David Cameron holds aloft the Conservative 2015 manifesto. Photo: Getty
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The 23 most terrifying things in the Tory manifesto

Manifest-woe.

Did you have time to read the Tory manifesto in full before they snatched a majority from the jaws of constitutional chaos? No? Well, I've had a little read through, and here are some of the most unsettling proposals:

Claiming benefits is the "wrong thing"

"Under Labour, those who worked hard found more and more of their earnings taken away in tax to support a welfare system that allowed, and even encouraged, people to choose benefits when they could be earning a living. This sent out terrible signals: if you did the right thing, you were penalised – and if you did the wrong thing, you were rewarded, with the unfairness of it all infuriating hardworking people."

The welfare cap will be reduced to £23,000 per household. Regardless of the fairness of this, painting benefits claimants as doing "wrong" is pretty sinister.

Ruling out tax rises

“Commit to no increases in VAT, National Insurance contributions or Income Tax.”

They've even said they'd enshrine this in law. It would be silly to tax for ideology's sake (as some have accused Labour of wanting to do), but isn't it even less responsible to completely rule out a useful source of revenue? Particularly as the economy is so unpredictable?

No housing benefit for jobseekers

“It is also not fair that taxpayers should have to pay for 18-21 year-olds on Jobseeker’s Allowance to claim Housing Benefit in order to leave home. So we will ensure that they no longer have an automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit.”

That'll make it easier to work hard and get on in life, won't it?

Limiting strikes

"We will, in addition, tackle the disproportionate impact of strikes in essential public services by introducing a tougher threshold in health, education, fire and transport. Industrial action in these essential services would require the support of at least 40 per cent of all those entitled to take part in strike ballots – as well as a majority of those who actually turn out to vote."

Because if key workers who are teaching our children, saving our lives, taking us to work and nursing us back to health are sick of being shafted, we don't want to hear it.

Low pay can stay low

Only real terms rises in Minimum Wage: "The National Minimum Wage should rise to £6.70 this autumn, on course for a Minimum Wage that will be over £8 by the end of the decade."

And no incentive for businesses to pay the Living Wage: "We also support the Living Wage and will continue to encourage businesses and other organisations to pay it whenever they can afford it."

Bring back fox hunting

"We will protect hunting, shooting and fishing, for all the benefits to individuals, the environment and the rural economy that these activities bring. A Conservative Government will give Parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time."

Taking disability benefits away

"We are reassessing those on incapacity benefits so that help goes to those who really need it."

Keeping the net migration target, kind of

“Keep our ambition of delivering annual net migration in the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands.”

They've diluted it from "target" to "ambition" - either way it's futile.

Trying to use welfare to reduce immigration

"To reduce the numbers of EU migrants coming to Britain, we will end the ability of EU jobseekers to claim any job-seeking benefits at all. And if jobseekers have not found a job within six months, they will be required to leave."

Pointless, because less than 5 per cent of EU migrants are claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance, while less than 10 per cent are claiming other DWP working-age benefits.

Trying to use housing to reduce immigration

"We will introduce a new residency requirement for social housing, so that EU migrants cannot even be considered for a council house unless they have been living in an area for at least four years."

They've already denied them any housing benefit. Again, pointless, because there are similar levels of UK nationals and foreign-born people living in social housing, and the immigrant population is three times as likely to be in the private rental sector than their UK-born neighbours.

Landlords will have to check their tenants' immigration status

"We will implement the requirement for all landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants."

Because landlords can be trusted to do sensitive race-related work on behalf of the government.

Counting foreign students in the immigration numbers

"Across the spectrum, from the student route to the family and work routes, we will build a system that truly puts you, your family and the British people first."

International students coming to London alone contribute £2.3bn towards the economy. Go away, guys!

Arbitrary insistence on fluent English

"We will legislate to ensure that every public sector worker operating in a customer-facing role must speak fluent English."

How? Why?

Free schools anywhere

No regard for where free schools are needed: "deliver free schools for parents and communities that want them."

Let's fund the NHS, somehow

"Because of our long-term economic plan, we are able to commit to increasing NHS spending in England in real terms by a minimum of £8 billion over the next five years."

Ohhh, you're making the money for it from a slogan. Clever.

Threats to the BBC licence fee

"We will deliver a comprehensive review of the BBC Royal Charter, ensuring it delivers value for money for the licence fee payer, while maintaining a world class service and supporting our creative industries. That is why we froze the BBC licence fee and will keep it frozen, pending Charter renewal."

It's a goner.

Boundary review

"We will address the unfairness of the current Parliamentary boundaries, reduce the number of MPs to 600 to cut the cost of politics and make votes of more equal value... We will implement the boundary reforms that Parliament has already approved and make them apply automatically once the Boundary Commission reports in 2018. This will deal with the fact that the current electoral layout over-represents parts of the country where populations have been falling and under-represents parts where populations have been rising."

This could advantage the Tories by 10 seats or more.

No House of Lords reform

"While we still see a strong case for introducing an elected element into our second chamber, this is not a priority in the next Parliament."

