Rah, rah – big fanfare – wheel out the cabinet big guns – bring on the PM to tell us how wonderful everything is going to be! Yes, it’s the Conservatives turn to roll out the manifesto…
Cameron looked composed and confident although Teresa May seemed a little nervous on the occasion, but the basic message is that the economy is growing, they’ve turned round the mess inherited from Labour, we need to stick to the plan, give me another five years to finish the job, blah blah blah!
To be fair, Cameron has a point. The deficit has reduced, inflation is down to the point of deflation, there are more people in work, taxes for the lowest paid have reduced and we are doing quite well as a country – especially if you compare us to the rest of the EU. We now have the second fastest growing economy in Europe after the Germans.
The problem is that people don’t necessarily feel it in their pockets yet and are probably more than a little pissed off at the thought of more austerity and spending cuts even if they are necessary. This makes ‘give us 5 more years of the same’ an unappealing prospect.
Let’s look at what the Tories are offering :
- Extension of the right-to-buy scheme to housing association tenants in England – this might appeal to tenants but the housing people hate it!
- Plans to build 200,000 starter homes – using money released from getting councils to sell off their most expensive properties and using the money released.
- Removing all people who work 30 hours per week on the minimum wage from income tax liabilities – basically by linking the increase in personal allowance to the increase in the minimum wage
- Increasing the inheritance tax threshold on family homes to £1m by 2017 – actually this is misreported. What they’ve said is that you get an extra £175,000 allowance to be used on the value of your home. And the £1m is per married couple not each.
- No above-inflation rises in rail fares until 2020 – easily promised if the RPI and CPI are going down
- An extra £8bn a year for the NHS by 2020 – Labour poo-poo this but they’re saying exactly the same
- Opening 500 more free schools – which will be need if they reduce class sizes. Labour seem to think they can reduce class sizes without increasing classrooms
- An EU referendum by 2017 – Yeah, well I’ll believe that one when I see it!
- No rise in VAT, national insurance contributions or income tax – In fact they’re reducing income tax by increasing the personal allowance to £12,500 and raising the higher rate threshold to £50,000.
- A crackdown on tax evasion and the “aggressive” avoidance of tax – Means nothing. Heard it all before from both the major parties!
- Creating a “Northern Powerhouse” through investment – Roll out the old buzz words!
- Achieve full employment by helping businesses create 2 million extra jobs over the course of the next Parliament – Full employment is a socialist utopian myth. There’s not such thing so I’ll settle for a commitment to reduce unemployment
- Requiring 40% of those entitled to take part in strike ballots to vote for a strike before industrial action can be held – About bloody time!
- Increasing the minimum wage to £6.70 by the autumn and to £8 by the end of the decade – matching the Labour commitment
- Giving working parents of 3 and 4-year-olds 30 hours of free childcare a week – again matching Labour
- Negotiating new EU rules so people will have to be earning in the UK for four years before they can claim tax credits and child benefits
- Introducing a four year residency requirement for social housing for EU migrants
- Ending ability of EU jobseekers to claim any job-seeking benefits
- Requiring jobseekers who have not found a job within six months to leave