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Johnson Pledges NHS Boost to Fend-Off Labour Attacks: U.K. Votes

Greg Ritchie and Kitty Donaldson

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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to neutralize attacks by the opposition Labour Party by pledging to recruit 50,000 nurses and promising the National Health Service will not be “on the table” in post-Brexit trade talks. He also said his Conservatives won’t raise income tax, value-added tax or national insurance rates as he unveiled his program for government.

The Tories hold a double-digit lead in most opinion polls heading into the Dec. 12 general election, and one analysis suggests the party will win a 48-seat majority in the House of Commons.

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Key Developments:

Tories unveil manifesto, including pledge not to raise several key taxes; the party is set to win 48-seat majority, study suggestsLabour promise compensation for women affected by changes to retirement age brought in by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the early 2010sLiberal Democrats say their chances have been hit by Brexit Party decision not to stand in Conservative-held seatsRead more: U.K. Tory Party Says Capital Spending Plans Won’t Exceed Revenue

Corbyn: It’s a Manifesto for Billionaires (4 p.m.)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dismissed the Conservative manifesto as a promise of continued uncertainty, cuts and failure. He said Johnson “can’t be trusted” to deliver on the promises he made.

“Boris Johnson has launched a manifesto for billionaires. They bought it and you’ll pay for it,” Corbyn said in an email. “After a decade of the Conservatives cutting our NHS, police and schools, all Boris Johnson is offering is more of the same: more cuts, more failure, and years more of Brexit uncertainty.”

The Labour leader highlighted the needs of older people, a crucial voting demographic, who he said “face a triple whammy as he has failed to protect free TV licences for over 75s, refused to grant justice to women unfairly affected by the increase in the state pension age, and not offered a plan or extra money to fix the social care crisis.”

IFS Critical of Triple Tax Lock (3:45 p.m.)

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said he was “disappointed” in the Conservative’s commitment to not raise income tax, VAT or national insurance.

“It’s tying the hands of the chancellor for the next five years in terms of the most obvious increases you could put into place if you wanted to transparently raise more money,” he said, before adding he expects there will be tax increases in other areas.

He also said the 33.9 billion pounds investment in the NHS should not be considered the biggest boost ever made to the health service, as claimed by the prime minister.

“In cash terms it’s broadly true,” Johnson said. “But in real terms when you take into account spending is a lot higher than it was in the past, it’s not such a big increase. It’s a substantial increase, the biggest we’ve seen over the last 10 years, but it’s not in line with the average the NHS got in the 40 or 50 years before that.”

Tory Plan for Extra Nurses to Cost 800 million (3:15 p.m.)

Training to deliver the 50,000 extra nurses promised by the Conservatives will cost around 800 million pounds a year, a Tory spokesman said. Students will also receive a maintenance grant of between 5,000 and 8,000 pounds each year during their course, according to the manifesto.

The 50,000 figure will be made up of about 19,000 newly trained nurses and 12,500 hired from abroad, the official said, with the remainder coming from staff retention.

Johnson Pledges to Protect Hospital in Target Seat (3 p.m.)

Boris Johnson left the hall in Telford to a standing ovation from supporters. During the question and answer session with reporters, the prime minister committed to keeping the accident and emergency department at the local hospital open. It’s a sign of how key this seat is, with the Tory MP Lucy Allan holding the constituency by only 720 votes, as Labour make it one of its key targets to rob Johnson of a parliamentary majority.

Johnson Denies Knowledge of Twitter Fact Check (2:50 p.m.)

Boris Johnson was asked to respond to a stunt by the Tories during Tuesday’s ITV debate with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, when the Conservatives changed their official Twitter account name to FactCheck U.K. -- to pose as an independent fact-checking website.

Johnson claimed to know nothing about it, despite there being massive furore at the time. He then claimed Labour is running a similar account. “The Twittersphere is not really my province,” he said. “But I’m informed Labour have some sort of operation that is very similar.”

Johnson Says He Still Wants Tax Cuts (2:40 p.m.)

Boris Johnson insisted his Conservative Party’s plan for government doesn’t mean he’s opposed to cutting taxes.

“I haven’t lost any of my tax-cutting zeal,” he said. “I believe in cutting taxes where you can. That’s why we’re cutting taxes on national insurance.” He said that “at this time” it is right to focus his tax cuts on people who need them most.

Pressed on whether his new fiscal rules risk damaging his party’s economic credibility, Johnson said his spending plans are sensible. “This is a new government, it’s a very active government, it’s a very dynamic and positive government,” he said.

“Now is the time to invest in our public services -- in education, in the NHS and in infrastructure -- but to do it in a way which maintains the long term prosperity of the U.K. economy.”

Johnson: Brexit Will Restore Trust (2:35 p.m.)

Boris Johnson took a swipe at MPs for preventing him from meeting his “do-or-die” Oct. 31 deadline to leave the EU. “We are working very hard to secure a working majority and get a Parliament that works for the people of this country,” he said.

