Tory Manifesto Revealed: The Dawn of Mayism?
Theresa May launched her manifesto on Thursday (18/5/2017) in Halifax with a speech during which she talked about her plan for a “stronger, fairer, more prosperous Britain.” She clarified that her manifesto sets out how the government will respond to five challenges that the UK is facing, outlining the importance of:
• Creating a strong economy that works for everyone
• A strong nation in a changing world
• The world’s great meritocracy: dealing with social divisions
• A restored contract between the generations and how to deal with an ageing population
• And how to prosper in a digital age
She said that her “mainstream government will deliver for mainstream Britain” and invited people to join her as she fights for the UK. She rejected Thatcherism and neoliberal individualism by stressing true Conservatism: “There is no Mayism. There is only good solid Conservatism.”
According to George Osborne’s Evening Standard, her manifesto is considered “solid, straight-forward and much of it is sensible. It reflects the cautious incrementalism of its principal author. Anyone still expecting Theresa May to be the next Mrs Thatcher will be disappointed. There are no bold plans to roll back the frontiers of the state, or extend the private market into the public sphere. The small group of Brexiteers who think leaving the EU will turn Britain into a new low-tax, low-regulation Singapore will find their delusion exposed.”
The Guardian said that the manifesto was “a barrage of bad news for older people”: “A May government would bring in means-testing of winter fuel payments and ask more elderly people to pay for the cost of their care at home out of the value of their property.”
State pension and other pledges
She will scrap the triple lock on state pensions by 2020. The measure promised the state pension to rise each year by the highest of one of the three measures of wage growth, inflation or 2.5%. In 2010, the Coalition government introduced the triple lock which meant that the basic state pension was worth £106.8p a year more than the double lock, based on earnings and prices/inflation. The Labour party promised to safeguard the triple lock if it is elected.
According to the Telegraph, “Leaving just the inflation protection (a legal requirement) would have shaved off £365.56p a year, turning the current basic state pension of £6,360 into £5,994.”
Other pledges include reducing immigration to the tens of thousands, and not to the hundreds of thousands as originally promised. She will increase the amount levied on firms which employ non-EU workers. She promised to support the NHS with £8bn extra, and schools with an extra £4bn a year by 2022. Free school lunches for infants in England will be terminated, while breakfasts for primary school children will be free.
She described a Britain where people can achieve anything they want based on their strengths and talents and not their backgrounds. This vision of a “Mayritocracy,” where all that matters is your talent and how hard your work, is May’s philosophy which we have encountered again during her Conservative conference speech on Brexit in October 2016. Back then she talked about her beliefs and values: “of fairness and opportunity…where everyone plays by the same rules and where every single person – regardless of their background, or that of their parents – is given the chance to be all they want to be.” The idea that you can be whatever you want to be, as long as you work hard was also used by Margaret Thatcher who opposed interests and encouraged social mobility. Meritocracy however is a myth and those who are privileged enough will make it higher, while those who work harder but have no opportunities will remain imprisoned by social strictures and inequalities. The problem with meritocracy is that it makes climbing up the social ladder an obligation, forcing people to accept that they either fit the profile of the “striver or a skiver”, according to David Cameron. But what it really occludes is inequality and the fact that the system still operates according to privileges like wealth and power.
Brexit: “no deal is better than a bad deal”
In terms of Brexit, exiting the single market and the customs union is now the harsh reality, but May will seek a “deep and special relationship.” Both houses of Parliament will be able to vote in the final agreement. Among other commitments, May also promised to reach an agreement with the EU about their future partnership alongside withdrawal within the two years of the negotiations.
But May returns to the European Union’s most dreaded phrase of “no deal is better than a bad deal.” The EU leaders won’t appreciate this, and definitely, despite her Hard Brexit stance, Theresa May knows this isn’t a desired outcome.
In general, May’s manifesto defends her statement that only a strong and stable government can get the best deal for Brexit. It is a “declaration of intent: a commitment to get to grips with the great challenges of our time and to take the big, difficult decisions that are right for Britain in the long-term.” Of course, she knows that this won’t be easy but her leadership would offer the stability to “steer the country safely through the negotiations ahead.” Her branch of conservatism is definitely a specific type of conservatism tailored according to her values of meritocracy. It is Mayism, as it was born and raised by the writings of the Daily Mail, a populism that can guarantee a smooth Brexit and, as she affirms in her manifesto, “A fairer Britain that works for everyone, not just a privileged few.”