'Dementia tax': Tories buy Google ads to stop people reading about controversy over new policy

News stories about the social care policy are almost universally critical

Andrew Griffin
Monday 22 May 2017 08:40
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Theresa May waters down 'dementia tax'

The Conservatives are buying up Google ads to stop people reading about the controversy around its "dementia tax".

The party has come under huge pressure over its new care plan, which will see older people have to pay for the services they use. The controversial policy has been called a dementia tax, since it means people who need care as they get older will have to pay far more than they did before.

Now the party appears to be attempting to limit that controversy by stopping people reading about it. It is thought it is spending thousands of pounds to keep people from reading about the widespread opposition to the party – and encourage them to click on its own website instead.

Ads are being placed at the top of Google searches for "dementia tax" to direct people onto a special page on the Tory website.

"The so-called 'dementia tax' – get the real facts," the Google ad, which will show for anyone searching for the phrase, reads. "Social Care and your family: the truth about the Conservatives' plans."

Underneath the ad shows an array of stories about the dementia tax, all of them negative. The three top stories at the time of publication was a piece in The Guardian reporting that Theresa May is "under pressure" over the plan, a Financial Times report on the fact that senior Tories were "kept in the dark" over the dementia tax and an article in The Independent on Liberal Democrat claims that nine out of 10 homes would be sold to fund care costs under the policy.

The Google ads are unusual in taking on the terms defined by Labour, which first referred to the policy as a dementia tax. The Tories have mostly referred to the policy as its "social care plans" – which is the way it is defined when people click through on the ads.

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The ads presumably reflect growing concern that the dementia tax is losing the Tories votes. The page attempts to stem those concerns, arguing that the policy is required because the country is getting older and claims that the policy emerged because the Tories "have chosen to act, in the national interest".

It has been blamed in part for the shrinking lead that the Tories have over Labour. That has been cut into single figures since the Conservative manifesto and the dementia tax were announced.

And the policy has even been criticised by Conservative candidates, who say that it is playing badly during campaigns. Senior Tories were not even told about the policy before it was announced, according to the Financial Times.

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