May weighs consequences of dementia tax clanger

Against all the odds the British General Election is getting interesting: what looked like a shoo-in for Tory Theresa May against a divided and seemingly incompetent Labour Party suddenly isn’t so clear cut after all.

One of the hardest things to do in politics as well as sport is protecting a lead over a long period. In some sports it means that you can’t drop the ball. Which is exactly what May and her all-powerful “special advisers” have done with their “dementia tax,” a radical overhaul of paying for social care at home that seems to have taken most of her cabinet completely by surprise. It hasn’t dome much for Tory candidates on the doorstep either. The Tory lead in the opinion polls over Labour has been cut to nine points, not enough to deliver the landslide all the pundits expected.

May’s plan is that the value of people’s homes is taken into account when they’re being means tested for social care. So, In London for example, most home owners would have to shell out hundreds of thousands for such care. Even outside the capital £100,000 – at which point you top paying – wouldn’t buy very much.

If the plan is instituted in its current form it would be the biggest transfer of property wealth from individuals to the state since Attlee’s post war Labour government introduced death duties. And this from a supposed Tory.

So ball well and truly dropped. What will the notoriously stubborn May (although she’s not averse to changing her mind when it suits) do about it?

Even if she juggles the numbers it still means property value, after death in many cases, will be transferred to the state. So it’s a “death tax” too, hardly a vote winner either.

And it’s not just old folks, who may or may not have dementia, who’ll suffer. Their offspring, in many cases the people who the Tories are trying to help with a fairer division of wealth, will see their inheritance disappear. And most people, young or old, would rather not submit their money and hopes of a better future to the tender mercies of a government that can always find something on which to fritter away money. Like paying up to £100bn to exit the EU, for example.

May will try to move the agenda on this week, or, most likely, back to her “I’m better to handle Brexit” agenda. But voters are bored stiff with that.

Labours much-derided leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose campaign has been skilfully handled thus far, now has a big opportunity to really rattle the Tories. He’s still unlikely to win (although we all thought that about Donald Trump) but he has a number of policies (most notably keeping pensioner benefits and abolishing tuition fees – artfully targeting both ends of the age spectrum) which hold out the prospect of a rather more enticing life.

In contrast being bashed by Theresa doesn’t look like such a good idea – whatever her groupies at the Daily Mail and the Sun try to tell us.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

One comment

  1. I keep returning to the same points. How can a failing government hope to increase its share of the vote without offering voters something tangible in return.

    The Panama papers haven’t been opened up yet and it is still to be determined whether the Conservatives will fracture over brexit anyway.

    Labour is the only alternative. The manifesto represents the compromise that the gang of four should have remained in the party to achieve.