Boris Johnson launches Conservative manifesto with 50,000 nurses pledge

Boris Johnson has launched a restrained manifesto that promises only £2.9bn extra in public spending a year by the end of the next parliament against £83bn a year outlined by Labour.

Appearing in Telford in the West Midlands, the prime minister said his aims were not just to “get Brexit done” but to “level up across the country” by improving the NHS, schools and police.

However, the scale of his extra spending on public service was revealed as modest by a costings document published alongside the slim 60-page manifesto. It said an additional £1.5bn would be spent on public services next year, £2.8bn the year after and £2.9bn in 2022 and 2023.

The scale of spending ambitions between the two parties is stark: for every pound the Conservatives have pledged to spend by the end of the next parliament, Labour has promised £28.

The £83bn a year promised by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell would cover priorities such as a huge increase in NHS funding, the scrapping of tuition fees, an expansion of free childcare and further school funding.

It emerged after the manifesto launch that Johnson’s most eye-catching pledge – to deliver 50,000 nurses in the NHS – counted 19,000 nurses already working whom the Tories say would be “retained” and would otherwise have left the profession.

Party manifesto spending pledges

The manifesto’s flagship item was a promise not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT. However, it was light on detail in a number of areas, with little promised to solve social care problems beyond an extra £1bn a year and the desire to seek a cross-party consensus.

A promise that no one should have to lose their house to pay for care in old age is designed to head off the difficulties Theresa May had with her social care policy in 2017, which was branded a “dementia tax”. However, the absence of a solution to replace May’s policy will raise questions about how Johnson plans to deal with the crisis.

Other major policies confirmed in the manifesto include:

A pledge to increase police officer numbers by 20,000.

A rise in the national insurance threshold to £9,500 next year with an ultimate ambition of £12,500.

An extra £2bn to fix potholes in roads.

An expansion of free childcare to parents of three- and four-year-olds in the school holidays, and:

An end to the Fixed-term Parliament Act that means each government serves for five years.

Pressed about the contrast in the scale of Tory and Labour spending plans, Johnson said he was ambitious about improving public services but it was “true that we are doing it in a sensible way”.

On capital spending, the Conservatives said they would loosen their fiscal rules to allow more borrowing for infrastructure projects, such as roads and flood defences, and research and development.

The Tories plan to spend £3.2bn next year, rising to £8bn by the end of the next parliament.


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