David Cameron doesn't see the health service or immigration as priorities. Photo: Getty
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David Cameron outlines Tory priorities – the NHS and immigration aren't included

The Prime Minister will make a speech today launching the first of six themes for the Conservative manifesto: the deficit.

In a speech today, David Cameron will launch the first of six core themes of the Conservatives' manifesto: the deficit. 

The six subjects that the Tories have chosen as their priorities reveal their reluctance to fight the election on other parties' turf. 

The themes that will dominate the Tory election campaign are:

 - The deficit

 - Jobs

 - Tax levels

 - Home ownership

 - Education

 - Retirement

Although the Westminster wisdom is that it is safer to fight elections on the battlegrounds your party is strongest on, and has the most weapons in its armoury for, the subjects not included in this list do stand out rather starkly.

The absence of focus on the health service is certainly something that will jar with an electorate to whom the NHS is precious and consistently popular, as well as with Cameron's political opponents. Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie MP, condemned the Tories' omission of the NHS, particularly in this tempestuous time for emergency departments: 

After a week when we've seen a Tory NHS crisis worsening day after day it's a staggering omission by David Cameron to fail to make the NHS one of his six themes.

As well as this, the lack of a mention of immigration shows up Cameron's rhetoric on the subject in his past year or so in office as rather hollow. Whispers last year of the Prime Minister's planned attempt to demand an "emergency brake" on EU migration to Britain, which never came to fruition, and Cameron's focus on curbing benefits to migrants as a half-hearted (and misguided) attempt to bring down the net migration level on which he so drastically missed his target late last year, have completely disappeared on his list of priorities.

Clearly he saw a crackdown on immigration as an important bit of rhetoric to counter Ukip, but the reality of the subject – along with Britain's EU membership, another sore topic that has been the cause of much Tory chattering and heartache during this parliament – is ultimately not one he feels the need to focus on. An editorial in today's Sun expresses disappointment about the fact that immigration won't feature on the Tories' key manifesto themes.

Upsetting the left, and the general public, by disregarding the health service, as well as riling the right, and again, the general public, by ignoring immigration, in his priorities will lead Cameron to face some awkward questions on his way to May.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.