Good evening. There are now just three and a half joyful weeks to go until the election. This one kicked off with an eyebrow-raising lurch to the interventionist left, and also a pledge from Jeremy Corbyn.
Theresa May laid out what she said was the “greatest expansion of workers’ rights by any Conservative government in history”, promising the right to one year’s leave to be a full-time carer, to request leave for training, to be represented on boards, further regulation of the gig economy, and a general guarantee of all currently existing workers’ rights after Brexit. Having delayed her manifesto from today to Thursday, she also promised to make companies publish their “ethnicity pay gap” and to build a new generation of council houses, although did not say how many. “Anyone who dreamt that Brexit would allow Britain to become a deregulated Singapore now knows their zeal is not shared in Downing Street,” says James Kirkup.
This has caused some consternation among Tory MPs, already afraid that Mrs May is abandoning the purity of Thatcherism for a statist mishmash. But my guess is that they will stay in line, and that we’ll spend the next three weeks watching them twist themselves in a variety of knots to justify policies which make many of them uncomfortable. The Prime Minister also manged some much-needed voter time, ruling out a burka ban and a cannabis un-ban on a BBC Facebook Live stream and enduring a confrontation in Abingdon with a woman furious about disability cuts.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn seized on the chaos caused by the WannaCry worm, which crippled hospitals across the country last Friday, to promise a wad of extra cash for the NHS. After blaming “Tory cuts” for exposing Britain to cyber-attack, he pledged to raise the NHS budget by £7.4 billion a year (actually higher than the £6 billion promised in his leaked draft manifesto). This would help replace IT systems, shrink waiting lists, and bring the number of A&E patients who are seen within four hours back above 95 per cent – a key NHS target which has not been met since spring 2014 and which Jeremy Hunt has suggested abandoning. Mr Corbyn also said he would end the public sector pay freeze (something also pledged by Tim Farron) and hand future decisions to an independent review body. T, as did Tim Farron of the Liberal Democrats.
As Theresa May asked in Oxfordshire today: “where would the money come from?” Labour says it can raise £4.5 billion from a tax raid on high earners, which it defines as anyone making over £80,000. It would bring back the 50p tax rate but rule out any hikes in VAT, national insurance, or income tax for under-80,000s. But the IFS questioned that £4.5 billion figure and party figures did not explain where the rest of the money would come from, instead promising that tomorow’s manifesto will answer it all. I wonder if it really matters? As Ed Miliband learned in 2015, few people care how “fully costed” your manifesto is if they don’t trust you to handle their money.
Anyway, here’s a picture of Nicholas Soames campaigning on a horse.
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