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Commenting on the Conservative Manifesto, Ryan Shorthouse, director of the liberal conservative think tank Bright Blue said:

“The Conservative Party has produced a philosophical and principled manifesto, poetic in places in fact, with extensive and detailed policies on all the major challenges facing Britain. It describes and shows conservatism at its best: compassionate and patriotic.

“This, finally, is the flesh of Mayism: a communitarian approach, prizing citizenship, country and civic service. It puts to rest the idea, lurking since the Thatcher era, that conservatism is simply about shrinking the state. This is a thoughtful and passionate case for a supportive and strategic state.

“It sounds good, but the substance is sometimes lacking, especially on improving the incomes and rights of workers. In places, it also plays petty politics. It takes a dig at elites, which is hardly meritocratic. And it recommits to a hardline approach on immigration that threatens Britain’s prosperity and sense of fair play.

“A big failing is the lack of costings around a comprehensive suite of new policies. This manifesto fails to provide a clear and sustainable path for eliminating the deficit. Economic credibility is one of the most important attributes of a successful political party. It is no good insulting the Labour Party for reckless spending plans if the Conservatives fail to deliver costings for its plethora of policies.”

Social care

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, director at Bright Blue, said:

“The suitability, affordability and quality of social care is currently woeful for many elderly people. An increasing number of people will require and expect good social care later in life. The hard reality of this is that it requires additional funding both from the taxpayer and individuals themselves.

“Scrapping the triple lock on state pensions and means-testing Winter Fuel Payments to pay for extra government funding for social care is very progressive and welcome. The Conservatives, however, could have secured more funding for social care by means-testing more universal benefits that affluent pensioners receive.

“The Conservatives are brave and right to propose that people should be expected to contribute from their own assets, including their house, to pay for care they receive both in their home and in another institution. Enabling people to pay from their housing asset only after they depend on it is not a ‘death tax’. It is a reasonable and compassionate way of ensuring people with adequate means properly contribute from their own assets for social care, so government subsidy can be directed to those who are vulnerable or have high needs.”


Commenting, James Dobson, researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“The Conservative Party should be applauded for its bold and brave pledge to end the triple lock from 2020. Pensioners have been better protected from austerity since 2010 and now are, on average, better off than the working-aged population.”

Individual taxation

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, director at Bright Blue, said:

“The Conservatives are right to drop the silly and sloganistic tax lock on national insurance, income tax and VAT. The manifesto hints at extending important rights to generous maternity and sick pay to the growing proportion of the workforce who are self-employed. This is the right thing to do. But it would only be fair if the self-employed pay the same amount in National Insurance contributions as employees on the same gross income do.

“The manifesto was a missed opportunity to better support ordinary, working families who have experienced declining living standards this decade as a result of disproportionate and unnecessary cuts to working-aged benefits. Raising the salary threshold for the payment of basic rate and higher rate tax is not targeted on the lowest-paid. The Conservatives would have better helped the lowest-paid by instead raising the salary threshold for the payment of employees National Insurance, so it is eventually in line with the salary threshold for the payment of basic rate tax. The Conservatives should have also injected more funding into reversing the substantial cuts to Universal Credit.”

Corporation tax and National Insurance

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, director at Bright Blue, said:

“The Conservatives are right to maintain corporation tax levels at their historically and internationally low level. It is vital, especially after Brexit, that Britain remains an attractive, low-tax economy to do business in.

“Employment is at record levels. But there are certain social groups who are disporoportaley less likely to be in employment. Offering a one year holiday in employers National Insurance for companies that hire ex-offenders, the disabled, the chronically mentally ill and the long-term unemployed is a clever and compassionate policy that should help Britain moves even further towards full employment.”


Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, director at Bright Blue, said:

“It is deeply disappointing that the Conservatives have recommitted to the net migration of tens of thousands a year. The net migration target is arbitrary, indiscriminate and unrealistic. It has given the impression that immigration has been a failure in this country. When the evidence shows it has enriched most people in and most areas of the UK.

