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Conservative manifesto: values are first Brexit casualty

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Conservative manifesto: values are first Brexit casualty

Theresa May came not to praise Thatcher but to bury her.

In an election which may leave voters baffled to not be faced by a choice between Jeremy Corbyn and Team May on their ballot papers but by the actual political parties, the Conservative manifesto strongly reflected the middle England rectory-bred instincts of its leader.

In a calculated risk, the party rejected some of its dearest and most fervently held shibboleths, in particular violating the hallowed sanctity of housing equity.

Under a future Conservative government homeowners will be required to tap any value in their homes above £100,000 to pay for elder care.

While that will rightly be contrasted with the monstering the party dished out to a comparable earlier Labour ‘death tax’ proposal, it headed off charges of hypocrisy by abandoning many of the Randian, libertarian values the party has defined itself by for 40 years.

The ideological guardians of the Thatcher revolution on the Daily Mail and Telegraph leader desks have happily accepted a hard Brexit as payment for acquiesce, which is fortunate: if their mouths were not already stuffed with Eurosceptic gold, they would have likely choked on certain passages.

In a long section fairly unambiguously headed ‘We believe in the good that government can do’ the manifesto states:

‘We will need a state that is strong and strategic, nimble and responsive… we will need a government to take an active role, leading a modern industrial strategy to make the most of Britain’s strengths and take advantage of new opportunities.’

Moving onto party principles, it explains: ‘We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism… we see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless but dangerous.’

While putting the party much more firmly back into the philosophical mode which has made it Europe’s oldest and most successful parliamentary party, this is probably not the set of tenets many of the party’s MPs of the last 30 years believed they were signing up to.  

With the Labour party currently indulging the Huge Chavez cosplay fantasies of its dear leader, the Liberal democrats reduced to a small rump of Remoaner partisans and Ukip euthanized by the referendum, it is probably not the gamble it would have been even just a year ago, however.  

And going long on exorcizing the ghosts of Brighton Party Conferences past neatly solved one of the Conservative party’s few remaining problems between now and the election: what to put in your manifesto when you don’t want to commit to actual policies.

So the heavily trailed pronouncement on later life care is as much flesh on the bare bones of Mayism as we can hope for so far.

Fortunately it does seem quite quintessentially hers: nicking the outlines of an idea touted by Labour under Miliband and applying a uniquely 1950s vintage effect to it.

Under the scheme, homeowners will have to use an equity-release style arrangement to fund care with any value in their housing above £100,000.

This ensured that the government can keep its fingerprints off anything which could be conceivably be described as a tax, while also justifiably saying that no one would be required to sell their house while still alive.

Former chair of the long-term care commission Sir Andrew Dilmot was among a chorus of critics who pointed out that presentation, and the avoidance of any form of mutualisation, appeared to be the desired intent rather than any form of optimisation.       

He added that a cap rather than a threshold of personal liabilities would be far better solution.  ‘It’s a bit like saying you can’t insure your house against burning down,’ he told the BBC’s Today show.

‘If it does burn down then you are completely on your own, you have to pay for all of it until you are down to the last £100,000 of all of your assets and income, so it is just not answering the problem.’

Others pointed out that the greatest benefit of the proposal was likely to be accrued by financial service firms and intermediaries operating in a semi-efficient, state-created market.

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