In this blog, we consider what the media thinks the Conservative manifesto means for the Conservative Party.
There is a clear take out from the Conservative manifesto (or should I say, Theresa May’s manifesto) launch today. When you go to the polls on 8th June, Mrs May’s Conservative Party want the general public to be thinking about two things: Brexit and who you want as Prime Minister negotiating for Britain. Mrs May has been ramming this point home ever since this election was called. And it’s coming across loud and clear.
Media analysis into the Conservative manifesto is already in full swing. Over the next few days, it’s only going to increase. You will be in-undated with analysis into the manifesto: newspapers will come out in strong support or strong opposition for particular policies, and the regular rigmarole of analysing spending plans will commence.
However, what is also being spoken about by the lobby journalists is what the manifesto means for the Conservative Party. The rhetoric around the manifesto launch, and the content of the manifesto, shows some clear shifts away from the traditional Conservative base. Below, I’ve looked at a few of the key issues they are discussing.
Theresa May’s Conservative Party
This is very much Theresa May’s Conservative Party. If you cast your mind back a few weeks to the Conservative’s Party Election Broadcast, the whole video focused on Theresa May and her Conservative Party and her candidates in both local and national elections. This sentiment in clearly reflected in today’s manifesto launch. Tim Shipman, the Political Editor of the Sunday Times, tweeted that “May says it’s “my manifesto”. More personal than for any Tory leader in my adult lifetime”
Matt Chorley, Editor of The Times Red Box, highlights that Theresa May’s speech: “”Conservative” gets one mention and “Me” gets seven mentions.” Yes, simplistic quantitative analysis perhaps (!) but it makes it very clear: there is a shift in the Conservative Party; it’s now Theresa May’s Conservative Party.
Mayism: what does it mean?
“There is no Mayism” said Theresa May. Well, given how May has positioned herself at the very core of the manifesto, this doesn’t ring true. As the BBC’s Nick Robinson tweeted; “There is no May-ism” says PM whose manifesto launch includes the words me, my & I more than any I’ve seen before.”
But what exactly is Mayism? There isn’t a clear ideological route map. That’s because this manifesto tries to capture the ‘traditional right voter’ and the ‘traditional left voter’ (I’ve put these in parentheses because I think ‘left’ and ‘right’ are an over simplistic approach describing the complexity of political decisions… but that’s for a different blog…). What this manifesto doesn’t do is go bang in the centre; it tries to appeal to both sides with tailored policies. Spectator editor Fraser Nelson says “the Conservatives have moved to the left economically” (for example through a commitment to cap energy bills) while, on the other hand you’ve got a commitment to re-introduce fox hunting.
Does this make “Mayism” ideologically inconsistent? Or is ideology becoming less and less relevant: is it now about policies? What is clear is that Nick Timothy’s politics is deeply embedded into this manifesto. Tim Shipman pointedly asks, if there is no May-ism should we write about Timothillism?
This brings me on to my final point does “Mayism” break the Conservative Party away from Thatcher? Spectator editor Fraser Nelson argues that the Conservative Party could be seeing “Thatcherism leaving its bloodstream” as the party “evolves”.
George Eaton, Political Editor at the New Statesman, writes that Theresa May’s Conservative manifesto buries dogmatic Thatcherism.
He writes that May’s manifesto “proclaims a belief “not just in society” but “in the good that government can do”… The ensuing policies do not seek to reverse Thatcherism (as Labour’s manifesto does) but to correct it.”
The question is whether Mayism will overwrite Thatcherism and whether May’s new brand of Conservativism will resonate with the wider electorate.