Prime Ministers have always, or at least in my lifetime, thought up rather tiresome snappy slogans which are meant to encapsulate all they stand for. The most recent was David Cameron’s unintelligible “Big Society”. Mrs May has buried the big society and replaced it with the “Shared Society”. I wonder what she means.
I must not be too hard on Mrs May. As I have, no doubt tediously, often pointed out before, she is not really a politician. By that I mean that she has never knowingly, at least before becoming Prime Minister, revealed in public (or even in private I suspect) any political principles by which she is guided. She now wishes to put that right. In tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph (no link because of the new paywall) she seeks to tell us what we can expect from her.
Anyone reading her article should bear in mind that it is plainly motivated by a desire to get Labour supporters to vote Conservative. It is long on anti-Tory rhetoric and short on details of policy (she still thinks it very foolish to let us know what she is actually going to do). It may be that we shouldn’t take it too seriously. The theme, as with her speech to the Tory conference, is that we need big government. The individual is no longer important. Government can cure all ills. Her message is summarised in these words: “people who are just managing – just getting by – don’t need a government that will get out of the way. They need an active government that will step up and champion the things that matter to them.”
The Prime Minister proposes that government intervention should be aimed not just at helping the poor but at helping those on the next rung of the ladder up, those who are “just managing, just getting by”. She wants the elderly (she thinks we are all very rich) to be made poorer so the young can be made richer. She wants London’s wealth to be redistributed to the provinces. Above all she wants the role played by the state in our lives to be increased, not reduced.
What I find most odd about Mrs May’s conversion to big government is her professed belief that those of us who voted to leave the EU did so because we wanted more not less, government.
As I say, she may not really mean any of this nonsense. She has always been more interested in winning elections than in what to do after the victory. Those of us who are Tories must hope that her article is no more than a plea to Labour supporters to vote Conservative.