Robert Halfon is the Member of Parliament for Harlow. Follow Rob on Twitter.
If Ed Milliband wanted to claim that Labour is the party of One Nation — or of One Notion, as described by the PM — then the Tories can do some similar stealing
of Labour clothes.
The Conference in Birmingham, redefined by Mr Cameron’s speech, showed that
the Conservatives are the true Workers' Party now. Whilst Labour remain
the party of state welfarism and the dependency culture, Conservatives re-took
the battleground of aspiration — a primary Tory story through the ages.
White Van Conservatism triumphed over metropolitan intellectualism. The Aspiration Nation over Harvard-inspired ‘predistribution’.
Conservatism is not based on ‘right wing caricature’, as painted by our
opponents. As ConservativeHome has described, it is strong and
compassionate too. For a long time, commentators made the mistake of thinking that
Conservatives could only be modern if they had metropolitan values.
Anything outside that worldview was old fashioned "right-wing". In his
appeal to strivers, the Prime MInister’s speech disproved this thesis.
White Van Conservatives want strong policies — such as lower taxes, lower
immigration and more incentives for those who work — but that are compassionate too. They want support for public services, especially the NHS; a more sympathetic
ear to Trade Union members, nurses and teachers; and a safety net for those who
fall off the ladder. It reflects the fact that work has become much more
individualised, as more and more people become self employed (currently
at around 4.1 million, and growing all the time), micro and small
businesses are the mainstay of the economy.
If you want to work hard, save hard, do the right thing, then the Tories will
provide a ladder of opportunity. Better schools through Academies and
higher standards; stronger skills and training with Apprenticeships, the Work
Programme and Youth Contract; incentives to work with the Universal
Credit and lower tax for lower earners by raising the tax threshold to £10,000.
Van Conservativism to triumph — and win electoral dividends in 2015 — the Government needs to build on the Conference platform. Further cuts in fuel
duty; certainly no more rises. A relentless focus on tax cuts for the
low-paid, such as the restoration of the 10 pence tax rate. A
determination to reduce the cost of living, particularly by a wholesale
assault on utility companies. Tax cuts for smaller and micro businesses. Attacking vested interests, such as big uncompetitive corporates like oil
companies. Fighting the EU on the grounds that
it is a break on economic growth, rather than on grounds of sovereignty. Making it even easier to buy a council house; extending the £75,000 discount
None of the above is rocket science. But it is often much harder to
provide a narrative of policies than to set out the policies themselves. White Van Conservatism is the narrative that provides the washing line to
the clothes pegs of aspirational policies.