Theresa May just delivered her keynote speech to close the Conservative party conference in Birmingham.
It was fascinating.
- See the full text of May’s speech below.
As expected, the prime minister made a grab for the centre-ground, with pledges to look after working families, go after tax-dodgers, and protect the NHS.
However, at times she flirted with the party’s right-wing fringe, promising to take the fight to human rights lawyers who “harangue” and “harass” Britain’s armed forces, as well as reiterating her plans to reintroduce selective education.
The speech wasn’t merely just a pitch to the centre-ground. Nor was it the declaration of a hardline Tory agenda. It was a hybrid. A Frankenstein speech. A cobbling together of agendas that were previously the sole ownership of UKIP, Blairite Labour, and the right-wing of her own party.
There is a new name for this chimera: Mayism.
At one point, May said she wants the UK “to be a country where it doesn’t matter where you were born” just hours after Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced in a different speech plans to make companies publish lists of their foreign employees.
But the tension between May’s words and her government’s policies just doesn’t matter at the moment. It didn’t make her address to the nation any less convincing, or the likelihood of the Tory honeymoon coming to an end any greater.
That’s because there is no Opposition.
The Labour party has moved decisively to the left of the spectrum in the last year, abandoning the centre ground. The Liberal Democrats barely exist anymore. The SNP is confined to Scotland (obviously). Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been muted to the point of silence while the Tory conference has taken place, despite numerous opportunities for the Labour leader to pick big holes in May’s agenda.
On Tuesday, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox caused outrage by suggesting UK government could use EU nationals living in the country as negotiating pawns during Brexit negotiations. Rudd’s plans to make firms publish lists of the foreign workers they employ — controversial with both bosses and workers — were disclosed on the same day.
These are relatively hardline policies. The sort of pledges a Labour opposition would usually go after in full force. But there’s nothing. Labour has nothing to say. Corbyn has been on holiday. May is running amock.
Take a look at this section of May’s speech. It wouldn’t sound at all odd being delivered by a Labour leader.
“… That means tackling unfairness and injustice, and shifting the balance of Britain decisively in favour of ordinary working class people.”
“Giving them access to the opportunities that are too often the preserve of the privileged few.”
“Putting fairness at the heart of our agenda and creating a country in which hard work is rewarded and talent is welcome.”
“A nation where contribution matters more than entitlement. Merit matters more than wealth.”
“A confident global Britain that doesn’t turn its back on globalisation but ensures the benefits are shared by all.”
Yet, in the same speech, she said this:
“But we will never again — in any future conflict — let those activist, left-wing human rights lawyers harangue and harass the bravest of the brave — the men and women of Britain’s Armed Forces.”
The prime minister pulled off something quite remarkable. She made a convincing pitch as a centrist using some distinctly hardline conservative rhetoric. It was a speech only a very, very comfortable prime minister could deliver.
Here is the full text of Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech:
Prime Minister: The good that Government can do
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, speaking today at Conservative Party Conference at The ICC, Birmingham said:
(Check against delivery)
THE NEW CENTRE GROUND
When we came to Birmingham this week, some big questions were hanging in the air.
Do we have a plan for Brexit? We do.
Are we ready for the effort it will take to see it through? We are.
Can Boris Johnson stay on message for a full four days? Just about.
But I know there’s another big question people want me to answer.
What’s my vision for Britain? My philosophy? My approach?
Today I want to answer that question very directly.
I want to set out my vision for Britain after Brexit.
I want to lay out my approach — the things I believe.
I want to explain what a country that works for everyone means.
I want to set our party and our country on the path towards the new centre ground of British politics…
built on the values of fairness and opportunity…
where everyone plays by the same rules and where every single person – regardless of their background, or that of their parents – is given the chance to be all they want to be.
And as I do so, I want to be clear about something else: that a vision is nothing without the determination to see it through.
No vision ever built a business by itself. No vision ever clothed a family or fed a hungry child. No vision ever changed a country on its own.
You need to put the hours in and the effort too.
But if you do, great things can happen. Great changes can occur.
And be in no doubt, that’s what Britain needs today.
Because in June people voted for change. And a change is going to come.
BRITAIN’S QUIET REVOLUTION
Change has got to come because as we leave the European Union and take control of our own destiny, the task of tackling some of Britain’s long-standing challenges – like how to train enough people to do the jobs of the future – becomes ever more urgent.
But change has got to come too because of the quiet revolution that took place in our country just three months ago — a revolution in which millions of our fellow citizens stood up and said they were not prepared to be ignored anymore.
Because this is a turning point for our country.
