Theresa May: ‘Establishment Must Stop Sneering at Patriotic Brits’

Conservative Leader Theresa May Addresses Party Conference
Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The Prime Minister Theresa May has slammed the slandering of working class people concerned over immigration as “parochial” and “distasteful”.

Attempting to woo disaffected Labour voters, the Prime Minister used her keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today to assert that the Conservatives are the party of working class people – and she used Brexit and immigration as road markers to place her party firmly on their side.

“Just listen to the way a lot of politicians and commentators talk about the public,” May told her audience.

“They find your patriotism distasteful, your concerns about immigration parochial, your views about crime illiberal, your attachment to your job security inconvenient. They find the fact that more than seventeen million people voted to leave the European Union simply bewildering.

“Because if you’re well off and comfortable, Britain is a different country and these concerns are not your concerns.”

The vote, she said, had been a “quiet revolution” in which “millions of our fellow citizens had stood up and said they were not prepared to be ignored anymore”.

In an excoriating attack on the Labour Party, she insisted it doesn’t have the monopoly on “compassion” or on “moral superiority”, and that her government would “step up – and not back – to act on behalf of the people”.

However, in comments which will anger the libertarian right of her party, May laid out a centrist vision of a government which actively involves itself in the improvement of living standards.

“It’s easy to dismiss [the concerns of working class people], she continued. “Easy to say that all you want from government is for it to get out of the way. 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 doesn’t 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 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 us all.”

Laying out her vision for government, she described it as: “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.”

In that vein, May pledged to “[provide] security from crime, but from ill health and unemployment too”.

In a perceived slight of the Cameron-led Conservative administration, she added: “And if we do [succeed] – 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.”

The speech has been welcomed by Conservative organisations, including the Bow Group who’s chair Ben Harris-Quinney said he applauded May’s “return to clear conservative principles”.

But May was not without her critics.

The former Labour leader Ed Miliband has slammed as “Marxist” her plans to regulate energy prices by introducing price controls, tweeting that they were “anti-business interventionism”:

Meanwhile the right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes has criticised her claim to be “reject[ing] ideological templates,” pointing out: “May is advocating an ideology of ‘centrism’, statist, intervening in the economy, acceptance of perpetual borrowing and over-spending, coupled with greater intrusion by the state into the lives of individuals.”

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