Theresa May promised ‘the first ever proper plan to pay for – and provide –social care’ in the party’s manifesto. Four days later, that plan has now changed. The Prime Minister has said that there will, after all, be a cap on the amount people have to pay for the cost of their care. So what made May change her mind? Jeremy Corbyn, according to the PM. May said that ‘since my manifesto has been published, my proposals have been subjected to fake claims made by Jeremy Corbyn’. The reaction to the policy, May suggested, meant that the government would ditch the manifesto plan.
The Labour leader doesn’t get a lot of credit (not least from the PM, who is constantly saying how ‘weak’ he is), but on this issue the Labour leader’s criticism appears to have worked. May appeared to indicate that Corbyn’s peddling of ‘fake claims’ led to the U-turn. But if May is referring to Corbyn’s branding of the policy as a ‘dementia tax’, she need not point the finger at her rival. As with most things, the Labour leader was somewhat late to the party: he was far from the first to slap that name on the policy, only doing so last Friday – a day after many others.
Fraser Nelson, Will Heaven and Lara Prendergast discuss the ‘dementia tax’
May’s reason for her change of mind might sound suspect, but the speed with which the PM acted should help to fend off a growing Tory rebellion on the issue. The government’s new ‘absolute limit’ on the amount people will have to stump up deals with a political hot potato that was going down badly on the doorstep (Theresa May herself was confronted by a voter worried about this very topic yesterday). But this screeching U-turn looks ironic given the ‘strong and stable’ pitch to voters on which May has built her entire campaign. It also puts those who defended the policy and insisted that there were no plans to look again at the funding model – just as Damian Green did yesterday – in a difficult position.
With 17 days to go until the general election, May will hope her change of mind will put a lid on criticism over the party’s so-called ‘dementia tax’. Yesterday’s Mail on Sunday reported that the Tory poll lead had dropped five points as a direct result of the policy. Yet the speed with which the government seemed happy to ditch – or, at least, water down – the manifesto plan sits somewhat uncomfortably with the PM’s relentless focus on her stability when compared to what she describes as the ‘weak hand’ of Jeremy Corbyn – particularly if it really was the Labour leader who led to the rethink.