

    Ok I agreed with mervyn hydes comment, but, surely. McMillan /Powell view of the world would be raiding everything to get debt down, and a blairite social democracy only worked when they had money to spent n inequality

  3. Bazza says:

    It is pure Neo-Liberalism dressed up in moderate language to CON the masses and the occasional writer.
    The Tories only get out of bed on a morning to stuff the mouths of the rich with gold!
    But CONservatives have to PRETEND, to CON the COMMUNITY because they need to win parliamentary power.
    I had poverty in my earlier years and you never forget but although I’M DOING FINE NOW I can still empathise today and have always cared about others.
    But I feel like Charles Dickens as in my job I travel to the poorest areas of my city by bus and I see citizens BROKEN by Tory Neo-Liberalism with poverty etched on their faces.
    But the tragedy is they seldom turn into revolutionaries, many just give up, and give up on voting too.
    At the last General Election the largest grouping was non-voters but they are citizens too!
    The Tories got less than 30% of the total electorate who were eligible to vote, so believe me “We are not all Tories now!”
    Labour’s manifesto is great, it could be transformative and could be an example to other countries.
    And what in our country is ours – water, rail, mail, public utilities?
    IT’S TIME TO TAKE BACK CONTROL WITH LABOUR FROM TORY NEO-LIBERALISM!
    LAB 4 HOPE!

  4. Bazza says:

    Oh and with quantitative easing (£80b of this electronic money printed since the Referendum result) the Tories on behalf of the rich and powerful as Streeck argues “Haven’t a clue what to do.”
    Quantitative easing as Streeck also suggests is only buying them time but our state-led public investment (with the private sector supply chain pouring in behind) could grow the ecomomy out of recession and a £10 living wage and getting rid of wage freezes could help increase THE POUND IN YOUR POCKET which would stimulate commodity purchases and thus the economy (and create more jobs and reduce benefit costs) and people feel happier and more confident (could also reduce the personal levels of debt which could be the next cause a crash) and if other countries follow us then we have more global economic confidence.
    And we address peace, treat other countries as equals with an independent foreign policy looking for peaceful alternatives to violence (and stop nicking their resources) plus one which values all human life and ends (as someone in the latest New Left Review suggests) the global hierarchy of white, yellow, brown, then black.
    This election is of global significance.
    LAB 4 HOPE!

    1. Steven Johnston says:

      Have we found the man who still believes you can spend your way out of a depression?
      If only it was that easy, then there would only be boom times and no periods of bust.
      Hey, but didn’t Marx say that boom and bust was built into the capitalist economy?
      But nice use of a phrase attributed to Wilson; the pound in your pocket.

      1. Mervyn Hyde says:

        Steven, the facts are, that either you don’t know how money enters the economy or like most Neo-Liberals prefer to believe their mantra of a government with it’s own sovereign currency must raise tax before it spends.

        97% of all money in circulation was printed out of thin air, by the private banks who issued it as debt. Would you like to ask the banks how they do it and what constrains them, apart from the borrows ability to pay the money back?

        This little video might put you in the picture.

        1. Steven Johnston says:

          Thank you but I’ve seen that video before.
          I think I’ll just stick to the Karl Marx on how money enters the economy, he does a better job of explaining it.

          You’ll find a good discussion here

          https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/general-discussion/100-reserve-banking

          1. Mervyn Hyde says:

            Clearly Steven you don’t know what positive money are actually saying.

            They want the banks to only lend what they earn in profit or banking deposits from savers- But that money will enter the economy via an independent commission within the Bank of England who will increase the money supply according to government spending needs.

            Modern Monetary Theory on the other hand say what I also believe is that the government doesn’t need to borrow its own money, and can spend directly into the economy, in order to deliver the needs of people, we then use interest rates and taxation to regulate the economy stopping it from overheating.

            I have to admit not knowing what Marx had to say about it, because I find the language he uses too difficult and labouring to endure, that of course doesn’t mean he isn’t relevant or right, I just don’t know, so perhaps you could enlighten us with Marx’s view of how money enters the economy, and how we can best use it to provide a sustainable living for ordinary people.

  5. imrankhanlahore says:

    If it’s Blairite then she is guaranteed the next three elections!

  6. James Martin says:

    Phil, if it really is Labour that has destroyed the ukips (and I don’t think it is, in Stoke the congenital lying eejit that is Nasty Nuttalls did that all by himself), then why is it that a massive chunk of their former voters nationally who came from Labour have not come back to us but have gone to the Tories?

  7. Bazza says:

    James, I had a skim read of UKIP’s policies and a nice little ‘vote winning’ gem there -they want to cut the number of pubs and restrict opening hours because they say of the Weekend chaos at A&E etc. blaming all for a few?- a UKIP attack on a British way of life?
    Thought Jeremy made a good speech today on foreign policy and the Lib Dems opportunists show what twits they are, Lib Dem Lord virtually saying we should not THINK when after the heartbreak and tears this is exactly what we should do as calm, rational, and critical thinking citizens
    There is an interesting commonality between some of the recent foreign wars such as Iraq and Libya (oil) and they were straight in but funny how a significant proportion of their oil is now owned by Western TNCs post-war and Afghanistan (gas pipeline) but compare this with Bosnia (no resources) and in the latter case it took 12 months or so for the West to reluctantly intervene.
    And remember Assad and his clique own one third of the Syrian economy in the richest part of the country that they control and perhaps this is what they are also fighting for.
    Then a current Tory Minister says Jeremy should read history but perhaps this twit should read a few political books?
    And perhaps the Tories could tell us when our first bombs were dropped in Syria against so-called IS on some petrol distilling stations and oil refineries were these occupied by workers at the time or were they unoccupied?
    And if they were occupied these would have been by workers (and probably trade unionists) and if so-called IS comes to town you probably have little say in the matter, but Tories if these were occupied and by non-combatants was this TORY DECISION legal under international law?
    So we need an independent foreign policy which treats other countries as equals and which values all human life and one which tries to facilitate alternatives to violence.
    The World needs thinkers who can try to act as Global Peacemongers and that is why JC is a star!

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