Theresa May’s brand of conservatism has been called “socialism lite.” This is unfair to her. Perhaps it used to be socialism lite, but it now shows every sign of turning into socialism ‘evvy.
The latest wheeze takes the form of a bribe as the Tories hope to grab the young voters by offering cheaper rail travel. But this is only a gimmick, a sideshow. Across the whole range of economic policies, the government looks increasingly left wing: not far off Miliband’s 2015 election manifesto and certainly well to the left of anything produced by Harold Wilson or Jim Callaghan in the 1960s and 1970s.
It gets worse. The Tories have not merely slipped half-forgetfully into socialism, they have seized on it with relish.
Let me offer you a sign or a symbol of this radical shift. Last Tuesday George Freeman MP resigned from the Downing Street Policy Board, the internal party think tank cum PR agency which dreams up policy and then tries to sell it first to the party and then to the people.
Mr Freeman thinks that Mrs May’s economic policies are still not far enough to the left. He spoke of “a lack of vision at the top of government.” Well, he’s right there! But his own vision looks rather blurred to me. He wants to see – among other things on his spendthrift wish list – housing subsidies, reduction or abolition of tuition fees and increases in public sector pay.
He says “Intergenerational unfairness is the biggest issue of our times.”
Mr Freeman’s vision is at least clear enough for him to notice the one thing we have all been noticing for a long time: the kids have turned to Corbyn in big numbers. Corbyn has created, through his 300,000 storm-troopers in Momentum and his skilful use of social media, a revolution in British politics. It amounts to this: he is talking to the 18-30 year-olds in the language they speak every day and tweet and post and twitter on their electronic gadgets. The Tories have failed to connect in this way. In fact, they have never really tried.
Jeremy has understood what Theresa has failed to understand: the gospel according to Marshall MacLuhan: “The medium is the message.”
So, says Mr Freeman, we need to capture the young voters by offering them bribes. He doesn’t put it quite like that – not in public anyway. But that’s what he means. He said this week: “Unaddressed, we risk loosing an entire generation under forty rejecting not just conservatism but capitalism too.”
In other words, he wants May and her “compassionate Conservatives” to go into competition with Corbyn and his revolutionary socialists.
It would be hard to conjecture a more stupendous error than that.
The Tories cannot possibly compete with Corbyn. They might promise people – especially these darling millennials – the moon. But Corbyn will reply – indeed, he has already replied – by promising them the whole galaxy.
How utterly barmy to try to out-left the left!
Barmier still to encourage voters to turn to the Tories by transforming conservatism into socialism.
There is only one sane strategy, one strategy alone that will work. That is to preach and practise conservative political and economic values and to demonstrate that these work: that they are the only sort of policies and values that have ever delivered the goods.
Cut taxes and business regulation. Reduce public spending. Use every political and fiscal measure in the book to encourage industry, commerce and entrepreneurialism.
So we’re doomed to a Corbyn government red in tooth and claw.
And why are we doomed? Because there is more chance of my winning the men’s singles at Wimbledon than of Theresa May acting like a Tory.
A long time ago – remember – Mrs May rejected the Conservatives as “the nasty party.”