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For further comment or to arrange an interview please get in touch with Emily Taylor emily@brightblue.org.uk or 07841419316.

Commenting on the 2024 Conservative Party manifesto, Ryan Shorthouse, Executive Chair of the independent think tank Bright Blue, said:

“After 14 years in power, this Conservative Party manifesto should – alongside a robust defence of their record – be offering a fresh, compelling and coherent vision for the rest of this decade. It fell short of doing so. Instead, it largely contains lots of detail about ongoing reforms that the public will likely assume should have been delivered some time ago.

“The very best things in life – starting a family and owning your home – are increasingly becoming the preserve of those from affluent backgrounds, the very opposite of what is morally and economically necessary. The palpable anger among the public with the current political class, especially among younger people, is genuine and understandable.

“The flagship fiscal policies – cutting National Insurance and Stamp Duty, alongside a reformed Help to Buy – are the right priorities, since they better support and reward hard-working young adults. But they’re too little, too late.

“The public expects a Conservative Government to make difficult decisions. The costs of our ageing society mean we will need significant tax rises or deep spending cuts in the years ahead. The Conservative Manifesto lacked honesty in outlining what these will be. It is not credible to say the cost of the policies in the manifesto totalling tens of billions of pounds will be covered by revenue from reforms to welfare and to stop tax avoidance. In fact, if there was more honesty on tax rises or spending cuts, there could have been more boldness in support for younger generations.”

The Conservative Party general election manifesto adopted the following Bright Blue policies:

Bright Blue has provided critique of some of the leading and most relevant policy announcements in the 2024 Conservative Party below.

Tax

Thomas Nurcombe, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“The Tories’ commitment to further reducing NI is arguably the most effective and equitable tax-cutting policy that could have been proposed. Amid ongoing demands to abolish Inheritance Tax and lower taxes on unearned income, the decision to reduce a tax paid only by working people signals that the Party is genuinely addressing the challenges faced by workers, particularly those with lower incomes.

“The Conservatives, however, should be cautious about further widening the gap between self-employed and employee National Insurance contributions. Both groups are pretty much entitled to the same access to public services despite the self-employed contributing much less overall in both tax and National Insurance contributions.

“It is positive to see the continuation of tax reliefs that support innovative start-ups. For start-ups with limited access to capital, these will help them pursue vital projects. However, the Agricultural and Business Property Relief in Inheritance Tax – both of which provide means for the most affluent to pay less tax – still need reforming. There needs to be greater scrutiny of all tax reliefs’ cost-effectiveness, social benefit and sustainability.”

Child Benefit

Ryan Shorthouse, Executive Chair of Bright Blue, commented:

“The current withdrawal salary for Child Benefit is unfair on one-earner families. But the best way to help families – especially on more modest incomes – would be to significantly increase statutory maternity and paternity pay, as the Liberal Democrats rightly proposed.

“Nonetheless, enabling HMRC to assess household, not just individual, income is a very radical, welcome change – one that opens the door to fixing other absurdities, such as eligibility for the Early Years Free Entitlement if someone earns above £100,000.”

Pensions

Thomas Nurcombe, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“The Conservatives seem determined to make an expensive and intergenerationally inequitable policy worse through the triple lock plus. It is unjust that older people would have a higher personal allowance than working-age people. Any wealth-building policies should be targeted at younger, working people – the people struggling most to acquire assets.”

Housing

Bartek Staniszewski, Senior Research Fellow at Bright Blue, commented:

“After many months of infighting, the Tories are finally willing to commit to some pro-housing policies. A reduction in Stamp Duty for first-time buyers is very welcome, as it will redirect some of our meagre housing supply to those who need it most, as could a new, better-designed Help to Buy scheme. Considering their affordability constraints, first-time buyers need extra support to compete against property investors in the purchasing market.

“However, the manifesto does not do enough to address one of the key drivers of our long-standing housing woes: a lack of supply. It promises to build 320,000 homes a year, but the Conservatives’ stubborn and irrational refusal to build on the green belt continues. While ending nutrient neutrality rules and promising to raise inner London’s density are both welcome, they do not go nearly far enough.

“It is also disappointing to see the Tories refuse to amend the regressive and outdated council tax, especially as its disproportionate effect on the UK’s poorer regions runs counter to the levelling-up agenda.

“The Conservatives made empty promises on housing before; they have failed to build 300,000 homes a year, they failed to end rough sleeping and they failed to deliver the Renters’ Reform Bill within this Parliament, despite having had promised it five years ago. I do not see a reason why the public should trust them to deliver this time.”

