David Cameron’s launch of the Conservative manifesto this morning was perhaps the party’s last chance to bring about the long-prophesied but elusive break to the blue team that CCHQ have been counting on.
Eschewing (for the most part) the attacks on the opposition that have seemed to define the campaign to date, the Prime Minister set out a series of policies targeted at making life easier and more rewarding for people in work.
The overarching theme was “security”: national, financial, personal, from cradle to grave. Page three of the actual document sets out how Tory proposals cater to people at every stage of life.
Three subjects received particular emphasis: home ownership, in the form of right to buy and plans for brownfield development; the doubling of government free childcare to 30 hours a week; and making work pay by lifting minimum wage earners out of income tax, entirely and permanently.
Below is our quick run through of some of the commitments made today:
- Human Rights Act: The Conservatives would scrap the HRA and curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights in British law, establishing instead a British Bill of Rights.
- EU: After attempting to renegotiate the terms of our membership and curtail the expansion of Brussels’ remit, a Conservative Government would put the results to the public in an In/Out referendum by the end of 2017.
- EVEL: The manifesto promises English MPs a veto over matters that only affect England, and extend this policy to financial matters – including the possibility of an English income tax rate if the matter has been devolved elsewhere.
- Devolution: More responsibility for the Welsh Assembly, including a ‘funding floor’, and the Government would “honour in full our commitments to Scotland”.
- Trident: The Conservatives are committed to replacing Trident fully, with a four-submarine nuclear fleet to ensure a permanent at-sea deterrent.
- Armed Forces: As Michael Fallon set out on this site, the Tories have ruled out any further reductions in the size of Britain’s conventional forces.
- Equipment: Often neglected by Labour, the Conservatives have promised an “inflation-busting” ten-year equipment fund of £160bn.
- Surplus by 2018: Central to the Tory pitch – sharing the rewards of careful economic management – is this promise to have eliminated the deficit and put Britain “back in the black” by 2018.
- Tax: The manifesto also rules out any rises in income tax, national insurance or VAT, and to crack down on tax evasion. The inheritance tax threshold would be raised to £1m.
- School Reform: That the manifesto launch was held in a University Technical College signifies that the Conservatives feel they have an education record to shout about. In his speech Cameron both pledged to continue supporting UTCs and to see 500 new Free Schools opened in the next five years. Every “failing and coasting secondary school” will be turned into an academy.
- Higher Education: The manifesto promises to lift the cap on university places “so you have the skills you need to succeed”.
- Primary School: The Conservatives promise to guarantee a good primary school place for every child.
- Minimum Wage: The Tories raise the tax-free personal allowance from £10,600 to £12,500, but they would peg the level of the personal allowance to the minimum wage to prevent low earners being caught by fiscal drag.
- Income Tax: In addition ruling out any increases, the threshold for the 40p income tax rate would be lifted to £50,000.
- Childcare: The number of hours of free childcare would double, from 15 hours per week to 30.
- Apprenticeships: The Conservatives would create three million new apprenticeships.
- Start-up Loans: The Prime Minister promised 50,000 more start-up loans, in order to help British entrepreneurs create the jobs the country needs.
- Business Tax: The manifesto promises British businesses “the most competitive taxes of any major economy”.
- Funding: The Tories would spend at least an additional £8bn on the Health Service by 2020, funded from the dividends of the Government’s spending reduction plan.
- 24/7 Service: By 2020, the Conservatives would seek to ensure that you can see a GP and receive hospital treatment seven days a week, and that everyone over 75 will receive a same-day appointment if needed.
- Right to Buy: The Conservatives will extend the right to buy to housing association tenants, affording a further 1.3 million families the opportunity to own their own home.
- Help to Buy: The Help to Buy equity loan scheme would be extended, and a new Help to Buy ISA created to help people save for a deposit.
- Starter Homes: A Tory government would oversee the construction of 200,000 new ‘Starter Homes’, sold at 20 per cent below the asking price to first-time buyers under 40.
- Social Housing: Councils will be forced to sell their most valuable housing stock as it falls vacant, and reinvest the proceeds into building new properties.
- Brownfield Development: The Government would establish a £1bn fund to help councils prepare brownfield sites for housing construction.
- Net Figures: The manifesto reiterates the Party’s controversial pledge to bring net migration down to the tens of thousands.
- Relief Fund: A fund would be established to ease the pressure on local services where migration puts them under strain.
- High-Speed Rail: Cameron reiterated his commitment to HS2, and then to further high-speed rail connexions between cities in the North of England as part of the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse scheme.
- Fares: Rail fares for commuters would be “frozen in real terms for the whole of the next Parliament”.
- Telecoms: The party would also continue to invest in the UK’s digital infrastructure and deliver broadband to rural communities, as well as improving mobile phone coverage.
- BBC: The licence fee would be frozen and kept frozen until the BBC charter was renewed.
- Press Freedom: The Tories would incorporate rights for journalists into a British Bill of Rights; ban the police from using journalists’ phone records to identify sources; and provide business rates relief to local newspapers.
Pensions and Retirement:
- State Pension: The Conservatives would maintain the ‘triple lock’ which ensures the state pension increases by 2.5 per cent against the most favourable metric, as well as see through the Chancellor’s plan to give people more freedom over their pension pots. It will also be possible to pass on pension savings, tax free.
- Residential Care: The amount that older people could be charged for residential care would be capped. The Tories will also ensure nobody has to sell their home to pay for care.
- Welfare Reform: A Conservative government would continue to pursue Iain Duncan Smith’s reform agenda and ensure that work paid better than welfare.
- Cap Spending: Overall welfare spending would be capped, and the household benefit cap reduced to £23,000.
- Immigration: Reform of welfare rules will be utilised to apply indirect controls to immigration from within the European Union.