The Tories’ general election manifesto is the most hard-right in living memory, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE
ONE of the most ridiculous pieces of spin from Theresa May’s media mogul mates in this general election campaign has been the sustained attempt to present May and the Tory Party as a moderate or centre ground party, with one national paper terming their manifesto as “blue Labour” and another even trying to argue that the Tories are now a party of workers.
This doesn’t just ignore the record of seven years of Tory rule, which has above all else been defined by the pursuit of a dogmatic, neoliberal ideology through austerity no matter what the economic or societal consequences, but it also ignores the actual content of the manifesto and the Tory campaign.
What is absolutely clear from the Tories’ manifesto — which does not repeat the explicit commitment of their last manifesto to advance living standards — is that they are preparing a massive assault on the living standards of the majority.
Deeper austerity is yet to come, and our public services and what remains of the welfare state will be further starved of funding and attacked on several fronts.
Take the NHS, for example. After years of broken promises when it comes to our most beloved national institution, within days of announcing their funding commitments for the NHS, the Tories had to admit that they were pledging no new extra money.
The education budget is being cut in real terms, with the Tories failing to match Labour’s funding pledges for schools.
Policies such as ending free school lunches, ending winter fuel payments except to the very poor and the “solution” to the social care crisis of making those needing it pay for it themselves from the value of their homes when they die (the fundamental principles of which have not changed despite the backtracking we saw earlier this week) represent a further shift to the right.
If this manifesto is implemented, a redistribution of wealth and power will continue to occur — but it will be from the many to the few.
For this reason, the Tories are not willing to repeat their manifesto commitment from last time to not increase income tax or national insurance contributions on lower and middle income earners. They are however willing to pursue even more tax giveaways to the rich, including through yet another cut in corporation tax.
Taxation is just one policy area where claims that the Tories are seeking to become a party for working people are exposed as absurd.
Another, exposed brilliantly by Labour’s Ian Lavery the day after the Tories set of policies on the workplace were announced, was that far from promising working people a real living wage, the Tories have in fact abandoned the idea of protecting the minimum wage from inflation.
Now the minimum wages will be linked to average earnings, which the Bank of England and all other serious analysts expect to fall in real terms over the next period.
And when it comes to immigration, mentioned 28 times in the manifesto, as opposed to only six mentions of wages, the Tories really are showing they are the nasty party again.
It is simply astounding that they are willing to ignore the needs of the economy for purely political reasons of chasing the anti-immigration vote.
Indeed, so desperate are the Tories to squeeze every last Ukip vote, they are willing to ignore the entire higher education sector to keep attacking international students, for example.
Their grand anti-foreigner distraction enables the Tories to distract from the real causes of this country’s problems, namely the failure of ideologically driven austerity, but it is bad for our economy, bad for our public services and creates division, fear and hatred in society.
If the Tories get back in, we can expect to see even more scapegoating of society’s most vulnerable as living standards will fall, and inequality and poverty will soar.
Progressives need to be clear that this Tory manifesto seeks to destroy the final surviving elements of the politics and settlement that came after the second world war. The very existence of the NHS and welfare state are at stake.
May has not broken from Thatcherism, she is Thatcher’s heir and under five more years of Tory government, inequality would rise more than it has at any point since Thatcher was in Downing Street.
In contrast to the Tories, and despite facing an overwhelmingly hostile media, Labour has again and again showed in this campaign why the party’s claim to stand up for the many not the few is not just rhetoric but at the core of its programme for a better Britain.
We have less than two weeks to go — let’s do all we can to expose the Tories’ record of failure and their manifesto of misery in the time we have left.