Theresa May signals Tory ‘tax lock’ pledge will be ditched

Prime minister also suggested shake-up of social care funding amid ageing population

BBC presenter Andrew Marr interviewing Theresa May on Sunday. Voters go the polls on June 8th. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC

BBC presenter Andrew Marr interviewing Theresa May on Sunday. Voters go the polls on June 8th. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC

 

Theresa May has signalled that she will ditch Conservative pledges not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT, as well as the triple-lock formula for state pension increases.

The British prime minister was unable to promise that any of the commitments would continue, just two years after the “tax lock” formed a central plank of David Cameron’s 2015 election campaign.

On BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, in her first long TV interview of the election campaign, the prime minister was pressed about whether the Conservatives would keep their pledge not to raise the three key taxes.

She claimed to have “absolutely no plans to increase the level of tax” and an intention to lower taxes on working families.

But she added: “I don’t want to make specific pledges on taxes unless I’m sure I can deliver on those.”

May was in a similar position when asked about the triple lock on state pensions – a promise that it would rise by a minimum of either 2.5 per cent, the rate of inflation or average earnings growth, whichever is largest. Labour has promised to keep the guarantee.

In a signal that it is to be dropped, potentially to pay for more social care funding, Mrs May said the state pension would continue to rise every year but “exactly how we calculate that rise” was for the manifesto.

She suggested that there could be a comprehensive shake-up of social care funding, saying the government had to deal with “long-term issues about the ageing population”.

On the EU, May was tackled about reported comments from Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, that she was “living in another galaxy” when it came to her demands for trade talks before an exit bill of up to £50 billion a year was settled.

Tough negotiations

May denied this was the case: “I’m not in a different galaxy but what this shows is that there are going to be times when these negotiations are going to be tough; we need strong and stable leadership.”

She was also tackled by Marr over her use of soundbites and slogans, but the prime minister continued to use her favoured phrase about showing “strong and stable leadership”.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said it was wrong for May to drop the triple-lock and he did not want to see pensioner incomes go backwards.

He also told ITV’s Peston on Sunday that Labour would pledge not to raise VAT and there would be no tax rises for middle or low earners.

Meanwhile, a new report has suggested that a Conservative landslide in the upcoming general election would see the Labour party concentrated almost exclusively in cities, with a quarter of its MPs based in London constituencies and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters more likely to retain seats than those who have opposed the Labour leader. A Labour party reduced by 100 seats – a pessimistic scenario – would see the party mainly representing inner cities and the most deprived areas, with the West Midlands losing two-thirds of its MPs.

The analysis by Policy Network, the centrist think-tank headed by Peter Mandelson, also found that in the case of serious losses in the polls on June 8th, Labour would hold just four seats in areas with lower-than-average levels of deprivation, down from 21. Around 60 per cent of the party’s MPs are currently based in major towns or cities. Were Labour to lose 100 of its most vulnerable seats, the party’s number of rural seats would halve, from eight to four. The research also found that the more seats Labour lose in the upcoming election, the greater the proportion of Jeremy

Corbyn’s supporters in the parliamentary Labour Party would be. Were Labour to lose 100 seats, the number of MPs who have voiced discontent with the leadership would be reduced by half, from 175 to just 92.

–Guardian Service