Magazine article The Spectator

Leading Article: May's Manifesto

Magazine article The Spectator

Leading Article: May's Manifesto

Article excerpt

Never has the Conservative party entered a general election campaign feeling more confident about victory. Much of that confidence is due to the abject weakness of the Labour party, but much is also due to Theresa May.

Since taking office she has made remarkable progress in setting out a clear vision of Brexit, unifying her party and stabilising the government. The levels of public approval she enjoys are so high that she will probably be forgiven for all the times she promised not to call a snap election.

The reasons that she gave for the election -- that she faces ferocious opposition from the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats -- are spurious. She is holding a general election because she is a new Prime Minister who needs her own mandate. Yes, victory would help with Brussels but it would also help in guiding her own ideas (grammar schools, National Insurance tax rises) past an often rebellious Tory party.

This will all be dressed up as a defence of the people's will but, as she knows, this election is not necessary. She is going to the country for two reasons: because she can and because she'll win. Indeed, with the opposition in such a deplorable state, it would be almost rude not to.

She is likely to return with a landslide majority, but also with a new agenda for Conservatism -- and this is where her wider opportunity lies. She is currently bound to several expensive and unwise pledges made by David Cameron when he never expected to win. His 2015 manifesto is padded with ideas that were never intended to be policies but as bargaining chips to be discarded in the expected coalition negotiations -- which in the event never took place.

First to go should be the 'triple lock' on state pensions. This has led to a bizarre situation where the over-65s have seen their incomes pushed to a record high, while the pain of austerity is focused more and more on those of working age. And while no Conservative ought to raise taxes, it is ridiculous for a prime minister to tie a chancellor's hands by pledging not to do so. That promise should go too.

In her manifesto, the Prime Minister can elaborate on what James Forsyth has called her 'third way' between globalism and nationalism -- a commitment to an open economy but one which falls short of elevating free markets to an ideology. Her Conservative party should see inequality in all of its dimensions and ask questions that do not occur to Labour. For example: why has the drop in crime helped the rich more than the poor? …

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