LONDON – The United Kingdom’s prime minister unveiled her Conservative Party manifesto on Thursday ahead of the June 8 snap general elections that she called seeking a mandate ahead of the two-year Brexit negotiation period with the European Union.
Theresa May presented the policy document entitled “Forward, Together Our plan for a Stronger Britain and a Prosperous Future,” at a venue in Halifax, north England, to a crowd of Tory cabinet ministers, party members, and journalists.
“The Government I lead will provide strong and stable leadership to see us through Brexit and beyond: tackling the long-term challenges we face, and ensuring everyone in our country has the chance to get on in life,” May told the audience.
“We need that strong and stable leadership now more than ever,” she continued, reiterating one of the Tory campaign slogans.
In the manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to bring immigration numbers down to the tens of thousands, to make companies pay more for hiring migrant workers and make foreign workers contribute more to use the National Health Service.
The party, which has governed with a majority since 2015, promised to boost NHS spending by 8 billion pounds ($10.4bn) over the next five years and increase of 4bn pounds in schools in England by 2022, freeing up money in education by scrapping free school lunches currently on offer to infant pupils.
A ban on selective grammar schools would be lifted and a free parliamentary vote on the re-introduction of fox-hunting would be held.
The party also moved to alter the so-called triple-lock pension system, which protected pension rates against inflation, creating a double-lock system, which could see wealthier pensioners pay for part of their home call healthcare.
May described it as a difficult but necessary decision, but her opposition was quick to rally against that policy.
The leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who was currently campaigning to bridge the poll gap between himself and May, took to Twitter to write: “The Tories are ditching pensioners. They stand to lose the pension guarantee, winter fuel allowance & control of their homes.”
Tim Farron, of the social democratic Liberal Democrats and Nicola Sturgeon, of the Scottish National Party, both shared media online that criticized the pension plan.
Meanwhile, outside the venue, several protesters gathered and held banners opposing cuts, austerity and immigration measures.
May made a subtle reference to her opposition groups in the manifesto presentation speech: “There will be obstacles in our way. There will be some who wish us to fall short. Others who wish to hold us back. Many who will us to fail.”
She has previously said she called the election to overcome the parliamentary divisions over Brexit.
The manifesto reiterated the stance that the UK would leave the EU single market and maintained that no deal was better than a bad deal during the Brexit negotiations, indicating that negotiators would be willing to walk away with no ties to Brussels.
May, however, said in her speech that the UK would ideally seek a close relationship with the EU.
The document also said that no referendum on Scottish independence, which is backed by the SNP, could be held until after the UK was fully out of the EU.
The UK voted to leave the EU in the June 216 nationwide referendum, by a narrow margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.
Scotland and Northern Ireland, however, voted to remain and have since raised concerns about access to the single market.
Proposals for an independence vote in Scotland have already passed the first hurdle, having been voted through Edinburgh’s devolved parliament.