If the "wobble" over the Tories' social care policy looked chaotic, there was a clear logic working behind the scenesby Matthew Flinders / May 25, 2017 / Leave a comment
Partisan politics aside, there is little doubt that Theresa May is an incredibly astute politician. She plays the game well, and has even rewritten some of the rules. The game of politics is rarely as simple as kicking a ball towards the goal; you have to play players off against each other, often within your team, and know exactly when to go for the legs instead of the ball. And yet May has clambered to the very summit of the system, and made it looks as if it were all as easy as a weekend stroll with Philip.
I’m exaggerating to make my point, of course, and “the commentators’ curse” could set in at any moment.
May could yet collapse under a double-pincer tackle from behind (where are Boris and Gove this week?)
Social care was not a disaster
The brouhaha over social care costs, however, was not the disaster it was being written up as before tragedy struck in Manchester. The May manifesto was, after all, strong and bold. It explicitly re-positioned the Conservative Party towards a more traditional model of conservatism and—critically—it highlighted the increasing inter-generational inequalities that will have to be addressed.
This was no “back of a fag packet” effort, but a thoughtful platform for social change that bore the clear imprint of one of the most impressive brains ever to have worked within No 10—Nick Timothy. Could it really, therefore, have been that no one saw the backlash about social care costs coming? Was this really a manifesto rushed out in a hurry, and therefore in need of an early rewrite?
I don’t believe it. Something more strategic was going on. May was effectively cashing-in a little political capital in order to make a point. The current care system is unsustainable. Previous governments have consistently protected the position of older generations for the simple reason that they are the people who turn out to vote. But this is not fair. The reason young people tend not to vote is because they feel that the system does not work in their interests, and that is true—because they don’t vote. Therefore, British politics is trapped in a self-sustaining, vicious cycle, that risks locking in ever-greater inter-generational inequality.