By Campaign Agent Eric Kostadinov
The Conservative manifesto launched on Thursday has bold ideas for the nation. There is a strong sense of Conservatism within the manifesto, with the return of grammar schools and a reduction in corporation tax ideologically sewn to the party. However, in the wake of Brexit, this election is unique. The party will hope that their firm stance on the issue gains voters from all across the political spectrum. Here, we analyse 8 of the parties key manifesto pledges…
The flagship Conservative education policy is the return of grammar schools. The introduction of new grammar schools was banned under the last Labour government, and David Cameron didn’t appear to have an appetite to bring them back either. Despite this, Theresa May believes a selective education at the age of 11 will boost social mobility and also relieve stress on existing state schools. Labour argue that the proposals actually hinder social mobility, and reduce the life chances of ordinary children at the age of 11, before they have had enough time to reach their full potential.
A key Conservative pledge that is sure to come under attack from Labour and the Lib Dems will be the parties commitment to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands. This policy was in the Conservative manifestos of 2010 and 2015, and in both instances the Tories were not able to honour their immigration commitment. Theresa May will hope that withdrawal from the EU will mean she has greater autonomy to finally implement her policy this time around, however, with the process of Britain leaving the EU going to take place over a number of years, it will be difficult to achieve her aim before the end of the next parliament.
Also, as they did in their previous two election manifestos, the Conservatives have set a date for when the deficit will be eradicated. In 2010 the party said it would be gone by 2015, and in 2015 they said it would be gone by 2019, but now the party say the deficit will remain until as late as 2025. For a party the electorate allegedly regard as economically competent, this manifesto pledge should be seen as embarrassing.
The Conservatives have taken a strong stance on Brexit. The party has said that Britain will leave both the single market and the customs union if re-elected, in a move that will surely be music to the ears of a majority of the 52% of ‘Leave’ voters. Theresa May does not want to be seen as blocking the will of the British people, despite the fact she herself voted to remain in the EU last summer. Labour also wants complete withdrawal from the European Union, although they have questioned the Tories plans for an extreme Brexit which could hurt workers’ rights. The Liberal Democrats have fully opposed Conservative policy, and want a second referendum once a Brexit deal has been agreed with the EU.
The Tories have pledged to reduce Corporation Tax to 17% by the end of the parliament. In the aftermath of Brexit, the policy could be appealing to businesses who may have otherwise been considering a move away from the U.K. Further to this, after the last Corporation Tax cut under the Coalition, tax receipts actually went up. Despite this, Labour oppose the plan and want to increase Corporation Tax to 26% by the end of the parliament to directly fund public services.
The Conservatives are looking to reform the education budget, and have scrapped free school lunches for infants, replacing them with free breakfasts – a vastly cheaper plan. It is thought that the withdrawal of free school lunches will hit 900,000 schoolchildren, and cost families affected roughly £440 per child. Despite this, the Conservatives claim that the poorest families will still retain free school lunches, and providing cheaper breakfasts will be much more cost-effective for the government. Labour has opposed the reforms.
A controversial pledge in the Tory manifesto is to allow a free vote on the return of fox hunting. Theresa May has personally came out in favour of the sport and believes the age-old British tradition should be allowed to be brought back. David Cameron favoured the same policy during the last parliament, however had to back down due to opposition from Labour and the SNP. The fact it is in the Tory manifesto again arguably shows Theresa May’s confidence in gaining a sizeable majority for her party. Jeremy Corbyn and Labour have strongly opposed any plans for the return of fox hunting, with Corbyn saying, ‘fox hunting has no place in the 21st century’.
In the Manifesto launch on Thursday, it was understood that the Conservatives had abolished a cap on the amount of social care funding a person would be required to pay. The Tory plan would’ve made people receiving care at home liable for the full costs if they were worth at least £100,000. However, in an embarrassing U-turn for the Prime Minister, Theresa May has now said that there will indeed be a cap on the cost of social care. A U-turn on a policy of this scale just four days after it was announced in the election manifesto is unprecedented. The decision to reverse the policy most likely came amidst a backlash from voters on the doorstep and a surge in support for Labour following the announcement of the two parties’ manifestos. The abandonment of abolishing the social care cap also leaves a huge gap in the Tories spending plans, which as of yet, the party have not filled.
Strong and stable? That’s for the general public to decide on June 8th.
Image UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor @Flikr