Manifesto Analysis : Conservatives

Conservative – Forward Together

Theresa May’s manifesto is finally here. To call it a Conservative Party manifesto feels disingenuous, for a campaign that has barely mentioned the party or displayed the logo, and whose policies seem to be chosen as much from the ideology of other parties as their own. Launched today in Halifax, this manifesto parks the Theresa May political juggernaut literally and politically, in Labour’s backyard. The Tory party leader barely mentioned the Conservatives, instead choosing to repeatedly reference herself and ‘the government I lead’. Make no mistake, this was a pure reframing of Conservativism according to Theresa May (and her chief of staff Nick Timothy). A rejection of free market economics and individualism; an embrace of change, communitarianism and workers’ rights.

The dismissal of a triple lock on pensions, the rejection of the universal winter fuel allowance and a ‘death tax’ masquerading as social care reform are a clear demonstration of just how powerful the Prime Minister is feeling. The strident adoption of Labour policies on energy prices and workers’ rights means she no longer needs to court the grey vote, so long so protected by dutiful Conservative leaders.

This is a challenging manifesto for business as well. The departure from the single market and customs union, an increase to the minimum wage, further rights and protections for workers and a focus on corporate pay and governance all place greater obstacles in the way of the growth for British companies. But this abandonment of the traditional Tory support base could cause issues, both for backbenchers, and for businesses trying to make a success of the modern industrial strategy.

While there is some content to appease Tory traditionalists, this manifesto is a clear and open offer to those beyond the Conservative fold. ‘A mainstream government for a mainstream Britain’ – it remains to be seen how this emphatic rejection of tribal politics plays out in polling booths. In placing all emphasis on her own leadership and blurring traditional party lines, Theresa May is clearly positioning herself as a Prime Minister for the long term.

Summary of policy announcements

Brexit

  • Focus on negotiating a new partnership with the EU which allows free trade between the UK and EU member states. Conservatives will also pursue free trade agreements with countries outside the EU and will ensure there are fewer barriers for trade and investment.
  • 25 Year Environment Plan that will chart how the environment has improved as Britain exits the EU and regains control of environmental legislation.
  • Will work with the fishing industry and devolved administrations to introduce a new regime for fishing. To provide clarity during the negotiations Britain will withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention.
  • Conservatives will ensure that Britain has control of immigration and secure entitlements of EU nationals in Britain as well as British nationals in the EU.
  • Will work with the EU in the fight against crime and terrorism and will collaborate in science and innovation.
  • Will protect the democratic freedom of the people of Gibraltar and overseas territories to remain British.
  • Commitment to reducing net migration and establishing an immigration policy that allows more control and the attraction of skilled workers.

Business

  • Corporation tax to fall to 17% by 2020.
  • Commit to revaluating business rates frequently.
  • Update the regulation on mergers and takeovers.
  • Introduce a Trade Bill, lodge new UK schedules with WTO and replicate existing EU free trade agreements.
  • Support UK businesses in marketplaces around the world with the tools they need to succeed.
  • Continuing to tackle burdensome and inefficient regulation through the Red Tape Challenge.
  • Increase the National Living Wage to 60 per cent of median earnings by 2020.
  • Protections for those working in the ‘gig’ economy.
  • Controls on foreign ownership of companies controlling critical infrastructure, and further rules governing mergers and acquisitions, including making undertakings legally enforceable.
  • Introduce legislation requiring listed companies to nominate a director from the workforce, or a formal employee advisory council. Also introduce a right for employees to request information relating to the future direction of the company.
  • Commitment to the Industrial Strategy to help deliver the skills and infrastructure to support the economy.
  • Supporting small businesses through business rate relief and low taxation.
  • Powers of consumer enforcement bodies will be strengthened and the public are to be given a voice in how business should be regulated. A Conservative government will also act in specific markets such as the energy market to safeguard consumers.

 Transport and Infrastructure

  • Review the ways that regulation of transport infrastructure can be improved and create sharper incentives for investment.
  • Allocate significant proportion of the National Productivity Investment Fund to improving infrastructure and transport. With £740 million to digital infrastructure investment and £1.1 billion to improve local transport by 2020.
  • Plan to continue the current programme of national investments including the construction of HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the expansion of Heathrow Airport.
  • Continue investment in roads to improve housing opportunities and local growth, as well as improve existing rail lines to reduce crowing and support and supporting local authorities to expand cycle networks.

Housing

  • Deliver on their 2015 commitment of a million homes by the end of 2020 and half a million more by the end of 2022.
  • Interventions where developers do not act on their planning permissions.
  • Support for new fixed-term social houses which will be sold privately after ten to fifteen years with an automatic Right to Buy for tenants. The proceeds of go into the construction of further homes.
  • Greater flexibility for housing associations to increase their housing stock.

Education

  • Overall schools budget will increase by £4 billion by 2022.
  • Programme of free schools will continue, with a plan to build at least a hundred new free schools every year.
  • New funding arrangements to be introduced that will allow specialist maths schools to be opened in every major city in England.
  • Mandating universities hoping to charge maximum tuition fees to become involved in academy sponsorship.
  • Replacing existing technical qualifications with new qualifications known as T-levels across fifteen subjects including construction, creative and design, digital, engineering and manufacturing, and health and science.

Health

  • Spending on the NHS will increase by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years.
  • A priority in the negotiations with the EU will be to ensure 140,000 NHS staff from EU countries can carry working in the health and care system.
  • Promise to build and upgrade primary care facilities, mental health clinics and hospitals in every part of England.
  • Increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge to £600 for migrant workers and £450 for international students, to cover their use of the NHS.
  • Implementing the recommendations of the Accelerated Access Review to make sure that patients get new drugs and treatments faster while the NHS gets best value for money.
  • Recruitment of up to 10,000 more mental health professionals and improving the co-ordination of mental health services with other local services, including police forces.

Defence

  • To strengthen ministerial scrutiny and control over foreign owned companies in order to protect British security services and defence.
  • Will globally expand efforts to combat extremism and terror and will continue to meet commitments to NATO.
  • Will build upon existing economic and security partnerships with the United States.
  • Will retain the Trident nuclear deterrent.
  • British troops will be subject to the Law of Armed Conflict, withdrawing from the European Courts of Human Rights.
  • Investing £178 billion in new military equipment over the next decade.
  • Will continue with the £1.9 billion investment into cyber security and will build a security strategy for cybercrime.