“Migration below 100,000 a year would be indicative of economic failure not success. Controlling and capping migration is progressive and practical. But there are better ways of doing it. The Conservatives should have committed to abandoning the current net migration target but introducing new gross targets, after extensive public consultation, on specific categories of migrants.

“It is unfair to raise the minimum salary threshold for sponsoring family visas. Nearly half of the population earn below the current threshold for sponsoring a spouse that lives outside the EU.

“Keeping students in the net migration target, and making them leave immediately at the end of their course rather than after four months, is the opposite of what we should be doing. We should be encouraging, not clamping down, on talented people who want to come to the UK.”

Immigration Skills Charge

Commenting, James Dobson, researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“The doubling of the Immigration Skills Charge on businesses hiring migrants is welcome. Opposition to immigration is often driven – in part – by a belief that new immigrants benefit from services without having contributed to the tax system in the past.

“The skills charge creates an important element of contribution in the immigration system and will allow the government to enhance funding for skills for British workers. The manifesto also commits any new Conservative government to using the money raised from the charge to fund skills training to upskill and reskill British workers. This could be done through individual loan accounts to fund lifelong learning, as recommended by Bright Blue.”

European Convention on Human Rights

Commenting, James Dobson, researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“The Conservative manifesto rightly defends the rules-based international system. The European Convention on Human Rights, which originally exported English common law to the rest of the continent, is a vital part of this system. It is good that we will not be withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights in the next parliament. But the Conservatives should be committing to staying in it beyond Brexit. Bright Blue will be fighting to make sure they do in the years ahead.”

Early years

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, director of Bright Blue, said:

“The Conservative Party is wasting precious fiscal resource on committing to increase the number of free childcare hours to 30 hours a week for all 3 and 4 year olds. The evidence shows that there are no further gains to the cognitive development of two, three and four-year olds of spending more than 15 hours a week in formal childcare.

“The Early Years Free Entitlement is meant to be an education policy. We desperately need to improve the quality, not the quantity, of formal childcare. This should be the focus of government resources. The Conservatives, to be fair, are right to provide funding for and demand all primary schools have nurseries, as evidence shows these are often high-quality because of the presence of qualified teachers.”


Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, director at Bright Blue, said:

“The Conservatives are wrong to want to lift the ban on new grammar schools. This policy is driven by experience rather than evidence. Grammar schools do not aid social mobility. In fact, they worsen the attainment of children from deprived backgrounds in aggregate.

“The Conservatives are right to demand universities that charge high tuition fees, as well as more independent schools, sponsor or set up state schools. We do need more school places and thus choice in the state system. As such, the Conservatives should have in this manifesto committed to allowing the for-profit sector to run state schools.

“Student loan forgiveness for new teachers could be attractive and retain teachers, but it depends on the extent of the forgiveness, which is not detailed. Funding for this could have been better spent on providing salary supplements for high-quality teachers to teach in underperforming schools and areas.

“Catchment areas are the main reason why access to good schools is based on house prices. It is good that the Conservatives will launch a new review of schools admissions. Though mandatory lotteries for schools should be banned, they should be incentivised.”

Technical education and lifelong learning

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, director at Bright Blue, said:

“The Conservative Party’s plans for technical education are ambitious and welcome, especially the introduction of T-levels and maintenance loans for those undertaking higher technical qualifications at institutes of Technology.

“The apprenticeship minimum wage is significantly below the national minimum wage, and these low wages can prevent would-be apprentices from enrolling or moving to a different area of the country to access the most suitable and high-quality apprenticeships. It is good that the Conservatives will offer discounted bus and train travel for apprentices. But it would be more radical and effective if they offered all apprentices maintenance loans.

“The right to request time for training from employers is good. But Bright Blue’s research shows the biggest barrier to lifelong learning is the cost of tuition. The Conservatives should introduce lifelong learning loans, where all adults will be able to access tuition fee loans for all types of continuous professional development courses. They would repay their loans through the PAYE scheme under stricter repayment rules for every new qualification undertaken.”


