The Conservative manifesto

The front cover of the Conservative manifesto carries the slogan ‘Strong leadership. A clear economic plan. A brighter, more secure future.’ This is followed by a fairly detailed contents page, the headings of which I’ll follow in my summary:

Conservative manifesto contents page

Foreword by David Cameron

The opening paragraph from the Prime Minister contrasts the current situation with that of 2010:

‘Over the last five years, we have put our country back on the right track. Five years ago, Britain was on the brink. As the outgoing Labour Treasury Minister put it with brutal candour, ‘there is no money’. Since then, we have turned things around.’

He goes on to say that the reason ‘Britain is back on its feet’ is ‘the result of difficult decisions and of patiently working through our long-term economic plan. Above all, it is the product of a supreme national effort, in which everyone has made sacrifices and everyone has played their part.’

Cameron speaks of pride in safeguarding the NHS and pensions, and says we need to continue the economic recovery, making sure it ‘benefits every one of our citizens, at every stage of their lives’.

In contrast to Miliband’s foreword, Cameron mentions his main political rivals, presenting the 2015 election as a choice between his government and a Labour government:

‘So as you consider how to vote, I hope you will ask this: which party is best placed to keep our economy strong? The team which has delivered the growing economy we have today, which created more jobs since 2010 than the rest of the European Union put together; or the party which left behind a ruined economy just five short years ago?’

He ends with a direct appeal to the reader:

‘This Manifesto is our plan of action – our plan to take our amazing country forward. Above all, it is a plan for you. I hope you will give it your support, so that together, we can see through the task we have begun.’

An economic plan to help you and your family

Policies in this section:

* increasing the tax-free Personal Allowance to £12,500

* increasing the 40p Income Tax threshold to £50,000

* continuing deficit reduction by saving £1 in every £100 that the government spends until mid-2017, raising £12bn through welfare cuts and £5bn through tackling tax avoidance and evasion

* completely ring-fencing banks’ high street branches from their investment arms by 2019

* starting a Help to Grow scheme for expanding businesses

* increasing ‘the annual tax charges paid by those with non-domiciled status, ensuring that they make a fair contribution to reducing the deficit’

* investing £13bn in transport for the North ‘on top of our £50 billion commitment to build High Speed 2 – the new North-South railway linking up London with the West Midlands, Leeds and Manchester – and develop High Speed 3 to join up the North’

* investing £5.2bn in transport for the Midlands

* on continuing devolution: ‘We will devolve far-reaching powers over economic development, transport and social care to large cities which choose to have elected mayors. We will legislate to deliver the historic deal for Greater Manchester, which will devolve powers and budgets and lead to the creation of a directly elected Mayor for Greater Manchester. In Cambridgeshire, Greater Manchester and Cheshire East, we will pilot allowing local councils to retain 100 per cent of growth in business rates, so they reap the benefit of decisions that boost growth locally. We will devolve further powers over skills spending and planning to the Mayor of London. And we will deliver more bespoke Growth Deals with local councils, where locally supported, and back Local Enterprise Partnerships to promote jobs and growth.’

* investing £38bn in railways between 2015 and 2019 and £15bn in roads

* ensuring ‘delivery of superfast broadband in urban and rural areas to provide coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2017’

Jobs for all

‘Thanks to the success of our long-term economic plan, Britain is creating more jobs than the 27 other countries of the European Union put together.’

Policies in this section:

* delivering a further 3 million apprenticeships and 2 million jobs

* an Employment Allowance ‘which frees businesses from the first £2,000 of employers’ National Insurance Contributions’

* on 18- to 21-year-olds: ‘we will introduce tougher Day One Work Requirements for young people claiming out-of-work benefits. We will replace the Jobseeker’s Allowance for 18-21 year-olds with a Youth Allowance that will be time-limited to six months, after which young people will have to take an apprenticeship, a traineeship or do daily community work for their benefits. It is also not fair that taxpayers should have to pay for 18-21 year-olds on Jobseeker’s Allowance to claim Housing Benefit in order to leave home. So we will ensure that they no longer have an automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit.’ (Personal aside: this is my main reason for not voting Conservative. It’s such a horrible, demoralising set of ideas and it’s ludicrous to assume everyone has a family home to fall back on.)

