Confident of victory, the Conservatives didn’t bother to cost their manifesto. On education and social care, this has already been an expensive mistake.
As any politicians knows, there is only one way of avoiding that nightmare moment in Nick Ferrari’s studio when he keeps asking questions you can’t answer about the costs of your policy commitments: don’t put them in in the first place. Every politician would like to do this, but only the Conservatives were arrogant enough actually to try it. Labour and the Lib Dems published their own versions of the budget book with detailed costings for all their manifesto pledges. The Tory plan was to brief out a little detail and settle back to enjoy watching Labour squirm on the hook of the spendthrift reputation that the Tories themselves had crafted for it in the run-up to the 2010 election.
The Conservative manifesto is empty of costings; austerity is not mentioned, as far as I can see, at all. Theresa May’s determination to reinvent her party for the Brexit era does not mean there won’t be austerity – there will, and it will be worse than ever – it’s just that as a concept it is part of the identity of the old regime. It has no place in the armoury of the stout new party of the worker. May – and her chancellor Philip Hammond – with understandable caution about the economic consequences of Brexit, are determined to go on squeezing public spending. That may be one reason for the catastrophic lurch into an un-worked-out policy for paying for social care, which may yet be seen to have scuppered the Tory landslide.