It may not have been leaked wholesale like its Labour counterpart, but some details of the Conservative manifesto emerged over the past few weeks. We knew before its launch on Thursday that the party will recommit to reducing net migration to less than 100,000 a year, echoing previous Tory manifesto hopes, and that more elderly people will have to pay for own social care.
Details of what kind of Brexit Theresa May’s team intend to negotiate had been less clear – though Tory MPs are pushing for the manifesto to “strike the right tone”.
We’ve been asking our Tory-leaning readers what they think should definitely be included in the manifesto. What we found were concerns about the future of the NHS, education and public services – and a taste for the kind of interventionist policies that would once have been considered Labour territory, particularly on energy prices and housing.
Below, we list the ten policies that were most popuar with our readers.
1) A commitment to a speedy Brexit
Readers we heard from seem happy enough to trust Theresa May means what she says when “Brexit means Brexit”, but there weren’t many explicit calls for the Conservative manifesto to spell out what exactly this means, provided the negotiations conclude as quickly as possible. One reader wanted to see a pledge to secure “Swiss style bilateral trade agreements”, and to ensure an end to freedom of movement other than “visa free tourist travel”.
2) Remove the pensions triple lock and invest in the NHS
The crisis in social care was on the mind of readers suggesting an end to the triple lock, a policy May has already hinted will be in the Conservative manifesto. Worries about the future of the NHS in general and social care in particular was a popular theme from would-be Tory voters.
3) Clamp down on ‘rip-off enterprises’
The Conservative are set to pledge a cap on energy bills in their manifesto – much to the wry amusement of one Ed Miliband.
Readers we heard from were in favour of this move – with some suggesting that price caps should be extended to other “rip-off” markets such as telecom, insurance – and housing.
4) Introduce a points-based immigration system
It seems that the Tories will again pledge – or at least, express an “ambition” – to reduce net immigration to under 100,000, with ministers claiming that this will be much easier to implement once Britain has left the European Union.
Suggestions from our readers on immigration ranged from the difficult to implement (“no one comes in without a firm, provable, offer of employment in their possession beforehand”) to people who were more interested in “a points-based system to recruit the best talent” than arbitrary targets – “stop renewing the same pledge to reach an annual figure,” said another.
5) Focus on science and technology in education
We didn’t see much mention of Grammar Schools, Theresa May’s pet education policy – other than the suggestion that private schools should be made to share facilities and resources with state schools by law.
Instead, the concern was with improving education to help the country’s post-Brexit future, with one reader suggesting:
Make STEM subjects the core ethos of the British education system to put our country back on the map as we seek to build a modern society built on engineering, maths and science: classic British fields of excellence.
6) Extend housebuilding – and provide mortgages for the self-employed
As well as calls for rent caps and a larger commitment to housebuilding, some readers raised the difficulty of securing mortgages or tenancies when self-employed, on zero-hours contracts or otherwise lacking in a permanent contract.
“Self employed access to mortgages is a joke. As is self employed access to private rentals. The self employed get a rubbish deal when accessing basic needs like housing”, said one Midlands-based reader.
7) Reform the House of Lords
The eventual passing of Theresa May’s Brexit bill perhaps focused the mind of readers suggesting the Lords be reformed into a “fully elected upper chamber” Ministers including David Davis accused some peers of seeking to frustrate the Brexit process, and one unnamed government source went as far as warning: “the Lords will face an overwhelming public call to be abolished if they now try and frustrate this Bill.”
The Conservatives are unlikely to include Lords reform in their manifesto, particularly given the Tory rebellion against Lib Dem’s attempts to ensure an 80% elected chamber during the Coalition years.
8) Stop ex-ministers becoming lobbyists
“It’s scandalous that our elected representatives who are supposed to be making decisions to benefit the country can walk into a job with the companies that lobby them,” said one reader, who wants to see a pledge to stop ministers from getting employment within the sector of their brief for a minimum of five years.
9) Reduce the foreign aid spending commitment
There was some speculation that Theresa May was planning to pledge to end the commitment to spend 0.7% of national income a year on foreign aid, a move that would have delighted some on the right of her party. Readers we heard from – particularly those who voted Ukip in 2015 – were keen to see this spending reduced, or removed entirely.
10) Scrap HS2 – and spend the money on modernisation instead
You’re not likely to see it in a Conservative manifesto, but there was a keenness to see rail brought back into public ownership. Failing that, there were a lot of calls to end HS2, and to spend the money on electrification and other modernisation works instead.