Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Conservative Manifesto 2024

 So Rishi Sunaks farewell note is out, 80 pages of Clear Plan and Bold Actions to deliver a Secure Future. There's also a Costings document.

What's In It? 

Stop me if you think you've heard these policies before. 

  • Tax cuts: Cutting national insurance by another 2p, longer term to scrap it completely, abolish NI for the self employed, the so called 'tax cut for pensioners' which basically creates a 2-tier tax system with a higher rate of tax on working age people. 
  • 30 hours of free childcare from 9 months
  • Increasing the child benefit threshold so households barely scraping by on £119,999 a year don't lose it. 
  • Putting the brakes on green policies
  • 'Mandatory' national service
  • Ban the use of mobile phones at school
  • Defence spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030
  • Legal migration cap and the Rwanda scheme to 'stop the boats'.
  • Clarify the Equality Act that sex means biological sex, to protect women-only spaces and sports.
  • Abolish stamp duty for first time buyers up to £425k
  • Spend the £8.3bn saved by cancelling HS2 on pot holes (that's a lot of pot holes!)
  • 8000 more police, 92k more nurses, 28,000 more doctors (that could take a while)

What's To Like?

If you forget for a moment that this is a party which has been in government for 14 years, there is plenty of good material in the manifesto. Lots of detailed plans for transport infrastructure, business and innovation investment and support, reducing spending waste within government and moving civil service jobs out of London. The cuts to tax would be welcome, if they're affordable, and not done by penalising the poor. 

Sunak has always been a techie, so its good to see awareness of the world of potential online harms, and some attempts to protect children. Having said that, any decent secondary school already bans use of mobiles during the school day. The NHS section includes a lot on using technology to improve health access and outcomes. 

There does need to be an overhaul of welfare, but in a supportive rather than a penalising way - there's no way of telling whether 'improved PIP assessments' will make peoples lives harder or easier. Again, after 14 years in office, why aren't they doing this already?

Some good aspirations in school - on phones, removing gender ideology, improving PE provision - though 2 hours of PE per week for every child will need more sports halls and pitches on land that was sold off long ago. 

Its easier to read and digest than the Libdem manifesto, the writing is clear and punchy, and there is more specific detail on policy - though there's still far too many things which sound good, but are just aspirations rather than concrete proposals. 

Good to see a continued emphasis on highlighting faith-based persecution, and ending modern slavery.

Quite a few good ideas on health, including expanded mental health support, much of which parallels what is in the Libdem manifesto. Good to see full implementation of the Cass review, which wasn't in the Libdem manifesto.  Also good to see the use of proper language when referring to women, rather than allowing to be erased from NHS documents (though again, this is happening now, on their watch....)

What's Not To Like

Jeremy Paxman once ambushed David Cameron in an election interview by asking him how many food banks there were. In 2015, when the question was asked, the Trussel Trust alone (other food banks are available) gave out 1.1m emergency food parcels. The latest figure is 3.1m.  There is no mention of food banks or food poverty in this manifesto anywhere, nor of the Warm Hubs which have helped people through the cost of living crisis, or the churches, faith groups and other parts of the charitable sector which have stepped into the holes in the welfare system. It's like none of this exists. 

  • The pension 'tax cut' is a sleight of hand. Pensioners don't currently pay the tax that the Conservatives claim to be cutting. The effect will be a 2-tier tax system, which will favour the elderly. For pensioners, it's all gain and no pain. this looks, I'm afraid to say, like a bribe to the Tory base. 
  • The 'support for families' is not what it says on the tin. Its just support for families to send their kids to paid childcare providers. There is no support for parents or parenting, it is all about getting parents away from their pesky kids and back into the workplace. Because parenting isn't really valuable work is it? 
  • Why should households earning £155,000 still receive child benefit? Why should millionaire pensioners get winter fuel payments and free prescriptions?  
  • There are a surprising number of ideas here, but it all feels a bit too late. Where was all this when the Conservatives were dawdling their way through recent parliaments with no legislation to pass? 
  • The regular sideswipes at Labour get a bit wearying. And they are confusing, as the Tories need to win votes back from the Libdems and Reform too, but steer clear of attacking either of them. 
  • The immigration/asylum section needs to start with an admission that they dropped the ball. 1.4m net immigration in 2 years is a ridiculous level. 
  • I'm not sure how you recruit 28,000 more doctors by the end of the next Parliament - they take 5 years to train, and the universities will have to offer more places. I guess the answer is that we'll import trained medics from countries who need them more than we do, which is unethical. 
  • There's a lot of tough talk on policing and sentencing, but that's pretty pointless with abysmally low conviction rates and a sclerotic and underfunded court system, on which there is very little. 
  • The renewables and net zero policies look pretty tame, there's quite a lot of text here, but the policies don't actually amount to a great deal. 
  • The housing policy section doesn't mention social housing at all, despite the chronic shortage. 
  • 'We will complete the review of Gift Aid within the next parliament'. Does that mean there is a chance it will be scrapped? That will be devastating for the charitable sector. 
  • Like the Libdems, there is nothing addressing family breakdown, particularly fatherlessness, which is at the root of a whole host of other social problems, including educational failure, drugs, criminality, unstable relationships, poverty etc. It's like the whole political system has declared this a no go area. 
  • Large Union Jack pictures on every available page, and a miniscule Tory Tree logo on the front and back page. Someone's lost confidence in their brand....
Overall this isn't bad, but it has some glaring blind spots. Without setting out any governing philosophy, at its heart the vision is essentially Thatcherite - there is no such thing as society, just individuals making choices, and those choices are fundamentally financial and economic ones. This is a pathetic and withered view both of human nature, and of the families and communities which give our lives location, meaning and the opportunity to live for others. 

In the end, its hard to shake off 14 years in power, and the question 'if this is such a good idea, why aren't you doing this already?' There's a failure to be fully honest about failure, and the Libdem 'nothing works' attack line simply has too much of the ring of truth about it. Regardless of the ideological or economic rights or wrongs of their approach, the Conservatives have failed on two even more fundamental things: integrity and competence. 

No comments:

Post a Comment