Theresa May’s manifesto shows that she is more right wing than Cameron ever dared to be

The average UK house price stands at £215,847, which means that it is not just the wealthy that will be affected by May’s Dementia Tax 

Click to follow
The Independent Online

After her coronation in the maelstrom following the EU referendum vote last summer, the Conservative manifesto offers the first glimpse of Theresa May’s policy priorities for the party. With the Tories split between frontbenchers who deemed themselves more socially progressive and the old guard of backbenchers, keen to maintain traditional Conservative values, many wondered whether May would adopt a more centrist position, shifting from the posh clubbishness of “Balliol men” who characterised Cameron’s term.

Many of Cameron’s closest allies have been cleared out, but the manifesto shows that “Mayism” is far more reactionary and right wing than Cameron ever dared to be.

Immigration was a thorn in Cameron’s side: promises to lower net migration figures were inevitably unmet, and yet May has gone further and inexplicably pledged to lower immigration to ‘tens of thousands’ including students, cutting migration figures by two thirds. “We will reduce and control immigration. We will be resolute in defending the country from terrorism and other security threats,” the manifesto states, linking immigration and terrorism in a clumsy dogwhistle deliberately designed to incite xenophobia. In yesterday’s Evening Standard, an editorial penned by sacked chancellor George Osborne said senior Tories had thought “May would jump at the chance to bury the pledge. That’s what her Cabinet assumed; none of its senior members supports the pledge in private and all would be glad to see the back of something that has caused the Conservative Party such public grief.”

In 2015/16 there were roughly 310,000 students from non-EU countries studying in the UK: to meet her target, May would need to cut student number by two-thirds, further impoverishing higher education, then let in no people from outside the EU whatsoever. Practically, it’s an impossibility, and can only be viewed as a clear encroaching on Ukip’s territory, far to the right.

But it’s social care that truly shows how far to the right May has veered: claiming her vision is that of a meritocracy, she has done what Cameron never dared to – forced home owners to pay for their own social care if they own assets over £100,000. With the housing crisis ramping up house prices, the average UK house price stands at £215,847, which means that it is not just the wealthy that will be affected. After years of Cameron making the case that Britain should be a nation of home owners, with families aiming to secure their children’s future by passing on their home or its value, many people will see this aim crumble as their health deteriorates.

Theresa May launches the Conservative manifesto

After deriding Labour for decades and accusing the party’s inheritance tax policies of being a ‘death tax’, the Conservatives have lurched to the right of Cameron, and formulated their own Dementia Tax, penalising people living with ill health rather than properly funding social care.

In addition, the scrapping of free school meals for breakfasts, and the decision to fight for fox hunting to be reinstated show that May is more Thatcherite than Cameroonian. For people who hoped the Tories would make a claim for the centre ground, that hope lies in tatters. With May’s complacency has come a drive to lurch to the right, scooping up UKIP rather than disillusioned Labour voters. The collapse of UKIP, rise of the SNP and the infighting endemic in the Labour party has emboldened the right: and it’s Mayism, not Corbynism, that’s taking us back to Thatcher’s 1970s.