A once-in-a-generation chance to change the direction of our nation for good.
To step back and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be.
Let’s be clear: we have come a long way over the past six years.
We’ve brought the deficit down.
Got more people into work than ever before.
Taken the lowest paid out of income tax.
Established a new National Living Wage.
Helped nearly a million new business to set up and grow.
Got almost one and a half million more children into good or outstanding schools.
Put record investment into the NHS.
Created nearly 3 million new apprenticeships.
And brought crime down by more than a quarter to its lowest ever level.
That’s a record of which we should all be proud.
And this morning it’s right that we pause to say thank you to the man who made that possible. A man who challenged us to change and told us that if we did then we would win again.
And he was right. We did change. We did win. The first majority Conservative Government in almost 25 years.
A great leader of our party — a great servant to our country.
David Cameron, thank you.
But now we need to change again. For the referendum was not just a vote to withdraw from the EU. It was about something broader — something that the European Union had come to represent.
It was about a sense — deep, profound and let’s face it often justified — that many people have today that the world works well for a privileged few, but not for them.
It was a vote not just to change Britain’s relationship with the European Union, but to call for a change in the way our country works — and the people for whom it works — forever.
Knock on almost any door in almost any part of the country, and you will find the roots of the revolution laid bare.
Our society should work for everyone, but if you can’t afford to get onto the property ladder, or your child is stuck in a bad school, it doesn’t feel like it’s working for you.
Our economy should work for everyone, but if your pay has stagnated for several years in a row and fixed items of spending keep going up, it doesn’t feel like it’s working for you.
Our democracy should work for everyone, but if you’ve been trying to say things need to change for years and your complaints fall on deaf ears, it doesn’t feel like it’s working for you.
And the roots of the revolution run deep. Because it wasn’t the wealthy who made the biggest sacrifices after the financial crash, but ordinary, working class families.
And if you’re one of those people who lost their job, who stayed in work but on reduced hours, took a pay cut as household bills rocketed, or – and I know a lot of people don’t like to admit this – someone who finds themselves out of work or on lower wages because of low-skilled immigration, life simply doesn’t seem fair.
It feels like your dreams have been sacrificed in the service of others.
So change has got to come.
Because if we don’t respond — if we don’t take this opportunity to deliver the change people want — resentments will grow. Divisions will become entrenched.
And that would be a disaster for Britain.
Because the lesson of Britain is that we are a country built on the bonds of family, community, citizenship.
Of strong institutions and a strong society.
The country of my parents who instilled in me a sense of public service and of public servants everywhere who want to give something back.
The parent who works hard all week but takes time out to coach the kids football team at the weekend.
The local family business in my constituency that’s been serving the community for more than 50 years.
The servicemen and women I met last week who wear their uniform proudly at home and serve our nation with honour abroad.
A country of decency, fairness and quiet resolve.
And a successful country – small in size but large in stature – that with less than 1% of the world’s population boasts more Nobel Laureates than any country outside the United States… with three more added again just yesterday — two of whom worked here in this great city.
A country that boasts three of the top ten universities in the world. The world’s leading financial capital. And institutions like the NHS and BBC whose reputations echo in some of the farthest corners of the globe.
All possible because we are one United Kingdom — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — and I will always fight to preserve our proud, historic Union and will never let divisive nationalists drive us apart.
Yet within our society today, we see division and unfairness all around. Between a more prosperous older generation and a struggling younger generation. Between the wealth of London and the rest of the country.
But perhaps most of all, between the rich, the successful and the powerful – and their fellow citizens.
Now don’t get me wrong. We applaud success. We want people to get on.
But we also value something else: the spirit of citizenship.
That spirit that means you respect the bonds and obligations that make our society work. That means a commitment to the men and women who live around you, who work for you, who buy the goods and services you sell.
That spirit that means recognising the social contract that says you train up local young people before you take on cheap labour from overseas.
That spirit that means you do as others do, and pay your fair share of tax.
But today, too many people in positions of power behave as though they have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road, the people they employ, the people they pass in the street.
But if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.
So if you’re a boss who earns a fortune but doesn’t look after your staff…
An international company that treats tax laws as an optional extra…
A household name that refuses to work with the authorities even to fight terrorism…
A director who takes out massive dividends while knowing that the company pension is about to go bust…
I’m putting you on warning. This can’t go on anymore.
A change has got to come. And this party — the Conservative Party — is going to make that change.
BELIEVING IN THE GOOD THAT GOVERNMENT CAN DO
So today, I want to set out my plan for a Britain where everyone plays by the same rules and every person has the opportunity to be all they want to be.
