Tory prime minister Boris Johnson presented himself as a champion of ordinary people against the politicians at the party’s manifesto launch in Telford, Shropshire, on Sunday.
It promised a few crumbs that will not undo the Tories’ decade of damage to the NHS, the welfare state, public services, and working class living standards.
His main message was straightforward—the Tories would “get Brexit done” if they weren’t “held back by a broken parliament”.
Johnson had a swagger as he honed in on Jeremy Corbyn’s weakest point in the general election, Labour’s Brexit policy. Corbyn has promised to negotiate a new deal, then hold a public vote with the Labour deal and Remain as options, but has remained neutrals.
Johnson said, “He used to be indecisive, now he’s not sure. If he doesn’t, then who does believe in it? It’s farcical.”
Johnson claimed the manifesto is a “partial blueprint for the future” where the “streets are safe, the air is clean and we build 40 new hospitals as a result of decisions we’ve taken in the last three months”.
But beyond the populist message of the people versus the politicians, it tried to avoid detail as much as possible.
For all the fake One Nation Conservatism and bringing people together, the Tories slipped in another attack on workers’ rights to strike and defend themselves against the bosses. They promised new rules to force rail unions to guarantee a minimum service during walkouts.
In a sign of how the Tories are using racism to divide opposition to their rule, the manifesto calls for migrants to be excluded from benefits for five years and Improved 'health tourism' enforcement.
There would be a “firmer and fairer” points-based immigration system that will require most people to have a clear job offer before they can come to Britain.
NHS treatment will require migrants to make payments.
The Tory manifesto acknowledges that they could be vulnerable over austerity, with announcements over health, social care and education. But the promises in the manifesto will not undo the damage of the last decade. For every £1 the Tories spend, Labour will spend £28 to fund services.
This was apparent in the Tories’ promises of 50,000 nurses, 50 million more GP appointments, and bringing back the NHS bursaries. It was a grant that student nurses and other health care students received during their time at university—before it was slashed by Tory former prime minister David Cameron.
The promise of “50,000 more nurses” turned out to include 18,500 existing nurses who the government hopes to persuade to remain in the workforce.
A decade of Tory cuts and privatisation has fueled a chronic staffing crisis. There are around 43,000 vacant nursing posts in England—meaning the Tories’ pledge won’t mean 50,000 new nurses, but bring staffing levels up to what they have been.
The NEU union said the manifesto's plans would mean £340 million further cuts to school budgets in 2023-24.
As Johnson spoke inside, anti-racists, socialists, health campaigners, climate chaos activists, Corbyn supporters and others joined an angry anti-Tory protest outside
Corbyn said it was a manifesto written by billionaires. Corbyn needs to go after Johnson more, hold mass rallies open to all, and expose the fakery of Tory anti-establishment rhetoric.