Conservatismequalitylatest – Part 6 – Theresa May

Russell Haggar

Site Owner

Conservatism, Ideology, Economic Inequality and Poverty

Part One: - Click Here


Conservatives, Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty: General Arguments

Part Two: - Click Here

One Nation Conservatism:

One Nation Conservatism: Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty

Part Three - Click Here

Thatcherite Conservatism:

Thatcherite Conservatism: Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty

Part Four: - Click Here


Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty in the Post Thatcherite Era. Post-Thatcherism and One Nation Conservatism 1990-2017

Part Five: - Click Here

David Cameron

David Cameron and Ideology: General

Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty and The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition

David Cameron and the Conservative Government 2015-16

Part Six:

Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa May

Part Seven: - Click Here


Appendix Phillip Blond

Appendix: Iain Duncan Smith and Welfare


Part Six:

Theresa May

Theresa May: New Conservative Prime Minister

Following  the UK EU Referendum which resulted in a victory for the Leave Campaign by 51.9% to 48.1 % David Cameron's resignation as  PM triggered a contest  for the leadership of the Conservative Party among candidates Boris Johnson, Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May. Boris Johnson[ who had initially been seen as one of the favourites to win the contest] quickly withdrew once he realised he could no longer rely on the support of Michael Gove [who had decided to stand himself] . In the first Ballot Liam Fox  came fifth and last and was eliminated while  Stephen Crabb was obliged to withdraw as a result of unfavourable revelations about his private life . In the second Ballot Michael Gove was eliminated and once it  became clear to Andrea Leadsom that she had very little chance of defeating Theresa May she also withdrew which meant Theresa May  was consequently returned unopposed without the necessity of a final ballot of the party membership.  [Click here for a little more information on the leadership contest]

After leaving Buckingham Palace where she had been confirmed as Prime Minister Theresa May made a statement in Downing Street outlining her overall policy approach. Key quotations from the statement include the following. Theresa May :First Speech as Prime Minister**

  • In David Cameron I follow in the footsteps of a great modern Prime Minister.
  • David Cameron has led a One Nation Government and it is in that spirit that I plan also to lead.
  • We believe in the Union : the precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But it means something else that is just as important: it means that we believe in a union not just between the nations of the UK but between all of our citizens , everyone of us, whoever we are and wherever we're from.

She then referred to the lower life expectancy of the poor, the discrimination faced by black people in the criminal justice system, the educational disadvantage of white working class boys, the over-representation of privately educated pupils in elite occupations, the discrimination of women in the labour market, the inadequate support for those with mental health problems and the difficulties faced by young people in the housing market. Then she focussed particularly on the difficulties of those who are "just about managing" [aka "the JAMS"]: those who have jobs but not job security, who might have difficulty paying the mortgage or who might worry about the cost of living

Her government, MS May said would take on board the problems faced by these disadvantaged groups. "When we pass laws we'll talk not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes we'll prioritise not the wealthy but you. When it comes to opportunity we won't entrench the opportunities of the fortunate few. We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever their background to go as far as their talents will take them."

In subsequent speeches Ms May stated that she believed in the merits of free market capitalism which would nevertheless be regulated in various ways . A new industrial strategy would be developed; high executive pay would be controlled; tax avoidance and evasion would be restricted, ; workers and consumers would be appointed to company boards of directors; gas and electricity prices would be capped; new education policies [including most especially the opening of more grammar schools ]  would help to promote greater social mobility ; and as already mentioned the interests of the just about managing  would be privileged. It seemed like a set of policies which would help to rebalance society in the interests of the "just about managing" and in so doing improve Mrs May's electoral prospects even further against an already apparently very unpopular Labour Party.

As we have seen there are tricky disputes surrounding the precise meaning of One Nation Conservatism but in these speeches could  surely could be seen  a clear unequivocal statement by Ms May of One Nation principles updated to suit the political conditions of the 21st Century .Some were quick to suggest similarities of approach between Theresa  May and Ed Miliband who had also attempted to portray himself as a "One Nation Labour " politician. Indeed in an amusing tweet to Theresa  May  he wrote "Congratulations on becoming PM. Good words in Downing Street. Time will tell. I have unused material..". Further similar tweets from Mr Miliband have occurred on occasion! ] Click here for Theresa May and Ed Miliband


