At the 2015 Conservative Party Conference David Cameron declared the Conservatives: “The party of working people, the party for working people – today, tomorrow, always.”
That we should describe ourselves as the ‘Workers’ Party’, the ‘real party of labour’, should come to us naturally.
I am from a background that the Labour Party would say they exist to represent.
I grew up in Cardiff in a manual working class household, around the corner from where Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan had a constituency flat.
In fact, my Nan recalls dancing with Callaghan at the Ocean Club in Cardiff.
My father worked in the same factory his entire working life.
I went to a comprehensive school and a Further Education College.
My FE College entered me for the Villiers Park Educational Trust’s ‘Inspiring Excellence Programme’ and I went on a residential week of economics lectures for A Level students.
I obtained the highest A-level results in my academic year. I decided to work for a year to save money to finance further education.
I then went on to read Modern History and Politics at the most state school dominated college at Oxford University.
After being awarded exhibitions and a scholarship to fund my studies I read for and was called to the Bar. I went on to qualify as a solicitor.
I have never been even remotely persuaded that the Labour Party or the left should ‘speak for’ people from aspirational working class backgrounds.
It always seemed to me that Labour offered ‘tickle-down’ government in place of aspiration and the rewards of hard work.
The left’s anti-aspirational ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ and the cultural priorities of what might be called the ‘Emily Thornberry tendency’ are antithetical to the common place, small ‘c’ conservative values of strivers.
I believe that ordinary working communities, like the one I came from, are best served by Conservative representation. I also believe that the Conservative Party is at its most electorally successful when it is preoccupied with working people.
Margaret Thatcher wanted to create: “A society of haves not a class of them.” Conservatism, she said, was not some abstract theory: “Workers are jumping at the opportunity to buy shares in their own privatised companies. Trade unionists are jumping at the opportunity, which the ballot box now gives them, to decide ‘who rules’ in their union.”
In 1990 John Major famously said: “I believe in the next ten years we will have to continue to make changes that will genuinely produce across the whole of this country a genuinely classless society 1990.”
In his ‘life chances’ speech David Cameron said of our approach to government: “It’s about building a country where opportunity is more equal, with stronger communities and young people who have the experiences and the networks to get out there and take on the world.”
We must offer ownership, empowerment and opportunity to appeal to traditional Labour voters and trade unionists, alienated by Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘occupy’ation of Labour.
In three important ways the modern Labour party are helping us.
Firstly Jeremy Corbyn has changed the Labour party and its brand for the worst, with 45% of respondents to a recent poll published in Prospect Magazine saying he has had a negative effect on Labour.
Secondly, Labour is culturally out of step with blue collar voters and the electorate generally. Peter Kellner wrote in Prospect Magazine: “His Defense policies all get a clear thumbs-down; scrapping trident, ruling out attacks on Islamic state in Syria and more generally reducing defense spending.”
Thirdly, Labour increasingly ceases to resemble working communities. Diane Abbott MP said of Labour’s ‘red princes’: “… the Labour Party has paid a price for parachuting one too many special advisers in to industrial seats… one cause of dissatisfaction among core Labour voters is the sense that there is a remote Westminster class which doesn’t relate to them.”
Danny Finkelstein recently pointed out that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign borne on the shoulders of ‘high-value city dwellers’, was “a revolt by the elite not against it.”
The Labour Party, always a coalition of well educated liberals and those who are less affluent, is coming undone.
We must now be the natural political home for workers and moderate trade union members.
Disraeli talked of ‘dishing the Whigs’ and forming an administration consisting of ‘Tory men’ and ‘Whig measures’.
We are now ‘dishing’ Labour by advancing authentically Conservative policies for the betterment of ordinary working people.
We are reforming the NHS to put patients first and personalizing services.
We are the party of teachers. Only Conservatives will trust teachers to set up schools uncontrolled by Local Education Authorities.
We are transforming welfare. Instead of incentives for idleness and a culture of dependency, there are powerful incentives to work, to provide for others and to achieve fulfillment.
Through the social dividend of the ‘jobs miracle’, many more people are winning the prize referred to by Theodore Roosevelt as “the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
Through the National Living Wage we are hasting the transition from a “low wage, high tax, high welfare society to a higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare economy.”
Keith Joseph referred to the common ground that parties share with the general public as opposed to the geometric ‘middle ground’ of the political spectrum.
By striving for a new Conservative working people’s politics, we can reach the common ground. In so doing we will make ourselves not just the natural party of government, but the natural party of Britain’s workers too.
Matt Smith is Events Programme Manager and CTU eBulletin Editor. His views do not necessarily reflect those of Conservative Trade Unionists.