Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Benefits of a Landslide

The fact that the Conservative manifesto commitment to end middle class pensioner benefits is being seen as brave says a great deal about the state of politics and this election campaign. When you think about it it is a testimony to the benefit of having one party well out in front and of a hopeless opposition who are talking only to themselves. If this election were tighter than it is, or if Chauncey were not a man intent upon selling us down the river to our enemies the Tories might have felt obliged to promise to maintain all kinds of benefits for pensioners they don't need and that the country cannot afford. As it is Mrs May is doing what we all know is right even  if some will be angry about it.

It is a simple nonsense for the country to continue to give expensive benefits to pensioners such as free bus passes and television licences, although the latter is now paid for out of the funds the BBC receives from everyone else. When school budgets are under pressure it is an absurdity to be offering free school meals to all pupils regardless of need as the Lib Dems forced through when still in power. It is more of an absurdity to be extending this blatant and expensive bribe as Labour are promising. It is simply farcical for Labour to be promising to abolish tuition fees for all. This represents another middle class benefit and one that is unaffordable. Furthermore it flies in the face of the evidence, which clearly shows that tuition fees have not stopped poorer students from going to university and that applications are up. Tuition fees and student loans is a policy that has demonstrably worked. Reversing it would be idiotic gesture politics. 

The NHS is under pressure largely because of social care issues and so something has to give. The government is right to address this as it is doing. The same is also true of their guarded language on the pensions triple lock, a ruinously expensive pledge given by the Tories and now echoed by other parties at a time when money was tight but elections were tighter.

It will be interesting to see what effect this all has on the polls in the coming days as we enter the last 3 weeks. Voters always complain about being treated like imbeciles by politicians, well this is a party and a Government treating them as adults and telling of the hard choices ahead. Will they be punished or rewarded for their honesty? 

Yet on some issues the PM is apparently unwilling to be honest with us. Immigration is not going to come down to the tens of thousands any time soon. This has been tacitly accepted by the way the promise has been made, yet the headline remains. And what of our still cast iron guarantee to spend 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid. Surely that is as nonsensical a commitment as many of the idiocies contained in the Labour manifesto or the wacky and irrelevant one published by the Lib Dems we can all safely ignore. 

Full details of the Tory manifesto have yet to fully emerge as I write this, which at least shows that the PM remains exceptional at keeping her cards close to her chest. Maybe she should offer to give Donald Trump lessons on how to keep secrets. She is presenting herself as the leader who will be the toughest negotiator and the best all round leader. This blog remains convinced that she is right. But we will still be hoping for some pleasant surprises from the manifesto. Talking up tax cuts and the wonders of free markets would be a welcome fillip. What does she have to lose after all? 

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