* reviewing business rates ‘to ensure that from 2017 they properly reflect the structure of our modern economy and provide clearer billing, better information sharing and a more efficient appeal system’

* changing right to strike to require support from 40% of all those eligible to vote as well as a majority who do vote supporting industrial action

* raising the minimum wage to £6.70 this autumn and £8 by 2020

* on farming: ‘We will allow farmers to smooth their profits for tax purposes over five years, up from the current two years, to counter income volatility. We will treble the number of apprenticeships in food, farming and agri-tech, as part of our plan to secure three million more apprenticeships. We will support a science-led approach on GM crops and pesticides and implement our 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine TB. We will liberate farmers from red tape by coordinating all visits through a single Farm Inspection Taskforce, which will involve farmers themselves and use data from existing industry schemes, such as Red Tractor. We will push for further reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.’

* giving ‘Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time’

Cutting your taxes and building a fairer welfare system

Policies in this section:

* passing a Tax Free Minimum Wage law and ensuring the tax-free allowance on personal income rises in line with the minimum wage

* allowing married couples (including civil partners) ‘to transfer £1,060 of their tax-free income to their husband or wife, where the highest earner is a basic rate taxpayer’

* extending free childcare for 3- and 4-yr-olds to 30 hours per week

* freezing benefits for two years, including working age benefits, maternity allowance, statutory maternity pay,
statutory paternity pay, statutory adoption pay and statutory sick pay.

* reducing household benefits cap from £26k to £23k

* in-out referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017

* on reducing benefits for EU migrants: ‘EU migrants who want to claim tax credits and child benefit must live here and contribute to our country for a minimum of four years. This will reduce the financial incentive for lower-paid, lower-skilled workers to come to Britain. We will introduce a new residency requirement for social housing, so that EU migrants cannot even be considered for a council house unless they have been living in an area for at least four years. If an EU migrant’s child is living abroad, then they should receive no child benefit or child tax credit, no matter how long they have worked in the UK and no matter how much tax they have paid. To reduce the numbers of EU migrants coming to Britain, we will end the ability of EU jobseekers to claim any job-seeking benefits at all. And if jobseekers have not found a job within six months, they will be required to leave.’

* on other reforms being sought from the EU: ‘We want to toughen requirements for non-EU spouses to join EU citizens, including with an income threshold and English language test. And when new countries are admitted to the EU in future, we will insist that free movement cannot apply to those new members until their economies have converged much more closely with existing Member States.’

Giving your child the best start in life

Policies in this section:

* requiring all secondary school pupils ‘to take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography’

* opening at least a further 500 free schools

* training ‘an extra 17,500 maths and physics teachers over the next five years’

Protecting and improving our National Health Service

Policies in this section:

* ‘increasing NHS spending in England in real terms by a minimum of £8 billion over the next five years’

* making all GP surgeries available 8am to 8-m, 7 days a week, by 2020

* guaranteeing same-day appointments for anyone over 75 who needs one

* implementing the recommendations of the Innovative Medicines and Medical Technology Review

* enforcing ‘the new access and waiting time standards for people experiencing mental ill-health, including children and young people’

* setting up the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 2020

* integrating health and social care ‘including through piloting new approaches like the pooling of around £6 billion of health and social care funding in Greater Manchester and the £5.3 billion Better Care Fund’

Enabling you to enjoy our heritage, creativity and sports

Policies in this section:

* reviewing the BBC Royal Charter and keeping the licence fee frozen until renewal

* ‘we will offer explicit protection for the role of journalists via the British Bill of Rights and we will ban the police from accessing journalists’ phone records to identify whistle-blowers and other sources without prior judicial approval’

* providing tax relief for local newspapers

* giving primary schools £150 million per year for sports

Helping you build the Big Society

I had thought the phrase was dead and buried, but no, here it is! The Big Society lives if only we all build it together.

Policies in this section:

* expanding National Citizen Service, with a guaranteed place for all 16- and 17-yr-olds who want to volunteer

* making volunteering for 3 days per year ‘a workplace entitlement for people working in large companies and the public sector’

* extending the pardon conferred on Alan Turing to others in the LGBT community, ‘to lift the blight of outdated convictions of this nature’ (Good to see this one.)

Making government work better for you

Policies in this section:

* reducing the number of MPs to 600 ‘to cut the cost of politics and make votes of more equal value’

* introducing English votes for English laws

Helping you to buy a home of your own

Policies in this section:

* building ‘200,000 Starter Homes which will be sold at a 20 per cent discount, and will be built exclusively for first time buyers under the age of 40.’