Key Statements from PM Theresa May   with some analysis

·         Theresa May :First Speech as Prime Minister**

·        Theresa May First Speech BBC

·        Theresa May and New cabinet

·        Theresa May Profile and Interview

·        Theresa May Shared Society**

·        Theresa May: Britain : The Great Meritocracy**

·        Theresa May Conference 2016 Speech video [With...The Rolling Stones]

·         Interestingly Ms May's Conservatives  have adopted  this and this as two of their most recent themes tunes

·        Huffington Post assessment of Theresa May 2016 Speech

·        Autumn Financial Statement

·        Theresa May Industrial Policy Announcement January 2017**

·        Click here  for Launch of Tory Manifesto May 2017**

·        Theresa May The most Left wing Tory PM in 40 years

·        Click here for Is Theresa May a Red Tory and here for Phillip Blond On Theresa May

·        Theresa May 2017 Conference Speech

·        Party Conferences September-October 2017

·        Guardian article on UK Industrial Strategy White Paper.** A significant retreat from neoliberal ideology perhaps? November 2017



Ms May subsequently also stated on several occasions that there would be no need for a General Election for the foreseeable but on April 18th 2017 announced that there would indeed be a General Election on June 8th 2017. The Conservatives had enjoyed substantial  lead in the polls since the General Election of 2015 and the first polls after the announcement of the General Election suggested overall poll leads of between 18% and 25% partly as a result of strong support for the Tories among working class voters. Perhaps these voters had listened to Ms May's One Nation programme and liked what they heard. Be that as it may Matthew D'Ancona has speculated in the Guardian that MS May might indeed finally win the working classes for the Conservatives while Laura Kuenssberg has actually ,but surely not entirely seriously, pointed to similarities between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

Click here for Andrew Rawnsley's Observer article assessing Ms. May's Administration [somewhat critically [April 30th 2017]**

The General Election  result saw the Conservatives lose their overall majority and they were able to remain in government only with the support of the DUP. Disunity at the top of the Conservative Party intensified as a result of ongoing disputes over the Brexit negotiations and dissatisfaction with Ms Mays leadership of the party  which has become increasingly precarious. There are also continuing concerns over the long term prospects for the UK economy which in the Conservative perspective mean that ongoing restrictions on government spending are still essential which in turn suggest that Ms May will find it difficult in practice to implement the kinds of One Nation policies which she initially endorsed.

It is clearly impossible to summarise the full range of the policies introduced by Ms. May's Government  but I shall briefly  outline below some of the policy difficulties which Ms May has faced in recent months and/or may face in the future.

In November 2017 after Ms Theresa may had been Prime Minister for about 17 months the Institute for Fiscal studies published its predictions of likely future trends in Living Standards , Inequality and Poverty. In summary the IFS concluded that although income inequality had fallen between 2010 and 2015 it is likely to increase in the next few years as is relative poverty. Overall absolute poverty is expected to remain static although increases in absolute poverty among children are expected. Some further discussion of recent ideological developments in the Conservative Party are provided below but once again that whether of not we accept that David Cameron and Teresa may represent a return to the politics of One Nation Conservatism the impact of their policies on income inequality and poverty will be decidedly  limited and possibly negative if the IFS predictions are to be believed

  • Click here for  a more recent [November 2017] IFS Publication on Living Standards, Poverty and Inequality in the UK  2017/18- 2021/22 and
  •  Click here **and here **for  related articles.

The following issues presented further policy difficulties for Ms May. There are several important links here and Advanced level students should take advice from the teachers as to how much of this information might be useful for examination purposes.

