What does Theresa May believe? She didn’t have much time to set that out during the Conservative leadership campaign, as Andrea Leadsom brought it to a swift close. But after launching her first election manifesto as party leader this morning, we now have the clearest sense of Mrs May’s agenda. Her Government, she said, would not “drift the Right”, but would follow “good solid Conservatism”. Policies like an energy price cap, a commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on international aid and new rights for workers ( we have summed them all up here) prompted questions as to whether she was rejecting Margaret Thatcher’s philosophy – and she didn’t dismiss the suggestion. “Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative, I am a Conservative, this is a Conservative manifesto”.
Mrs Thatcher still made her mark, as Mrs May borrowed her 1980 party conference slogan by inviting voters to join her in going “forward together”. The Prime Minister’s language was curious in other ways, as she only used the word “Conservative” once in her manifesto launch speech. Tory voters may well be irked by her changes to social care, which Richard Dyson describes as an “ attack on the principle that inheritance is good”, but will doubtless be buoyed by her zeal for Brexit and her renewed commitment to reducing migration numbers. “Most of what she said was designed to engage the sensibilities of socially responsible people who want to do the right thing for the “country as a whole”,” writes Janet Daley. “What better definition is there of the traditional Tory voter?”
Those looking for detail as to what Mrs May wants to do about Brexit will be disappointed though, says Juliet Samuel, as ” her plan amounts to a single principle: trust me“. That strategy seems to be paying off, as the Conservative poll lead remains healthy. Labour supporters will be delighted that their party has leapt up eight points in Ipsos MORI’s latest poll, although they may want to go slow on the victory celebrations as they’re still 15 points behind the Tories in it.
The manifestos are out, so party leaders now have to get on and sell them to the public. Many of them are preparing to do that tonight for ITV’s televised debate. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have said they will be giving it a miss, so it looks like viewers will get to see the remaining leaders – none of whom can expect to be Prime Minister after June 8 – duking it out. Will sparks fly when Tim Farron takes on Paul Nuttall? Will Nicola Sturgeon team up with Leanne Wood and Caroline Lucas, or will they find ways to disagree? We’ll be liveblogging it – with analysis from yours truly – tonight, so you can follow the mayhem here.
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