David Cameron has recently projected a series of high profile policy pledges to key progressive constituencies. They haven't made it into the today's manifesto.
A funny thing happened on the way to the election. High profile policy pledges which David Cameron has recently projected to key progressive constituencies as proof that his party had changed did not make it into the election manifesto which he published today.
A fair pay review and a public sector pay ceiling
Last week, Cameron told Guardian readers that his was “the radical party, generating a front-page exclusive by writing that:
“Gordon Brown has signally failed to speak out on fair pay, whether in the public or private sector, and it falls to a radical Conservative party to take a lead. We will set up a fair pay review to investigate pay inequality in the public sector …We will ask the review to consider how to introduce a pay multiple so that no public sector worker can earn over 20 times more than the lowest paid person in their organisation”.
Having welcomed this on the Fabian Next Left blog when announced, today I noted that not only the public sector pay ceiling proposal but the fair pay review itself had vanished from the Tory manifesto.
Quashing historic convictions for consensual gay sex
After a difficult week for the Consevatives following shadow home secretary Chris Grayling suggesting that B&B owners should have been allowed to turn away gay couples, the Pink News newspaper was positive about David Cameron’s recommitment to gay rights on Saturday, including making the welcome step of supporting the quashing of convictions for consensual homosexual activity which has since been legalised.
Today, as the newspaper reports that the policy is also missing from the party manifesto, activist Peter Tatchell says it is evidence that gay rights were an “afterthought” for the party.
(This may, however, paradoxically suggest that Chris Grayling has been an unwitting agent of a significant step forward on gay rights which his party may well not have taken without his intervention).
220,000 new school places
On the Conservatives’ flagship public services reform, ex-BBC education corespondent Mike Baker has blogged noting that the manifesto does not contain the Tory commitment to 220,000 new school places of earlier policy statements.
“Perhaps it was just the editing but one key promise did not make it through from the earlier draft manifesto to the final bound version: the promise to create 220,000 new school places through their Swedish-style school reforms. Although the Tories insist this is because that figure is a minimum not a target, its absence does suggest a sensitivity about the costs of the policy.”
Baker also writes that “The education chapter also seems to assume it is vulgar to mention money as there is not is a word about funding”.
Tory education adviser Sam Freedman reports via twitter that the policy remains intact: “220,000 figure was always a floor not a target – the commitment to that number of places hasn’t been dropped”.
A “floor not a target” means the commitment is to at least 220,000 places and perhaps more, so the decision not to make the numerical commitment part of the manifesto remains mysterious, and may also reflect a reluctance to be held to account over the promised figure at the end of the term were the party elected.
The overall pattern creates the possibility that, in his fifth year as party leader, this may have been something of an “essay crisis manifesto” for David Cameron.
Were progressive Conservative policy on pay and gay rights being made on the hoof for media purposes even as and after the manifesto had been completed and was being printed in order to have something shiny and new to offer Guardian and Pink News readers?
Indeed, a decent effort can be made to carbon date the manifesto production and late policy-making timetable, with six pages early in the book covering the detailed row between the parties over national insurance last week, but no detail at all of the Tory “marriage tax break” which goes to some of those married couples living in a “sole breadwinner” household, details of which were also published on Saturday.
Cameron’s claim to a progressive pitch remains contested, but the mystery of the missing manifesto commitments does suggest that he was scrambling for ways to re-establish his ProgCon credentials well into injury time.
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