I have ploughed through it. That wasn’t a particularly enjoyable task, but I knew I owed it to my reader to do it.
So, what did I make of the Conservative Party (sorry, the “Theresa May and her Team”) manifesto?
It doesn’t contain much, or any, stirring rhetoric. It won’t put fire into the bellies of Tory canvassers. Liberty is dismissed as being an extremist notion. But so is Socialism. The overriding message is that Mrs May is firmly placed in the middle of British politics, she is a Heath not a Thatcher. Put aside the endless repetition of “strong and stable leadership” and what you are left with is a lengthy document devoted to the glories of state regulation. Pretty well every section contains a promise to have more regulation. The man, probably now the woman, in Whitehall knows best.
But what about the NHS? I read endless posts on Face Book from my slightly deranged (but delightful) left wing friends confidently asserting that Mrs May is committed to privatising the NHS. That allegation is, of course, always made against the Conservative Party in general election campaigns. It is made despite the fact that the Conservatives never give any suggestion of wanting to privatise the NHS and, when in government, never make any move of that sort. Well, the latest manifesto, yet again, makes it clear that the Tories are thoroughly committed to keeping the NHS exactly as it is (though with a bit more regulation of course). Lots more public money will be ploughed into it, but no attempt will be made to make it as efficient as the health services in the rest of the free world. In particular, Mrs May, like every other Conservative leader in recent decades, is sure that we can learn nothing from those countries who have better health services, free at the point of delivery, than ours. The Labour dream of a massive bureaucracy (largest employer in Europe) must never be brought to an end. Ah well, all those friends of mine will continue to say that the Tories are going to do something radical to the NHS. But, sadly (for patients), there is no hope of that.
There are a couple of things in the manifesto which must be welcomed. The repeal of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act is a thoroughly sensible proposal. And we must all agree, at least those of us who think a free press is a good thing, that the decision not to proceed to the next stage of the ludicrous Leveson inquiry and the promise to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 (which would force newspapers to subject themselves to state censorship or have to pay the legal costs of people who lose claims against them for libel) are excellent policies.
On the whole, the Tory manifesto is a very dull document. But I don’t think it is nearly as bad as it could have been. It will be tedious if Mrs May really goes ahead with her promise to increase red tape in every area of our lives. But we are used to that sort of thing. We will just sigh and put up with it. And we can be grateful that she hasn’t been tempted to nationalise lots of our industries as part of her campaign to make hers the party of the working classes.
The truth is, of course, that this election is really only about one thing: who can be most trusted to conduct the Brexit negotiations? We, the poor, long-suffering people of Britain, will, rightly, give that job to Mrs May, but the price we will have to pay is letting her bury us in red tape. I think it is probably worth paying that price. After all, in five years’ time, Mrs May will almost certainly find that her only hope of further electoral success will come from rediscovering Conservatism.