By Tim Montgomerie
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Labour may be losing the economic argument but it is determined to paint the Conservatives as uncaring. This should worry every Conservative who wants us to win the next election. Clear majorities of voters support right-wing policies on tax, crime, immigration and Europe but they also want a government that is committed to pensioners, the principles of the NHS and to the very disadvantaged. Without this balanced conservatism we will struggle to get to the 41%, 42% and 43% that is necessary for a parliamentary majority. As I recently argued in The Guardian, a right-wing party with a heart can dominate British politics.
Constantly in that newspaper, Polly Doom'n'Gloom Toynbee finds ever more hysterical ways of attacking the party's compassionate credentials. Today she writes about "Cameron's mendacious "social mobility" cant". Last week she was even more negative. "In my political lifetime there has been no more callous or inept crew in charge," she wrote, "nor a government more skilful at disguising its nature." She continued:
"This government, as it puts the NHS out to tender, cuts benefits for disabled children, leaves Britain more isolated and rapidly accelerates inequality. The difference is that Cameron is the master dissembler, his words belying his deeds, while Thatcher revelled in an Iron Lady imagery tougher than her more pragmatic reality."
This idea of a heartless Conservative Party is, of course, encouraged by Tim Farron, Chris Huhne, Vince Cable and other Liberal Democrats. Sayeeda Warsi fired a timely warning at Mr Farron about this, last Sunday. This is not a small matter. I do not believe that the Conservatives can win an election outright if we are not seen as a party that wants to govern for every person in Britain. Cameron and every Tory minister has to fight a lot harder to establish the party's one nation credentials.
We have a good story to tell. The five compassionate policies I think are most notable are:
- The Universal Credit which will ensure that taking a job will always pay for those on welfare;
- Michael Gove's schools revolution – free schools, expansion of apprenticeships and technical colleges all bring historic new opportunities for parents and their children;
- The control on immigration so that British people have a chance of taking the jobs that this economy produces;
- The huge intervention programme for troubled families – under the leadership of the highly respected Louise Casey it will attempt to do what Michael Howard's prisons policy did and focus on the small percentage of people who cause disproportionate social problems;
- The overseas vaccination programme that will potentially save millions of lives.
The list could go on. Deficit reduction and its establishment of justice between this and future generations. Lifting the low-paid out of income tax. Extra money for inner city schools. The triple guarantee on the basic state pension. Protection of the NHS and aid budgets. Exempting lower-paid public sector workers from the spending squeeze. Extending the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. I wouldn't have pursued every one of these policies (and it's the reforming rather than spending policies that will be most transformational) but the Left cannot get away with their claims of moral superiority. It's time for a fight back.