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BORIS JOHNSON’S general election manifesto makes the policy programme of the Monster Raving Loony Party look like a carefully costed and intellectually sophisticated document of epochal importance.
The Tory manifesto boils down to “getting Brexit done” with the rest of this pitifully thin offering more a mimicry of an insurance loss-adjuster’s carefully contrived evasion of responsibility. Above all Johnson wants to avoid accountability for the car crash that is Tory and Lib Dem austerity in a barrage of Brexit banalities.
In the service of this tactic the Tories trumpet their abandonment of some hitherto planned tax cuts. With both personal and corporate taxes in Britain bumping along on the bottom of the league table for developed capitalist economies this election day dumping of traditional Tory thinking is more window dressing than a reversal of their long-term aim to place the main burden of taxation on those least able to afford it. Gone is Johnson’s earlier pledge to raise the threshold to the higher rate of income tax to £80,000.
In contrast to Labour’s pledge to fund social care the Tories’ unwillingness to be clear about any serious effort to tackle these mounting problems is dressed up as seeking a cross-party consensus. This comes across as a transparent bid to draw opposition parties into a morass of unprincipled compromises and to take the sting out of the issue.
Risk management is the central concern of this manifesto — not surprising considering how the “dementia tax” in the last election sunk Tory pretensions to be the caring party of One Nation.
In so far as it contains concrete pledges to actually legislate, much of the Tory election programme comes across as a silent tribute to Labour.
The pledge to restore NHS bursaries and recruit 50,000 new nurses (to replace those lost in the years of Tory and Lib Dem coalition governments?) echoes the earlier pledge to recruit thousands of new officers to replace those culled from police ranks.
With a typically Johnsonian lack of seriousness there is no clarity about how this health service policy is to be achieved given that the Tories have made it clear that their NHS spending plans are a good few billion less ambitious than Labour’s.
This gos to the heart of the trust question. This question was put — it must be said with withering accuracy — by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.
“You won the leadership of your party by making a big promise on Brexit that you then broke, despite saying the buck stopped with you. Now you are trying to win the country with a whole list of promises and significant extra spending. Do you accept that beyond this room and beyond your party it is a big leap of faith for the country to trust you with a majority?”
Tory tactics are clear. Bathe every issue in a bucket of Brexit bullshit.
It does Labour campaigners no good to imagine that this Tory catchline of “getting Brexit done” does not resonate with a significant section of people who usually vote Labour and many more who should.
The Tories hope that the polling lead which monopoly media messaging and Labour’s divisions have gifted him is strong enough to survive the inevitable glitches which threaten any election campaign based on bluster. His less than convincing performance on BBC Question Time’s hustings was only eclipsed by the collapse of Jo Swinson’s pretensions.
Jeremy Corbyn summed up the Tory manifesto: “This is the billionaires’ manifesto. They bought it. You will pay for it.”
The Tory manifesto is not designed to change any voter’s mind. It is a bid to evade error and avoid embarrassment.
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