He said the biggest issue of this election is whether the public can trust politicians, and delivering on the 2016 referendum is the way to prove they can.

“Parliament did vote to stop us leaving the EU the way I wanted on Oct. 31,” he said. “That was the decision taken by Mr Corbyn, Jo Swinson and the Scottish nationalists. We have a deal to do this now.”

Johnson Attacks Corbyn on Brexit, Business (2:25 p.m.)

Boris Johnson attacked Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s new policy of remaining neutral on the referendum he has promised on any new Brexit deal negotiated with the EU.

“We don’t yet know of any Labour MP -- or indeed any MP -- who will support this deal,” he said, adding voters don’t even know if Corbyn would.

Johnson also said the polices of Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell would result in higher taxes and poorer economic performance for the U.K..

Brexit at Heart of Manifesto (2:15 p.m.)

Johnson’s campaign phrase of “Get Brexit Done” is emblazoned on the front of the Conservative manifesto. Look inside to the first page there are guarantees he will get his deal through Parliament, secure extra funding for the NHS and bring in an Australian-style points-based visa system -- if he gets elected with a majority.

“Our manifesto presents an agenda for government characterized by the energy, the optimism, the ambition the prime minister is famous for,” Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly said in a speech introducing Johnson at the launch.

Tories Set Out Plans for Trade Deals (2:10 p.m.)

Boris Johnson’s Conservatives said they would get his Brexit deal through Parliament by Christmas as they set out their plans for a post-Brexit Britain. The party would not extend the implementation period beyond December 2020, the party’s manifesto said.

The party would also be prepared to walk away from any future trade talks if they are “not in the national interest,” while seeking market access for British business and lowering the cost of trade, the document said.

Pledging to “drive a hard bargain” in trade talks, the Tories also plans to defend the nation from dumping and other anti-competitive practices, they said. Rebutting Labour’s claim that any trade deal will involve selling off parts of the state-run National Health Service, the manifesto insists “the services the NHS provides are not on the table.”

Conservatives Publish Costings (2 p.m.)

Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party released a document showing costings for the policy commitments and tax cuts in their manifesto. It marks a change from 2017, when the Tories did not release costings of their manifesto.

It states that all the party’s manifesto proposals are in line with Sajid Javid’s proposed fiscal rule announced earlier this month. The Conservatives have ditched their commitment to eliminating the overall budget deficit, with the new rule seeking to balance the day-to-day budget in three years and limit net public investment to 3% of gross domestic product.

Scottish Poll Shows SNP Surge, Labour Wipeout (10:45 a.m.)

The first Scottish poll of the electoral campaign shows the Scottish National Party gaining ground, while suggesting Labour may lose six of the seven seats it won north of the border in 2017.

The Panelbase poll of 1,009 voters in the Sunday Times puts the SNP on 40%, up from 37% in 2017 with Labour -- which once dominated Scotland’s seats in the Westminster Parliament -- down to 20% from 27%. The Liberal Democrats are up to 11% from 7%, and the ruling Conservatives are down a point on 28%.

Because of the distribution of support, the poll would see Labour only retain the Edinburgh South seat held by Ian Murray, a critic of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, according to the Sunday Times. The SNP would win 41 seats, up from 35, while the Liberal Democrats would gain one seat, to hold five in total. The Tories would lose just one seat, leaving them with 12.

Scottish Politics have proven volatile in recent general elections. In 2010, Labour won 41 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats. Five years later, the SNP seized all but three of them, with the traditional big three parties claiming one apiece. In 2017, the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats took a combined 21 seats off the SNP, though it remained the biggest party by a considerable margin, with 35.

Liberal Democrats See ‘Squeeze’ on Votes (10:15 a.m.)

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, who kicked off her election campaign saying she could be the next prime minister, acknowledged on Sunday that her party’s chances have been hit by the Brexit Party’s decision not to stand in Conservative-held seats.

“Clearly there’s been a squeeze,” Swinson told the BBC. “The result of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage stitching up that deal between them has clearly affected the shape of that campaign.”

Still, she said the Liberal Democrats are the “best-placed party to stop” Johnson’s Conservatives getting a majority. “We are making real inroads, but we need to make sure we win those seats from the Conservatives and we are in a position to do that in a way that Labour simply is not,” she said.

She also suggested the Liberal Democrats could allow Johnson’s Brexit deal to pass in Parliament -- as long as it’s then put to a referendum, with remaining in the European Union as an option. She emphasized she’s “not doing a deal” with the Tories.

“I’m not putting Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10, but if there is a law in Parliament that I can vote for that makes sure that the Brexit deal is put to the public with the opportunity to remain, I will vote for that,” she said.

Welsh Party Puts Price of Support at $26 Billion (10 a.m.)

