In October 2002, Theresa May, then Chairman of the Conservative Party and our current Prime Minister, told the Conservative Party Conference that: "There's a lot we need to do in this party of ours. Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us – the Nasty Party."
She was talking about the Conservative Party being driven by members, and pandering to those electors, who were determined to retain financial and social privilege, who lacked concern about those less fortunate than themselves, who were anti-equalities – particularly anti-homosexual – and anti-minorities.
Of course, she was right. What is disappointing to note is that, in government, Theresa May appears determined to allow nasty sentiments to underpin the thrust of her government’s policy agenda. Two particular examples this month reflect her direction of travel.
The first concerns health and social care. More than a year ago, I wrote about the crisis that would grow in health and social care if the government did not reverse the cuts in councils’ social care resources and address NHS funding. Over the last year, every independent commentator and the government’s own advisers and regulators have reached the same conclusion and spoken out loudly.
Knowing that those with money can always buy their way out of trouble, Mrs May resolutely refused to budge to address the problem for the majority, until the storm of post-Autumn Statement criticism became overwhelming.
And, her response? It amounts to “We will stand by, and take credit for, our tax cuts to the richest individuals and corporates whilst continuing to cut funds for adult social care. But now we will ‘allow’ councils to significantly increase council tax to fund more social care… and then we will blame councils for tax increases.”
The hypocrisy is breath-taking. And, it won’t solve the funding crisis or the despair of many families.
The other example concerns the encouragement being given to the campaigners who want to repeal the 2005 Hunting Act. They are desperate to return to hunting wild mammals such as deer, hare, foxes and mink by packs of dogs.
Nothing could be more symbolic of a nasty party than one whose members are so at variance with the British people, 80% of whom have made it clear that such hunting should remain illegal.