The Conservative manifesto
The Conservatives will “get Brexit done” and “forge a new Britain”, said Boris Johnson, launching his manifesto. He promised 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more GP appointments.
The slogan they keep repeating is “get Brexit done”. But what does that mean?
The Tories are promising to bring the bill that would withdraw the UK from the EU back to Parliament before Christmas — and pass it in time for the UK to leave the EU on 31 January.
So, in that sense, Brexit will be done. Britain will have legally left the EU and there will be no going back — at least not without re-applying for membership in the future.
But it is a bit more complicated than that because the deal means that for 11 months more (until 31 December 2020) all EU rules, regulations and payments will stay the same.
Over these 11 months, the EU and UK have to re-negotiate their future relationship around trade and a host of other issues. So, we’ll still hear a lot more about Brexit next year.
We seem to have heard some pretty radical ideas from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. How does the Tory manifesto compare?
Leaving Brexit aside, the Tories manifesto is fairly modest alongside the other parties.
The influential Institute for Fiscal Studies commented, “If the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos were notable for the scale of their ambitions, the Tory one is not. If a single Budget had contained all these tax and spending proposals, we would have been calling it modest. As a blueprint for five years in government, the lack of significant policy action is remarkable.”
By the end of the Parliament, the Tories say they will have increased current public spending on services in real terms by £3 billion. That compares with the Lib Dems proposed £63 billion and Labour’s £83 billion.
And whilst the other three national parties have all made climate change central to their approach, the Tories are being much more gradualist. Their target for net zero carbon emissions is 2050.
What about traditional Tory issues like immigration, crime and policing?
The key promises are extra police officers, tougher sentences for criminals and the introduction of an Australian-style, points-based immigration system. None of these is new, but there are some extra details in the manifesto.
On immigration, it spells out how EU and non-EU immigration rules will be brought into line with one another — mainly by simply imposing existing rules for non-EU migrants onto EU citizens, except those already living here.
The promise to recruit 20,000 extra police officers is a reversal of previous cuts to police numbers, which have fallen by 21,000 since 2010. It is a tacit admission that there is a link between police numbers and crime, something previous Tory leaders have denied.
Criminals face tougher sentences both in the community and in prison, with automatic eligibility for parole being ended and longer sentences for certain types of crime.
What is the tax triple lock?
The Tories are promising not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT for five years. This is what they are calling their “tax triple lock”.
They also promise one significant tax cut — to raise the national insurance threshold (the level at which people have to start paying it) to £9,500 next year, affecting 31 million workers. They also say they aim to raise it eventually to £12,500, matching the level for income tax.
For workers, they also propose to raise the National Living Wage and to continue to protect pensions.
They also propose some measures to fix or reduce household bills. These include more money for childcare and caps on energy prices.
What is all this stuff about Britain’s potential?
The Tories claim that the flip-side of getting Brexit done is that it will allow the Government to unleash the country’s potential.
This includes investing in people and infrastructure. This includes £3 billion for technical and vocational education, continuing regional development initiatives like the so-called “Northern Powerhouse”.
Some more controversial issues like Heathrow expansion and the HS2 railway project are slightly fudged, while some others get the go ahead: expanding, fast-charging networks for electric vehicles, and restoring some of the town and country railway lines that were cut back in the 1960s.
Why are potholes getting so much money?
Potholes in roads are annoying for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle drivers. But many will be surprised to see a commitment to spend £2 billion on the “biggest ever pothole-filling programme” amongst the Tory promises.
The clue as to why this is getting so much attention and money is obvious in the manifesto. It appears below a picture of the Prime Minister cycling. Rumour has it that he has had unpleasant encounters with potholes whilst riding his bike around London, which bumped the issue up the political agenda. Commentators have been quick to point out that we have so many unfit roads because of historic cuts in public spending by the Tory Government.
But, perhaps, this pothole plan fits neatly with the overall tone of the manifesto — which seems to be “safety first”?
This briefing is produced by The Day in association with ENGAGE Public Policy.
- Will the Conservatives win this election?
- Now all the major manifestos are out, read our Briefings on them and write a short essay about which one you prefer and why. One side of paper will do.
- Institute for Fiscal Studies
- An economic research body that specialises in UK taxes and public policies.
- The Budget, or Financial Statement, is a statement made to the House of Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the nation’s finances and the Government’s proposals for changes to taxation. The Budget also includes forecasts for the economy.
- A design plan.
- Real terms
- A value that has been adjusted to allow for the effects of inflation.
- Done slowly.
- Understood without being said explicitly.
- Permission for a prisoner to be released earlier from prison with an agreement that they will follow certain conditions.
- Value Added Tax is put on a good at every stage of production, from raw materials to when it is sold. Ultimately, the consumer pays the VAT, and buyers along the way (such as manufacturers and retailers) are refunded the VAT they’ve paid along the way.
- The structures and facilities (such as roads, buildings, power suppliers) needed for a society or business to work.
- This type of training or education is to learn skills specific to a particular job, such as teaching, fashion or catering.
- Northern powerhouse
- A proposal by the Coalition Government of 2010-15 and the Tory Government of 2015-17 to boost economic growth in the North of England, including cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds.