Torsten Bell, the Director of the RF and former Director of Policy for the Labour Party, says that the manifesto “truly buries the Cameron/Osborne era”. But more significant, in his view, is the stance on generational justice:
“But stepping back from the personalities and policy weeds, this manifesto also marks a simply huge shift in the intergenerational politics that has underpinned much of the last decade. In place of the cast iron rule that older voters must be entirely protected from the pain that post-financial crisis Britain faced is a recognition that ‘a restored contract between the generations’ is one of the five giant challenges facing Britain – requiring older people to contribute, and be seen to contribute. Nowhere is this big political shift more apparent than in the manifesto’s proposals for social care.
“Since the late 2000s it has been abundantly clear that we are failing as a country to deliver either the volume of social care our ageing society required or an equitable way of financing it. Too many people that needed care went without, and some of those that did receive it felt hugely let down when they discovered that they would foot the bill for the bad luck of requiring very expensive care.
“Underpinning that failure has been the challenge of reconciling the need for extra funding for care with a political unwillingness to ask old people to pay more for it.”
Institute for Economic Affairs
The IEA also welcomes the shift towards making older voters contribute more towards the costs of social care, but thinks that a lot of the positive changes are “small fry” and laments the broader move towards paternalism. Mark Littlewood says:
“This manifesto contains some sensible measures but also many policies that would increase the role of the state and make it harder for all to benefit from a free economy. It’s concerning that we may be seeing the advent of a Conservative Party which fails to understand that economic and social problems are more likely to be eased by free market solutions than by increased state intervention, however well intentioned.
“The retention of an arbitrary target for net migration is very disappointing. Even if achievable, this would be delivered through clumsy and counter-productive interventions. Measures to make it more expensive to employ foreign workers are simply another form of protectionism and will be bad for our economy.
“An increased burden of regulation and further government interference in price and wage setting will raise costs, undermine competition and reduce labour market flexibility, resulting in job losses and higher inflation.”
Institute for Fiscal Studies
But this manifesto doesn’t pick too many fights with the grey vote: the IFS argues that moving from a triple down to a double-lock doesn’t do a huge amount to increase the long-term affordability of British pensions:
“Today’s Conservative manifesto announced that from 2020 onwards the state pension would be increased over time in line with average earnings or inflation whichever is highest – the so-called ‘Double Lock’. In this observation we show that this is very similar to sticking with the Triple Lock, and does little to resolve the pressures an ageing population will put on the public finances over the years to come…
“As the figure makes clear, moving to a double lock does very little to help. State pension spending in fifty years time is only 0.2% of national income lower (less than £5 billion in today’s terms). In other words, moving to a double lock undoes only around a quarter of the damage done by the triple lock to the long-run sustainability of the public finances. So with the double lock in place spending on the state pension would still be projected to increase by 1.6% of national income (a little over £30 billion in today’s terms) over the next fifty years, with over 40% of this increase being explained by the double lock (relative to increasing in line with average earnings) rather than other factors.”
Centre for Policy Studies
The home of Thatcherism highlights how the Party’s new borrowing projections (if met!) not only bring the books back into balance a decade later than George Osborne originally said he would, but would mean the UK had sustained a deficit for more than a quarter of a century. Daniel Mahoney, their head of research, said:
“According to the Conservative Party’s fiscal target reported in the press today, the UK is set to reach a budget surplus by 2025-26. This will mean that the UK has lived beyond its means for a quarter of a century.
“While it is quite understandable that Theresa May wants fiscal wriggle room during the Brexit negotiations, this fiscal target is disappointing. It should be seen as a ‘worst case’ scenario. The next government must aim to achieve a budget surplus at an earlier date.”
The liberal conservative think tank describe the Party’s 2017 programme as “philosophical and principled” – but believes that the Prime Minister could do more to put meat on the bones of her rhetoric and criticises the lack of proper costings:
“The Conservative Party has produced a philosophical and principled manifesto, poetic in places in fact, with extensive and detailed policies on all the major challenges facing Britain. It describes and shows conservatism at its best: compassionate and patriotic.
“This, finally, is the flesh of Mayism: a communitarian approach, prizing citizenship, country and civic service. It puts to rest the idea, lurking since the Thatcher era, that conservatism is simply about shrinking the state. This is a thoughtful and passionate case for a supportive and strategic state.
“It sounds good, but the substance is sometimes lacking, especially on improving the incomes and rights of workers. In places, it also plays petty politics. It takes a dig at elites, which is hardly meritocratic. And it recommits to a hardline approach on immigration that threatens Britain’s prosperity and sense of fair play.”
Centre for Social Justice
The CSJ is very positive, highlighting commitments to tackle mental illness, rough sleeping, and the second-class treatment of technical education as a substantial improvement in the Tory offer to the worse-off:
“The Conservative manifesto contains a number of reforms that will make a real difference to the lives of people living in poverty. It commits the Conservative Party to fighting mental ill health; supporting people with disabilities into work; ending rough sleeping for good; and making high-quality technical education an option for all. The CSJ has long campaigned for these reforms to be adopted by Government and is delighted the Conservatives have included them in their manifesto. These reforms, combined with a strong focus on the role of families and grassroot charities, would help ensure Britain tackles its social injustices and becomes a country that can work for everyone.”