THEY used to say that a week is a long time in politics. Well, after the events of the last month or so since the momentous decision by UK voters to leave the European Union, this quote will need to be amended. A day has become a very long time in politics!
Theresa May has become our Prime Minister, a new Cabinet formed, and as politics starts to calm down, people across Yorkshire, and more specifically my home city of Sheffield, now wonder what this business-like new PM might have in store in the months and years ahead.
On her first day of office, on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street, Theresa May delivered the first of what will no doubt be many hugely important speeches. No one however, both nation and media alike, would have expected the Prime Minister’s rallying cry on her entry into Number 10 to be “We will make Britain a country that works for every one of us”.
Some might say unexpectedly – I would not – the Prime Minister chose to speak directly and passionately to the country about the ongoing injustices in our society we all know so sadly still prevail.
Here on her first day of office was a Prime Minister not wanting to address national budget deficits and focus on the need perhaps for even greater national austerity so we might ‘live within our means’.
No, here was a Prime Minister – a Conservative Prime Minister – wanting to highlight clearly and unequivocally that we, as a society, have to urgently confront and address continued inequality, unfairness, and societal prejudice on many levels occurring in Britain today.
All political parties are ‘broad churches’. A collection of for the most part like-minded individuals whose collective will steers party policy on a commonly agreed course and direction. Since the election of David Cameron in 2010, the Conservative Party has worked hard, through the ‘fog’ of financial uncertainly, to address social injustice in all its forms.
However, what we in the Tory party call One Nation Conservatism, in our quest for this greater social justice, has often been lost in the heated discussion about deficits and the state of our economy.
Since the establishment of the coalition Government, and then the first majority Tory administration since 1997, huge progress has been made to not only place the country ‘back on track’ but to address this social inequality and injustice – millions of jobs created; a National Living Wage paying more and particularly helping low earners; many hundreds of thousands of apprenticeships offering vocational opportunities for the young; higher thresholds before tax paid.
A truly One Nation socially progressive legacy to date. But we know so very much more has to be done to help all hard working and decent Britons in our country today. Our new Prime Minister – by making social justice her primary focus from her very first day in office – also knows that even more needs to be done.
Of course, the proof will all be in the proverbial pudding. Speaking recently in a radio debate, I was the first to acknowledge that the Prime Minister and Government will be judged not on this initial most positive socially just rhetoric – but on what is actually delivered.
But if this new Prime Minister really can deliver her preferred social justice agenda – against a backdrop of a Labour Party hell-bent on ripping itself to pieces, perhaps now certain of splitting and factional destruction – then I honestly believe voters in Sheffield and South Yorkshire will turn readily to the Conservative Party, or at least give us fair hearing.
I truly believe people will want to vote positively for a party which not only holds financial propriety dear, but more importantly also understands that this country can only be truly great if we make sure every citizen in our nation has the fairest life chances and best opportunity to succeed – whatever their background, colour or creed.
Dr Spencer Pitfield OBE is director of Conservative Trade Unionists and spokesman for Sheffield and South Yorkshire.