Commenting, Sam Hall, senior researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“The failure to provide affordable homes for the next generation to own is an intergenerational injustice. The manifesto’s emphasis on the quality and design of homes is to be applauded, as beautiful buildings help to maintain vital local support for new developments as well as creating a proud architectural legacy for future generations.

“After committing to tackling unjustified agency fees for private renters, the Conservatives rightly turn their attention to rip-off ground rents faced by leaseholders, but the details are lacking.

“It is a shame, however, that the Conservatives have not taken this opportunity to drop the irrational restriction on Green Belt development. Where there is unmet housing demand in an area, councils should be mandated to reclassify some Green Belt land, while in return developers should be given an obligation to improve the stock of natural capital elsewhere in the area. Such an approach would increase the supply of housing available and improve the natural environment.”

Environment policy

Commenting, Sam Hall, senior researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“Stewardship of the environment is fundamental to conservatism, and the Conservatives should be applauded for reaffirming their ambition for this to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it inherited it. We strongly welcome the commitment to a new agri-environment scheme in the next parliament, which will help deliver this ambition. Brexit is an opportunity to target agricultural subsidies at measures that improve the natural environment, such as tree planting.

“The manifesto is a missed opportunity, however, for the Conservatives to be bold on air pollution and to champion their own policy of devolving more funding, powers, and responsibilities to city councils to set up low emission zones in pollution hotspots, as Bright Blue has campaigned for.

“We welcome the Conservatives’ commitment to lead the world in environmental protection, including on climate change. Securing an ambitious deal at the Paris Climate Summit in 2015 and supporting the passage of the Climate Change Act through Parliament in 2008 are strong conservative achievements. Recent Bright Blue polling show that seven in ten Conservative voters share their party’s pride in the Climate Change Act.”

Energy policy

Commenting, Sam Hall, senior researcher at Bright Blue, said:

“The Conservatives’ re-commitment to tackle climate change in the most cost-effective manner is another welcome addition to the manifesto’s support for intergenerational fairness. Central to this objective of lowest-cost decarbonisation is encouraging more of the cheapest renewables, solar and onshore wind, as part of the energy mix. So it’s good news that the manifesto suggests onshore wind will be permitted in some places such as the Scottish islands, even if it rules it out for England on a large scale.

“The Conservatives are rightly positive about the potential for energy efficiency to reduce energy costs for the fuel poor and businesses and to cost-effectively cut emissions. It is disappointing, however, that there is no specific mention of incentivising able-to-pay households to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. This would be a more long-term approach to reducing consumers’ energy bills and would make their properties more valuable and comfortable to live in.

“The manifesto oversells the benefits of fracking. As the UK is part of a large European gas market, the impact of fracking on consumer bills is likely to be minimal. While stringently regulated fracking could meet the UK’s demand for gas for a couple more decades, the Conservatives’ priority should be incentivising cheap renewables, which are attracting the majority of new energy investment worldwide, as part of its modern industrial strategy.”

Gender and race equality

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, Director at Bright Blue, said:

“The Conservative manifesto has extensive and welcome policies to protect vulnerable people suffering ‘burning injustices’.

“Stop and search powers have been found to have been disproportionately used on the black, minority and ethnic communities, while the evidence is not clear that such powers help detect or deter crime. The Conservatives are write to warn police forces that such powers should be more sensitively and discriminately used.

“The data from a new requirement on large companies to detail differentials in pay based on gender and ethnicity should be used carefully. Discrepancies in pay may be due to other factors than discrimination.”

Mental health

Commenting, Michael Hough, Research Assistant at Bright Blue, said:

“The Prime Minister is clearly passionate about creating a significant change in society and services in how people with mental health conditions are treated. This is fantastic. In particular, improving mental health support for all school children, requiring employers to undertake needs assessments on mental health, and improving Equality Act protections for people with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depressions are very positive.”