If Theresa May is to be believed then this is what she wants to do with her time in government. She has told the voters that she is going to stand up to the elite and govern for those who are only just coping. The key question over the next few months is therefore whether she can get people to believe her.
Let's start by giving her credit where it is due. She sounds very convincing. There is no doubt that she is seeking to make a clear break with the Cameron government and a couple of the policy areas she has identified would actually be of real benefit to the famous hard working families if she carried through on them in a halfway sensible and rigorous way. The problem is that in virtually all areas of policy that actually make a difference to the lives of those who are just coping she is proposing to do things that will make things worse.
Let's suppose you are just coping. So you rely on the NHS when you get sick and can't pay for any private treatment. You need your doctors to be highly motivated. May's first move was to re-appoint Jeremy Hunt as Health Minister and tell him not to compromise with junior doctors. Not the most obvious way to be helpful. Next she told around 30% of our experienced health care staff that they are foreign immigrants so she couldn't guarantee they'd be allowed to remain in the country after Brexit. Also not helpful. Then there is the small issue of funding. I say a small issue because the increases in funding are desperately small when compared to the needs of an ageing population. Funding per patient is being cut at the same time as yet another top down re-organisation whilst the shortages of cash for local authority care workers get more drastic by the day. Our hard working family better not have an elderly relative needing a day care visit. The only two healthcare policies that May has brought in that are genuinely helpful are training up 1,500 staff a year and putting an end to the wasteful and stressful constant testing of people with serious disabilities that are expected to get worse. Hardly enough to compensate.
Then let's think about what happens when your child goes to school. Getting a local primary place is going to remain extremely hard because May has decided to carry on wasting money on building new free schools where they are not needed instead of building to meet the demand in the areas where it is known to be high. So there is a significant chance of a young parent having to get their child miles to a school that wasn't the first choice. Then, when the child has made all their friendships and is ready to move on to secondary it will be put through a test and told whether it is a pass child or a fail child. 70% of children will be sent to secondary modern schools. May is trying to tell us that this doesn't matter because this will only happen in some parts of the country. In others the segregation will happen via sending children to different schools based on the faith their parents hold or pretend to hold. Ghettos for Muslim children where they risk their education being placed in the hands of governing bodies with some very dodgy ideas about what they should learn and no oversight whatsoever from an elected local authority. Posh designer blazers and expensive school trips for the girls and boys in that nice Catholic or Jewish school. Not exactly an enlightened way to create one nation.
And when it comes to their home our hardworking family that is just getting by will also struggle. Nothing has been done to make private tenancies more secure. Six months and you could be out on your ear through no fault of your own and trying to look for a new school for your kids. If your landlord owns very few properties they will be seeking to pass on a significant new hike in their tax bill whilst a corporate rental company will continue to get tax relief. Nothing is being done to increase the supply of council homes. Nothing has been announced that will help housing associations to renovate more properties. All May has done is announced that she'll scrap even more planning laws and give state finance to property developers to cover the cost of them building on brown field sites.
But perhaps I am being a touch unfair. She has told us that she is going to tackle the problems faced by the 4 million working people who have no serious rights at work because they are on dodgy self employed contracts. If she does this she will deserve genuine praise. After all Labour did nothing in office to ban temporary contracts or to properly control obvious false self employment introduced solely to get around employment law. It would be easy for May to win a lot of popularity by passing a law that made zero hours contracts illegal. Great if it happens but don't hold your breath. It would also be easy for her to scrap the charges for going to an industrial tribunal that Cameron introduced and then allow those tribunals to judge on whether a self employed contract was genuine or a scam. She could also very easily give those tribunals the power to impose heavy penalties on companies that are dodging laws that good employers are following properly. If that happens I'll be looking to eat my hat.
Nice sounding things have also been said about dealing with tax dodgers. Just as they were by Osborne and Cameron. Yet the tax dodging keeps getting worse. It could be fixed by a very simple law. Let the Inland Revenue take any company or individual that they think has paid too little tax relative to earnings in this country before a jury of our peers to decide whether that jury thinks the tax payment is reasonable. Then impose punitive tax payments on any company that 12 typical men and women think have cheated us. That would do it. Or try a variant of recent US tax law. If you are a UK citizen you have to show you've paid an amount of tax equal to the UK rate in another country and then pay us the difference in what you would have paid here. Or tax property owned in this country by people who pay their income tax abroad at punitive rates. It isn't hard to cut tax dodging heavily if you are serious about it. But don't expect any of these policies I've outlined to be implemented any time soon.
Put simple May's is saying some things that sound good but as soon as you look hard at the actual policies very little of it actually stacks up. We are back to the days of effective sound bites and ineffective government. This isn't a one nation Conservative Party outflanking the left by tackling poverty and unfairness. It is a government trying to patch up its own splits and to capture as much of the UKIP vote as it can.
In these circumstances I sincerely hope that it is a matter of time before deep disillusionment sets in about the gap between her fine words and her actions. If that happens then there is a real opportunity for an open minded progressive alliance that is prepared to implement forward looking policies that help out all our citizens. What we need is a slogan for this alliance which reflects our core values and outflanks the Conservatives and UKIP. My own suggestion would be: "We want our country back!" The tolerant open minded one that we like.