Theresa May has signalled that she will ditch Conservative pledges not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT, as well as the triple-lock formula for state pension increases.
The prime minister was unable to promise that any of the commitments would continue, just two years after the ‘tax lock’ formed a central plank of David Cameron’s 2015 election campaign.
On BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, in her first long TV interview of the election campaign, the prime minister was pressed about whether the Conservatives would keep their pledge not to raise the three key taxes.
She claimed to have “absolutely no plans to increase the level of tax” and an intention to lower taxes on working families.
But she added: “I don’t want to make specific pledges on taxes unless I’m sure I can deliver on those.”
May was in a similar position when asked about the triple lock on state pensions – a promise that it would rise by a minimum of either 2.5%, the rate of inflation or average earnings growth, whichever is largest. Labour has promised to keep the guarantee.
In a signal that it is to be dropped, potentially to pay for more social care funding, the prime minister said the state pension would continue to rise every year but “exactly how we calculate that rise” was for the manifesto.
She suggested that there could be a comprehensive shakeup of social care funding, saying the government had to deal with “long-term issues about the ageing population”.
On the EU, May was tackled about reported comments from Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, that she was “living in another galaxy” when it came to her demands for trade talks before an exit bill of up to £50bn a year was settled.
May denied this was the case: “I’m not in a different galaxy but what this shows is that there are going to be times when these negotiations are going to be tough; we need strong and stable leadership.”
She was also tackled by Marr over her use of soundbites and slogans, but the prime minister continued to use her favoured phrase about showing “strong and stable leadership”.
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said it was wrong for May to drop the triple-lock and he did not want to see pensioner incomes go backwards.
He also told ITV’s Peston on Sunday that Labour would pledge not to raise VAT and there would be no tax rises for middle or low earners.