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 senior writer at the New Statesman.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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