It’s a plan to tackle the unfairness and injustice that divides us, so that we may build a new united Britain, rooted in the centre ground.
A plan that will mean government stepping up. Righting wrongs. Challenging vested interests. Taking big decisions. Doing what we believe to be right. Getting the job done.
Because that’s the good that government can do. And it’s what I’m in this for. To stand up for the weak and stand up to the strong.
And to put the power of government squarely at the service of ordinary working-class people.
Because too often that isn’t how it works today.
Just listen to the way a lot of politicians and commentators talk about the public.
They find your patriotism distasteful, your concerns about immigration parochial, your views about crime illiberal, your attachment to your job security inconvenient.
They find the fact that more than seventeen million voters decided to leave the European Union simply bewildering.
Because if you’re well off and comfortable, Britain is a different country and these concerns are not your concerns. It’s easy to dismiss them – easy to say that all you want from government is for it to get out of the way.
But a change has got to come. It’s time to remember the good that government can do.
Time for a new approach that says while government does not have all the answers, government can and should be a force for good;
that the state exists to provide what individual people, communities and markets cannot;
and that we should employ the power of government for the good of the people.
Time to reject the ideological templates provided by the socialist left and the libertarian right and to embrace a new centre ground in which government steps up — and not back — to act on behalf of us all.
Providing security from crime, but from ill health and unemployment too.
Supporting free markets, but stepping in to repair them when they aren’t working as they should.
Encouraging business and supporting free trade, but not accepting one set of rules for some and another for everyone else.
And if we do — if we act to correct unfairness and injustice and put government at the service of ordinary working people — we can build that new united Britain in which everyone plays by the same rules, and in which the powerful and the privileged no longer ignore the interests of the people.
Only we can do it. Because the main lesson I take from their conference last week is that the Labour Party is not just divided, but divisive.
Determined to pit one against another. To pursue vendettas and settle scores. And to embrace the politics of pointless protest that simply pulls people further apart.
That’s what Labour stands for today. Fighting among themselves. Abusing their own MPs. Threatening to end their careers. Tolerating anti-Semitism and supporting voices of hate.
You know what some people call them?
The nasty party.
And with Labour divided, divisive and out-of-touch, we have a responsibility to step up, represent and govern for the whole nation.
So where Labour build barriers, we will build bridges.
That means tackling unfairness and injustice, and shifting the balance of Britain decisively in favour of ordinary working class people.
Giving them access to the opportunities that are too often the preserve of the privileged few.
Putting fairness at the heart of our agenda and creating a country in which hard work is rewarded and talent is welcome.
A nation where contribution matters more than entitlement. Merit matters more than wealth.
A confident global Britain that doesn’t turn its back on globalisation but ensures the benefits are shared by all.
A country that is prosperous and secure, so every person may share in the wealth of the nation and live their life free from fear.
That’s what I mean by a country that works for everyone.
A GLOBAL BRITAIN
And if we believe in the good that government can do, it’s important for people to trust us to deliver the change they need.
We can start — as I said on Sunday — by doing something obvious. And that is to stop quibbling, respect what the people told us on the 23rd of June — and take Britain out of the European Union.
Because it took that typically British quiet resolve for people to go out and vote as they did: to defy the establishment, to ignore the threats, to make their voice heard.
So let us have that same resolve now.
And let’s be clear about what is going to happen.
Article Fifty — triggered no later than the end of March.
A Great Repeal Bill to get rid of the European Communities Act — introduced in the next Parliamentary session.
Our laws made not in Brussels but in Westminster.
Our judges sitting not in Luxembourg but in courts across the land.
The authority of EU law in this country ended forever.
The people told us they wanted these things — and this Conservative Government is going to deliver them.
It is, of course, too early to say exactly what agreement we will reach with the EU. It’s going to be a tough negotiation, it will require some give and take. And while there will always be pressure to give a running commentary, it will not be in our national interest to do so.
But let me be clear about the agreement we seek.
I want it to reflect the strong and mature relationships we enjoy with our European friends.
I want it to include cooperation on law enforcement and counter-terrorism work.
I want it to involve free trade, in goods and services.
I want it to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within the Single Market — and let European businesses do the same here.
But let’s state one thing loud and clear: we are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration all over again. And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. That’s not going to happen.
We are leaving to become, once more, a fully sovereign and independent country — and the deal is going to have to work for Britain.
And that Britain — the Britain we build after Brexit — is going to be a Global Britain.
