General Election 2017: Polls narrow after Conservative social care clamp down "jolts" voters

 
Oliver Gill
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The Liberal Democrats Hold Their Annual Party Conference
Former pensions minister Steve Webb said the Tories could quietly row back on social policy pledges (Source: Getty)

Prime Minister Theresa May today came under pressure for a manifesto pledge to clamp down on elderly social care spending as opinion polls indicated the Conservative lead has narrowed since the plan was revealed.

The Conservatives have had their lead cut to nine points according to a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times. May’s party has 44 per cent of the vote with Labour on 35 per cent, a lead that has halved in the past week.

The Tories have pledged to shake-up social care for the elderly in their manifesto. People needing care at home would have to meet the costs, but could keep the first £100,000.

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Former pensions minister Steve Webb said: “On social care, it is this jarring between what voters thought the Conservatives were – the party home ownership, the party of inheritance – and a policy that feels like it’s going the other direction.

I think that is going to have jolted a few older voters. That doesn't make them Corbynites but it might make them less likely to vote at all.

Work and pensions secretary Damian Green told the BBC yesterday the Conservatives would not change their mind despite the latest polls.

Webb added: “I do wonder whether there’s a chance they will row back a bit on that. Soften it, promise to consult or phase it in.”

Meanwhile Institute for Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson called the Conservative social care move an “odd thing to have gone so big on”.

Topsy-turvy

Another Conservative manifesto promise, to means test pensioners winter fuel allowance, was countered by the Labour today. Jeremy Corbyn’s party promised to keep it in place alongside free bus passes and committing to the state pension triple lock.

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Pensions expert Tom McPhail said: “Labour are taking some bold positions here, which will no doubt be popular with older voters. However many independent observers have argued that the triple lock has done its job and should now be abandoned."

“We’re in a topsy-turvy political world, where Labour are proposing to preserve the Winter Fuel Allowance for even the wealthiest pensioners while the Conservatives plan to take a leaf out of Gordon Brown’s play-book and start means-testing it.”

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