Tories 'getting betrayal in early' on income tax and pensions pledges

Theresa May
Theresa May
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Tory ministers have signalled they are preparing a bonfire of 2015 manifesto pledges as Theresa May warns the result of next months election remains far from certain.

Key commitments on pensions, income tax and national insurance contributions look set to be scrapped, as Mrs May moves to unshackle herself from the costly policies of her predecessor.

Offering an insight into the 2017 Tory manifesto, Mrs May did confirm that she intends to uphold the party’s pledge to spend 0.7 percent of national income on foreign aid.

But her refusal to commit to a continuation of the pensions triple lock has led critics to suggest she is getting her “betrayal in early” before the campaign gets into full swing.

Addressing workers at a factory in her Maidenhead constituency yesterday, Mrs May adopted a much more cautious tone than in previous days.

Despite recent polls suggesting her party could sweep to victory with a 100 seat majority, she echoed the words of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as she claimed she was “not taking anything for granted”.

“The election campaign has only just begun... [and] the result is not certain,” she told staff.

“I’m going to be out and about campaigning across the whole of the United Kingdom and I’m going to be out and about campaigning and meeting people in all different communities across the United Kingdom.”

Mrs May also repeated her assertions that a Tory Government is the only option for voters who want stability throughout the Brexit process. Her party has a plan that will deliver a “stronger [and] more secure future”, she claimed.

She was then pressed on whether a future Conservative government would maintain the current 0.7 percent target of spending on foreign aid.

The 2015 manifesto pledge has been a subject of controversy in recent months, following a series of damning reports and repeated calls by Tory MPs for the target to be scrapped.

However, Mrs May revealed that she remains committed to the 0.7 percent figure. She said she was proud of the work the UK is doing abroad, before stressing the need to ensure the money is spent the most effective way”.

The Prime Minister was also asked whether older people can expect to see their pensions continue to rise, as they have done under the “triple lock” introduced by David Cameron.

She gave no indication that she intends to preserve her predecessor’s promised to keep the system in place until 2020, saying only: “We were very clear about the need to support people in their old age, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

The campaign event in the South East coincided with an interview by the Chancellor Philip Hammond in which he hinted at plans to scrap a pledge to freeze income tax, VAT and national insurance contributions.

Speaking to the BBC during a visit to the US, he said he would prefer to have more “flexibility” when it came to managing the economy.

“We do need flexibility to manage the system and we do need to make sure that Theresa May and her Government have a clear mandate to execute our plan,” he said. “But what we put in the manifesto will be decided in the next few days and we will publish that.”

Responding to the news, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell accused Mrs May of “abandoning older people”. It’s clear pensions protections are now in jeopardy,” he said.

Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael said the Tory leader was “getting [her] betrayal in early”. “This is May and Hammond admitting that the cupboard is bare thanks to their disastrous hard Brexit... You can’t have hard Brexit and a safe pension,” he added.