‘Our base it too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies,’ the first female Chairman of the Conservative Party told the 2002 conference. ‘You know what some people call us – the nasty party.’ This woman, of course, went on to become the leader of our country: Theresa May.
From July 2016 to May 2017, she worked tirelessly to detoxify the brand, anxiously wringing her hands about those who ‘just about manage’ whenever she could. It must come as some disappointment to her, therefore, that this mask slipped with the release of the Conservative Party manifesto.
It was Margaret Thatcher who first made property inherently political. Her controversial move to introduce the right-to-buy scheme ensured that Britain could become a property-owning democracy and, with a few problems not relevant here, it was an overall success.
Mrs May, however, is clearly not happy that poor people are allowed to own their property. In this disaster of a manifesto, there is a dedication to make the eligibility for social care means tested. Anybody with assets above £100,000 will be expected to contribute to their social care. There’s only one tiny hitch in this: property is going to be considered an asset.
This measure is a clear attack on the elderly. With the price of housing having risen disproportionately against wages, the vast majority of property is worth above £100,000. In the East Midlands (my home region) the average house price is £176,000. The North East has the lowest on-average price range, and this still comes in at £124,000.
Instead of ensuring the social care system is fair, classifying a house as an asset means that even more people will have to pay for their social care. Consciously aware of this, the manifesto makes an allowance in that people will not need to sell their house: they can take out loans from the government in order to afford their care. Even though many will have paid into the taxation system for years, whatever they claimed will be seized from their estate once they are dead. This is, in other words, a punishment for illness and old age.
There is some talk that parents could change the names on the deed of their property to their children to ensure that nothing can be claimed. This, however, would be disastrous for many. Unless they go into rented, the young person in question – let’s call him Tom – will need to buy their own property (unless Tom wants to live with parents, which is highly unlikely.) Tom, however, will find this extremely difficult to do. As well as needing to earn enough for a deposit and a mortgage, he will also be crippled by the new, increased, stamp duty of 3% on second homes. Tom, as it is unlikely he could afford all of this, will then need to decide who suffers: him or his parents.
The punishment does not stop there. As home secretary, Theresa May had an obsession with curbing immigration figures. Frequently promising (and frequently failing) to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands, one would think that she had learnt her lesson. Not so. The manifesto promises to reduce immigration to this level and, to make matters even worse, Michael Fallon admitted on Newsnight that the Conservatives had not even bothered to cost this pledge.
When the Immigration Skills Charge was introduced at £1000, the RCN and BMA warned that it would have a ‘damaging impact’ on health and social care funding on account of the need for the NHS to recruit migrant workers. What, one wonders, must they think now? First Theresa May’s government refused to reassure three million EU nationals that they could stay in this country once the Brexit process was complete. Now she is going to charge companies double what they already are (so, £2000) to employ anybody from outside the EEA. The spirit of Enoch Powell is clearly alive and well.
The simple fact is this: since 2010, the Conservatives have failed to adequately control the country. They have floundered on their immigration pledges, and had to constantly shift the goal posts for the elimination of the deficit. More people use food banks now than in 2010, and the levels of homelessness have increased. Now, faced with a general election that they would not be confident of winning in ordinary circumstances, the Conservatives are desperately looking for scapegoats to explain away their failings.
Little did they know that these scapegoats are prepared to fight back.