National service

Ryan Shorthouse, Executive Chair of Bright Blue, commented:

“Considering the significant individual and social benefits that derive from engaging in community service, we should want more young people to participate in it. However, mandating it for a year for all 18 year olds is unrealistic, unnecessarily lengthy and expensive. It would be better to ensure more schoolchildren can benefit from the existing National Citizen Service (NCS), which has already been running for a decade.”

Smartphones

Sarah Kuszynski, Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“With the ongoing mental health crisis among young people, ensuring all schools ban the use of mobile phones throughout the school day is a necessary and welcome step. Although schools already have the discretion to prohibit phone use, mandating this and supporting schools through its implementation would not only promote children’s learning, but also go some way towards creating a happier and healthier generation of young people.”

Post-18 education

Ryan Shorthouse, Executive Chair of Bright Blue, commented:

“Expensive degrees that have poor outcomes are a financial problem for the taxpayer rather than the participant – a problem that will not be solved by regulatory decision-making. Instead of trying to judge which courses have sufficient quality and constraining student choice, the government should instead introduce a levy on institutions that have courses that produce cohorts with very high loan subsidy rates.”

Early years

Ryan Shorthouse, Executive Chair of Bright Blue, commented:

“The Tories’ commitment to to deliver a Family Hub in every local authority in England is welcome. But there were many more Children’s Centres in 2010. The Conservatives were wrong to cut funding for them, considering the strong evidence now supporting their efficacy.

“The continued expansion of the Early Years Free Entitlement to children from nine months old is very welcome given the exorbitant costs of childcare. Yet, more still needs to be done to not only attract new people to the childcare profession, but to ensure they are retained and suitably rewarded.” 

NHS

Emily Taylor, Senior Communications and External Affairs Officer at Bright Blue, commented:

“We should be wary of throwing significantly more money at the NHS without significant reform. However, ensuring that crucial initiatives such as the Pharmacy First scheme, Community Diagnostic Centres and mental health hubs are able to thrive with the appropriate funding is a positive move. It will encourage the prevention of major conditions, free up GP appointments and be cost effective in the long run.”

Natural environment

Dr Will Prescott, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“While the ULEZ expansion could certainly have been better handled, scrapping it nearly a year after its introduction would be a mistake. As Bright Blue has argued, ULEZ should instead be reformed to provide exemptions for all Blue Badge holders and to introduce lower charging rates for residents of Outer London, who typically have worse access to public transport. That way, we could still deliver cleaner air, but in a socially just way. 

“We strongly disagree with the Conservative manifesto’s approach to low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) LTNs, which have existed for decades, offer proven environmental benefits and incentivise active travel. Mandating local referendums before implementing new LTNs would be cumbersome and completely unnecessary.

“The politicisation of road pricing is deeply regrettable. As Bright Blue and others have repeatedly pointed out, unless the government finds an alternative revenue stream to offset the decline of Fuel and Vehicle Excise Duties, the Exchequer faces a £30 billion budget shortfall as consumers gradually shift towards electric vehicles. Some form of road pricing scheme remains the most viable and equitable way forward.” 

Solar power

Bartek Staniszewski, Senior Research Fellow at Bright Blue, commented:

“Protecting’ agricultural land from solar farms amounts to nothing but restricting farmers’ freedom to choose how they use their land. It is not done in the interest of farmers, but rather in the interest of the minority of NIMBYs who oppose solar farm developments near them. This move helps nobody – not only would it make our road to net zero more difficult, but it is also very unpopular, as we have shown in our polling earlier this year.”

Asylum

Thomas Nurcombe, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“The Rwanda scheme has been an expensive failure. It will never have the capacity to remove significant numbers of irregular migrants. Instead, the Conservative Party should scrap the scheme and focus on expanding returns agreements – indeed, the agreement with Albania has already proven successful in reducing channel crossings.”

ECHR

Thomas Nurcombe, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue, commented:

“The Conservative manifesto hints at withdrawing from the ECHR. Such a move would severely damage the UK’s reputation as a champion of human rights and place the country in the undesirable company of Russia and Belarus. The UK does not need to leave the ECHR to significantly reduce the flow of irregular migration.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

To arrange an interview with a Bright Blue spokesperson or for further media enquiries, please contact our Senior Communications and External Affairs Officer, Emily Taylor, at emily@brightblue.org.uk or on 07841419316.

  • Bright Blue is the independent think tank and pressure group for liberal conservatism.
  • The Conservative Party manifesto can be found here.
  • Bright Blue’s Board includes Diane Banks, Philip Clarke, Alexandra Jezeph, Richard Mabey and Ryan Shorthouse.
  • Our advisory council can be found here. We also have 228 parliamentary supporters. Members of our advisory council and our parliamentary supporters do not necessarily endorse all our policy recommendations, including those included in this press release.

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