And now May is pushing the Tory campaign deep into the Labour heartlands. And she’s taking more and more issues away from Labour. The Tory party’s manifesto calls for raising the minimum wage and for price caps on energy bills. It also calls for a new statutory right to take time off work to look after loved ones on a full-time basis, a move meant to strengthen social care and possibly reduce costs that are passed on to NHS. It’s enough to give orthodox Thatcherites fits.
But May is not just getting to the left of David Cameron and other Tory predecessors, she’s also getting to their right. She’s talked about reversing the restrictions on fox hunting, an issue that has deep cultural resonance for the English upper class and economic impact for low-paid country workers, too. She’s talked about reviving the role of grammar schools in English life, selective schools whose ethos was decidedly not egalitarian but instead focused on social mobility. Grammar schools fell out of favor because they weren’t focused on destroying class distinctions in British life; they aimed to recruit the best talent from below to the highest levels of British life.
May has hit the ground running with this political revolution in part because the intellectual groundwork was already done. In the U.K., political entrepreneurs dreamed of what an anti-globalization politics could do for each of the major parties. A decade ago, Philip Blond wrote a book promoting “Red Toryism,” arguing that Britain’s political elite needed to get over individualism and focus on a conservative communitarianism. That way, the Right could steal working-class voters and leave New Labour as the party of financiers and the thought police of political correctness. On the other side, Maurice Glasman, a member of Ed Miliband’s Labour-party brain trust, preached “Blue Labour,” which was meant to head off any dream of the Red Tories, by reversing Labour’s stance on immigration, which had alienated rank-and-file Labour voters. Labour rejected Glasman’s advice and continued to trade the politics of the working class for the politics of diversity. And now the Tories are set to benefit. It’s not surprising that Teresa May’s chief idea man, Nick Timothy, met with Maurice Glasman to exchange ideas ahead of the release of the Tory’s election manifesto.