‘Move along, nothing to see here’? That’s what the Tories want you to say

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If you, like LabourList, were busy campaigning over the weekend, there is a fair amount of news to catch up on. On a grey Sunday afternoon, with a 15-minute speech, Boris Johnson launched the Conservative Party manifesto – all 59 pages of it, with nice big writing and lots of large photos. (For comparison, Labour’s offering runs to 107 pages.) The Tory manifesto is less a plan for government, and more a short list of commitments already announced by Theresa May or Boris Johnson, littered with attacks on Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader is mentioned 13 times. ‘It’s Time For Real Change’ mentions Boris Johnson just once – in line with Corbyn’s election campaign, it prefers to focus on promoting a positive vision for the country.

The key takeaway so far is that the Tories have been risk-averse by promising very little. We should pause here to note that this is a thoroughly dispiriting approach to politics, and shows again that Boris Johnson has no interest in improving real lives. However, as ConservativeHome points out, it will be regarded as “mission accomplished” by Dominic Cummings if coverage of the Tory manifesto continues to merely observe that the document is thin. ‘Move along, nothing to see here’ works well for them. But the few promises included do warrant scrutiny.

50,000 extra nurses? Turns out 19,000 of that figure refers to nurses they hope to retain, and 12,000 from overseas will have to pay a “nurse tax” (EU NHS workers will have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge after Brexit under Tory plans). It is unclear exactly how they will keep or attract these nurses. £500 a year saved on National Insurance Contributions? Already estimated to be actually £85. As for this “triple tax lock”, which promises no increase in NICs, VAT or income tax, it is widely deemed unrealistic – especially in light of the pledge to “get Brexit done” with Johnson’s deal, and to keep the 2020 no-deal cliff edge.

There is nothing in the Tory manifesto for WASPI women. This was expected because Johnson said as much during Question Time on Friday. Labour chose to seize this opportunity, and successfully butted into news headlines over the weekend with the fresh promise of pay-outs to compensate 1950s women hit by state pension age rises under the Tories. This has led to further criticism as the policy details were not in the manifesto released on Thursday, though it did include a vow to “design a system of recompense”.

We can expect further policy announcements from Labour over the next few weeks that will pick up the most vague promises in the manifesto and fill in the detail. The latest reveal is on housing, with new rights for renters and the idea of a ‘property MOT’, which will ensure properties being let are up to scratch. It is well worth reading up on the detail here.

Coming up this week…

  • Welsh Labour manifesto launch (today, 11.45am)
  • Rebecca Long-Bailey ‘green industrial revolution’ call for activists (tonight, 7pm)
  • Labour’s race and faith manifesto launch (Tuesday, 11.30am)
  • Jeremy Corbyn interviewed by Andrew Neil on BBC One (Tuesday, 7pm)
  • Debate between seven parties on BBC One (Friday, 7pm)
  • To share: gov.uk/register-to-vote (deadline, Tuesday 11.59pm)

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