David wrote in the Sunday Sun, giving his opinion that growing perceptions that the government is “out of touch” with voters and their concerns were the modern equivalent of the unfair yet crippling allegations of sleaze under the Major government.
David pointed out that it is the hard-working “striving classes” who have been affected by recent government policy, and called for a freeze or cut in petrol duty and an extension of the ‘Right to Buy’ to Housing Association tenants to ease their financial pain.
Read The Sun Article
At the end of the most torrid two weeks in its history it is all too easy to find critics of the government. Walk into any gathering of MPs, left or right, loyalist or rebel, frontbench or backbench, and they will appear unbidden.
But it is too easy to carp about mistakes. All governments make them, and all governments have difficult times. The real question is what this government should do now? And how do we stop this happening again?
Twenty years ago Brown and Blair pinned a label of “sleaze” on the Major government. It was unfair, but it stuck. They managed to link it in the public mind to big salaries, fat cats, and, through privatisation, to government policy. Unfair or not, it worked, and that government went down to one of the biggest defeats in history.
Today’s accusation is equally unfair, but almost as dangerous. It is that the government is out of touch with ordinary people. That it does not understand ordinary people’s concerns – or worse, does not care.
“We’re all in this together” was a good slogan, but does not convince anyone anymore.
I do not doubt the Prime Minister’s commitment to help working people. But this Government must show that its desire to help is not confined to speeches and press releases. In this era of austerity and public cynicism of politicians, actions most definitely speak louder than words.
There is a growing resentment of the Government by the striving classes- those who aspire to the best possible life for themselves and the best opportunities for their children. They work hard and save for their old age. They pay their taxes to the state but take little from it.
Without their support, no opposition party can get into power- and no government stay there. To deserve that support the Government must show them that their aspirations are recognised, respected and shared.
This is why the ill-conceived child benefit changes were so harmful.
It is also why the “granny tax” caused such a fearsome backlash. Britain’s pensioners feel they have paid their dues. Many of them resent being told their generation had it too good. Some fought in wars. Many more lived through post-war austerity. All of them remember Gordon Brown’s raid on their pension funds. And they make up almost half of the votes cast in elections.
In times of austerity in particular, ordinary decent people have little time or tolerance for such mistakes.
As my Conservative colleague John Redwood rightly argues, cuts in spending should make their way into cuts in tax, not least on petrol.
Lowering – or at least freezing – fuel duty would help millions of people every single day.
We also need to show people we understand their aspirations. The vast majority want to own their home. So how about extending the Right to Buy to housing association tenants?
But this is not just about cash. The striving classes want the best for their country.
They are willing to accept a degree of pain if they can see this will deliver jobs and prosperity in the long-run, while giving support to those who need it.
That’s why there is overwhelming support for welfare reforms which will end the something for nothing culture. Nobody resents that culture more than the striving classes.
Thatcher showed that simplicity of purpose allied to the courage of your convictions can carry a government through many a trial and tribulation.
Of course Thatcher led three Conservative majority governments. David Cameron leads a Coalition, which brings difficulties.
Like the undignified sight of politicians squabbling over credit for the popular parts of the Budget. It would be no bad thing to return to a more respectable age when anyone who leaked Budget details would be expected to resign.
It inevitably means some compromise is needed. But David Cameron should always remember that, at 10% in the polls, the Lib Dems are unlikely to trigger an election anytime soon. They may have the best seats on the aeroplane, but they have no parachutes.
The Government must show the striving classes it means business. To do this, it needs a long-term strategy, not short term tactics.
For starters, the Prime Minister should not worry about his background. British voters are neither snobs nor inverted snobs.
The Prime Minister needs a strong sense of social justice by taking real action to help the decent people who make up the backbone of Britain.