The Conservatives are holding their party conference in Manchester. It comes almost two years after Boris Johnson won the 2019 general election, a few months before the pandemic hit.
‘Delivering 50,000 more nurses and 6,000 more doctors’
The Conservatives promised this for England by March 2025.
The latest figures show there were 310,251 full-time equivalent NHS nurses and health visitors in June 2021. While that is up 14,158 since December 2019, it still leaves 35,842 full-time equivalent posts to fill over the next three-and-a-half years.
And if you exclude trainees and locums (doctors who temporarily fill a rota gap or who are not yet fully qualified), GP numbers have actually fallen by 255 since December 2019.
By either measure, an increase of 6,000 is a long way off.
‘20,000 more police’
The Conservatives promised this for England and Wales by March 2023.
The latest figures, up to 30 June 2021, show an extra 9,814 police officers recruited. This is compared with 31 March 2019, the baseline the Home Office uses to track the 20,000 target.
With fewer than two years until the deadline, it appears the government is on course to reach this target.
But critics continue to point to the fact this does not compensate for the 20,545 officer reduction between March 2010 and March 2019 – under Conservative governments.
‘Get Brexit done’
This promise was certainly achieved in a literal sense, as the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020.
Britain departed from the EU’s single market and customs union 11 months later, after agreeing a basic free trade deal with its neighbours.
But if the slogan implied Brexit would be done and dusted, this has clearly not happened.
From food exporters to musicians who want to tour Europe, many people are still struggling to deal with new bureaucracy.
And severe labour shortages in a number of industries have roots in the decision to cut ties with the EU.
A large number of trade deals have been signed around the world to replace the ones the UK had in Europe, but the promise of a quick deal with the United States hasn’t happened.
Supporters of Brexit say sovereignty has been restored, and unwanted regulations can now be cut. But taking back control is still a work in progress.
‘An Australian-style points-based system to control immigration’
EU citizens wishing to live and work in the UK now have to apply via a points-based system (PBS), the same as citizens from the rest of the world.
A visa is awarded if an applicant qualifies for a certain number of points. Having a job offer from an approved employer for a skilled job and being able to speak English provides 50 points, for example.
Before Brexit, these reforms were not possible because the UK was part of the EU single market, which gives citizens the freedom to live and work in all EU countries.
But the PBS is in place, as promised.
‘We will keep the triple lock’
This decides how much the state pension increases each year, depending on which one of these is highest:
- CPI inflation (the rate at which prices are rising as measured by the Consumer Price Index)
- average wages
- or 2.5%
It was introduced in 2010, and the 2019 Conservative manifesto said it would stay for the duration of this Parliament.
It said the unique situation of the pandemic justified the move.
At the start of pandemic, many people were placed on furlough, which meant they were earning less.
Now, as people come off it and return to full pay, this has been recorded as a large rise in average earnings – up 8.3% between May and July compared with a year ago, according to the Office for National Statistics. Under the triple lock, this would have meant a big rise in the state pension.
‘We will proudly maintain our commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on development’
This promise has been broken.
The UK’s annual aid budget has been reduced to 0.5% of GNI (gross national income) – a cut of about four billion pounds.
Again, the government blamed the pandemic – saying it had inflicted “immense” damage on the economy and cutting aid spending would help restore the public finances.
It says the 2015 legislation, which introduced the 0.7% target, refers to “fiscal circumstances” which governments may refer to, if they fail to meet it.
Spending will return to 0.7%, the government says, but only when:
- the government is not borrowing money for day-to-day spending
- underlying debt is falling as a percentage of national income
But some MPs have questioned when these tests will be met.
‘We promise not to raise the rates of income tax, National Insurance or VAT’
The promise on National Insurance (NI) has been broken.
NI is a tax paid by workers on their earnings and on the profits of self-employed workers. Employers also pay extra NI contributions for staff.
In September, the government announced that these groups will pay 1.25p more NI in the pound from April 2022.
A proportion will then be moved into the social care system over the next three years.
Defending the NI rise, Mr Johnson said the extra money would help with “catastrophic [care] costs faced by millions of people up and down the country”.
‘We will lead the global fight against climate change by delivering on our world-leading target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050’
Net zero is the point at which the country is taking as many climate-changing gases out of the atmosphere as it is putting into it.
The government has already taken some action, like continuing the move away from the use of coal and towards renewable energy. The sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030.
It has also set a target of reducing emissions (from 1990 levels) by 78% by 2035.
The independent Climate Change Committee welcomed the pledges but questioned their delivery. It says the government has “credible policies” in place to deliver only about a fifth of this cut.