Theresa May has said there is no such thing as “Mayism” only “good solid Conservatism”, as she published the Tory manifesto which rejected “untrammelled free markets” and “selfish individualism”.
The policy programme has been seen as an attempt to claim the centre ground of British politics ahead of the general election on June 8 and has been seen as a move away from Thatcherism.
The Conservative Party is running a overtly presidential campaign - highlighting the personal qualities of the prime minister and downplaying the role of the party itself.
Speaking in the Labour held seat of Halifax this morning, May said her policy programme was for a “a stronger, fairer, more prosperous Britain”.
The Conservative manifesto, titled “Forward, Together”, junks much of David Cameron’s platform including the triple-lock mechanism for guaranteeing a rise in the state pension and the tax lock preventing any rise in VAT, national insurance or income tax.
May, who has often been compared to Margaret Thatcher, distanced herself from the legacy of the country’s only other female leader by rejecting the “cult of selfish individualism”.
But the prime minister dodged questions about the differences between her and the two former Tory prime ministers.
“I think it tells me that I’m a good Conservative,” she said of the document. “Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative, I’m a Conservative, this is a Conservative manifesto.
“There is no Mayism. I know you journalists like to write about it. There is good, solid Conservatism which puts the interests of the country/people at the heart of everything we do in government.”
As the manifesto was released, an Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard showed Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has jumped eight points. However the Tories still have a fifteen point lead. The survey shows Labour on 34%, up from 26%, with the Conservatives ahead on 49%.
Labour’s election coordinator Andrew Gwynne said: “Behind the rhetoric, this is a manifesto that offers the majority of working people and pensioners insecurity with a huge question mark over their living standards.”
In her introduction to the manifesto, May said “rigid dogma and ideology” was “needless” and “dangerous”.
“Because Conservatism is not and never has been the philosophy described by caricaturists. We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality,” she said.
“True Conservatism means a commitment to country and community; a belief not just in society but in the good that government can do.”
The positioning has been compared to the ‘Blue Labour’ tradition promoted by former Ed Miliband adviser Lord Glasman. The policy guru was revealed to have held talks with May’s co-chief of staff, Nick Timothy, ahead of the Tory manifesto launch.
Conservative Party 2017 manifesto
Much of the analysis of what might be termed “Mayism”, despite the prime minister’s rejection of the term, focuses on this passage from her manifesto.
Because Conservatism is not and never has been the philosophy described by caricaturists. We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless but dangerous.
True Conservatism means a commitment to country and community; a belief not just in society but in the good that government can do; a respect for the local and national institutions that bind us together; an insight that change is inevitable and change can be good, but that change should be shaped, through strong leadership and clear principles, for the common good.
We know that our responsibility to one another is greater than the rights we hold as individuals. We know that we all have obligations to one another, because that is what community and nation demands. We understand that nobody, however powerful, has succeeded alone and that we all therefore have a debt to others. We respect the fact that society is a contract between the generations: a partnership between those who are living, those who have lived before us, and those who are yet to be born.