Esther McVey’s bid to counter class envy

Employment Minister Esther McVey
Employment Minister Esther McVey
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LABOUR is hooked on “the politics of envy “ according to one of David Cameron’s most proudly Northern ministers.

Employment minister Esther McVey has set out why the Conservative party should be relentlessly campaigning on job creation in 2015, even as Labour prepares for what many expect to be a bitter campaign painting the Tories as the party of the rich few.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Ms McVey said she refused to accept the Tories could not be a party of the north, admitting though that at the General Election the party will have to work hard to stress its not-so-posh side to voters.

Under the coalition, she said, Yorkshire and the Humber last year created more jobs than all of France.

“So when we talk about the Northern powerhouse we mean it,” she added.

With a Merseyside accent and a business background in her father’s demolition company, the minister says she is confident voters will see there is more to the Tory party than just class.

“What I don’t like to see is politics of hate, the politics of envy, the politics of jealousy” Ms McVey said.

“We have people in this party who went to Eton and Oxford, but at the same time we have a lot of people who went through comprehensives and are self made men.

“We have a cross section, but that is the same on for Labour.

“Both sides of the House have posh people, we just have to make sure that we see out party as it really is.

“Individuals who are public spirted. I don’t think that just because we didn’t go to them we should criticise some of our best schools and universities.

“No, we should embrace them, we should embrace people who took what you might call a very traditional path into politics, but equally let’s reach out and embrace those with a different background.

“It’s easy to go for that ding, dong tribal argument. People will want to go for it, but really what we have to do is know who else is in the party.”

The minister says her choice to pursue a career in politics was a surprise even to her own family, but insists that the basic message of job creation is more than enough to explain why she went to the Conservatives rather than the already well established Labour party in Merseyside.

“We have created an extra 44,000 people in jobs, if you look at say Yorkshire and the Humber, year on year, we can campaign in the North on figures like that. “

Despite a determined effort from Labour and the unions to point to weaknesses in the employment record, Ms McVey thinks there is enough good news in the north to see the party through.

“We can campaign on this, I know so. When you look as far back as 1998, then, for every private sector job created in the north, 10 were created in London and the South. We are now shifting that round.

“We said we would rebalance the economy, the jobs figures out this month show we are doing that.”

One problem for the Tories is that despite that good message, many will think they have come late to the urban north.

Does Labour have the monopoly on the North?

“It did,” Ms McVey said. “But obviously as a Conservative in the North I felt that was wrong, because the Conservative values here are timeless values, they does not stop being that if you take the message to a different part of the country.

“It is not a sexy message, the Tory message, but it is a true message.

“You have to live within your means, you can’t spend what you don’t have coming in, it’s true. And it reflects what we have done.”

She admits though that there is perception barrier to overcome before voters go to the polls.

““I think it would be wrong not to think about how we are perceived, individually we are worried, and we have to make sure we get that message across.

“People say what type of Conservative are you, I say I’m a Northern Tory, a compassionate Conservative, because I think we have made savings, that’s how I would describe it if I was doing this in my own household.

“That’s what it is. But at the same time we have also cut the amount of tax people are paying to the state.”

The way around that comes back to a Thatcher like comparison with household bills.

“I say to people, don’t blame the people who are getting us out of the recession, we should look at who got us into this mess in the first place.

“If you got something on your credit card, and you had however many thousand pounds, that’s a lot a month, just to clear the interest.

“Now, for me personally it took me a good few years to get my own card bill down, then multiply that out to the whole country.”

Such comparisons will be a key feature of the election attack on all sides, even if Ms McVey is taking an early lead.