Conservative 2019 manifesto: what they promised vs what they’ve done

Boris Johnson with bull. This file is licensed under the United Kingdom Open Government Licence v3.0.

With so many leadership changes and policy U-turns, it is hard to keep track of the promises on which the Conservatives were elected to government in 2019. I have had a detailed look back at their 2019 manifesto; it’s hard for voters to have a clear line of accountability, with weekly “rebrands”, “resets”, and “relaunches”.

“The mandate my party earned in 2019 is not the sole property of one individual. The heart of that mandate is our manifesto,” Sunak said in his first speech as PM.

The pledge: “Debt will be lower at the end of the Parliament.”

The outcome: Debt will, in fact, be higher by any measure and even excluding pandemic borrowing

The pledge: “6,000 more GPs”.

The outcome: Looking at the full time equivalent, GPs increased by under 2,000, but only if you count trainees, which the RCGP advises against. Looking at fully qualified GPs, the number has actually gone DOWN by over 800.

The pledge: “We will build 40 new hospitals.”

The outcome: The Health Secretary admitted in 2023 that this will not happen. In 33 of the projects being ‘counted’, no work has actually begun. The National Audit Office reports that even by the “broad definition” used by government the target will be missed.

The pledge: To seek “cross-party consensus” on a long term solution to social care.

The outcome: Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Promises and proposals not taken forward. Hypothecated national insurance rise (which Sunak in 2022 called “the only responsible solution”) was reversed by Hunt in 2023.

The pledge: “We will invest in arts, music and sport.”

The outcome: Participation in such programmes down by 40 per cent. Funding to arts teaching cut by half. Creative higher education course funding down by half. 60 per cent of music hubs closed. Sport funding cut by a quarter.

The pledge: “We will conduct a comprehensive review on how to fix this issue.”

The outcome: After a review that took four years, Ombudsman recommended inadequate Level 6 compensation (£1k-£3k). Government says it needs time to consider the report. Not a penny has been paid.

The pledge: “We will reduce the number of reassessments a disabled person must go through.”

The outcome: In fact, government wants to scrap capability assessments altogether – replacing them with a system which even more stringent and cuts support.…

The pledge: Ten thousand more prison places, tougher sentencing, less early release.

The outcome: National Audit Office says the programme delivered 206 places. Government doubled down, promising 20 thousand new places by 2027, later admitting it will miss this. Prisons are 99.7 per cent full. So there are mass early releases…

The pledge: “There will be fewer lower-skilled migrants and overall numbers will come down.”

The outcome: Net migration numbers are roughly four times what they were in 2019. Government says that the cause is woke judges stopping it from sending 300 asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The pledge: “A key part of our plan to level up the UK’s cities and regions is to connect them.”

The outcome: Second leg of HS2 cancelled. TransPennine services reduced. Punctuality down. Journey numbers not back to pre-pandemic levels.

The pledge: “We intend to bring full fibre and gigabit- capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025.”

The outcome: The target was revised in 2020 to 85 per cent by 2025. In 2022, the target date was revised to 2030. Current figures are 60 per cent and 80 per cent.

The pledge: A ban on new leasehold homes and abolishing no fault evictions.

The outcome: Legislation was meant to come in three years ago has still not been published, but both pledges are thought to have been abandoned after backbencher pressure.

The pledge: “300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.”

The outcome: Annual number of net additional dwellings is lower than in 2019; bobbing along at about 75 per cent of the target currently. Government likely to achieve 1m in this parliament, however, since that is only 200k a year.

The pledge: “We are committed to reducing [Brexit] costs to small businesses.”

The outcome: The precise opposite. Brexit affected small and medium-sized businesses disproportionately. 90 per cent say it’s a drag on finances, 80 per cent report higher costs. And they’re about to be clobbered again by new import costs.

The pledge: To tackle tax fraud, create a single beefed-up unit, prosecute egregious examples.

The outcome: No such unit created (or mentioned since). Not a single firm has been charged under the new legislation. Only 2 per cent of Covid fraud had been clawed back at last report.

The pledge: “To maintain and strengthen our global position in higher education.”

The outcome: EU students down more than half. Student visas down 33 per cent. Post-graduate enrolments down 40 per cent. Several universities are looking at reducing places for loss-making UK students in order to survive.

The pledge: “We will encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default.”

The outcome: Prime minister attacking hybrid working. Jacob Rees-Mogg going around Whitehall pinning absence slips. Government forbidding councils from trialling different models.

The pledge: “The fastest ever increase in domestic public R&D spending” to a target of 2.4 per cent.

The outcome: Government was predicted to fall short, but ended up smashing its target, by – checks notes – changing how it’s calculated, which added around 40 per cent overnight (and retrospectively).

The pledge: “We will guarantee the current [pre-Brexit] annual budget to farmers.”

The outcome: Money budgeted but not spent, with farms losing up to 50 per cent of their subsidies. Government has slid 30 points in the polls in rural areas. Tractors are parked outside Westminster.

The pledge: To introduce an animal welfare bill that would do all sorts of lovely things.

The outcome: The bill was drafted and debated, at great expense, but it was ‘paused’ in 2022 amid grumblings of ‘wokeness’ from back benches, and finally quietly dropped in 2023.

The pledge: Set up an Office for Environmental Protection (OFP) to keep government on track in its green agenda.

The outcome: The OFP was set up but government has ignored its every report – from river pollution to air quality. OEP currently predicts Sunak will achieve 4 out of 40 targets

The pledge: To support North Sea oil and gas sector in transitioning to net zero.

The outcome: Green pledges rolled back amid international criticism. New drilling licenses granted. Chief of government’s own Climate Change Committee accuses Sunak of “wishful thinking” and resigns.

The pledge: To increase defence spending each year at 0.5 per cent above inflation.

The outcome: Boris Johnson dropped the “above inflation” bit in 2021. Department now faces a significant real terms cut, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicting it could be as much as 16 per cent.

The pledge: A free trade agreement with the USA.

The outcome: “Prospects of UK-US trade agreement, very low.”

And there you have it. Those were the individual pledges. All signed and ‘guaranteed’ and everything.

And all sitting under this overarching promise.

The pledge: “To serve you, the people.”

The outcome: LOLZ

We are grateful to Best for Britain for allowing us to reproduce Alex’s excellent thread. In the run up to the local and general elections, it is as well to remind ourselves of the truth of this government’s appalling track record before they spend millions on social media campaigns to persuade us that they have delivered.

NB: the original post substantiated claims with screenshots of the supporting evidence – acceptable in a social media context. We have been targeted by copyright ‘enforcement’ agencies and have decided not to use screenshots in our editions, however legitimate in ‘fair use’ terms. We cannot endure the attendant grief in financial or mental wellbeing terms.