Simon Walters had a fascinating story in Saturday’s Daily Mail, drawn from Philip Cowley and Denis Kavanagh’s The British General Election of 2017 – the latest in the famous series of authoritative guides to British elections, which will be published later this month.

It was about the election launch speech written for Theresa May by Chris Wilkins, then her Director of Strategy, which was jettisoned for one approved by Lynton Crosby, then hired to manage the campaign. Walters did some work on the numbers, pointing out that –

  • In the Crosby-approved text, ‘strong and stable’ 14 was used times and Brexit six times – but ‘change’ wasn’t mentioned once.
  • In the Wilkins-crafted draft, strong was used four times, ‘stable’ none at all and Brexit three times – while ‘change’ was used eight times.

The key to the latter, writes Walters, was “promises to help the working class and young, boost hospitals, schools and homes, tackle executive pay and ‘privilege’, and making Britain ‘fairer’.”

You must decide for yourself whether the Prime Minister would have won more seats with a continuity manifesto to match the continuity campaign…or a change campaign to match the change manifesto.  At any rate here, for the first time, is Wilkins’ draft in full.

– – –

“Three weeks ago at the end of March, I triggered Article 50 to deliver on the will of the British people and begin the process of withdrawing from the European Union. 

In that moment I fulfilled the mandate I was given when Her Majesty the Queen invited me to form a new Government in July of last year.

It was the culmination of months of preparation, debate and discussion involving all parties and all corners of the UK

And as a result, in the next few weeks we will embark on one of the most important negotiations this country has faced for many years. 

But it was also the moment for the nation to put the divisions of the past behind us and to come together in the national interest. For as we embark on the negotiations to come, it is essential that we work together as one, negotiate as one, and stand together as one. That is the best way to get the right deal for Britain. That is what is truly in the best interests of our country

However, in the days and weeks since, it has become clear that there are many who are not willing or not able to rise to this occasion. While the 27 remaining members of the European Union have been clear that this process is bringing them closer together, many here in Westminster still cannot reconcile themselves to the decision that has been made. They want to continue to try and frustrate the process. They want to continue to fight the battles of the past. They want to continue to hold Britain back. 

In the weeks since we triggered Article 50the Labour Party – despite voting to authorise the Government to begin the process – has threatened to vote against the final agreement we reach with the European Union anyway. The Liberal Democrats have said their aim is to “grind” the business of government “to a standstill”. The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union. And members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.

The plain fact is that my party has only a small majority in the House of Commons and no majority at all in the House of Lords. And despite months of discussion and debate, the Government’s strategy for the negotiations ahead continues to be disputed, in many cases opposed, in Parliament and by other political parties.

That is no basis on which to get the right deal for Britain in the negotiations to come. 

Nor is this opposition restricted to the process of taking Britain out of the European Union.

Because of that decision and the Government’s determination to deliver on it, these same forces have also pledged to stand in the way of the Government’s wider agenda of economic and social reform designed to rebalance Britain in the interests of ordinary working class people.

Yet that agenda is essential. For as I have often said,the referendum was not just a vote to leave the EU, but an instruction to change the way the country works – and the people for whom it works – forever.

It was a call from all those who have been let down, ignored and left behind for too long, to change Britain into a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

And to respond to that cry for change, we need an ambitious programme of economic and social reformon a par with the great eras of progress our country has experienced before.

That means being prepared to do politics differently. Thinking and acting in a whole new way.

It means no longer ignoring or dismissing the concerns of ordinary working people. It meansembracing a new active, responsive politics that puts their interests first.

That is why I have set out the Government’s Plan for Britain.

To make sure young people get the education that will set them up to succeed, through thousands of good new school places, including new selective schools and opportunities for proper technical education…

To build the new affordable housing Britain needs so that young people get the opportunity to settle down and make a life for themselves in a home of their own…

To continue to attract the best global talent and businesses but to take control of immigration so that it truly serves the national interest…

To get the economy growing across the whole country through a new modern industrial strategy that will help to attract the high-skilled, high-paid jobs of the future…

To crack down on corporate irresponsibility, through changes to executive pay and corporate governanceso that everybody – however large or small – plays by the same rules

And to invest in the infrastructure of our country and the things that bring us together as one nation. Things like the NHS – a vital national institution – that unites us and is there to support us at every stage of our lives.

This is the right Plan for Britain. A plan that will shape the kind of country we want to be as we leave the European UnionA country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

So at this critical time for our country, we face two big tasks – change abroad and change at home. A new national mission for Britain.

And fulfilling this mission will require strong leadership and political will.

Yet it has become clear in recent days that there are many here in Westminster who are unwilling or unable to reconcile themselves to this need for change. 

They mourn for what they believe they have lost and continue to look back to the days before the referendum, rather than forward to what we can achieve together as a result.

And rather than coming together in the national interest to back Britain’s success in the negotiations to come, they are focused on doing all they can to stand in our way.

So we face a critical moment for our country. And at this moment, I believe that it is for you – the people – to have your say. I am clear about the change Britain needs. I am clear that we can get the right deal for Britain abroad. And I am clear that we can also change Britain to get a better deal for ordinary working people here at home.

But to deliver that agenda – and to build that stronger, fairer Britain – I need your support.

That is why tomorrow, I will move a motion in the House of Commons calling for a General Election to be held on 8th June.

And in this election, I will be asking for your support to help me to meet the big challenges of today and tomorrow.

To build a truly Global Britain that is outward looking and embraces the world.

To build a stronger economy where everyone plays by the same rules.

To build a fairer society where success is based on merit, not privilege.

To build a more united nation that works for people the length and breadth of our country, and which strengthens and protects this precious union of nations too.

Last year, when Her Majesty the Queen invited me to form a new Government, the task before us was clear. It was, following the referendum, to bring stability to the country, and to deliver on the will of the British People by beginning the process of withdrawing from the European Union.

Under my leadership, the Government has delivered on that mandate.

Now is the time to seek a mandate for the next stage of our work.

A mandate to allow us to lead the country through the next five years. To deliver my Plan for Brexit – and my broader Plan for Britain.

Because I want to see a Britain that is stronger. A Britain that is fairer. A Britain that is more united than it is today. 

A Britain that stands tall in the world. And a Britain that works for ordinary working people.

Because it is only with your support that we can overcome the barriers to progress and those who want to hold Britain back.

We can make a success of Brexit. We can get the right deal for Britain abroad. And we can get a better deal for ordinary working people at home.

That is the Britain I want. That is the Britain we need. And with your support, that is the Britain we can build.”