Conference season is a good time to try to assess where the party sits ideologically. Since May became Prime Minister, there have been inevitable comparisons made with Thatcher; after all, they are both women, both not from the usual elite Tory background, and May’s performance in her first PMQs had definite shades of Thatcher (‘remind him of anyone?’)
However, in her conference speech, May has made clear that she sees her government as one of the centre ground. She has talked about it being time for a change and a more interventionist government (incidentally talking about regulating energy companies – a policy Ed Miliband proposed as Labour leader in 2015). ‘The state can be a force for good’ certainly refutes Thatcher’s rolling back of the frontiers, as did her frequent references to ‘society’ and ‘there is more to life than individualism’. References to healing divisions between rich and poor and rural and urban communities can certainly be seen as One Nation rhetoric.
Her speech attacked tax-dodgers and ‘bad bosses’ (almost certainly a reference to Mike Ashley and Sports Direct – see earlier post) which is a clear attempt to appeal to disgruntled Labour voters. Of course, those of you that study modern History would know that appealing to the workers is exactly how Thatcher managed to secure and remain in power, so maybe not so different after all!
Indeed, not everyone is convinced. Politics.co.uk have claimed that the party has moved further to the right than since Thatcher, citing very strong anti-immigration rhetoric and policies such as forcing companies to list foreign workers. Further evidence for this move to the right could be the ‘hard’ Brexit and the plans to re-introduce grammar schools.
Watch this space and see what happens – at the moment this is just rhetoric…
Some good articles: