How damaging to Theresa May is her climb-down on social care – which she insists, slightly implausibly, is an elaboration not a capitulation to her critics?
Well quite damaging.
Because literally the only significant and unexpected policy in her election manifesto was the proposal to make us all pay for our care needs in old age (until we’ve depleted the value of our savings and assets, including the family home, to £100,000).
Obviously it will be reassuring to many that she has today added that there will be a ceiling on the maximum any of us would pay.
But we can only guess what that ceiling would be: She won’t say.
So those facing such costs any time soon will still feel quite anxious.
Gawd knows therefore whether she will succeed in not giving at least a ballpark for the cap on care costs till after we vote on June 8.
As significantly, May has implicitly admitted that her flagship manifesto pledge was not properly thought through – which is the only way to interpret today’s statement, rushed out, as it was, in an attempt to staunch the erosion of her party’s standing in the opinion polls.
How on earth could this policy flip-flopping happen when for weeks she was the only person in Britain knowing there would be an election?
Why broadcast to the country only half the answer to the welfare challenge of our age?
And if you are going to have an election, surely say nothing rather than anything which engenders fear and uncertainty for millions?
All of which, some would say, augurs ill for the many pressurised decisions she will have to make as premier – especially as we negotiate that life-or-death deal to leave the EU.
None of which would matter quite so much perhaps if she hadn’t placed quite so many election bets on her claim to be “strong and stable”.
Today, at least, those bets are paying out to her opponents, not to her.
That said, as and when a policy is flawed – as she has implicitly admitted hers was – better to own up early and fix, perhaps, than do that “lady’s-not-for-turning-thing”, which is a bit of a cancer on rational decision-making in politics.
In that sense she is certainly distancing herself from Thatcher.
And perhaps more importantly, there is no question that fixing our massively under-funded and growing social care needs should be a priority for whoever forms the next government.
Also May, unlike the other party leaders, is looking for a way to do so that focuses the costs where many would say they belong – on older people who have benefited disproportionately compared with young people from the way we run our economy.
But even if Theresa May ends up winning the intellectual case, she will be feeling bruised and nervous tonight.