Conservative Diary

« Tory members rank twenty election-winning policies | Main | What are Conservatism's "great goals"? »

Theresa May defines her Conservatism

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter

May Merkel Warhol 4

There are good reasons why some Conservatives see Theresa May as Britain's Angela Merkel

I'm not going to comment on the hype about "TM4PM" - as Twitter knows it. I've already made it clear my view that Cameron is not going to be replaced as Tory leader and shouldn't be replaced as Tory leader. He should be our leader, right up until 2015. Despite what you read in the newspapers I don't believe Theresa May disagrees with that judgment. It's true that she's fighting her corner in the spending review - allying herself with ministers like Philip Hammond and holding strategic conversations with others - but she is loyal to David Cameron.

Loyalty is actually one of Theresa May's best qualities. She is loyal to the women MPs, in particular, that she has done so much to promote and nurture. She has loyally served all four recent Tory leaders - Hague, IDS, Howard and now David Cameron. All leaders have found her to be a dependable, competent and disciplined colleague. When he directed Tory communications Andy Coulson always wanted Theresa May on the TV. For him she was an unflappable, reassuring and grown up face for Conservatism. It's true that she doesn't excite many people - either on TV or in personal dealings - but she's the safest of safe pair of hands.

What we didn't know much about - until yesterday - was whether there was a May-ifesto or May-ism. What did she think about issues not covered in her brief? Last November I invited her to address ConservativeHome and tell party members what she believed and I was very grateful that she accepted.

What we got yesterday at the Victory 2015 conference (read Lord Ashcroft's full review) was a very thoughtful and wide-ranging speech. The headline writers have almost inevitably focused on her remarks about the ECHR but I was more struck by her interest in profit-making schools and her support for a strategic state role in industrial policy. She defined her Conservatism as built around the three pillars of security, freedom and opportunity. I most liked her title - We Will Win By Being The Party For All. The thread running through her speech was a one nation thread. Again and again she returned to the idea that we had to fight crime for everyone, provide security for everyone, improve everyone's chances of getting on in life. In her emphasis on order and on a strategic economic role for the state this really was a distinctively conservative rather than libertarian speech.

The Conservative Party has a huge asset in Theresa May. I'm not convinced she'll ever get the top job but it wasn't for nothing that I've likened her to Britain's Mrs Merkel. The two women are both unfussy, focused and competent. Theresa May's record on immigration and her police reforms mean she deserves to be bracketed more often with Gove, IDS and Pickles as one of the great reforming ministers of this Coalition. Both May and Merkel tend to define their conservatism in terms of social solidarity rather than a more Cameroonian social liberalism. Their emphasis is on middle and working class security rather than metropolitan change. Theresa May's much-misrepresented and brave 'nasty party' remarks from a decade ago were an early sign that she wanted a more compassionate party, that reassured rather than radicalised. Mrs Merkel is hugely popular in Germany because people want reassurance in these tough times - and it's why the May formula looks increasingly impressive to me too.

> Read the full speech. Watch an extract.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.