I May courts Britain’s Labour voters
Theresa May launched her election manifesto by distancing herself from the Thatcher era by pledging to “reject the cult of selfish individualism”. —
Theresa May has distanced herself from the Thatcher era by promising to “reject the cult of selfish individualism” as she launched an election manifesto pledging to move resources away from the UK’s middle class and elderly towards “ordinary working families”. Launching the ruling Conservative party’s manifesto in Halifax, northern England, ahead of the June 8 general election, the prime minister swept away Conservative electoral orthodoxy, presenting voters with the prospects of less generous pensions, higher social care costs and the means-testing of winter fuel payments.
Mrs May also adopted defiant rhetoric to prepare the country for Brexit negotiations to come, insisting that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The manifesto confirmed that Britain would no longer be a member of the EU’s single market or its customs union — starker language than a speech in January, when the prime minister suggested the UK could become an associate member of the customs union.
However, there was a hint of compromise over Britain’s exit bill; the document says the UK would not only settle its debts according to the law but “in the spirit of the UK’s continuing partnership with the EU”.
The launch came as a poll by Ipsos Mori found the gap between the Conservatives and the Labour party nar- rowing, although Mrs May’s party was still ahead by 15 points. Mori said the Tories were at 49 per cent, Labour at 34 per cent and the centrist Liberal Democrats at 7 per cent.
Mrs May is seeking to extend her party’s appeal into the working-class heartlands of Labour, which has promised nationalisations and a huge increase in public spending. The Conservatives are also set to poach votes from the anti-EU UK Independence party, which won 3.8m votes in the 2015 election but has seen its standing in the polls slump after the country’s decision to leave the EU deprived it of its main campaigning issue.
“The next five years are the most challenging that Britain has faced in my lifetime,” Mrs May said. “I believe we can and must take this opportunity to build a great meritocracy here in Britain.”
The manifesto also set out the Conservatives’ opposition to a new Scottish referendum in the wake of the 2014 vote against independence. Scotland’s devolved parliament voted in March for a second referendum, arguing such a step is warranted because of Brexit.
Mrs May has given herself more fiscal wriggle room by pushing out the target for balancing the UK’s deficit. The manifesto says that this should occur “by the middle of the next decade”, some 10 years after originally intended.
She also signalled her willingness to take on big business, saying she intended to carry out a review into share buybacks by FTSE companies to stop them being used artificially to hit performance targets. There also be new rules governing takeovers of companies in “critical national infrastructure”, including telecoms, energy, defence and civil nuclear power. The inclusion of telecoms as falling into the realm of critical national infrastructure is new. Apart from BT and Vodafone, Britain’s main networks are already owned by foreign companies. Deutsche Telekom owns 12 per cent of BT and has been linked with a potential takeover in the future. A Conservative government would take a “robust” view of such a move.
Mrs May’s policy to tackle Britain’s growing crisis in social care — the most controversial aspect of yesterday’s manifesto launch — would mean those who require care in their homes will have to pay for it from the value of a house. This is an abandonment of the Conservatives’ previous plan to put a £72,000 cap on total social care costs for the over-65s as of 2020. This is being replaced by a guarantee that each family will be allowed to keep £100,000 in assets.
Manifesto launch: Theresa May speaks in Halifax yesterday