THERESA May pledged to cut immigration, bankroll the NHS and build grammar schools as she laid out her vision of what Britain will look like after the “quiet revolution” of the EU vote, The Sun reports. In her first conference speech as Prime Minister, she said this “is our generation’s moment to write a new future upon the page” and lead the UK beyond Brexit.
Stepping on to the stage to the Rolling Stones’ ‘Start me up’, she declared her determination to re-position the party on “the new centre ground of British politics”. Attacking Labour as the new “nasty party”, Mrs May gave the clearest indication of how she plans to spend her time in Downing Street, standing up for what she calls “ordinary, working class people”.
After opening up with a joke about Boris Johnson’s inability to ever stay on message, her keynote address in Birmingham included:
- An attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour for embracing the “politics of pointless protest” and claiming the Tories had the chance to usurp them as the party of “ordinary working-class people”
- On Brexit she again refused to give a “running commentary” but confirmed her commitment to bringing down immigration levels
- Laying down the gauntlet to big businesses, saying: “If you’re a tax dodger – we’re coming after you”
- Describing the moment triathlete Alistair Brownlee helping his brother Jonny over the line a few weeks ago as an example of working together defeating individualism
- And she confirmed her Government’s commitment to the creation of new grammar schools
- Before being joined on stage at the finish by her husband to the sound of Mr Blue Sky, asked people to “come with me and we’ll write that brighter future”
She said: “We are leaving to become once more a fully sovereign and independent Britain. The deal is going to have to work Britain.
“That Britain that we build after Brexit is going to be a global Britain because while we are leaving the European Union we are not leaving the continent of Europe. “Now is the time to forge a bold, confident new role for us on the world stage.”
But she added: “We are not leaving the European Union to give up control over immigration again. “We are leaving to be a fully sovereign and independent country – and that deal is going to have to work for Britain.” She also attacked Jeremy Corbyn, denouncing Jeremy Labour under his hapless leadership for having a “sanctimonious pretence of moral superiority”.
The PM stated her intention for the Tories to usurp its traditional position as the party of “ordinary working-class people”, the NHS and public servants loud and clear. The 60-year-old sought to contrast this concern for the working people of Britain with Labour.
She said: “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 doesn’t unite people but pulls them further apart… So let’s have no more of Labour’s absurd belief that they have a monopoly on compassion.
“Let’s put an end to their sanctimonious pretence of moral superiority. “Let’s make clear that they have given up the right to call themselves the party of the NHS, the party of the workers, the party of public servants.” To cheers around the hall, she added about Labour: “You know what some people call them: the nasty party.”
Despite comparisons with Margaret Thatcher, the second female PM tried to distance herself from the first by insisting that government can be “a force for good”, providing benefits for society that individuals, communities and the market cannot.
A clear attempt was made to highlight the range of non Brexit-related policies announced by her ministers as she attempted to stop the conference being defined by the EU. Much of the speech focussed on her broader vision of the economic and social reforms needed to deliver on the slogan ‘A Country That Works For Everyone’.
“That’s what government’s about: action. It’s about doing something, not being someone. About identifying injustices, finding solutions, driving change. Taking, not shirking, the big decisions. Having the courage to see things through,” she said.
“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.”
She laid out her belief that government can do good, saying: “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 their patriotism distasteful, their concerns about immigration parochial, their views about crime illiberal, their attachment to their job security inconvenient.
“They find the fact that more than seventeen million people voted to leave the European Union simply bewildering. “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 the people. “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.”
She said that policies such as quantitative easing were “necessary emergency medicine” after the financial crisis, but there have been “some bad side effects”. To address the inequality between those at the very top and bottom of firms, she said we need “not just consumers represented on company boards but workers as well”.
To much applause she added: “It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re a tax dodger, we’re coming after you.” She also showered praise on Jeremy Hunt in a section on the NHS, as well as paying tribute to the country’s doctors and nurses. Accusing Labour of using the NHS “to divide us”, she said the rival party does not have “a monopoly on compassion”.
She also criticised Labour for their opposition to new grammar schools, which she again confirmed her Government would create. In a dig at Shadow Cabinet members who opposed them, while using them for their own children, she added: “That is why ordinary working class people think it is one rule for one group, and another rule for the elite.”
After praising Team GB for their Olympic and Paralympics heroics, she said her favourite sporting moment of the summer actually happened a few weeks ago in Mexico. “There, our celebrated triathlon champion Jonny Brownlee was heading for glory, the finishing line in sight, when he faltered,” she told the conference.
“Stopped. And was falling exhausted to the ground. “And just behind him, his brother Alistair – a tough competitor who typically yields to no one – had the chance to run on and steal the prize. “But seeing his brother’s struggle, he didn’t pass on by. As other competitors ran past, he stopped. Reached out his hand. And gently carried him home.”
In a moment which came across more akin to a sermon than a political speech, the PM explained: “There in that moment, we saw revealed an essential truth. “That we succeed or fail together. We achieve together or fall short together. “And when one among us falters, our most basic human instinct is to put our own self-interest aside, to reach out our hand and help them over the line.
“That’s why the central tenet of my belief is that there is more to life than individualism and self-interest. “We form families, communities, towns, cities, counties and nations. We have a responsibility to one another. And I firmly believe that government has a responsibility too.
“It is to act to encourage and nurture those relationships, networks and institutions – and to step up to correct injustices and tackle unfairness where it can – because these are the things that can drive us apart. “That’s why I say today – as I have always said – that my mission – and the mission of this party – is to build a country that truly works for everyone, not just the privileged few.”
She finished by saying this “is our generation’s moment to write a new future upon the page”, saying here in Britain we could “build a stronger, fairer, brighter future”. “So to everyone here this morning – and the millions beyond whether leavers or remain – I say come with me and we’ll write that brighter future,” she adds.
“Come with me and we’ll make that change. Come with me as we rise to meet this moment. Come with me and together let’s seize the day.”