Theresa May says there is no such thing as Mayism as she makes pitch for political centre ground

Posted On: 
18th May 2017

Theresa May made a pitch for the political centre ground today as she radically redefined the meaning of Conservatism in a bid to woo traditional Labour voters.

Theresa May launches the Tory manifesto in Halifax.
PA Images

The Prime Minister insisted "there is no Mayism" as she unveiled a manifesto which pledged to use the power of government to improve the lives of working people.

In a dramatic departure from the pro-market days of Margaret Thatcher, the manifesto - called Forward, Together - said: "Conservatism is not and never has been the philosophy described by caricaturists. We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless but dangerous.

AT-A-GLANCE: The Conservative Party general election manifesto

READ: Theresa May's full speech at the Conservatives manifesto launch

LIVE: Theresa May launches Conservative party manifesto

Sir Andrew Dilnot says Theresa May has 'missed an open goal' over social care shake-up

"True Conservatism means a commitment to country and community; a belief not just in society but in the good that government can do; a respect for the local and national institutions that bind us together; an insight that change is inevitable and change can be good, but that change should be shaped, through strong leadership and clear principles, for the common good."

Unveiling the 84-page document - in Halifax, a seat which Labour's Holly Lynch holds with a majority of just 428 - Mrs May rejected suggestions that she had her own distinct political philosophy.

She said: "There is no Mayism. I know you journalists like to write about it. There is good, solid Conservatism which puts the interests of the country and the interests of ordinary working people at the heart of everything we do in government."

Asked earlier if she was a Thatcherite, she said: "Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative, I'm a Conservative, this is a Conservative manifesto."

Among the key elements in the manifesto are the ditching of the so-called "triple lock" guaranteeing no rise in income tax, VAT or National Insurance. Instead, the Conservatives only promise to keep taxes "as low as possible".

The triple lock on pensions, which guaranteed annual rises of at least 2.5%, will end in 2020 to be replaced by a pledge that they will rise in line with either earnings or inflation, whichever is highest.

The manifesto says the deficit will finally be cleared in 2025 - fully 10 years after George Osborne first promised the nation's books would be brought back into balance.

Mrs May is also keeping the controversial commitment to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, a policy which Mr Osborne revealed yesterday is opposed by every senior Cabinet member.

Other key commitments include a promise to increase NHS spending by at least £8bn a year, build 3.5m new homes by 2022, create a new generation of grammar schools, increase defence spending by at least 0.5% more than inflation every year, cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and "review the honours system to make sure it commands public confidence, rewards genuine public service and that recipients uphold the integrity of the honours bestowed".

And in a major shake-up of the social care system, the manifesto says people will be expected to put the value of their property towards home care costs for the first time, with the state stepping in to pay when someone has less than £100,000 in assets. Wealthy pensioners will also lose their annual winter fuel allowance to help pay for the changes.

The Prime Minister said the manifesto was "rooted in the hopes and aspirations of ordinary working people across this land".

She said: "I offer myself as your Prime Minister. With a resolute determination to get on with the job of delivering Brexit, optimism that I can get a deal that works for all and confident in the belief that we have the vision, the plan and the will to use this moment to build a better Britain rooted in the hopes and aspirations of ordinary working people across this land."

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Mrs May of "attacking all the older people in our society".

He said: "She’s damaging social care in our society. This is a manifesto which will make the situation across Britain worse, on top of what this Coalition and Conservative movement have already done, leaving six million people earning less than the minimum wage."