Adam Price, leader of the Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru, said if there’s a hung Parliament, the price of his party’s support is 20 billion pounds ($26 billion).

“It has to be this 20 billion pounds in investment in Wales,” Price said when asked what he’d want, referring to a program of spending his party has laid out. “It has to be fair funding for Wales. Of all the devolved nations in the U.K., yet again, Wales is the one with the worst funding settlement.”

Price’s costing dwarfs the 1 billion pounds of investment the Democratic Unionist Party secured for Northern Ireland as its price for supporting Theresa May’s minority Conservative government following the 2017 general election.

Labour Plan Sends Power Firms Offshore: Paper (9:20 a.m.)

Two of Britain’s biggest power providers have created overseas holding companies to protect their shareholders from a cut-price nationalization if Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party wins power, the Sunday Times reported.

SSE Plc has put its U.K. business into a new holding company in Switzerland, while National Grid Plc has shifted its gas and electricity activities into new subsidiaries in Luxembourg and Hong Kong, the newspaper said, citing the companies. Those countries have bilateral treaties with the U.K. that ensure a government must pay shareholders a fair price if it wants to buy them out.

Javid Promises to Cost Tory Manifesto (9 a.m.)

Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said he’ll publish “a very detailed costings document” for the Conservative Party’s manifesto at the same time as the program for government is published later on Sunday.

“It will take every additional cost that’s in our manifesto, every single thing that is tax or anything else, and we will set out exactly how we’re going to fund it in the lifetime of the Parliament,” Javid told Sky News. “It will in fact be the most detailed, most transparent costings that have ever been published in British electoral history.”

That’s a change from the 2017 general election, when Labour published costings of its manifesto, but the Tories didn’t. Labour published a costings document again earlier this week, at the same time as releasing its manifesto.

Javid also promised that a Conservative government will ensure debt will be lower at end of the next parliament than now.

McDonnell Won’t Be Neutral in New Referendum (8:30 a.m.)

Labour’s Finance spokesman, John McDonnell, said individual members of a Labour government “will be able to campaign on the basis of their judgment” if there’s a second referendum on European Union membership that pitches a Labour-brokered deal against remaining in the bloc.

McDonnell said he won’t be neutral in a second referendum, telling Sky News in an interview that he’d wait to see the basis of the deal before deciding which way to campaign. He’s previously said he would campaign for Remain. His comments come after leader Jeremy Corbyn said Friday he would be neutral in any second referendum, and pledged to implement the result.

Tories Enjoy Double-Digit Poll Lead (Earlier)

Boris Johnson’s Conservatives enjoy a double-digit lead over the main opposition Labour Party in at least five different polls released on Saturday. Deltapoll, BMG Research and Opinium give the Tories a 13-point lead, YouGov gave them a 12-point lead, and Savanta ComRes put them 10 points ahead.

Separately, analysis of YouGov polls by Datapraxis suggests the Conservative Party will win a 48-seat majority in the general election.

Labour Pledge Compensation for Older Women (Earlier)

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party pledged to compensate women whose pensions are affected by changes to the retirement age made by the 2010-2015 Conservative-led coalition government. The women will receive payouts of as much as 31,000 pounds ($40,000), with an average payment of 15,000 pounds, the party said in an emailed statement.

According to Labour, about 3.7 million women were affected by the changes when David Cameron’s government raised the women’s state pension age, to 65 in 2018 and 66 in 2020. The announcement comes after Boris Johnson was challenged Friday by an audience member in the BBC’s Question Time show to say what he would do to help women affected by the changes. He made no promises, saying he knew that it would be expensive.

Labour estimated the total cost of the compensation package at 58 billion pounds to be paid over 5 years. It suggested it would fund the cost through borrowing.

Tories Promise No Tax Hikes in Manifesto (Earlier)

Boris Johnson’s Conservatives will promise not to raise raise several key tax rates when it unveils its manifesto on Sunday, the ruling party said in a statement. The headline pitch is a promise not to raise the rates of income tax, national insurance or value-added tax during the next Tory government.

The manifesto also includes plans for record spending on infrastructure, science and training the workforce, as well as more money for childcare and a promise not to export plastic waste to non-OECD countries.

“Our positive, One Nation agenda will unite this great country not just for Christmas but for years to come,” Johnson said. “We are offering hope and optimism where the Labour Party only offer hate and division.”

Earlier:

Johnson’s Conservatives Pledge to Lock U.K. Income Tax RatesU.K. Conservatives Would Win 48-Seat Majority, Datapraxis SaysCorbyn Says He’d Stay Neutral in Second U.K. Brexit ReferendumTories Lead Labour as Brexit Party Loses Ground, Polls Show (2)

--With assistance from James Ludden, Kitty Donaldson, Thomas Pfeiffer, Tim Ross, Brian Swint and Alex Morales.

To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Ritchie in London at gritchie10@bloomberg.net;Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Thomas Penny

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