Labour may bribe you. We won’t.
These should have been the opening words of the Prime Minister’s conference speech. They weren’t. Her address was framed around people-pleasing, otherwise known as chasing votes, to make up for, once again, Tory forgetfulness of the ‘left-behind’ people. Damian Green’s softly spoken mea culpa on Radio 4’s Today programme set the tone for the day. We have learnt our lesson, he humbly told headteacher Nick Robinson. We’ve learnt why voters under 40 didn’t support us. We’ve been remiss. But now we’ve got a range of policies that ‘will help that group who have been left behind and not getting rewards they should get’. Promise you.
Mrs May, between coughs, continued in this vein. She delivered herself to the people as their new dream-giver. Some might say it was hubristic. Others, just unrealistic. Others, that her nanny state-ism, leaning in to rectify every perceived injustice (for which of course the wicked Tories are to blame), is as misguided as it is unconservative.
Any psychologist could have told her (and her mainstay Damian Green) that competing in the bribery stakes of ‘what we can give you’ and ‘what we can fix’ (whether needed or not) is a strategy doomed to failure. John F Kennedy knew that. That a formerly mean aunt can eclipse the kids’ favourite, generous Uncle Jeremy, is a pipe dream. Buy off the students by changing the earning level at which they must start to pay back their loans? Forget it.
Neither a promised U-turn on council housing, nor starter home packages will cut the mustard when Mr Corbyn is offering his socialist utopia of a secured housing guarantee. Labour lite? Nick Robinson bitingly, but for once correctly, asked.
Mrs Thatcher’s famous and paradigm-changing Right to Buy (council home sales to occupants) policy was no hand out. It was a matter of principle – to liberate ordinary people from the entrapment of state-controlled tenancy – to give them a right to ownership. Mrs May’s astonishing council house building U Turn looks more like a bribe. Nick Robinson could have be forgiven for asking Damian Green had he and his boss not considered defecting to Labour.
Mrs May doesn’t impress by chasing votes or by making empty promises as to what the state will do to make life fair for everyone. Fairness comes at a price. That price is economic liberty (which by the way Mrs May, is not the state telling energy suppliers what price they can charge for their product). Without economic liberty, there is no free trade, no prosperity and no liberty. That is the lesson of conservatism Mrs May should have been preaching. Patently it is one she does not understand.