Have you ever been to one of those meetings where everyone is told to come up with their ideas to solve a particular problem? People start coming up with solutions off the top of their heads. Most ideas are stupid, but occasionally someone comes up with something that sounds great. It is then discussed in depth. After this process you are either left with something workable, or you have spotted holes in the plan that mean it wasn’t that great an idea after all.
Something like this should have happened when the Conservative Party was formulating its manifesto. If it had, the new social care proposals wouldn’t have made the final cut.
I am not alone in thinking that the solution put forward in the Conservative manifesto has merit, but having thought about it, and having talked to others about it, I can see it is a non-starter.
As a politically astute friend pointed out to me, there isn’t a mention of those people who leave behind a spouse. What if the widowed spouse then remarries? What about people who may live in a home that is owned by a limited company where a husband and wife are the only two directors? What about those who choose equity release schemes to help fund their retirement? Will that been then seen as an unacceptable form of tax avoidance?
Those questions are just the tip of a dangerous iceberg for Theresa May. You would have thought that someone would have mentioned these potential pitfalls when the policy was being drafted. Nick Timothy should have been challenged. The mess that has ensued highlights that he was not.
The U-turn announced on Monday only helped muddy the waters even more. With a straight face, Theresa May then tried to convince the assembled journalists that it was always the plan to have a cap in the amount paid for care. She then bizarrely tried to blame Jeremy Corbyn for her failure to communicate the policy effectively, and got visibly angry when she realised that no-one was believing her.
I wrote last week that it was because of hubris that she called the most pointless press conference where she thought she would get another bite of the cherry to attack Labour’s manifesto. But the journalists who had wasted their time attending the press conference had other ideas. They were going to get a story one way or another, so they asked her, with the Chancellor stood at her side, whether or not he would still be Chancellor after the election – should she win, of course. Her failure to confirm Philip Hammond’s future job prospects was the political story of the day.
I suspect once again that it was hubris – the thought that she was going to win this election regardless – that made her announce a flagship policy that had been devised on the back of an envelope.
Will that decision cost her the election? I very must doubt it, but even if you dismiss the latest poll that has the Conservative lead over Labour down to five per cent, unless the Conservatives can really hammer home Jeremy Corbyn’s unsuitability to become PM on defence and security grounds, that landslide that looked nailed on a couple of weeks ago, will be a distant memory.
She may even struggle to get a decent working majority.