Understanding a Nation

The article below is taken from Public Affair Networking and was written by Simon Gentry, partner at Newgate Communications.

If there was ever any doubt about Theresa May’s total control over the Conservative Party, the last week in Birmingham has removed that completely. Perhaps it’s post-referendum shock, but the Party does seem to be quietly going along with a quite dramatic recasting of its mission and priorities – and with no democratic, internal or external, endorsement. There cannot be many major democracies where government policy can change so dramatically without any form of electoral mandate, but that’s what our constitution has allowed.

The result on 23 June exposed in the sharpest possible way the gulf that exists between the elite governing class and the rest of the country. Even a cursory analysis of the referendum results at a local level quickly explodes the myth that it was only the poor and dispossessed who supported Leave. In reality it was far more nuanced with large swathes of the ‘stock-broker belt’ around London joining Sunderland and the North in voting Leave.

May’s response is therefore more interesting than the media have immediately given her credit for. It’s striking that she has not fallen into the trap of believing the media’s view of what actually happened. Her analysis is much more carefully considered and reflects more accurately what many Leave campaigners experienced on the doorstep.

Those who’ve benefitted from the policy continuum that characterised the Blair/Cameron era, will find all of this a very disturbing shock. The country is not the country that they imagined it was. It really is less happy, more insecure, less sanguine about immigration and much angrier than they ever realised.

May knows that the complaints of this angry nation will have to be addressed if we are not to see the radical fringes at both ends of the political spectrum gaining an increasing share of the vote. Mrs May seems to understand this. She realises that Momentum and UKIP are symptoms of the same malady and she means to treat it at the source. Re-establishing sovereignty of British law, bringing unskilled immigration dramatically down, a much more interventionist state addressing the injustices that so many believe they suffer from, and raising the quality of life seem to be the core of the new Conservative project.

The over-riding impression from the last week, therefore, must be how in control Theresa May is, how radical her diagnosis is, how radical her recommended treatment is – and how compliant and uncritical her Party is. Not for a very long time have we seen a Prime Minister, of either stripe, so completely in command of her Party and the country.

Finally, as an aside, the Leader of the Official Opposition chose this week to go on a walking holiday.  Which is all that you really need to know about the Labour Party this week.

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