There has been a lot of talk about Theresa May occupying the centre ground and even threatening to undercut Labour with a speech that would not have sounded out of place at a Jeremy Corbyn rally. But before we get carried away, we would do well to compare her words with those of previous Conservative Prime Ministers on first coming to power. Then compare and contrast those words with their record in office.
‘That means fighting against the burning injustice that if you’re born poor you will die on average nine years earlier than others. ‘If you’re black you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white working class boy you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. ‘If you’re at a state school you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately. If you’re a woman you will earn less than a man. ‘If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand. If you’re young you will find it harder than ever before to own your own home.’ She added: ‘But the mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone means more than fighting these injustices. ‘If you’re from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise.’
“And I would just like to remember some words of St. Francis of Assisi which I think are really just particularly apt at the moment. ‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.’”
“Amidst the inevitable competitive thrust of life, it should be a compassionate society. Genuinely compassionate – because some people do need a special helping hand to help them enjoy a full life of choice and independence. And we should never forget that small changes in the lives of private people are every bit as important to them as dramatic changes in the lives of public people. And a classless society: not in the grey sense of drab uniformity – but in the sense that we remove the artificial barriers to choice and achievement.”
One of the tasks that we clearly have is to rebuild trust in our political system. Yes that’s about cleaning up expenses, yes that is about reforming parliament, and yes it is about making sure people are in control – and that the politicians are always their servant and never their masters.
But I believe it is also something else. It is about being honest about what government can achieve. Real change is not what government can do on its own – real change is when everyone pulls together, comes together, works together, where we all exercise our responsibilities to ourselves, to our families, to our communities and to others.
And I want to help try and build a more responsible society here in Britain. One where we don’t just ask what are my entitlements, but what are my responsibilities. One where we don’t ask what am I just owed, but more what can I give. And a guide for that society – that those that can should, and those who can’t we will always help. I want to make sure that my government always looks after the elderly, the frail the poorest in our country. We must take everyone through with us on some of the difficult decisions we have ahead. Above all it will be a government that is built on some clear values. Values of freedom, values of fairness, and values of responsibility.
I want us to build an economy that rewards work. I want us to build a society with stronger families and stronger communities. And I want a political system that people can trust and look up to once again.