So I had planned to whitter on about the 'dementia tax' in this post. And now this morning there has been a U-turn apparently.
I am not surprised the U-turn as come on the care side. At university in the early Nineties, I earned my beer money working on political surveys to analyse the membership demographics of the Conservative and Labour. parties It was a slog of a job because there was no technology for looking at the answers. So big thick surveys were posted out and then we all worked to code the answers by hand, reading each and every returned book. Various work came out of the projects but the main one about the Tories was a book called True Blues by Paul Whiteley, Patrick Seyd and Jeremy Richardson. My memory of the work is largely composed of continual amazement at the great age of most of the Tory members. Crabbed handwriting became our speciality.
And I don't think their demographic has really changed all that much. I don't propose to analyse the reasons for that - it is far too complicated for this little blog post. But I was amazed at the arrogance of the announcements last week. It really felt like the Tories were so over-confident of winning the election, they were prepared to finally say what they really though about social care, school dinners, etc. No tiptoeing required anymore. And no numbers to back anything up. Just 'this is how it is'.
For a key part of their core support though, care for the elderly is a huge issue - be it for themselves or for relatives who are already struggling to provide care. Free school dinners are also one of the few benefits which are not means tested. No matter how much tax you do or don't pay, your children are entitled to the meals.
Whilst I entirely agree with the arguments by Jamie Oliver and others about the future saving to the NHS from keeping our children healthy, I don't believe there will be a U-turn on school dinners. They don't want the NHS to be saved. They want it to creak slowly to its knees so they can say it is no longer fit for purpose. Neither will there be a change on university tuition fees. Because the Tories see no electoral benefit to themselves. They let the Liberals fall on that sword.
What needs to happen in these last weeks of campaigning, aside from encouraging people to actually use their votes? Well, I think we need to be talking about how policies will actually affect people. You may be safe for now from a 'dementia tax'. But you are only safe while the Prime Minister has taken it off the table in order to get your vote. Clearly, policy work has been done on this issue and a large Conservative majority will mean they could bring all sorts of things out of the cupboard in the next five years.
Voted Conservative all your life? Well, during most of this electorate's lifetime, there has been an NHS, social care, public funded education. Think about your life without those things. Your grandchildren losing free meals, your own future care uncertain, the NHS unavailable as you age. Your children working until they are seventy. Your grandchildren stressing about having to get into grammar school. Starts to look a bit different doesn't it? The last massive Tory majority privatised anything they could get their hands on. Now they want to get their hands on the last bastions of the post war consensus.
This is not about True Blue or True Red. This election is about the future of our services. It is not too late to make that decision.