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Manifesto Watch – The Conservatives

12 June 2024
| by Field Team

It’s lights out and away we go! Rishi Sunak took centre stage at the home of the British Grand Prix yesterday to launch the Conservatives 2024 manifesto.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hopes that the 76-page document, which includes a £17bn package of tax cuts and £1bn of extra spending, will be the turbo boost he needs to take a late in the day lead against Keir Starmer’s Labour. But after experiencing a dismal few-days following the D-Day debacle and recent polls suggesting a Tory wipe-out, can the package turn things around for the Tories?

Sunak’s strategy is clear. He’s choosing to double down on “the plan” and his tax cut package puts clear blue water between the Tories and Labour. He knows Starmer and Reeves won’t chase these tax cuts and wants to move debate onto whether they can be afforded by squeezing benefit spend by £12bn and cut tax evasion by another £6bn. To labour the point, Sunak’s still hammering on his contested claim Starmer will raise taxes on working people by more than £2,000 a year.

In the detail is a further 2p cut in employee National Insurance aimed at allowing working people to "keep more of the money you earn," protection for pensioners with Triple Lock Plus intended to ensure the State Pension is never taxed, and 30 hours of free childcare a week, which would save eligible families £6,900 a year. The flagship national service policy is there, as is the commitment to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence by 2030.

Other policies introduced in the manifesto include an introduction of a stamp duty cut for some first-time buyers, a new Help to Buy scheme, and tax cuts for landlords who sell to tenants. These pledges build on further commitments such as 8,000 more full-time police officers so every police ward has a new officer and an expansion of levelling up funding with a pledge to give 30 towns £20 million each.

Numerous measures “to invest in infrastructure” were also set out, as they announced an overall investment of £36 billion in local roads, rail, and buses to help drive regional growth. Their key rail policy, which was already in motion before the election was called, is to introduce the Rail Reform Bill allowing them to form Great British Railways.

While the manifesto reiterates the Conservatives commitment to net zero 2050, Sunak called for a “pragmatic” and “sensible” approach towards climate and energy policy, pledging to put “security and family finances ahead of eco-zealotry”.

The only real surprise of the manifesto was a commitment to abolish National Insurance entirely for the self-employed during the next Parliament.

Will it work? The coming days will tell. The manifesto has landed to a muted reception but none of it has unravelled. Significant tax cuts are a different answer to the cost of living challenge than will be offered by Labour tomorrow. Sunak’s team at CCHQ will look closely at the polls in the coming days to see if finally the gap starts to close.

(Photo provided by the Independent via Reuters)

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