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Cameron's Tactical Conservatism

01/06/2015 11:17 BST | Updated 29/05/2016 10:59 BST

The Queen's speech has now set out the list of bills planned for the coming year. In many ways it is as much the symbol of victory for the Conservatives over the Liberal Democrats after five years of Coalition as over Labour. It may seem odd therefore, that success has been crowned with a number of measures, announced or anticipated, which in Coalition days would have been 'blamed' on the Lib Dems.

There are to be further tax cuts for lower earners, whilst aspirant middle earners will still be penalised by the historically low threshold at which the 40p rate kicks in (the FT has estimated that it should now be set at c. £75K and not today's £42K, equivalent to take-home pay of c. £31K). There will be more 'free' child care for working parents, paid for by tax payers including single income families with one stay at home parent. And hostilities against the Human Rights Act will be suspended, although the Conservatives are still pledged to replace it with a British Bill of Rights after further consultation.

If the spirit of the Coalition therefore lingers, it is there with a purpose. The Queen's speech announced that the government intends to govern for one nation. These measures will reassure the many Lib Dems who defected to the Tories from Cornwall in the south West, through Wales to greater Manchester in the north. But Conservative sights are also on Labour to which the party lost 11 seats and from which it won back almost as many . The speech was politically tactical. There was something for everyone, with as expected, the commitment to fiscal stability and economic growth, and one to honour the promises made by all three party leaders to Scotland in the run up to its independence referendum.

All in all though, the list of bills is conservative, aimed at a country of a conservative disposition. Whacky socialism may be for the Scots, even if it misleadingly is couched in terms of nationalism. For England, however, even Ed Miliband's tempered down version of big state and big public spending has been given the thumbs down. That conservatism of England was manifest in the two most important statistics to come from the election.

First, it was made clear by the share of the vote, 36.9 per cent, given to Conservative Party and second, by the 12.6 per cent share for UKIP, the party of the more traditional non-class-based English conservatism. That instinctive conservatism was one to which successive leaders over the 20th century appealed, and most recently Thatcher, Major and Blair. Labour's post election hand-wringing suggests now that its campaign overlooked the aspirant classes. They should recognise that there are many such 'left out' voters, from blue collar workers, to middle income people to trade unionists. All of these people share with a large section of the conservative party and a diminishing section of labour certain values: the importance of self-reliance, for individuals, families and the state itself; a scepticism about big promises and utopias; a trust in people's own effectiveness and suspicion of the state; and a sense of pride and ownership in place, whether that of birth or naturalisation.

The Conservatives have taken on board the message. UKIP, which took third place in the election winning more votes than the combined tally of both Lib Dems and Scots National Party together, is part of that 'whole nation'. Although they may have lost out on seats (with one seat at Westminster to the Lib Dems 8 and the SNPs 55), the Queen's speech confirms that their voice has been heard, with a Bill to confirm the referendum on this country's relations with the EU.

For these voters as for most Conservatives and many in the Labour Party, it is the extent of the ever greater sovereignty exercised by the EU over Britain that constitutes not one of the questions for the coming parliament, but the major one.

Sheila Lawlor

Sheila Lawlor is Director of Politeia