  • There has been a long term decline in real wages but since 2010 the rate of unemployment has fallen and the rate of employment has risen and this does enable Mrs May to claim that in terms of unemployment/employment  the Coalition Government and subsequent Conservative Government's economic policies are working.  However critics argue that a large proportion of the new jobs created are poorly paid or part-time jobs for workers who would prefer full time employment of based upon zero hours contracts. Some basic wage and employment data are provided here but further investigation of these statistics is clearly necessary to gain a fuller picture.
  • It had been announced that from November 2016 the Benefit Cap which sets a limit on the total amount that working age claimants may receive would be reduced from £26.000 to £23,000 in London  and to £20,000 elsewhere. BBC Item on reduced Benefit Cap
  • Ms May had apparently suggested that she planned to mandate companies  to appoint workers and consumers to company boards and to make shareholder votes on executive pay binding as a means of halting what many believed to be the excessive growth of senior executives' pay. However critics subsequently claimed that the subsequent policies which were announced were much weaker than Ms May had originally proposed although her supporters have claimed that significant strides have nevertheless been made in support of worker representation on boards and the control of executive pay. Theresa May and workers on Boards Onetwo Executive pay
  • Ms May claimed that the UK system of secondary education could be much improved by increasing the number of grammar schools which allegedly would increase opportunities for upward social mobility for working class children . This is a view which is rejected by most education policy experts but nevertheless apparently narrowly supported by the general public. Be that as it may the policy has been discarded following the Conservatives' failure to secure a majority in the 2017 General Election. The Labour promised in the General Election that it would abolish tuition fees for new entrants to HE whereas in her speech to the 2017 Conservative Conference Ms May promised to freeze existing fees  which may be seen as an inadequate response  although considerable technicalities are involved See here and
  • I shall not cover  the details of Health, Social Care and Housing Policy but in each case it would be fair to say that extremely difficult problems of inadequate provision remain which Ms. May's administration has as yet failed to address. Sadly the inadequacies of parts of the UK housing stock were made all too apparent in the Grenfell Tower fire disaster of June 14th 2017.
  • Following the 2017 General Election pressure intensified for the ending of the 1% public sector pay cap which has now been in operation for 7 years and led to significant reductions in real incomes for public sector workers. Ms May  stated that she could not pre-empt ongoing development of future policy  but in the even larger pay increases [but still below the current rate of inflation] were agreed for police and prison officers  who , nevertheless account for only approximately 5% of public sector workers. Public Sector Pay Cap
  • Further embarrassment occurred when the DUP voted with Labour in support of a non-binding resolution to improve NHS pay and reduce tuition fees. The Conservative MPs were given a 3 line whip to abstain which may have further undermined the perceived legitimacy of the Conservative Government. Vote on NHS Salaries and Tuition Fees
  • Several further difficulties arose in relation to the roll out of the Universal Credit system. It was argued that the 6 weeks waiting time between claiming and receiving a first Universal Credit payment was creating undue hardship and that the roll out of the system should be paused until its administrative procedures could be improved or at least that the waiting time should be reduced from 6 weeks to 4 weeks in order to reduce hardship. Even Iain Duncan Smith ,[ who as Secretary of State at the DWP had overseen the development of the UC] supported the reduced waiting time but as yet no change have  been made apart from the cancellation of the charges for use of the DWP UC help line. Universal Credit roll out ;  Universal credit waiting time and here  ; Universal credit help line charges  .
  • As reported by the BBC "Theresa May has promised to revive a plan to cap energy prices for an extra 12million customers  saving them £100 per year. ".... "However many in the industry were critical of her announcement . The CBI said ii was not the best answer."
  • Click here and here for Ms May and belief in Free markets as stated in a speech commemorating 20 years of Bank of England Independence
  • Click here for Theresa May's Industrial Strategy Announcement January 2017 which does suggest that she is a believer in greater government intervention in the economy than was supported in the era of Thatcherism.
  • Click here for tax avoidance , tax evasion and the Paradise Papers and here for the Panorama programme on The Paradise Papers
  • Click here for Guardian article on recent CPAG Report.
  • Click here for Frances Ryan's series of Guardian articles on Hardworking Britain
  • Click here for a critical assessment of the Budget of November 22nd 2017 by Dr Simon Lee [The Conversation] and click here for BBC coverage of IFS and Resolution Foundation analysis

MS May has articulated  a programme based upon One Nation Principles but she is also a Prime Minister who believes in free [but regulated ] markets and presumably accepts  traditional Conservative arguments in favour of some measure of economic inequality as a means of providing the economic incentives which will promote the economic growth the benefits of which are to "trickle down" to the poor thereby guaranteeing rising living standards for them too. Meanwhile,  she also accepts that deficit reduction continues to be essential to future economic growth and that such deficit reduction is to be achieved partly via restriction of both public sector wages and welfare benefits which means that it will prove very difficult to increase economic equality especially as estimates published in connection with the November 2017 budget suggest rates of economic growth and real wages growth are likely to be low for the foreseeable future.

Increased Social Mobility also is seen as highly desirable on grounds of social justice and also because it will increase overall economic efficiency. It is hoped that social mobility can be increased by the continuation and extension of the education policies introduced initiated by the Thatcher administrations and followed to a substantial extent by subsequent Labour and Coalition Governments . However many education policy experts have argued that such policies are unlikely to increase equality of opportunity which they claim will be possible in a much more equal society than is countenanced by the Cameron and May Administrations whether or not they chose to describe themselves as One Nation Conservative.

For Part Seven: - Summary and Appendix  Click Here