The Conference in Birmingham, redefined by Mr Cameron's speech, showed that the Conservatives are the true Workers' Party now. Whilst Labour remain the party of state welfarism and the dependency culture, Conservatives re-took the battleground of aspiration — a primary Tory story through the ages.
White Van Conservatism triumphed over metropolitan intellectualism. The Aspiration Nation over Harvard-inspired 'predistribution'.
White Van Conservatism is not based on 'right wing caricature', as painted by our opponents. As ConservativeHome has described, it is strong and compassionate too. For a long time, commentators made the mistake of thinking that Conservatives could only be modern if they had metropolitan values. Anything outside that worldview was old fashioned "right-wing". In his appeal to strivers, the Prime MInister's speech disproved this thesis.
White Van Conservatives want strong policies — such as lower taxes, lower immigration and more incentives for those who work — but that are compassionate too. They want support for public services, especially the NHS; a more sympathetic ear to Trade Union members, nurses and teachers; and a safety net for those who fall off the ladder. It reflects the fact that work has become much more individualised, as more and more people become self employed (currently at around 4.1 million, and growing all the time), micro and small businesses are the mainstay of the economy.
If you want to work hard, save hard, do the right thing, then the Tories will provide a ladder of opportunity. Better schools through Academies and higher standards; stronger skills and training with Apprenticeships, the Work Programme and Youth Contract; incentives to work with the Universal Credit and lower tax for lower earners by raising the tax threshold to £10,000.
For White Van Conservativism to triumph — and win electoral dividends in 2015 — the Government needs to build on the Conference platform. Further cuts in fuel duty; certainly no more rises. A relentless focus on tax cuts for the low-paid, such as the restoration of the 10 pence tax rate. A determination to reduce the cost of living, particularly by a wholesale assault on utility companies. Tax cuts for smaller and micro businesses. Attacking vested interests, such as big uncompetitive corporates like oil companies. Fighting the EU on the grounds that it is a break on economic growth, rather than on grounds of sovereignty. Making it even easier to buy a council house; extending the £75,000 discount to £100,000.
None of the above is rocket science. But it is often much harder to provide a narrative of policies than to set out the policies themselves. White Van Conservatism is the narrative that provides the washing line to the clothes pegs of aspirational policies.
This article was also published on Conservative Home here: http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2012/10/now-we-must-build-on-this-white-van-conservatism.html