- Social justice;
- Climate change;
- More Tory parliamentary candidates who are women, disabled or are from ethnic minority groups;
- Civil liberties in his ‘Come And Join Us LibDems’ speech;
- An ‘open-hearted’ policy towards asylum seekers;
- Devolution to Scotland;
- Global poverty…
And today the new Tory leader turns to equal opportunities for women. Speaking on the thirtieth anniversary of the Equal Pay Act Mr Cameron issued the following statement:
“After thirty years of the Equal Pay Act, women’s pay is still nearly a fifth lower than men’s – and for women working part-time, the pay gap is around 40%. This persistent injustice makes child poverty worse, prevents women in our society from reaching their full potential, and contributes to poverty in old age for many women who have worked hard all their lives.
“It is totally unacceptable in a modern, civilised society for there to be a pay gap between men and women doing equivalent work. It is morally wrong, quite apart from the practical problems it creates. There has been far too much complacency over this issue: the battle for equal pay still has to be won.
“One of the most powerful weapons in the battle for equal pay is transparency. If all employers were to be more open about what they pay their employees, there would be fewer hiding places for discrimination – whether intended or accidental.
“That’s why we are today releasing a note that reviews the issue and sets out the case for transparency, with employers playing a leading role. I am delighted that Francis Maude is going to consider ways of how best to address this issue in his ongoing review of the Conservative Party’s organisation.
“We’re all in this together: we will never tackle the scandal of unequal pay by leaving it to legislation and regulation. Employers can show leadership, and we as a society can change our cultural attitudes to pay by being much more open about this crucial issue that affects so many individuals and families.”
Mr Cameron has yet to give much attention to more traditional Tory issues, however – like the tax burden, early prison release programmes (the danger of which was shown up by the Monckton case), localism and family values. A leader in The Telegraph calls on Mr Cameron to remain faithful to his
EPP pledge after a growing number of Old Europeans on the Tory benches
have organised to torpedo it.
It is unfortunate that Mr Cameron’s very necessary and correct commitment to progressive or justice causes is not being seen to be anchored in the And Theory Of Conservatism. The And Theory (which he used throughout his leadership bid) can act as an important discipline on the Tory party – anchoring modernisers in traditional Tory beliefs and encouraging core vote Tories into broader, more progressive policy areas. The danger of not consistently linking Euroscepticism to global poverty relief, for example, or the empowerment of the poor with targeted tax relief is that the media establishment will cry foul when (hopefully) the party does give these issues fair emphasis in the future.
Mr Cameron needs to make it clear that he is a ‘total conservative’. A conservative who believes in lower taxes, Euroscepticism and a tough approach to crime as well as in fighting global poverty and saving the environment. Much of the media do not understand that these sets of belief are perfectly compatible but Mr Cameron has not yet given a big speech which explains that they are. That speech – and a supportive strategy – needs to come soon.
In the meantime it is left to other groups to champion ‘core vote’ concerns. The excellent Taxpayers’ Alliance receives coverage in this morning’s Mail, Express and Sun for its report on government non-jobs. The report written by Peter Cuthbertson is welcomed in a Sun leader. Andrew Green of Migration Watch UK was on Today this morning, pointing out failures in Labour’s immigration policies.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance and Migration Watch are rare examples of effective campaigning groups that could loosely be described as small ‘c’ conservative or right-of-centre. The American conservative infrastructure is many times better organised and more powerful. It can defeat the Republican Party when it betrays its values as President Bush appeared to do with his aborted nomination of Harriet Miers to the US Supreme Court. Britain’s conservative infrastructure is currently weak and it must become much stronger. It must become stronger in two complementary ways:
- It must help David Cameron to embed progressive causes like poverty relief within the Conservative Party. Groups like the Centre for Social Justice and New Ground are examples here.
- It must also develop more effective groups that campaign for the more traditional conservative beliefs – like small government, decentralisation and family values.