We looked through 80 pages of the Conservative manifesto and found one thing we can support

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak launching his party's election manifesto today
-Credit: (Image: Jonathan Buckmaster)


Today the Conservative Party launched its manifesto for the general election in what many will see as Rishi Sunak's last big chance to try and shift the polls.

The Prime Minister has had a torrid campaign so far, trailing Labour heavily in the polls and being roundly lambasted for leaving the D-Day commemorations early. He is hoping that his manifesto - his party's pledges for what they will do if they get back into power on July 4 - will encourage some voters back to the Tories in time for the all important vote.

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We have been through all the policies in the Tory manifesto and have not exactly been impressed. We did however find one thing we can definitely get behind.

Here is a look at some of the major pledges.

National Insurance and other tax cuts

Perhaps the biggest showpiece pledge of the Tory manifesto is to take another 2p off employee National Insurance (NI). The government has already cut NI rates twice in the last year. Mr Sunak is now saying the tax would be cut to 6% by April 2027.

He is also promising to abolish the main rate of self-employed National Insurance by the end of the next parliament.

These cuts, along with plans to raise income tax thresholds for pensioners as well as changes to child benefit and the abolition of stamp duty for most first time buyers would amount to £17bn of tax cuts by the final year of the next Parliament, if the Tories get back into power.

That is a lot of tax cuts being promised and questions are being asked about how this will all be funded (more on this further down) - but Labour leader Keir Starmer has described the plans as "a receipt for five more years of chaos," adding: "The money's not there for the Tories' desperation."

Announcing the plans today, Mr Sunak said: "Mr Sunak said: “We will enable working people to keep more money that you earn because you have earned it and have the right to choose what you spend it on.

“Now, Keir Starmer takes a very different view. He says he’s a socialist and we all know what socialists do, don’t we? They take more of your money because they think it belongs to them."

Immigration

The Tory manifesto says his party will halve migration if they are returned to power in July.

He told the party’s manifesto launch in Silverstone: “Labour have no answer to this question.

“We saw the other week Keir Starmer simply can’t tell you what he would do with people who come here illegally because he doesn’t believe it’s a problem. Now, with Brexit we took control of our borders, but migration has been too high in recent years and we have a clear plan to reduce it.

“Last year we announced changes which means 300,000 people who were previously eligible to come here now can’t and we will introduce a migration cap that means parliament, your elected representatives, will vote on how many people should be able to come here every year.

“Our plan is this: we will halve migration as we have halved inflation, and then reduce it every single year.”

Mr Sunak's signature immigration policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda has failed to get any flights off the ground. Despite this, he has promised that a returning Tory government would achieve a 'regular rhythm of flights every month' to the African country.

The manifesto also pledges to clear the asylum backlog, with all claims processed in six months and the use of hotels ended - something his party have repeatedly failed to do.

Net Zero

We already know that Rishi Sunak wants to scale back the fight against climate change. He says he still wants to reach Net Zero by 2050, but will do it without 'unaffordable eco-zealotry.'

The manifesto is now promising to “cut the cost of net zero for consumers by taking a more pragmatic approach, guaranteeing no new green levies or charges while accelerating the rollout of renewables”.

The Tories are promising to guarantee a vote in the next parliament on the next stage of the pathway to net zero "with adoption of any new target accompanied by proper consideration of the plans and policies required to meet the target, to maintain democratic consent for the big decisions that net zero will mean for our country."

With the impact of climate change now being seen all around us, it seems unlikely green campaigners will be buoyed by this approach.

The Tories say they will use a first King's Speech to introduce a 'Backing Drivers Bill' which will reverse the expansion of the ultra-low emission zone in London and “rule out top-down blanket low-traffic neighbourhoods and 20mph zones”.

Welfare

We have already heard about Rishi Sunak's controversial welfare plans.

The Tory manifesto says the party wants a system which supports "everyone to fulfil their potential and live dignified and independent lives."

The manifesto celebrates how they have brought 'discipline to the system through tougher sanctions and conditionality' while lauding the introduction of the benefit cap and the two-child limit. These are all moves and measures which have been shown to cause distress and hardship for many people.

As if this hasn't harmed people enough, the Conservatives are now promising to cut the welfare bill by a further £12 billion. This includes removing benefits for people who have not taken jobs in 12 months and taking the responsibility of issuing sick notes from GPS to specialist work and health professionals.

Charities have criticised the plans and said they will essentially "demonise disabled people."

Housing

The Tory manifesto has some big pledges on housing - which is necessary because they have overseen a huge housing crisis during their 14 years in government.

Mr Sunak is pledging to launch a new Help to Buy scheme which he says will provide first-time buyers with an equity loan of up to 20% towards the cost of a new build home. The Tories say this will mean first-time-buyers can get onto the housing ladder with a 5% deposit.

Another showpiece pledge today is the Tories' plan to permanently increase the threshold at which first-time buyers pay stamp duty to £425,000 - ruling out the tax for many.

And the party is promising to deliver 1.6 million homes in England over the course of the next Parliament, which they say they will do by abolishing rules and regulations and unlocking development while protecting the green belt.

People may find it difficult to buy the latter pledge after the Tories consistently failed to meet their own house-building targets promised in their last election manifesto.

Another promise from that manifesto was to abolish Section 21 or 'no fault' evictions and that promise has so far failed to be delivered. The Tories have made a similar pledge this time around.

National Service

We already know about Mr Sunak's hugely controversial plans to force 18-year-olds into a year of national service.

Speaking at the manifesto launch today, he said it would help young people “feel a sense of community, belonging and national purpose”.

The Prime Minister added: “National Service will help us build a more unified, more cohesive society, so that we can be secure in the knowledge that we are all on the same side.”

Infected blood scandal

While the ECHO didn't find much to get behind in the Tory manifesto today, there is one area we would fully support.

The Conservative manifesto commits to pay “whatever it costs” to deliver compensation to victims of the infected blood scandal.

During the 1970s and 80s, thousands of patients in the UK contracted hepatitis C, HIV or both after being given contaminated blood products. Many have died and many more continue to suffer. A recent report found that there had been a widespread cover-up in trying to suppress the truth of what happened.

The manifesto states: “We have made a wholehearted and unequivocal apology, on behalf of successive governments of all parties, for the infected blood scandal.

“As one of the last acts of Parliament, legislation was passed that brings the Infected Blood Compensation Authority into existence and we confirmed Sir Robert Francis as its interim chair. We will pay comprehensive compensation to those infected and those affected by this scandal, accepting the principles recommended by the inquiry.

“Whatever it costs to deliver the scheme, we will pay it.”

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