Boris Johnson has unveiled the Conservative manifesto in Telford this afternoon. The 59-page document – titled ‘Get Brexit Done: Unleash Britain’s Potential’ – is a far cry from the 2017 Conservative manifesto. That document still haunts Tory MPs to this day and is widely blamed for the Conservatives losing their majority in 2017.
Today’s offering is much more risk-averse when it comes to contentious issues and policy areas. A lot of the big spending announcements were made at the beginning of Johnson’s premiership. As reported on Coffee House previously, there is a line which clarifies that the party will not hold a free vote on the fox hunting ban (Tories feel stung over how toxic Theresa May’s comments on the issue proved) – along with a general push on animal welfare. The main themes, however, are the issues Johnson has focussed on since entering 10 Downing Street: the NHS, law and order and… getting Brexit done.
Here are five things we have learnt from the document:
1. A Tory government would bring back the Withdrawal Agreement before Christmas
MPs had best not be planning an early Christmas getaway. If the Conservatives win a majority in the general election, they will start putting the deal through the Commons before Christmas. A Tory government would take the UK out of the EU by January. As for the transition period, the manifesto promises that Johnson would not extend the implementation period beyond December 2020.
2. A Conservative government would have a tax triple-lock
There had been hopes among Tory MPs that the arrival of Boris Johnson as leader would pave the way to lower taxes for all. Instead, they have to content themselves for now with one tax cut for the time being in the form of the increase of the raising of the national insurance threshold from £8,628 to £9,500 – along with a promise to freeze rates of income tax, National Insurance and VAT for the next five years. This puts clear blue water between the Tories and Labour – who have said they would tax the top five per cent more.
3. A social care solution is on hold
Despite Boris Johnson using his first speech as Prime Minister to say that he would solve the social care crisis, the manifesto is thin on details as to how. Instead, a Tory government would seek to fix short term issues with ‘£1 billion extra of funding every year for more social care staff and better infrastructure, technology and facilities’. The Conservatives would then ‘urgently seek’ a cross-party consensus on a way forward – with a pledge that any solution would ‘guarantee that no one needing care has to sell their home to pay for it’. Given the issues the party had with the so-called ‘dementia tax’ in 2017, a calculation has been made that it is best to play safe on the issue for now. However, if the Tories win a majority expect movement on this within the next five years.
4. Tories offer £1 for every £28 from Labour
For every pound the Conservatives appear to pledging to spend on the current budget by 2023/24, Labour is expected to spend almost £28. This is a stark contrast – the Tories believe that their offer will look credible in comparison to Labour’s. But before Tories are deemed to be holding back it’s worth noting that the Resolution Foundation says that Johnson’s planned rise in public spending would lead to the biggest increase in the size of the state under a Tory government since Harold Macmillan.
5. The Fixed Term Parliament Act will soon be no more
The Conservatives have joined Labour in promising to abolish the Fixed Term Parliaments Act if in government: ‘We will get rid of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act – it has led to paralysis at a time the country needed decisive action’. This means that no matter which party wins the election – or forms a minority government – it is very likely to go.