Theresa May Echoes Margaret Thatcher As She Says Tories Will Target Working Classes

Government is 'about doing something, not being someone'.

05/10/2016 00:01
Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

Theresa May is to borrow a line from ‘The Iron Lady’ as she makes a Margaret  Thatcher-style appeal to Britain’s working class voters in her Tory conference speech.

In another clean break with David Cameron’s reign, the Prime Minister will vow to reconnect her party with those who feel patronised by Westminster for their views on immigration, crime and job security.

May will promise to set the country and the Conservatives on a path towards “the new centre ground”, a nod to Thatcher’s “common ground” that appealed to Labour’s core vote through reforms like council house sales.

And as she tries to sketch out her personal political credo, the PM will echo a line from the Meryl Streep film ‘The Iron Lady’, by saying government is “about doing something, not being someone”.

Jonathan Short/AP
Meryl Streep

In the ‘fact/fiction’ movie of Thatcher’s life, Streep’s character says that politics “used to be about trying to do something - now it’s about trying to be someone”.

May’s closing speech of the Tory conference in Birmingham will stress that the Brexit vote in June was about more than opposition to the EU and was instead a plea from the public for fundamental change to the way Britain is run.

She will further distance her government from the Cameron era by targeting “ordinary, working class people” who felt ignored by both the Tories and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour during the EU referendum campaign.

“I want to set our party and our country on the path towards the new centre ground of British politics - built on the values of fairness and opportunity - where everyone plays by the same rules and where every single person, regardless of their background or that of their parents, is given the chance to be all they want to be,” she will say.

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Theresa May and David Cameron

”Too often that isn’t how it works today. Just listen to the way a lot of politicians and commentators talk about the public.

“They find their patriotism distasteful, their concerns about immigration parochial, their views about crime illiberal, their attachment to their job security inconvenient.

“They find the fact that more than seventeen million people voted to leave the European Union simply bewildering.”

The implicit attack on the ‘Metropolitan elite’ in Westminster underlines a belief in No.10 that Cameron’s team failed to connect with working class voters, despite him winning key marginals in the 2015 general election. 

May’s pitch, which follows plans to crack down on ‘bad bosses’ like Sports Direct and to introduce new grammar schools, will be seen as a direct bid for Labour and Tory voters who have backed UKIP.

Although she is not expected to unveil detailed new policy in her main speech, May will identify new areas of public life where she plans to next aim “the power of government squarely at the service of ordinary working-class people.”

Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Nigel Farage

”That’s what government’s about: action. It’s about doing something, not being someone. About identifying injustices, finding solutions, driving change. Taking, not shirking, the big decisions. Having the courage to see things through.”

“But a change has got to come. It’s time to remember the good that government can do.

“Time for a new approach that says while government does not have all the answers, government can and should be a force for good; that the state exists to provide what individual people, communities and markets cannot; and that we should employ the power of government for the good of the people.”

The PM will say the voters reject “the socialist left and the libertarian right” and that she wants the Tories to “embrace a new centre ground in which government steps up – and not back – to act on behalf of the people”.

“Providing security from crime, but from ill health and unemployment too. Supporting free markets, but stepping in to repair them when they aren’t working as they should. Encouraging business and supporting free trade, but not accepting one set of rules for some and another for everyone else.”

Matt Crossick/Matt Crossick

The Prime Minister will lambast Corbyn, declaring that Labour’s conference in Liverpool revealed that it was “not just divided, but divisive”.

“Determined to pit one against another. To pursue vendettas and settle scores. And to embrace the politics of pointless protest that doesn’t unite people but pulls them further apart,” she will say.

May will also attack “Labour’s absurd belief that they have a monopoly on compassion”.

“Let’s put an end to their sanctimonious pretence of moral superiority. Let’s make clear that they have given up the right to call themselves the party of the NHS, the party of the workers, the party of public servants.”

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