The new party of working people, ladies and gentlemen.

No electoral reform

"We will respect the will of the British people, as expressed in the 2011 referendum, and keep First Past the Post for elections to the House of Commons."

Respect, distort - potato-potato.

Leave onshore windfarms up to NIMBYs

"We will end any new public subsidy for them and change the law so that local people have the final say on windfarm applications."

They want to "halt the spread" of onshore windfarms, in spite of the manifesto stating "Onshore wind now makes a meaningful contribution to our energy mix".

Scrapping the Human Rights Act

"The next Conservative Government will scrap the Human Rights Act, and introduce a British Bill of Rights. This will break the formal link between British courts and the European Court of Human Rights."

So which human rights are you scrapping, and which are you keeping?

Snoopers' Charter

"Our new communications data legislation will strengthen our ability to disrupt terrorist plots, criminal networks and organised child grooming gangs, even as technology develops. We will maintain the ability of the authorities to intercept the content of suspects’ communications, while continuing to strengthen oversight of the use of these powers."

Inheritance tax cut

"Take the family home out of Inheritance Tax for all but the richest by raising the effective threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1 million."

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Inside the progressive alliance that beat Zac Goldsmith in Richmond

Frantic phone calls, hundreds of volunteers, and Labour MPs constrained by their party. 

Politics for a progressive has been gloomy for a long time. On Thursday, in Richmond Park of all places, there was a ray of light. Progressive parties (at least some of them) and ordinary voters combined to beat Ukip, the Tories and their "hard Brexit, soft racist" candidate.

It didn’t happen by accident. Let's be clear, the Liberal Democrats do by-elections really well. Their activists flood in, and good luck to them. But Richmond Park was too big a mountain for even their focused efforts. No, the narrow win was also down to the fast growing idea of a progressive alliance. 

The progressive alliance is both a defensive and offensive move. It recognises the tactical weakness of progressives under first past the post – a system the Tories and their press know how to game. With progressive forces spilt between Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Women’s Equality Party and more – there is no choice but to co-operate, bring in proportional representation and then a whole new political world begins.

This move opens up the wider strategy – to end the domination of the City, and right-wing newspapers like the Mail, so Britain can have a real debate and make real choices about what sort of economy and society it wants. A pipedream? Well, maybe. But last night the fuse was lit in Richmond Park. The progressive alliance can work.

Months before the by-election, the pressure group for a progressive alliance that I chair, Compass, the Greens, and some Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP MPs and activists, began considering this. The alternative after Brexit was staring into the void.

Then the Tory MP Zac Goldsmith stepped down over Heathrow. To be fair, he had pledged to do this, and we should have been better prepared. In the event, urgent behind-the-scenes calls were made between the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. Compass acted as the safe house. The Greens, wonderfully, clung onto democracy – the local party had to decide. And they decided to stand up for a new politics. Andree Frieze would have been the Green candidate, and enjoyed her moment in the autumn sun. She and her party turned it down for a greater good. So did the Women’s Equality Party.

Meanwhile, what about Labour? Last time, they came a distant third. Again the phones were hit and meetings held. There was growing support not to stand. But what would they get back from the Liberal Democrats, and what did the rules say about not standing? It was getting close to the wire. I spent an hour after midnight, in the freezing cold of Aberdeen, on the phone to a sympathetic Labour MP trying to work out what the party rule book said before the selection meeting.

At the meeting, I am told, a move was made from the floor not to select. The London regional official ruled it out of order and said a candidate would be imposed if they didn’t select. Some members walked out at this point. Where was the new kinder, gentler politics? Where was membership democracy? Fast forward to last night, and the Labour candidate got less votes than the party has members.

The idea of a progressive alliance in Richmond was then cemented in a draughty church hall on the first Tuesday of the campaign – the Unitarian Church of course. Within 48 hours notice, 200 local activist of all parties and none had come together to hear the case for a progressive alliance. Both the Greens and Compass produced literature to make the case for voting for the best-placed progressive candidate. The Liberal Democrats wove their by-election magic. And together we won.

It’s a small victory – but it shows what is possible. Labour is going to have to think very hard whether it wants to stay outside of this, when so many MPs and members see it as common sense. The lurch to the right has to be stopped – a progressive alliance, in which Labour is the biggest tent in the campsite, is the only hope.

In the New Year, the Progressive Alliance will be officially launched with a steering committee, website and activists tool-kit. There will also be a trained by-election hit squad, manifestos of ideas and alliances build locally and across civil society.

There are lots of problems that lie ahead - Labour tribalism, the 52 per cent versus the 48 per cent, Scottish independence and the rest. But there were lots of problems in Richmond Park, and we overcame them. And you know, working together felt good – it felt like the future. The Tories, Ukip and Arron Banks want a different future – a regressive alliance. We have to do better than them. On Thursday, we showed we could.

Could the progressive alliance be the start of the new politics we have all hoped for?

Neal Lawson is the Chair of Compass, the pressure group for the progressive alliance.

Neal Lawson is chair of the pressure group Compass, which brings together progressives from all parties and none. His views on internal Labour matters are personal ones.