Once the election was called, the Conservatives promised a Manifesto by the 8th May. This seemed a remarkably short timeline, particularly for those of us who have been involved in a Manifesto process. A short, vision based Manifesto is now expected next week.
This 2017 Manifesto will be key in terms of setting out who Prime Minister Theresa May wants to be. Theresa May has managed to reach new heights of popularity without setting out a clear set of domestic policies. Yet areas from health to housing will need action from 2017-22, particularly as Brexit (in theory) draws to a close in spring 2019.
While we know a version of the 0.7% aid spending target, Brexit, and lower immigration are part of the May vision for Britain’s relationship with the world, domestic policy commitments have been thin on the ground. Most of what little home front debate has occurred has been about what Cameron-era policies May will jettison (e.g. the tax lock or pensions triple lock), not potential new May ideas.
Yet the launch today of an energy prize freeze shows that May is likely to veer toward using the state to fix what she calls ‘broken markets’. Her speeches before and after winning the Conservative leadership indicate she is a type of Conservative not seen for decades – using the power of the state more aggressively to try to get the outcomes she wants. As a way of appealing to former UKIP and Labour voters it is likely to be an electoral success.
The delay in the Manifesto is in large part due to the debate within the team May about if, and how far, the Manifesto needs to bind the Tories to a domestic direction of travel that may be as much Ed Miliband as Margaret Thatcher. With the publication of the Manifesto, we will soon find out who Theresa May really wants to be.