“What makes you angry?” Nick Robinson asked the Prime Minister on Tuesday morning’s Today programme. There was no hesitation before she replied.
With passion – and even with a tremble in her voice: “Injustice – child sexual abuse, modern slavery and when we see the powerful abuse their position.”
Nick Robinson had pinned her down as a lepidopterist does a butterfly. He nailed what Mrs May really cares about. Not Brexit over which she has appointed herself dutiful administrator and arbiter-in-chief, but, as a true vicar’s daughter, she cares about social justice and inhumanity, a crusade she had announced on the steps of Number Ten when first made Prime Minister:
“…. the burning injustice that if you are born poor you will die, on average, nine years earlier than others. If you are black you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you are white. If you are a white working-class boy you are less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you are at a state school you are less likely to reach the top professions than if you are educated privately. If you are a woman you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there is not enough help to hand. If you are young you will find it harder than ever before to own your own home.”
If her analysis worried me then, her reply to Nick Robinson with its repeated emphasis on discrimination and victimhood, did more. As any regular reader of this site knows these are politically correct but inadequate, if not false, diagnoses of social injustice. And yesterday her speech openly invoking the State as the answer to the social discontent she argues led to Brexit made me shudder.
I know some of you think I am being too hard on Mrs May. Like Laura, I find more to like in her than I ever did in husky hugging, virtue-signalling ‘Dave’. I very much admire the way she has so authoritatively stepped up to high office.
But none of that stops me from being alarmed that she has bought so uncritically into these inequality memes.
For all her concern for ordinary working class families who struggle, I fear she doesn’t understand why. She seems unaware that the new poverty – the work and childcare treadmill, the squeezed middle entrapped in the state’s tax and benefits churn is the result of government pandering to perceived cultural change and feminist lobbying.
Mrs May seems to think like Brown and Blair before her economic inequality is the cause of disadvantage – not culture and lifestyle choices or the government policies that enable and perpetuate them. Nor does there seem to be anyone around her yet to put her right. Not even Nick Timothy.
Seeing that the left-leaning Joseph Rowntree Foundation was invited to the Spectator-hosted Party Conference ‘social justice policy’ fringe event, I despaired. Why not Polly Toynbee too?
Hasn’t anyone learned anything?
So the authentically caring but muddled Theresa May seems set on following in the well meaning but failed compassionate conservative footsteps of David Cameron, when what she needs to be is as radical on social justice, and marriage in particular, as she has been on her grammar school initiative.
Far from invoking more ‘State’ it means:
- Breaking with the State-interventionist ‘tackling poverty’ and social mobility agenda so beloved of new Labour – that reemerged in the guise of compassionate conservatism under Cameron.
Why? because it is doomed not to work. The State can no more ‘equalise’ different ‘lifestyles’ than it can bring up children. All this has done is create new poverty and entrench old while killing aspiration, which is exactly what working tax credits, child credits and child poverty targets have done. The number of families entrapped in the state tax and benefits churn has risen along with its multi billion pound credits bill. Universal credit, collapsing the same components, is unlikely to change this.
- Recognising that poverty and inequality today are as culturally driven as they are economic; that governments – since the mid 1980s – have pandered to cultural change and, in so doing, have progressively disabled marriage for all but the rich, finally dividing society into the two camps we see today – the winners and the losers; that anti-marriage ‘all lifestyles are equal’ policies of both political parties have created and maintained poor, unstable, child-unfriendly fractured families.
- Extending the social benefits of marriage to all, not just the few.
- Braving and calling out the inevitable feminist (and socialist) anti-family backlash against such a policy, which of course threatens their repressive ideologies.
Theresa May seems to be a practical women. She knows the benefit of the stable married family from her own upbringing. Disbarring children from married parents she must see is even more unjust than disbarring them from the schools best for their academic potential. If the battery is disconnected, the car engine won’t start. The best kick start to social justice is to re-connect the marriage battery and reform our dysfunctional tax and benefits incentives. I said it first.