As this manifesto proves, Theresa May is none too fussed about being liked. Ironically, this is part of her appealby Tom Clark / May 18, 2017 / Leave a comment
Anybody who has been in a room with Theresa May can vouch for the fact that she doesn’t do smalltalk; everybody who has had to do business with her suggests that she is none too fussed about being liked. The irony is that—after the Blair-Cameron years of focus-group refined messaging—the sense that May doesn’t need to loved has proved refreshing, and bolstered her standing in the popularity stakes.
So, as the prime minister launched the manifesto that represents her first chance to spell out a personal blueprint for power, the immediate question in my mind was whether her little blue book would have a Millwall flavour: “nobody likes us, we don’t care.” And indeed, at least by comparison with David Cameron’s manifestos from the last two elections, it would appear to have more than a little of that.
Even at the time, but more especially in retrospect, the manifesto of 2010 was a strikingly hollow marketing document. It bore all the hallmarks of Cameron’s shoeless chum, Steve Hilton, with huge dayglow slogans saying “big society, not big government,” complete with acid house smiling faces taking the place of the Os. There was vague talk about reining in government debt, but scarcely any tough choice was spelled out. Even in 2015, after five long years of austerity, the second Cameron manifesto was much more explicit about things he wouldn’t do than things he would—he wouldn’t mess with pensioner perks, for example, and nor would he put up any of the big taxes. Indeed, he promised entirely uncosted cuts in income tax. Yes, there were to be £12bn of “welfare cuts,” but the impression given was that it was only “the system” that would be taking the hit, rather than real people. And when real cuts to tax credits for working parents and disabled people were subsequently spelled out, there was great shock followed by retreat.
By contrast, May today appeared pretty relaxed about telling particular people they will lose. Pensioners, other than the poorest, can forget their winter fuel payments and pensioners as a whole can forget their inflation-busting rises. On social care, where in 2010 the Tories ran a hysterical “death tax” campaign against Andy Burnham’s suggestion of tapping property wealth to foot the bill,…