11 Jun 2024

General Election 2024 – Conservative manifesto

On 11th June, the Tories published their 2024 manifesto - here's our take on the objectives of the policies and their overall impact.

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After what has been described by less charitable critics as a car crash of a campaign so far, the choice of Silverstone as the venue to launch the Tory manifesto on Tuesday 11th June was one loaded with jeopardy.

Will this manifesto – which reportedly contains £17bn worth of tax cuts and £1bn of extra spending – be enough to achieve the most unlikely of photo finishes or will Rishi Sunak still be stuck in the pits?

Here is a topline summary of what the party announced:

  • The manifesto includes another 2p cut to the rate of national insurance and a pledge to junk the main rate of self-employed national insurance by the end of the next parliament.
  • Raising the threshold at which families pay the Child Benefit Tax Charge from £60,000 to £120,000. The £1.3bn-a-year cost would be funded by tackling tax avoidance. A triple lock plus would be introduced for pensioners.
  • Raising NHS spending above inflation every year, recruiting 92,000 more nurses and 28,000 doctors. Alongside this, the Tories will invest in medical training and the use of AI in the NHS to improve productivity.
  • Going ahead with delayed reforms to social care, which would involve capping the lifetime amount people have to pay for social care at £86,000, with the state picking up the remainder.
  • Further welfare reform, including overhauling disability benefits to prevent an “unsustainable” rise in claims and removing benefits from those who refuse to take jobs after a year. The Conservatives believe the broader package of welfare reform will save £12bn.
  • A commitment to build 1.6m new homes over the life of the next parliament and a new scheme to help first-time buyers with government-supported mortgages. Stamp duty for first-time buyers of properties costing up to £425,000 will be abolished. To build those new homes, the Conservatives state they will focus on urban and brownfield development.
  • Reverse the expansion of ULEZ in London, with local referendums on new 20mph zones and low-traffic neighbourhoods.
  • The Conservatives are committed to the UK’s overall net-zero reduction targets but want to achieve them in a way which does not increase costs for consumers.
  • On immigration, a new annual legal cap on work and family visas issued each year. This will sit alongside a pledge to work with other countries to rewrite asylum treaties to adapt them to the realities of illegal immigration. The Prime Minister recommitted the Conservatives to the Rwanda policy and a new target to process asylum claims within six months.
  • Increase spending on defence to 2.5 per cent of GDP a year by 2030.

Manifesto analysis

The writing is on the wall. While a vote has yet to be cast, you will be hard-pressed to find anyone who in their heart of hearts believes that the result of the election is anything but a clear Labour win. Even the Conservative attack lines seem resigned to this (‘If you think Labour will win the election, start saving’ repeatedly deployed online and in the press).

In that context, what is the point of their manifesto launch?

Objective 1: keep calm and carry on

It’s hard to believe, but there are still four weeks from the manifesto launch left to go of the election campaign – and anything can genuinely still happen. Who would have predicted the D-Day dropped ball? The Prime Minister gave a typically confident, bullish performance when launching his policy platform, alongside a recognition that the electorate was increasingly “frustrated” with his party. If some of the taxation policies can help claw back a few percentage points, then that could be considered an achievement.

Objective 2: maximise opposition seat count

Much of the manifesto has been well-trailed since the election was called three weeks ago. The Triple Lock Plus tax cut for pensioners; boosting defence spending to 2.5% of GDP; re-committing to Rwanda and stopping the boats; cutting taxes; the new National Service scheme; amending the Equality Act to make it clear that sex means biological sex – all of this polls well among 2019 Conservative voters. As an exercise in damage limitation, the manifesto has been calibrated to shore up the base and keep hold of any waverers who might be tempted to decamp to Reform.

Objective 3: prepare battle lines for the post-election reckoning – and the next party leader

Abolishing the main rate of self-employed National Insurance is a bold policy that is estimated will help some 4 million people. In any other context, the decision to cut National Insurance by 4p, then pledging to take another 2p off if elected would be game-changing. Committing to permanently abolish Stamp Duty for homes up to £425,000 for first time buyers is similarly ambitious.

Despite this, there is very little expectation that any of these policies will be implemented. In that vein, this manifesto must be seen as an ideological wish list – lines in the sand for the oncoming leadership contest, and the fight for the soul of the party that is already rumbling along beneath the surface, and increasingly out in the open.

Sunak will not go down without a fight, but, even the most optimistic of CCHQ apparatchiks would struggle to believe that this will turn the tide.

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