Theresa May promised over and over again that there would be no General Election before 2020. So we know that she doesn’t feel she needs to keep her word – even though keeping her word was supposed to be part of her personal brand. She's doing what she’s always said you shouldn’t do: treating politics as a game.
David Cameron treated politics as a game too. He won the 2015 General Election with a manifesto full of massive, undeliverable promises. He told voters what he thought they wanted to hear, but as soon as he got into office at the head of a majority Conservative Government it started to fall apart.
Now Theresa May must write her own manifesto, giving her the chance to clear the decks and get rid of the promises she doesn’t want to be held to account for.
Everything she drops is a sign that the Tories cannot – or no longer want to – deliver what they promised less than two years ago.
1. No tax rises
A Conservative Government will not increase the rates of VAT, Income Tax or National Insurance in the next Parliament” (p. 27 of the Conservative manifesto)
Philip Hammond tried to break this promise at the Budget in March by raising NI contributions for the self-employed – but was forced to u-turn. The best solution? If you don't promise not to raise taxes, it isn't a broken promise when you raise taxes.
2. A surplus by 2019
Deliver a balanced structural current budget in 2017-18... continuing to control government spending in 2018-19, no longer cutting it in real terms... From 2019-20, after a surplus has been achieved, spending will grow in line with GDP (p. 8-9)
Tory economic failure has already made this promise undeliverable. They won't say it again.
3. £12 billion of welfare savings
“We will find £12 billion from welfare savings” (p. 8)
George Osborne found that he could only this promise by cutting tax credits, and he was forced to back down. The Tories don’t have to promise it again.
4. Staying in the single market
“We say: Yes to the Single Market.” (p. 72)
5. A 7 day NHS
“We want England to be the first nation in the world to provide a truly 7 day NHS” (p. 38)
Since 2015, the NHS has slipped into crisis, and the Government has even dropped the 18 week waiting time target for operations. The next Tory manifesto will need to deal with worsening performance, not set undeliverable targets.
6. Ending child poverty
“We will work to eliminate child poverty” (p. 28)
Child poverty has risen for the third year running and is now at its highest level since 2010. Best just not to mention it.
7. Net migration in the tens of thousands
“Keep our ambition of delivering annual net migration in the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands” (p. 29)
Theresa May spent six years as Home Secretary failing to deliver this target. Now she can finally drop it.
8. Low council taxes
"We will help keep your council taxes low" (p. 53)
Millions of households faced council tax rises of almost 5% this year – the maximum allowed – as hard-pressed councils desperately tried to plug gaps in social care funding. Time for the Tories to stop pretending.
9. Protecting schools funding
"Under a future Conservative Government, the amount of money following your child into school will be protected." (p. 34)
Per-pupil spending in schools is set to fall in real terms by 2019-20, and the new funding formula will see thousands of schools losing out. The easiest thing for Theresa May to do is simply drop the promise.
10. 30 hours of free childcare
"Give working parents of three and four year-olds 30 hours of free childcare a week" (p. 27)
This pledge is already in danger, with hundreds of nurseries planning to opt out of the scheme. Theresa May could try to make the policy work – or she could pretend it never existed.
11. Keeping the 0.7 international aid target
"We have delivered on our promises to meet the UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income as aid and to enshrine this in law. We will continue to meet the 0.7 per cent target, maintain an independent Department for International Development and keep aid untied." (p. 78)
International Development Secretary Priti Patel has argued that the DfID should be scrapped, and the Tory right has consistently called for the 0.7 commitment to be dropped. Theresa May doesn't want to keep it - now she can ditch it.
12. The triple lock on pensions
"We will keep the triple lock pension system." (p. 67)
The Tories' commitment was only for the current parliament – which is now about to end. Theresa May could drop it – if she thinks she can get away with it.
13. Protect pensioner benefits
"Protect pensioner benefits including the free bus pass, TV licences and Winter Fuel Payment" (p. 67)
This pledge only applies to the current parliament – if Theresa May wants to save some money, she can leave it out of the manifesto.
14. Raising the Personal Allowance
"During the next Parliament, we will increase the tax-free Personal Allowance to £12,500" (p. 9)
This pledge now can’t be met in the current Parliament. If Theresa May quietly dumps it, she won’t need to find the money to pay for it.
15. Not cutting the Armed Forces
"We will maintain the size of the regular armed services and not reduce the army to below 82,000." (p. 77)
This pledge has already been broken – the number of trained Army regulars fell to 80,640 in November 2016. The easiest way for the Tories to deal with this is to pretend they never said it and never mention it again.
We already know that you can’t trust the Tories. Let’s not let Theresa May get away with ditching even more broken promises.