Theresa May’s speech is bad news for Labour

17000098855_6e590c6c3b_o_dTheresa May is safely behind the keyless door with no door handle of No. 10 Downing Street. This is bad news, not least for those of us who distrust the authoritarian impulses of the right.

Her first speech in particular is really interesting, and should be looked on with horror by the British left. The Guardian has an annotated edition here with interesting comments on the union bit and the one nation Disraeli thing.

All the same, this is the most radical speech from a Tory prime minister since John Major described his dream of a classless society. He was thwarted by a party to whom nothing was more important than Europe. May must hope that they have learned from history.

Here’s the whole thing, with my thoughts on it below:

I have just been to Buckingham Palace where Her Majesty the Queen has asked me to form a new government and I accepted.

In David Cameron I follow in the footsteps of a great modern prime minister.

Under David’s leadership the government stabilised the economy, reduced the budget deficit and helped more people into work than ever before.

But David’s true legacy is not about the economy but about social justice.

From the introduction of same-sex marriage to taking people on low wages out of income tax altogether, David Cameron has led a one-nation government and it is in that spirit that I also plan to lead.

Because not everybody knows this but the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist party and that word unionist is very important to me.

It means we believe in the union, the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – but it means something else that is just as important.

It means we believe in a union not just between the nations of the United Kingdom but between all of our citizens – every one of us – whoever we are and wherever we’re from.

That means fighting against the burning injustice that if you’re born poor you will die on average nine years earlier than others.

If you’re black you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white.

If you’re a white working-class boy you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university.

If you’re at a state school you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately.

If you’re a woman you will earn less than a man.

If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand.

If you’re young you will find it harder than ever before to own your own home.

But the mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone means more than fighting these injustices. If you’re from an ordinary working-class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise.

You have a job, but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home, but you worry about paying the mortgage.

You can just about manage, but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school.

If you are one of those families, if you’re just managing, I want to address you directly. I know you are working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle.

The government I lead will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives.

When we take the big calls, we will think not of the powerful but you. When we pass new laws, we will listen not to the mighty but to you.

When it comes to taxes, we will prioritise not the wealthy but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.

We are living through an important moment in our country’s history.

Following the referendum, we face a time of great national change. And I know because we’re Great Britain we will rise to the challenge.

As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.

That will be the mission of the government I lead and together we will build a better Britain.

This speech is very, very bad news for Labour if followed up by policy to match. Corbyn’s left wing Labour would do better against the shamelessly redistributing government of David Cameron. If Theresa May is actually intending to go centrist on economic impulse – which is the strategic move to pull in a country like the UK – then Labour might be in more trouble.

Though they’ll be delivering more fairness and more redistribution with Corbyn’s economic agenda, they’ll also (I hope) refuse to address the regressive impulses of racism and conservative values which are still strong in the Labour electoral constituency. With Labour tacking left, that might make the Tories more interesting to a lot of centrists. With Scotland going to the SNP (or, for that matter, to the EU), that might create long-term strategic troubles for Labour.

I’m hoping that Corbyn and the members manage to clear trouble out of the house soon so they can bunker down for a long fight to the next general election. It’s going to be a long uphill fight, but if they win, we’ll get the Britain we all need, not least the Britons.


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