If Theresa May does not get the result she wants at the general election, yesterday will be the moment that analysts will say signalled the obvious turning point.
May announced a juddering U-turn on her party’s social care policy. Announced last Thursday as the centrepiece of the manifesto launch, it had proved so unpopular and so impossible to defend that it had to be changed.
There is now going to be consultation, and a cap on social care costs, May explained. Yet precisely these measures had been ruled out on Friday by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Appearing on Radio 4’s Today programme, Hunt said the Tories were dropping plans for such a cap and that their manifesto was “explicit” about dropping it.
Veteran election expert Sir David Butler tweeted, “In the 20 general election campaigns I’ve followed, I can’t remember a U-turn on this scale.”
“Strong and stable” cannot seriously be used again as May’s election slogan.
The Tories’ campaign has been in some trouble for days. The Labour manifesto was popular, the Tory one staggeringly cruel and yet also inept.
More and more people distrust May for her evasiveness and her arrogant refusal to debate.
The gap between the Tories and Labour in the opinion polls has been closing. Forecasts of “landslide victory” have looked less likely.
But now the Tories are in retreat. It feels it could turn into a rout if enough pressure is applied.
And it all comes just as 8 million postal ballots are going out.
While Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is speaking to audiences of thousands every day, May remains in her bunker trying to justify the unjustifiable, and her aides are reduced to smears about Corbyn.
Even yesterday’s U-turn won’t take the heat off the Tories’ dementia tax. Soon they will have to say what the level of the cap on social care costs for individuals will be—and who will pay for care if those directly suffering do not.
Will it mean more tax for ordinary workers? And how can that be justified when the richest 1,000 people in Britain are now worth £658 billion and saw their wealth rise £83 billion last year?
In addition, if the Tories can be moved on this, the lesson is that more pressure can make them drop the plans for the means testing of pensioners’ winter fuel allowance and free school meals.
One sign of the shift that’s taking place came in a poll of Welsh voters which showed a massive 16-point shift in support towards Labour.
A poll two weeks ago showed Welsh Labour trailing the Tories, but a stunning reversal now puts Labour 10 points ahead.
Labour is on 44 per cent, up 9 percentage points on two weeks ago and the Tories on 34 per cent, down 7 percentage points.
It is far too early to say May is finished. The Tories are still in the lead.
But there is now real hope.
More radicalism, more insurgent campaigning can add 8 June 2017 to the list of extraordinary election results in an era when the traditional political answers no longer fit.
The point is not to spectate, it is to shape the result by action
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