An increasingly desperate Theresa May will try to shore up her flagging premiership with a raft of new policies aimed at young voters, as another cabinet minister refused to endorse her staying in office until the next election.
In an interview with the Observer on the eve of the Tory conference, which opens in Manchester on Sunday, communities secretary Sajid Javid declined to reply when asked if May should lead the Tories into the next election campaign.
After a 40-minute discussion during which he lamented the way the last campaign had focused too much on Brexit and May herself, Javid laughed when asked the question, then stood up and declared: “I think we are out of time.”
Amid growing signs that cabinet discipline is breaking down and support for the prime minister is draining away, May will announce a series of policy changes in the hope of halting her party’s potentially disastrous loss of support among voters under 45. These will include freezing tuition fees, which are due to rise with inflation from £9,250 in 2017-18 to about £9,500 in 2018-19, while ministers look again at the system.
She will also announce that the earnings threshold at which graduates start to pay off their loans will be increased from £21,000 to £25,000, and will go up in line with earnings after next year. That will mean a saving of about £360 in 2018-19 compared with this year for graduates earning at least £25,000.
There will also be more help offered to aspiring homeowners, and to renters. As well as a £10bn expansion of the Help to Buy loan scheme, Javid will announce that all private landlords will be required to join a redress system that allows tenants to complain and see those in breach sanctioned. Javid will also oblige letting agents to be registered with a professional body and require them to meet a set of minimum standards.
In an eve-of-conference message, May said the policy announcements were “key parts of my plan to spread opportunity and build a better future for our country”. However, Conservatives will arrive in Manchester amid an air of gathering crisis not only over the prime minister’s ability to cling to office but also over her loss of support, particularly among younger voters.