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Compassionate conservatism is for real

Picture 75 I sometimes worry about the detail of Project Cameron but his one nation vision of conservatism is impressive. Today's Party Conference speech should prove once again that David Cameron is serious about social justice.

Harry Benson wrote about the steep marginal tax rates facing the poor on CentreRight. Cameron made it clear that helping the poor out of poverty will be as important to him as helping the rich escape penal taxation was important to Margaret Thatcher:
“Thirty years ago this party won an election fighting against 98 per cent tax rates on the richest. Today I want us to show even more anger about 96 per cent tax rates on the poorest.”

Tory-Grassroots-#222 And the Tory grassroots - often caricatured as uninterested in the poor - lapped it up. They cheered and clapped. A commitment to the poor now runs deep throughout the grassroots.

Tory members rose to their feet when Cameron launched an angry attack on Labour's failure of the poor:

"Labour still have the arrogance to think that they are the ones who will fight poverty and deprivation. On Monday, when we announced our plan to Get Britain Working you know what Labour called it? “Callous.” Excuse me? Who made the poorest poorer? Who left youth unemployment higher? Who made inequality greater? No, not the wicked Tories… you, Labour: you’re the ones that did this to our society. So don’t you dare lecture us about poverty. You have failed and it falls to us, the modern Conservative Party to fight for the poorest who you have let down."

This week we have seen more policies that substantiate compassionate conservatism. George Osborne's pledge to protect low income workers from a public sector pay squeeze. Michael Gove's commitment to put the worst failing schools under new management within 100 days of a Tory government coming to power. Reaffirmation that the pensions-earning link will be restored.

And in his announcement that Iain Duncan Smith "will be responsible in government for bringing together all our work to help mend the broken society" David Cameron was promoting a man who sees his whole purpose in politics as building a pro-poor agenda.

SHIELDS The Tory tank is not so much on Labour's turf but in full occupation. The Tories for too long had been narrow - talking only of crime, tax, Europe and immigration. We now - like the ConHome shields - cover the whole political waterfront. But we don't mimic Labour's means even if we share ends. The family, voluntary organisations, private sector development charities, school choice, tough love in welfare and thrift are among our distinctive non-state weapons in the war on poverty.

I have just made these arguments over at The Guardian too.

Tim Montgomerie


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