Tim Farron is from Preston; Leanne Wood is not – despite the insistence of Paul Nuttall – called Natalie; Nicola Sturgeon is the self-styled leader of the resistance; Caroline Lucas might have been the winner; and the absence of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn didn’t stop Conservative and Labour HQs snarking about each other on Twitter.
Is that all we learned from last night’s ITV leader-lite leader’s debate? Yes. If by any chance you’d like to relive it, our live blog, complete with Andrew Sparrow’s wearied conclusion, is right here.
If the twin themes of the debate were Brexit and May taking her election win (and voters) for granted, they are themes that the day leading up to the debate did little to unseat. “At last, a PM not afraid to be honest with you,” is the Daily Mail’s cod liver oily headline this morning in response to a manifesto assembled by people seemingly confident that they could unveil an adult colouring book and not slip below a 12-point lead.
“There is no Mayism,” May said at the launch, “only good solid Conservatism”, a less is more approach that stretched from the policy-light manifesto to the PM’s decision not to trouble herself with televised debates. (She prefers door-knocking, which might, it turns out, reach a not dissimilar number of people to last night’s ITV viewing figures.)
The prime minister vowed to be “upfront and straight” as she announced plans for elderly people to fund their own social care, the means-testing of winter fuel payments, and the downgrading of the pensions triple lock – scolded as a “nasty party triple whammy” by Corbyn.
Foxhunting and selective schools make it in. Out would go the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (already mortally wounded by the fact we’re enduring an election campaign right now), Leveson part two and the “tax lock” pledge not to raise national insurance or income tax. The single market and the customs union: also so over. You can read more on all the key points here, along with how it differs from David Cameron’s 2015 to-do list here.
What you can’t read is the numbers. There were a few dabbed here and there: £4bn for schools (though £2.8bn of that is to cover rising pupil numbers); another £8bn a year for the NHS (not enough, say experts). But having derided Labour over its spending plans, the Tories decided to outsmart the nitpickers by simply not bothering to show its own costings, prompting Labour to label it an “84-page blank cheque”.
Interviewed on BBC Newsnight on Thursday, defence secretary Michael Fallon conceded that even the policy – though the Tories are now calling it merely an “ambition”, despite copying and pasting it into the manifesto for the third time – to slash net migration had not been costed, “because we don’t know specifically what year we’re going to reach that point of reducing to exactly tens of thousands”.
Perhaps that immigration policy is now so old it can pay for its own care.
Today, May will not be knocking on individual voters’ doors to show them her scribbled sums because it’s the turn of the Scottish Conservatives to give their manifesto an airing. That curbing of winter fuel payments might not make it into this version; the block on another independence referendum before Brexit will.
At a glance:
Perhaps voters really do pay attention to manifestos: an Ipsos Mori telephone poll for the Evening Standard, conducted after Labour set out its plans, pushed the party up eight points from last month to 34%, a campaign high. The Tories held steady at 49%, paring their lead from 23 to – I can’t really justify an “only” here – 15 points. The Lib Dems slithered from 13% in April to just 7%; the Greens (+2 to 3%) vaulted Ukip (-2 to 2%).
- This morning we’ll have the Scottish Conservative manifesto from Ruth Davidson in Edinburgh.
- John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey will deliver Labour’s response to the overall Conservative plans.
- At noon, in Anglesey, Leanne Wood sets out Plaid Cymru’s ideas for a post-Brexit Wales.
- Tim Farron is out and about in Cheshire.
Lucky Marina Hyde was in the leaders’ debate spin room:
Ukip always bring along a full nest of spinners: couple of sharp suits, a few local heavies, and one guy who looks like he might ask you to help him lift a sofa into the back of a van. ‘It would have been better if the other four had just agreed everything beforehand and just one of them had debated Paul,’ one explained. But another thought it couldn’t have gone better, ‘and he looks the part’.
Does he? Paul Nuttall has two political outfits: one, the dark suit, which makes him look like the sort of passively-aggressed employee whose boss greets him daily with the words, ‘What you doing in that daft suit, Paul? You in court or something?’ And two, the tweed-on-tweed, which makes him look like the efit of a man wanted in connection with a roofing scam.
Isabel Hardman, in the Spectator, says – for different reasons – that Corbyn was right not to attend the debate:
I suspect for Corbyn, the decision not to go near this opposition-focused debate has much more to do with his own belief that this election should be fought on normal terms (ie, that Labour might win) … Corbyn may also have found it rather uncomfortable being ganged up on from the left by Caroline Lucas, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood, who gave the altogether more professional Ed Miliband a hard time in 2015. They might have asked him why he abandoned the principles of unilateral nuclear disarmament, for instance.
Revelation of the day
Just as interesting – OK, interesting might be a stretch – as what’s included in a party manifesto is what it leaves out. So what won’t be going “Forward, Together” with Team Theresa May? Air pollution doesn’t get a mention. On new nuclear power stations, a staple of previous Tory policy, not a murmur. Rail fares? Not stopping at this station. Russia, China, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen: nothing to see here. And to anyone still holding out for that £350m a week extra for the NHS, I hate to break it to you…
The day in a tweet exchange
And another thing
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