* introducing a Help to Buy ISA with a 25% government top-up

* extending the Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants

* establishing ‘a Brownfield Fund to unlock homes on brownfield land for additional housing’, with a London Land Commission to identify potential property sites in the capital

Protecting and enhancing our natural environment

Policies in this section:

* building 1,400 new flood defences

* ‘creating a Blue Belt around the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories, subject to local support and environmental need’

Guaranteeing you clean, affordable and secure energy supplies

‘We will push for a strong global climate deal later this year – one that keeps the goal of limiting global warming to two-degrees firmly in reach. At home, we will continue to support the UK Climate Change Act. We will cut emissions as cost-effectively as possible, and will not support additional distorting and expensive power sector targets.’

Fighting crime and standing up for victims

Policies in this section:

* banning what are currently known as ‘legal highs’

* making ‘further savings by closing old, inefficient prisons, building larger, modern and fit-for-purpose ones and expanding payment-by-results’

* introducing a Victims’ Law

* retaining ‘specialist FGM and forced marriage units, refuges and rape crisis centres’

* scrapping the Human Rights Act, replacing it with a British Bill of Rights

Preventing terrorism, countering extremism

Policies in this section:

* outlawing groups that incite hate through ‘new Banning Orders for extremist organisations’

* Extremism Disruption Orders to restrict those who seek to radicalise others from online access & social media

* other measures to counter extremism: We will develop a strategy to tackle the infiltration of extremists into our
schools and public services. We will strengthen Ofcom’s role so that tough measures can be taken against channels that broadcast extremist content. We will enable employers to check whether an individual is an extremist and bar them from working with children. And we will take further measures to ensure colleges and universities do not give a platform to extremist speakers.’

Dignity in your retirement

Policies in this section:

* capping residential home charges from April 2016

* replacing means-tested pensions with a Single State Pension

* ‘increasing the effective Inheritance Tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1 million, with a new transferable main residence allowance of £175,000 per person. This will be paid for by reducing the tax relief on pension contributions for people earning more than £150,000’

Stronger together: a Union for the 21st century

Policies in this section:

* giving English MPs a veto on English-only matters

* introducing a Scotland Bill to implement the recommendations of the Smith Commission

* devolving powers over Assembly name, size and electoral system, Assembly elections and voting age to the Welsh Assembly

* fully implement the Stormont House Agreement and devolve Corporation Tax powers to Northern Ireland

Real change in our relationship with the European Union

‘We are clear about what we want from Europe. We say: yes to the Single Market. Yes to turbocharging free trade. Yes to working together where we are stronger together than alone. Yes to a family of nation states, all part of a European Union – but whose interests, crucially, are guaranteed whether inside the Euro or out. No to ‘ever closer union.’ No to a constant flow of power to Brussels. No to unnecessary interference. And no, of course, to the Euro, to participation in Eurozone bail-outs or notions like a European Army.’

(Further policies on the EU are outlined above, in the ‘Cutting your taxes and building a fairer welfare system‘ section. They are repeated in this section of the manifesto.)

A Britain standing tall in the world and A stronger voice for our nation on the world stage

Policies in these sections:

* continuing to spend 0.7% GDP on overseas aid

* pursuing a ‘comprehensive political and military strategy to defeat ISIL’

* working to prevent Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons

* working towards an EU-India trade deal and supporting India’s application for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council

* working towards an EU-China trade deal

* supporting the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative

Keeping Britain safe

Policies in this section:

* expanding armed forces reserves to 35,000

* on funding and equipment: ‘We are meeting NATO’s two targets: that each country should spend two per cent of its gross national income on defence, and of that spending 20 per cent should go on major equipment. We have made commitments for the equipment plan to be funded at one per cent above inflation for the next Parliament. We plan to invest at least £160 billion in new military equipment over the next decade: as well as our six new Type 45 destroyers, we are building a class of seven Astute submarines and buying the Joint Strike Fighter, Scout armoured vehicles, Type 26 frigates and new Apache attack helicopters.’

Tackling global challenges to make you safer and more prosperous

‘By 2020, we will save 1.4 million children’s lives, by immunising 76 million children against killer diseases. We will help at least 11 million children in the poorest countries gain a decent education, improve nutrition for at least 50 million people, who would otherwise go hungry; and help at least 60 million people get access to clean water and sanitation, to stop terrible diseases.’

Other policies in this section:

* targeting eradication of poverty by 2030

* working towards an end to FGM

* triple the International Citizen Service

* double the Aids Match scheme

Conclusion

The final page of the manifesto emphasizes that ‘those who work hard and do the right thing must be rewarded’ and states a ‘true belief in Britain’ is at the heart of the plan. The final paragraph reiterates:

‘Together we have come so far. If we stick to our long-term plan, we can secure a better future for you and your family. So let us keep moving forward; and set our sights on making our great country greater still.’

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