Ruth Lea is an economist and is a former Director of the Centre for Policy Studies.
I am not a professional psephologist and I do not follow every twist and turn of the various fortunes of political parties. Neither do I specialise in the issues that can be regarded as “gender specific” – others are more qualified in these areas than I am. But when it comes to attracting more women’s votes (and indeed men’s) economic prosperity, the cost of living and the labour market are consistently high on the list of the electorate’s concerns.
Prosaic and hackneyed though it may seem, it really is the economy stupid. As we all know, the economy is struggling and the public finances are simply dreadful. Under these circumstances what policies should the Conservatives promote that the Coalition Government is not already pursuing? Firstly, there are no magic bullets and the return to robust growth is, to put it mildly, is not imminent. But a significantly more upbeat growth agenda of supply side policies, especially a tough deregulatory agenda, than is currently operative would surely help business and our economic prospects.
Of course supply side policies take time to bed down and stimulate activity but that is no reason not to implement them (as I have sometimes seen argued). And, of course, some of the Government’s policies, including the recent reduction in Corporation Tax, are wholly to be welcomed. And we are all aware of the compromises that coalition governments have to make. But, speaking as someone who worked in the 1980s in the Department of Trade and Industry in the days of Lords Tebbit and Young, I would like the Conservatives rediscover the feeling of excitement about business, entrepreneurship and growth that was so prevalent then. We must not forget the Thatcher Government’s enterprise agenda of the 1980s, promoted by a thought-through and internally consistent positive narrative, turned this country’s fortunes round. A spirit of can-do optimism, aspiration and opportunity inspired us all then, irrespective of gender.