Election 2015: Manifesto Review - Conservatives

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Today it's the turn of the Conservatives, only a day late too. Not bad, eh?!

The Conservative Party – What long-term economic plan?

You're sick of it and so am I, but the first part of the Conservative’s manifesto is full of their long-term economic plan (I won’t say it again). There's still more than 20 days to go until the election, so don't think this is the last we'll hear of it either. Much like Labour yesterday, the Tories pledge to eliminate the deficit by sticking with their plan, but also try to present themselves as the party of working people – as the BBC’s Nick Robinson put it "[the] week of political cross-dressing goes on. David Cameron tried to re-brand the Conservatives as the party of working people – the day after Ed Miliband claimed that Labour was the party of economic responsibility."

The manifesto includes promises they've announced before – to build a Northern Powerhouse, including new metro mayors (good idea) for places that want them, a commitment to continue HS2 and to build a high speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds. They'll increase the minimum wage, increase the personal allowance to take those on the minimum wage out of tax and build 200,000 new houses – despite Cameron's assurances to end arbitrary housing targets.

However, this is the limit for the economic plan, as the Tories begin promising increases in spending and tax cuts, with the money coming from vague promises of other spending cuts, such as finding “£13 billion from department spending” and cutting “a further £10 billion of red tape". The party seems to have become obsessed with its self-proclaimed “party of the working people” label.

As well as offering ‘populist-lite’ policies to its core voters, Labour also try to rehabilitate their financial credibility, unfortunately the Tories forget what they're good at – managing the economy stupid! Spending highlights include: a named GP for every person, 9,500 more doctors and 6,900 more nurses, upgrading road and rail infrastructure (the majority uncosted) and 500 new free schools. All seem to be arbitrary commitments there to attract votes and to prove that they won't be cutting as severely as others claim.

At least some money will come from boundary reform – torpedoed by the Lib Dems in the last parliament – it will reduce the number of MPs to 600 and make constituencies more equal in size. A sensible change, but not one that will be without accusations gerrymandering from the opposition benches. The manifesto also claims that the Conservative Party is in favour of an elected Lords (that's not how I remember it!) and is committed to keeping the first-past-the-post system for elections – something that could be a red line for another coalition.

English Votes for English Laws makes an appearance as well. A real two fingers up at the Labour party – and popular with the voters too. Interestingly, there’s no mention of reform to the way the speaker is re-elected, as they attempted on the final day of parliament!

And of course, you can’t talk about the Tories without mentioning UKIP. The promise of an in/out referendum intended to keep the Tory party united – although it didn't work with Carswell and Reckless. However, we still have no idea what a reformed EU will look like, what concessions David Cameron is trying to extract, what powers will be returned and, most importantly for anti-EU brigade, if the Prime Minister will advocate an out vote if they fail to get the reforms they apparently want.
No commitment to meeting the NATO defence spending target of 2% implies that further cuts could still be coming to armed forces, just as UKIP foresee. Immigration from outside the EU will be capped, and they’ll keep their ambition to reduce immigration to tens of thousands – something they are frequently called out on for failing already.

The Conservative party have lost their way with this manifesto. Although, the long-term economic plan starts off strong (I know, I promised, I'm sorry!), they lose their way trying to outdo the Labour party on uncosted healthcare pledges, whilst promising tax cuts as well. Their EU and immigration pledges are nothing new, but it may still not be enough for those who are thinking of voting UKIP and more importantly – the party’s own backbenchers.
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