What happened last time means that the Tories are extremely nervous about their manifesto launch tomorrow. As I say in The Sun this morning, the Tories have had teams poring over it to see what might blow up in it.
One of the many problems with the 2017 document was that it failed to understand the shift in the public’s mood when it came to austerity. This manifesto gets that change. I understand that it will bring back a version of the nurses’ bursary, which helped with the costs of training to be a nurse, that George Osborne abolished in 2015. This was widely regarded by the public as a cut too far.
The Tories hope that a maintenance grant for nurses will show both their commitment to the NHS and their pragmatism, the abolition of the nurses bursary has been blamed for a shortfall in the number of people training to be a nurse. One senior campaign figure is unapologetic about unpicking decisions taken while the Tories have been in power. This source tells me ‘we are not defending everything the previous government did’.
Another of those involved in drawing up the policy says of Boris Johnson, ‘He can reverse things that other Tories wouldn’t be able to do’. One of Boris Johnson’s great success in this campaign has been to make it about his record as Prime Minister in the past 100-odd days and what he wants to do next, rather than a vote on the last nine years.
The Tories also want to show that they are dealing with unfairness’s in the current system. I am told that the manifesto will contain a commitment to go ahead with a digital services tax. This is designed to hit big technology companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook that make billions in sales here but only pay a relatively small amount in tax.
Another manifesto commitment is to review entrepreneurs’ relief with the aim of tightening it up. This is a tax break that allows people to pay capital gains tax at 10 percent, half the normal rate, if they have set up the business that they are selling.
Research shows that this policy, introduced by Labour in 2008, hasn’t actually encouraged entrepreneurship and business investment but is still costing the Treasury £2.4 billion last year. Half of all capital gains on peoples’ investments since 2012 have qualified for this relief—suggesting that the rules are far too lax.
This clamping down on rules that benefit the already wealthy and raising the National Insurance threshold to £9,500 are meant to demonstrate the Tories’ values under Boris Johnson. It is meant to show that while the Tories might not want to blow up the whole system as Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell do, they understand what needs fixing.
The Tories’ first priority with this manifesto is to avoid it creating negative headlines. This cautious approach means that it risks being a bit bland. But it contains in it the ingredients for the blue-collar conservatism that would define a majority, Boris Johnson government.