I feel no remorse about cramming the other Manifestoes into yesterday’s column and devoting a whole page to the Tory one. It may seem unbalanced, but then I am the Tory candidate, so perhaps I am allowed to be a bit biased. And anyhow, there seems like a strong likelihood that it will be a Conservative Government, and therefore the contents of our Manifesto might be just a little more important than the Green Party or Lib Dems. So here is my take on the main content.
It’s not all about Brexit. I welcome the fact that we are pledging to get at least the Second Reading of the Withdrawal Act passed through Parliament before Christmas. It may take some late nights, or sitting uncomfortably close to the day itself. But that seems to me to be a worthy indication of our determination to get it done by January 31.
But the main thrust and importance of the Manifesto is what we will do after Brexit is behind us. And in the words of my predecessor Captain Cazalet (1923-1942) in his election card: “Your support is asked for V. A. Cazalet. The man you know. No wild promises but a record of performance and a policy of steady progress.” So it’s not a dramatic nor over-promising Manifesto, and nor should it be. You must never forget that every penny spent is a penny of taxpayer’s money, and it must be used wisely. (Unlike Labour whose latest promise on the WASPI women would cost an unfunded £58 Billion)
Our much more modest proposals, all of which are wholly affordable include:- better hospitals (6 new ones now, 34 others in the planning stage, 20 others refurbished), alongside £34 Billion extra funding for the NHS, 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more GP appointments; increased funding for schools, and a correction to the imbalance in the funding system which has left Wiltshire trailing similar counties; and 20,000 more police who are already being recruited and trained. Tougher sentencing, especially for murder will be of especial importance locally.
The detail is worth reading too - an Australian style points based immigration system; a triple lock to ensure that income tax, VAT and National Insurance cannot be increased; millions more invested in science, apprenticeships and infrastructure while still controlling debt; a renewed commitment to reach net zero carbon by 2050 with investment in green energy and infrastructure to reduce emissions and pollution; a £640 million Nature for Climate Fund, 30,000 trees planted every year; a £500 million Blue Planet Fund to preserve our oceans, and to end plastic waste landing up in them. Then there is a £1 Billion boost for childcare; an end to unfair hospital parking charging; £2 Billion on potholes and infrastructure; support for small businesses by cutting and reforming business rates, and so much else too.
And – crucially important- these commitments are all costed and funded and can be met within the expected growth in the economy and through continuing low interest rates.
Well I would say this, wouldn’t I, but it strikes me as one of the best Manifestoes I have ever read; crammed with great commitments, and actually deliverable, unlike the pie in the sky promises from Labour. Those who read these things will, without doubt, be renewing their support for the Tory Party as a result.