I laugh when friends and others say the Conservatives (Tories) in the United Kingdom are, essentially, the same as Democrats here. I’m not sure how that could be farther from the truth. Check out Britain’s abortion laws. Racist, violent religious (of all varieties) and anti-immigration movements aren’t new issues for them.
While I have no illusions that Prime Minister Theresa May and the rest of her party will actually improve the lot of the non-wealthy, pieces of her recent long-awaited speech on Brexit are rather stirring. It’s long, so I’ll pull out some good passages and highlight my favorite parts. You can read the entire speech, my snippets or just the bolded items. Many options on being lazy.
British Prime Minister Theresa May:
[N]ow we need to change again. For the referendum was not just a vote to withdraw from the EU. It was about something broader – something that the European Union had come to represent.
It was about a sense – deep, profound and let’s face it often justified – that many people have today that the world works well for a privileged few, but not for them.
It was a vote not just to change Britain’s relationship with the European Union, but to call for a change in the way our country works – and the people for whom it works – forever.
Knock on almost any door in almost any part of the country, and you will find the roots of the revolution laid bare.
Our society should work for everyone, but if you can’t afford to get onto the property ladder, or your child is stuck in a bad school, it doesn’t feel like it’s working for you.
Our economy should work for everyone, but if your pay has stagnated for several years in a row and fixed items of spending keep going up, it doesn’t feel like it’s working for you.
Our democracy should work for everyone, but if you’ve been trying to say things need to change for years and your complaints fall on deaf ears, it doesn’t feel like it’s working for you.
And the roots of the revolution run deep. Because it wasn’t the wealthy who made the biggest sacrifices after the financial crash, but ordinary, working class families.
And if you’re one of those people who lost their job, who stayed in work but on reduced hours, took a pay cut as household bills rocketed, or – and I know a lot of people don’t like to admit this – someone who finds themselves out of work or on lower wages because of low-skilled immigration, life simply doesn’t seem fair.
It feels like your dreams have been sacrificed in the service of others.
So change has got to come.
Because if we don’t respond – if we don’t take this opportunity to deliver the change people want – resentments will grow. Divisions will
And that would be a disaster for Britain.
. . .
Yet within our society today, we see division and unfairness all around. Between a more prosperous older generation and a struggling younger generation. Between the wealth of London and the rest of the country.
But perhaps most of all, between the rich, the successful and the powerful – and their fellow citizens.
Now don’t get me wrong. We applaud success. We want people to get on.
But we also value something else: the spirit of citizenship.
That spirit that means you respect the bonds and obligations that make our society work. That means a commitment to the men and women who live around you, who work for you, who buy the goods and services you sell.
That spirit that means recognising the social contract that says you train up local young people before you take on cheap labour from overseas.
That spirit that means you do as others do, and pay your fair share of tax.
But today, too many people in positions of power behave as though they have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road, the people they employ, the people they pass in the street.
But if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.
So if you’re a boss who earns a fortune but doesn’t look after your staff…
An international company that treats tax laws as an optional extra…
A household name that refuses to work with the authorities even to fight terrorism…
A director who takes out massive dividends while knowing that the company pension is about to go bust…
I’m putting you on warning. This can’t go on anymore.
A change has got to come.
. . .
So today, I want to set out my plan for a Britain where everyone plays by the same rules and every person has the opportunity to be all they want to be.
It’s a plan to tackle the unfairness and injustice that divides us, so that we may build a new united Britain, rooted in the centre ground.
A plan that will mean government stepping up. Righting wrongs. Challenging vested interests. Taking big decisions. Doing what we believe to be right. Getting the job done.
Because that’s the good that government can do. And it’s what I’m in this for. To stand up for the weak and stand up to the strong.
And to put the power of government squarely at the service of ordinary working-class people.
Because too often that isn’t how it works today.
. . .
[I]f you’re well off and comfortable, Britain is a different country and these concerns are not your concerns. It’s easy to dismiss them – 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 does not 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 that 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.
Providing security from crime, but from ill health and unemployment too.
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.
And if we do – 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.
. . .
[W]here markets are dysfunctional, we should be prepared to intervene.
Where companies are exploiting the failures of the market in which they operate, where consumer choice is inhibited by deliberately complex pricing structures, we must set the market right.
It’s just not right, for example, that half of people living in rural areas, and so many small businesses, can’t get a decent broadband connection.
It’s just not right that two thirds of energy customers are stuck on the most expensive tariffs.
