U-turning on a manifesto commitment just days after it was announced would be embarrassing for any politician. But it is particularly humiliating when your whole campaign is based around the idea that you offer competent, ‘strong and stable’ leadership.
But even leaving aside the immediate political repercussions, this U-turn is a deep blow to Theresa May and her team. For the social care policy was totemic of the way she is trying to change the party. She and her team want to make the Tories more concerned about the just managing than the better off and less deferential to property wealth. As the manifesto said, they considered their original proposals, which—crucially—didn’t include an overall cap on how much an individual would have to pay for care, to be ‘more equitable, within and across the generations, than the proposals following the Dilnot Report, which mostly benefited a small number of wealthier people.’
Fraser Nelson, Will Heaven and Lara Prendergast discuss the ‘dementia tax’
This attitude was summed up by Damian Green’s candid statement at the weekend that a £100,000 is a ‘reasonable inheritance to have’. Now, on one level Green is right. A £100,000 is a lot of money to pass on, But people feel viscerally about their ability to leave money to their children; which is why George Osborne’s 2007 proposal to raise the inheritance tax threshold to a million pounds was popular far beyond those who would have actually benefitted from the change.
One of May’s great assets as Tory leader has been her connection with the base, their sense that she was one of them. In many ways she is, she joined the party as a teenager and met her husband at a Tory event and still goes out canvassing most weekends. This trust has made them willing to follow her. But the row over social care has for the first time suggested that her values and theirs might not be totally aligned.