Theresa May defends U-turn on upper limit to ‘dementia tax’
PM announces change after blaming ‘fake claims’ by Jeremy Corbyn on home care policy
British prime minister Theresa May: “I’ve seen the way that Jeremy Corbyn wants to sneak into Number 10 by playing on the fears of older and vulnerable people, and I’ve clarified what we will be putting in the green paper which I set out in the manifesto.” Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters
British prime minister Theresa May has defended a dramatic U-turn on one of the most important policy initiatives in her party’s manifesto, just four days after its publication.
“What I’ve done today is I’ve seen the scaremongering, frankly, that we’ve seen over the weekend. I’ve seen the way that Jeremy Corbyn wants to sneak into Number 10 by playing on the fears of older and vulnerable people, and I’ve clarified what we will be putting in the green paper which I set out in the manifesto,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Neil.
The Conservative manifesto last week said people needing care at home would have to fund it themselves until their assets, including the value of their home, fall below £100,000.
Opposition parties dubbed it the “dementia tax”, because those most affected would be people with long-lasting, debilitating conditions which render them unable to care for themselves. People receiving care would be allowed to remain in their home until their death, but the cost would be deducted from their estate.
With polls tightening sharply and Conservative candidates reporting hostility on the doorsteps towards the policy, the prime minister agreed to make a crucial change, introducing an upper limit on the sum anyone will have to pay for care in their lifetime.
Ms May announced the U-turn during a campaign event in North Wales on Monday morning, blaming “fake claims” by Mr Corbyn about the policy as it was outlined in the manifesto.
“The only things he has left to offer in this campaign are fake claims, fear and scaremongering. So I want to make a further point clear. This manifesto says that we will come forward with a consultation paper, a government green paper. And that consultation will include an absolute limit on the amount people have to pay for their care costs,” she said.
‘Strong and stable’
Opposition politicians and much of the media ridiculed the prime minister’s lack of resolve, contrasting it with her promise of “strong and stable” government. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband called her a liar.
“This isn’t just an incompetent non U-turn - it’s a lie. Nobody mentioned a cap because there wasn’t going to be one,” he said.
“This is now a character issue as well as a care issue. When PM says “nothing has changed” she is lying. If she lies about this, what else?”
The prime minister’s U-turn on social care came as polls continued to show the Conservatives’ lead over Labour shrinking. In Wales, a YouGov poll on Monday showed Labour storming back into the lead, with its support surging by nine points, while the Conservatives’ fell by seven.
In her interview with Andrew Neil on Monday evening, Ms May brushed off the polls, adding she had never taken the outcome of the election for granted. And she claimed that, despite her policy U-turn, she was best placed in a contest that would be about trust.
“I called an election on this whole issue of trust, because the question that people face is, who do they trust to take this country though the Brexit negotiations?
“Who do they trust to face up to the presidents, the prime ministers, the chancellors of Europe and the European Commission? Who do they trust to get the best deal for the UK? They have to decide, because it’s only going to be one of two people. It’s either me or Jeremy Corbyn,” she said.