Why should I vote Conservative? Where the Tories stand on the NHS, Brexit, immigration and other key issues

What the Conservatives' key policies and do they add up?

Tom Peck
Friday 02 June 2017 16:50
Comments
Theresa May's social care policy is well known, but what about the others?
Theresa May's social care policy is well known, but what about the others?

With just days to go before the country goes to the polls, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are ramping up their efforts to deliver a victory for their parties.

The Conservatives have attempted to make the campaign about the Prime Minister's approach to Brexit and to insist she is better placed than Labour to secure a good deal from the EU.

A manifesto U-turn over social care caused significant embarrassment and has led to a closer race than many expected.

Here are the policy positions and promises the Conservatives are making:

​Brexit

Theresa May has made extremely clear that she would take the country out of the single market and the customs union, but will seek a new “deep and special partnership with the EU.”

Not being in the single market would allow the UK to take control of the roughly 40 per cent of overall immigration that comes from EU countries, but business groups have warned it poses a significant risk to the economy.

It is not clear what a “new deep and special partnership would mean” and Angela Merkel, among others, has been clear that non EU-members cannot have a preferential set of trading arrangements than members.

The economy

The Conservatives would seek to increase the national living wage to 60 per cent of median earnings by 2020

The manifesto promises to introduce an “energy tariff cap” to protect the most vulnerable customers, but wants to maintain a “competitive element” within the energy market

The deadline of eliminating the deficit by 2015 is, of course, long gone, but the 2025 commitment to do so is in place.

The manifesto also ditches old plans not to increase national insurance or income tax. Balancing the budget by 2025 is highly likely to require one or the other to happen, or both.

The NHS

The manifesto pledged to increase NHS spending by £8bn in real terms in the course of the next parliament, with a particular emphasis on new facilities (as opposed to more staff). £8bn is a fraction of Labour’s commitment, which is unlikely to meet the demands of an ageing population.

There is also the now notorious social care question. Theresa May has now back-tracked from her manifesto commitment, making elderly people use the value of their estate to pay for their social care after death. The policy remains in place in principle, but with a cap on the total amount any one person might pay has been added, though voters will have to go to the polls without knowing what that amount is.

Education

The Conservatives want to build at least 100 new free schools a year, end the ban on selective state schools and ask universities and independent schools to help run state schools.

It will replace free school lunches with free school breakfasts.

The return of grammar schools is a significant shift in recent policy.

Immigration

Theresa May remains committed to the target of reducing immigration to the”tens of thousands” and will not remove students, who tend to go home at the end of their studies, from the figures.

It will also raise the earnings threshold for immigrants who wish to sponsor visas for their partners and other family.

Tax

The manifesto raises the tax personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate to £50,000 by 2020, meaning a large proportion of the population will pay less income tax

It will also introduce legislation that would force local councils to offer a referendum before making major council tax increases. It is very hard to imagine any such referendum ever resulting in the required raise.

In marked contrast to Labour, the party is committed to lowering corporation tax yet further, to 17% by 2020. This low figure is considered crucial to attracting investment to the UK in the wake of the Brexit vote.

From 2020, the pensions “triple lock” would be replaced by double lock, meaning pensions would rise in line with whichever is higher of inflation or earnings, but the minimum 2.5 per cent rise would go.

Housing

The manifesto commits to building 1m homes by the end of 2020 and 500,000 more by the end of 2022, but all similar targets by Labour, Conservative and coalition governments have been missed, and there is little in the way of detail on how to achieve it.

New social housing would come with fixed terms for tenants, which the automatic right to buy after 10 to 15 years occupancy.

The environment

The Conservative manifesto sets out clear plans to develop the fracking industry, compared to Labour who seek to ban it.

Defence and foreign policy

The Conservatives are committed to meeting Nato targets of 2 per cent GDP spending on defence

It would retain Trident, and spent £178bn in new military equipment over the next decade, including the new Astute class of hunter-killer submarines

Theresa May has placed considerable emphasis on the “special relationship” with the US, which could prove crucial in a future US/UK trade deal. But the UK’s longstanding foreign policy position, of being, in effect, America’s representative in Europe, will come to an end, arguably in symmetry with America’s standing on the global stage.

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