Theresa May has said there is “no Mayism” as she set out her vision of “good solid conservatism” to deal with the challenges facing Britain.
The Prime Minister said Britain was facing its most difficult period in 60 years as she launched the Conservative manifesto in Halifax, West Yorkshire, pledging to confront “five great giant challenges”.
Mrs May restated her determination to get a good Brexit deal for Britain, but said the document also addressed the challenges of building a strong economy, tackling social division and meeting the pressures of an ageing society and fast-changing technology.
She promised to govern for “mainstream Britain” and urged supporters of all parties to rally behind her drive to get the best possible deal from the EU.
“The next five years are the most challenging that Britain has faced in my lifetime,” Mrs May said.
“Brexit will define us: our place in the world, our economic security and our future prosperity.
“So now more than ever, Britain needs a strong and stable government to get the best Brexit deal for our country and its people.”
Gone is David Cameron’s pledge not to raise income tax or national insurance, although Mrs May has promised there will be no increase in VAT over the next parliament.
Corporation tax will fall to 17%, but Chancellor Philip Hammond will have flexibility to raise other taxes.
The tax pledge may be gone, but the controversial commitment to reduce net migration below 100,000 – something Mrs May failed to do in six years as Home Secretary – remains.
A key part of the manifesto is plans to increase spending on social care by removing the winter fuel payment from wealthier pensioners, and offer protection from the cost of social care for people with assets of £100,000 or less – a dramatic increase from the current level of £23,250 in England.
The pensions triple lock – which means the state pension rises by the largest of 2.5%, inflation or average earnings – will continue until 2020, but will then be replaced by a double lock of earnings or inflation.
Some have suggested policies such as an energy price cap, a commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on international aid and new rights for workers represent a move away from the ideology Margaret Thatcher towards a more interventionist brand of conservatism.
But Mrs May flatly rejected this, saying: “Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative, I am a Conservative, this is a Conservative manifesto.
“There is no Mayism. There is good solid conservatism that puts the interests of the country and the interests of ordinary working people at the heart of everything we do in government.”
Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s National Election coordinator, said the manifesto “offers the majority of working people and pensioners insecurity with a huge question mark over their living standards”.
He said the party was abandoning “any claim to stand up for older people”, and added: “The Tories stand up only for the few. For the many they offer the prospect of five years of insecurity.”
“The tax guarantee they previously made is gone. While they’ll guarantee Corporation Tax falls to 17p they’re dropping their promise not to raise income tax and National Insurance contributions, raising the spectre of tax rises on lower and middle incomes,” he said.