And it’s just not right that the housing market continues to fail working people either.
Ask almost any question about social fairness or problems with our economy, and the answer so often comes back to housing.
High housing costs – and the growing gap between those on the property ladder and those who are not – lie at the heart of falling social mobility, falling savings and low productivity.
. . .
Because while monetary policy – with super-low interest rates and quantitative easing – provided the necessary emergency medicine after the financial crash, we have to acknowledge there have been some bad side effects.
People with assets have got richer. People without them have suffered. People with mortgages have found their debts cheaper. People with savings have found themselves poorer.
A change has got to come. And we are going to deliver it.
. . .
This party will always be the party of businesses large and small.
But we must acknowledge that the way a small number of businesses behave fuels the frustration people feel.
It’s not the norm. I know that most businesses and the people who run them are hardworking, entrepreneurial and public spirited at heart.
But the actions of a few tar the reputations of the many.
So the party that believes in business is going to change things to help support it.
Too often the people who are supposed to hold big business accountable are drawn from the same, narrow social and professional circles as the executive team.
And too often the scrutiny they provide is not good enough.
A change has got to come.
. . .
We’re all Conservatives here. We all believe in a low-tax economy. But we also know that tax is the price we pay for living in a civilised society.
Nobody, no individual tycoon and no single business, however rich, has succeeded on their own.
Their goods are transported by road, their workers are educated in schools, their customers are part of sophisticated networks taking in the private sector, the public sector and charities.
We’ve all played a part in that success.
So it doesn’t matter to me who you are.
If you’re a tax-dodger, we’re coming after you.
If you’re an accountant, a financial adviser or a middleman who helps people to avoid what they owe to society, we’re coming after you too.
An economy that works for everyone is one where everyone plays by the same rules.
So whoever you are you – however rich or powerful – you have a duty to pay your tax.
And we’re going to make sure you do.
This is a big agenda for change. But it is necessary and essential.
It is a programme for government to act to create an economy that works for everyone – an economy that’s on the side of ordinary working class people.
And an economy that can support the vital public services and institutions upon which we all rely – to invest in the things we hold dear.
Like the NHS (National Health Service) – one of the finest health care systems anywhere in the world, and a vital national institution.
An institution that reflects our values, our belief in fairness, and in which we all take enormous pride.
And I mean all.
Because there is complete cross-party support for the NHS.
. . .
We believe in the good that government can do.
Government cannot stand aside when it sees social injustice and unfairness. If we want to make sure Britain is a country that works for everyone, government has to act to make sure opportunity is fairly shared.
And I want us to be a country where it doesn’t matter where you were born, who your parents are, where you went to school, what your accent sounds like, what god you worship, whether you’re a man or a woman, gay or straight, or black or white.
All that should matter is the talent you have and how hard you’re prepared to work.
But if we’re honest we’ll admit that’s simply not the case for everyone today.
Advancement in today’s Britain is still too often determined by wealth or circumstance.
By an accident of birth rather than talent.
By privilege not merit.
Rebalancing our economy is a start, but if we’re serious about overturning some of the longstanding injustices and barriers that stop working people from getting on, we need that economic reform to be allied with genuine and deep social reform too.
Because a society that works for everyone is a society based on fairness. And only genuine social reform can deliver it.
. . .
A society that works for everyone is one of fairness and opportunity. A society in which everyone has the chance to go as far as their talents will take them.
. . .
This is a bold plan to bring Britain together. To build a new united Britain, rooted in the centre ground.
An agenda for a new modern Conservatism. That understands the good government can do. That will never hesitate to face down the powerful when they abuse their positions of privilege.
That will always act in the interests of ordinary, working class people.
That’s what government’s about: action. It’s about doing something, not being someone.
About identifying injustices, finding solutions, driving change. Taking, not shirking, the big decisions. Having the courage to see things through.
It’s not always glamorous or exciting, but at its best it’s a noble calling.
And where many just see government as the problem, I want to show it can be part of the solution too.
And I know this to be true.
Long, but good. The speech, in parts, is probably more radical than either Hillary or Trump have given.
Her solutions? Well, that’s where we always disagree, isn’t it?
The point is that she, like others, is openly identifying the problem. That’s a start. We’re making the wealthy — and their political pawns — frightened enough to at least pay lip service to our suffering and profess to plan to offer us some crumbs with which to satiate ourselves. Nonetheless, it’s a far cry from Thatcher, that’s for sure.
We’ll see if a positive change comes for us.