Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. In Egypt, we thought democracy was enough. It was not (Guardian)

Mohamed Morsi broke his promises to the Egyptian people, writes Ahdaf Soueif. He must go, and the revolution must continue.

2. British left is turning against Europe (Financial Times)

Labour is watching the social market become less social and more of a market, writes Janan Ganesh.

3. Labour's spending worked. Why don't they defend it? (Guardian)

Blair and Brown improved schools and hospitals and cut poverty – but never embedded this agenda in the national psyche, writes Polly Toynbee. 

4. Does Len McCluskey or Ed Miliband run Labour? (Times)

The Labour leader cannot let a trade union boss dictate who his MPs are, says Rachel Sylvester. He must show he’s in charge.

5. Mark Carney is hailed as a saviour – but what do we really know about him? (Guardian)

The new Bank of England governor's CV contains details that should give one pause – such as that decade spent in the Goldman Sachs shark pool, says Aditya Chakrabortty.

6. The Tories must beware these feelings of irrational exuberance (Daily Telegraph)

The polls are going the party’s way, but the odds remain stacked against a win in 2015, writes Benedict Brogan.

7. Will Ed win this EU battle, but lose the war? (Independent)

Without Labour or Lib Dem participation, the vote on a referendum this Friday will be a farce - but , eventually, Miliband must decide one way or the other, writes John Rentoul.

The most vociferous critics expected far more than a mere mortal could deliver, writes Gideon Rachman.

9. For-profit state schools should not be ruled out (Independent)

The focus must be on the quality of the service, not the mechanism by which it is provided, says an Independent editorial. 

10. Keep the rot from the system – give MPs a rise (Daily Telegraph)

Politicians should take a back seat on the issue of their pay, and leave it to Ipsa to decide, says Jack Straw.

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Theresa May's U-Turn may have just traded one problem for another

The problems of the policy have been moved, not eradicated. 

That didn’t take long. Theresa May has U-Turned on her plan to make people personally liable for the costs of social care until they have just £100,000 worth of assets, including property, left.

As the average home is valued at £317,000, in practice, that meant that most property owners would have to remortgage their house in order to pay for the cost of their social care. That upwards of 75 per cent of baby boomers – the largest group in the UK, both in terms of raw numbers and their higher tendency to vote – own their homes made the proposal politically toxic.

(The political pain is more acute when you remember that, on the whole, the properties owned by the elderly are worth more than those owned by the young. Why? Because most first-time buyers purchase small flats and most retirees are in large family homes.)

The proposal would have meant that while people who in old age fall foul of long-term degenerative illnesses like Alzheimers would in practice face an inheritance tax threshold of £100,000, people who die suddenly would face one of £1m, ten times higher than that paid by those requiring longer-term care. Small wonder the proposal was swiftly dubbed a “dementia tax”.

The Conservatives are now proposing “an absolute limit on the amount people have to pay for their care costs”. The actual amount is TBD, and will be the subject of a consultation should the Tories win the election. May went further, laying out the following guarantees:

“We are proposing the right funding model for social care.  We will make sure nobody has to sell their family home to pay for care.  We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay. And you will never have to go below £100,000 of your savings, so you will always have something to pass on to your family.”

There are a couple of problems here. The proposed policy already had a cap of sorts –on the amount you were allowed to have left over from meeting your own care costs, ie, under £100,000. Although the system – effectively an inheritance tax by lottery – displeased practically everyone and spooked elderly voters, it was at least progressive, in that the lottery was paid by people with assets above £100,000.

Under the new proposal, the lottery remains in place – if you die quickly or don’t require expensive social care, you get to keep all your assets, large or small – but the losers are the poorest pensioners. (Put simply, if there is a cap on costs at £25,000, then people with assets below that in value will see them swallowed up, but people with assets above that value will have them protected.)  That is compounded still further if home-owners are allowed to retain their homes.

So it’s still a dementia tax – it’s just a regressive dementia tax.

It also means that the Conservatives have traded going into the election’s final weeks facing accusations that they will force people to sell their own homes for going into the election facing questions over what a “reasonable” cap on care costs is, and you don’t have to be very imaginative to see how that could cause them trouble.

They’ve U-Turned alright, but they may simply have swerved away from one collision into another.  

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

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