Because while we are leaving the European Union, we will not leave the continent of Europe. We will not abandon our friends and allies abroad. And we will not retreat from the world.
In fact, now is the time to forge a bold, new, confident role for ourselves on the world stage.
Keeping our promises to the poorest people in the world.
Providing humanitarian support for refugees in need.
Taking the lead on cracking down on modern slavery wherever it is found.
Ratifying the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Always acting as the strongest and most passionate advocate for free trade right across the globe.
And always committed to a strong national defence and supporting the finest Armed Forces known to man.
And this week, our excellent Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, proved not only that we will support them with our hearts and souls. Not only will we remain committed to spending two per cent of our national income on defence.
But we will never again — in any future conflict — let those activist, left-wing human rights lawyers harangue and harass the bravest of the brave — the men and women of Britain’s Armed Forces.
AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE
It’s about restoring fairness — something that must be at the heart of everything we do. Supporting those who do the right thing, who make a contribution.
Helping those who give something back.
And that’s at the heart of my plan for our economy too.
An economy that’s fair and where everyone plays by the same rules.
That means acting to tackle some of the economy’s structural problems that hold people back.
Things like the shortage of affordable homes. The need to make big decisions on — and invest in – our infrastructure. The need to rebalance the economy across sectors and areas in order to spread wealth and prosperity around the country.
Politicians have talked about this for years. But the trouble is that this kind of change will never just happen by itself. If that’s what we want, we need the vision and determination to see it through.
That’s why Philip Hammond and Greg Clark are working on a new industrial strategy to address those long-term structural challenges and get Britain firing on all cylinders again.
It’s not about picking winners, propping up failing industries, or bringing old companies back from the dead.
It’s about identifying the industries that are of strategic value to our economy and supporting and promoting them through policies on trade, tax, infrastructure, skills, training, and research and development.
It’s about doing what every other major and growing economy in the world does.
Not just sitting back and seeing what happens – but putting in place a plan and getting on with the job.
So we will identify the sectors of the economy — financial services, yes, but life sciences, tech, aerospace, car manufacturing, the creative industries and many others — that are of strategic importance to our economy, and do everything we can to encourage, develop and support them.
And we will identify the places that have the potential to contribute to economic growth and become the homes to millions of new jobs.
That means inspiring an economic and cultural revival of all of our great regional cities.
We have made a start.
Thanks to George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse, over the past year, foreign direct investment in the North has increased at double the rate of the rest of the country.
Here in Birmingham, thanks to the incredible Jaguar Land Rover, the West Midlands is the only part of the country to run a trade surplus with China.
And across the region, the Midlands Engine is on track to deliver 300,000 more jobs by 2020.
Now it’s time to build on that success — in Birmingham and Manchester and in other cities across the country.
And as we are here in Birmingham this week, let us show our support for the Conservative Party’s candidate for next year’s mayoral election.
A success in business running John Lewis. An action man in Birmingham, playing his part in transforming this city. A man to get things done, the future Mayor of the West Midlands – Andy Street.
MAKING MARKETS WORK FOR WORKING PEOPLE
An economy that works for everyone is an economy where everyone plays by the same rules.
I understand the frustration people feel when they see the rich and the powerful getting away with things that they themselves wouldn’t dream of doing. And they wouldn’t get away with if they tried.
I understand that because I feel it too.
There’s always an excuse — a reason why something can’t be done — but when that is used as a basis for inaction, faith in capitalism and free markets falls.
The Conservative Party will always believe in free markets. And that’s precisely why it’s this party that should act to defend them.
From Edmund Burke onwards, Conservatives have always understood that if you want to preserve something important, you need to be prepared to reform it. We must apply that same approach today.
That’s why where markets are dysfunctional, we should be prepared to intervene.
Where companies are exploiting the failures of the market in which they operate, where consumer choice is inhibited by deliberately complex pricing structures, we must set the market right.
It’s just not right, for example, that half of people living in rural areas, and so many small businesses, can’t get a decent broadband connection.
It’s just not right that two thirds of energy customers are stuck on the most expensive tariffs.
And it’s just not right that the housing market continues to fail working people either.
Ask almost any question about social fairness or problems with our economy, and the answer so often comes back to housing.
High housing costs — and the growing gap between those on the property ladder and those who are not — lie at the heart of falling social mobility, falling savings and low productivity.
We will do everything we can to help people financially so they can buy their own home. That’s why Help to Buy and Right to Buy are the right things to do.
But as Sajid said in his bold speech on Monday, there is an honest truth we need to address. We simply need to build more homes.
This means using the power of government to step in and repair the dysfunctional housing market.
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