Thursday 23 November 2017

I'm no Thatcher, says May as she warns against drift to the right

Conservative party leader Theresa May during her party's general election manifesto launch in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Photo: PA
Conservative party leader Theresa May during her party's general election manifesto launch in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Photo: PA

Laura Hughes

Theresa May has sought to distance the Tories from Margaret Thatcher and said her government will not "drift to the right".

Launching the party's election manifesto, the British Prime Minister insisted there is no such thing as 'May-ism', only "good, solid Conservatism", after she was accused of being a 'Red Tory'.

The manifesto - called Forward, Together - rejects the "cult of individualism" and "untrammelled free markets" in its definition of Conservatism.

Instead it calls for "a belief not just in society but in the good that government can do".

When challenged on whether "Mayism" was a rejection of Thatcherism, she replied: "There is no Mayism."

Mrs May denied suggestions that policies such as an energy price cap, a commitment to spend 0.7pc of GDP on international aid and new rights for workers represented a move away from the Conservatism of Mrs Thatcher.

Questioned on whether she was a Thatcherite, she responded: "Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative, I am a Conservative, this is a Conservative manifesto.

"There is good solid Conservatism that puts the interests of the country and the interests of ordinary working people at the heart of everything we do in government."

Mrs May revealed middle-class pensioners are to lose benefits under her party's plans to fund social care.

The manifesto set out plans to begin means-testing winter fuel payments and to charge more people who currently receive free care in their own home.

It also revealed David Cameron's tax "triple lock", which guaranteed there would be no rise in national insurance, VAT or income tax, will be scrapped in favour of a general statement of intent to lower tax and simplify the tax system.

Manifesto measures include:

Immigration: Aim to reduce annual net migration to the tens of thousands.

NHS: A pledge to increase NHS spending by a minimum of £8bn (€9bn) in real terms over the next five years.

Social Care: Anyone worth more than £100,000 would have to pay for their care - but no one will have to sell their home to pay for it in their lifetime.

Brexit: Exit the European single market and customs union but seek a "deep and special partnership" including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement.

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Pensions: Maintain the triple lock pension guarantee until 2020, then replace it with a double lock - meaning pensions will rise in line with earnings or inflation, whichever is highest.

Tax: David Cameron's tax "triple lock", which guaranteed there would be no rise in national insurance, VAT or income tax, will be scrapped. There will be no increase in the level of VAT.

Education: Ban on new selective schools will be lifted and schools budget will increase by £4bn by 2022.

Energy: A pledge to introduce a fixed cap on energy tariffs, to be set by the regulator Ofgem and reviewed every six months.

Deficit: Eradicate the deficit by the middle of the next decade.

Media: Second part of the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press will not take place.

Meanwhile, it emerged that Labour's general election campaign is being funded almost entirely by union donations, according to the latest figures.

The Conservatives were given £4.1m during the first week of the campaign between May 3-9 while Labour received almost £2.7m.

However, while the vast majority of the Tories' donations came from individuals, Labour donations were dominated by trade unions with Unite handing over almost £2.4m.

The figures, published by the Electoral Commission, have prompted fears that Labour's campaign has been "taken over" by union chiefs.

Charlie Elphicke, the Conservative candidate for Dover and Deal, said: "Not only would Jeremy Corbyn make a mess of our Brexit negotiations, he'd run our economy into the ground too - bought and paid for by militant unions who want to tax and spend us back to the 1970s."

Meanwhile, a Conservative source added: "The takeover is complete; the unions bankroll Corbyn's campaign, have written his manifesto and their hard-left staff are running his campaign."

The figures paint a similar picture to the first week of the 2015 general election campaign when Labour was handed just shy of £1.9m with more than £1m coming from Unite and about £500,000 coming from Unison.

A Labour Party spokeswoman said: "We are grateful to all those who donate to the Labour Party and are supporting our General Election campaign.

"All our donations are declared and published in line with Electoral Commission rules."

Irish Independent

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