Theresa May’s social care policy is seen as not “fair” by likely Tory voters who took part in the latest HuffPost UK-Edelman general election focus group.
The prime minister on Monday performed an unprecedented u-turn when she said the Conservative Party would introduce a cap on how much people had to pay for care.
Her manifesto, released just four days earlier, did not include a cap. The original policy had been branded a “dementia tax” by critics.
The nine former Lib Dem voters in the traditionally three-way marginal of Watford, all of whom said they planned to vote Tory on June 8, raised the social care policy when asked what had caught their eye so far during the campaign.
On the basis of the focus group, the row over the social care policy does appear to have cut through to voters.
Van, a laboratory technician with two step children in their twenties, raised the u-turn. “They changed their tune about it. They have changed their tune because so many people were up in arms,” he said.
Lindsay, who works part time at a soft furnishing company and has three children, referred to the policy as a “dementia tax” unprompted.
“I don’t like the policy at all,” she said. “I have worked so hard. My house, I want my children to benefit from it.
“I paid taxes all my life, as my husband has. Surely that should sort it out. My dad’s got Alzheimer’s. I know what a long illness that can be. He is at home still thankfully. And he wants to do everything in his power to stay at home.
“My house is for my kids when I’m gone. Not for the government. Sorry. I have given them every thing else. I have sweated tears.”
Mel, a team leader for a retail company with two children in their twenties, added: “It doesn’t seem fair does it.”
John A said the Conservatives appeared to be punishing people for having illnesses that were not their fault. “You don’t get it [dementia] though irresponsible lifestyle,” he said.
Fiona, a part time project manger for a telecoms company with two young children, agreed: “It’s not self inflicted. It doesn’t seem fair.”
Tony, who used to work in a university and has three grown up children, said the state of social care in the UK was “failure of the political parties across the spectrum” as well as the civil service. “We have known about the demographics. It’s no surprise this was likely to be happen. It’s a management failure yet again of the political class”.
He added it was “duplicity” to not put a figure on what the cap would be and “hoping it will go away” as an election issue.
And Gloria, a customer service adviser with two children at university, was suspicious of the u-turn.
“They still haven’t put a number on that cap. They haven’t finished it. I think it was clever wording,” she said.
Many of the group said the decision to make a u-turn on the policy showed the Conservatives were responding to what voters wanted.
“It can either be they haven’t got their finger on the pulse of what the public are feeling. But you could also argue the u-turn meant they did actually listen to the reaction,” he said.
John B added: “I think u-turns used to be seen as weak but I don’t believe they are seen as week as they used to be.”
And he suggested the Tories had included “bad things” their manifesto because the party believed it was so far ahead of Labour.
He said: “I thought that was quite brave of the Conservatives. But I think that’s because they know they are in such a strong position they potentially can get away with two or three bad things at the moment.”
However in a warning for May, he added the social care policy had made him less enthusiastic about voting Conservative. “I would like to wait a bit longer before I do my postal vote of whatever it is. Maybe I’m sitting on it for a bit,” he said.
Yesterday a YouGov poll for The Times showed the Tory lead had been slashed to just five points. The survey showed the Conservatives were ahead on 43%, but Labour was up to 38%.
HuffPost UK is looking at voters’ priorities outside the hubbub of the election campaign trail and what they want beyond March 29, 2019, not just June 8, 2017. Beyond Brexit leaves the bubble of Westminster and London talk to Britons left out of the conversation on the subjects they really care about, like housing, integration, social care, school funding and air qualityThe members of the focus group,
NOTE: This focus groups was made up of people aged 35-70 from social grade BC1 who voted Lib Dem in 2010 and are likely to vote Tory on June 8. It was conducted on Thursday 25 May.
John A and John B have been given invented surname initials to distinguish them from each other.