Let’s turn the forensic spotlight on Theresa May’s “Britain that works for everyone”

It should have been one of the government’s more difficult weeks.
News emerged that police forces in England are rationing how they respond to calls for help. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary says too many crimes are not being properly investigated and fewer prosecutions reaching the courts. That’s the sort of Britain that works for everyone.
Another watchdog, this time the Care Quality Commission, says 80% of hospitals are failing across a range of vital areas. That’s the sort of Britain that works for everyone.
In the House of Lords decency prevailed and the Noble members of that house voted to guarantee the UK residency and other rights of EU nationals. The government’s immediate response was to say it will try and overturn the vote when the Bill comes back to the Commons. That’s the sort of Britain that works for everyone.
What else, oh yes, Shelter says 80% of families in England can’t afford to buy a new home in their locality. A Tory minister gave a grudging apology following an outcry over his dreadful remarks about mentally ill people. In the South East of England commuters continued to suffer strikes and delays as the government plays ideological games over the Southern Rail dispute, which is really of course about the Tories crushing the last ounce of power from the public-sector unions. That’s the sort of Britain that works for everyone.

By refusing to give clarity over what returning EU fishing and farming powers will go to Edinburgh, Mrs May looks prepared to upset the Scots and fuel the SNP’s campaign for “Indy 2.” That’s the sort of Britain that works for everyone.
The Guardian recently reported a study by the giant insurance company Aviva saying that one in four families in the UK have less than £95 in savings. That’s the sort of Britain that works for everyone.
Yesterday, on The Today programme, Karen Brady, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport waffled on in the vaguest of terms about her new digital strategy. It’s a vacuous document of lofty language and little substance. But Ms Brady made sure to say that her strategy would work for everyone. 
A Britain that works for everyone has become the government’s mantra of choice. It replaces long term economic plan, which the Tories felt was very successful, until of course they led the disruption of economic stability with Brexit. What that produced is the sort of Britain that works for everyone.
Consumed by its internal leadership and ideological battles, Labour couldn’t put the ball in the net if all the Government players went to Antarctica for a month’s holiday and the referee painted a big white arrow pointing the way to an empty goal. 
So, it looks like it’s down to the Liberal Democrats. I’m certainly going to turn the Tories new favourite phrase on them whenever I write to the local paper or when out canvassing or even just talking in the pub. 
Theresa May thinks “A Britain that works for everyone” and it’s oft employed variant, “A Britain that works for the many not just the privileged few,” is a winner. It would be helpful to our cause to consistently point out in parliament, in the council chamber, in the press and on the doorsteps that there are very few signs that life for ordinary people is better under Theresa May, or showing any real prospect of getting better.
Mrs May, with Brexit and her central messages, is over-promising and will almost certainly fail to deliver the type of country she says she wants. We Liberal Democrats need to undermine her careless rhetoric and show all our main policies to be better.

* Martin Roche is a member of Canterbury Liberal Democrats

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • nigel hunter 2nd Mar '17 - 2:47pm

    Replace ‘winning for everyone’ with ‘winning for Tory voters’ Austerity is still here. Budgets are still being cut. Jobs are under threat At Copeland she did not mention the NHS position. She is using the country as a bargaining chip for her right wing Brexiteers, to get UKIP votes to keep the Tories in power. The country can go to the wall as long as the Brexiteers get what they want.

  • Peter Watson 2nd Mar '17 - 3:46pm

    ” We Liberal Democrats need to … show all our main policies to be better.”
    Please do. What are they?

  • “That’s the sort of Britain that works for everyone.”

    Really surprised you haven’t had more comments here Martin.

    Clever use of communication strategy to play her at her own game, exposing the weaknesses, whilst at the same time starting to create a wider playing field and firm ground for policy development, for the Lib Dem’s.

    Hope the policy and communication strategists pick up on this as a possible tactic which could bear fruit.

    It’ll be interesting to see what others here think – maybe in the morning?

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Mar '17 - 12:16am

    Excellent article, Martin. I think the inconsistencies in Theresa May’s approach and the continuing failures will show up more and more and contribute to her Government’s downfall. You are right, we need to keep emphasising and highlighting these points, and there will be plenty more to come.

  • I don’t know about any kind of industrial strategy that involves billions of pounds of education budget cut besides May’s one. Libdem can and must offer a better deal, such as expanding vocational training and reducing tuition fee specifically for STEM courses. The proportion of British people receiving vocational training is much lower than Germany or Japan.

    But there are some good ideas from May’s industrial strategy such as her plan to create an equivalent of DARPA, or increasing R&D budget.

  • On housing. I’ve been thumping this tub for a while now and must admit to being a bit peeved but pleased that shelter has come to the same conclusion. This is an excellent report and I would go even further in terms of land reform. As the basis of a housing policy the LibDems would be well advised to take a close look at this report. It is a banner policy that the Tories would never be able to steal but would have great appeal.

  • Linda Richardson 3rd Mar '17 - 9:56am

    This is excellent, Martin, thank you. I wonder who wrote Theresa May’s leadership launch statement. It was cleverly structured so that the personal appeal, the concern expressed for the disadvantaged and the promise to make a Britain that works for everyone came after, and diverted attention from, the declaration of her intentions regarding Brexit. Sadly, she is carrying out the intentions, which are wholly incompatible with the promise.

  • Nigel Jones 3rd Mar '17 - 10:09am

    Grammar schools do not work for everyone; evidence shows they make matters worse for those who do not get in to one.
    Yes, Thomas, vocational education is not provided for those who would do better that way than the purely academic approach now dominant. I must add, I prefer the phrase, ‘practical approach to learning’, but as Kenneth Baker has again said this week, Gove’s approach to the school curriculum has taken us back to Victorian days, when the system served the elite and not everyone.

  • @ Nigel Jones “Gove’s approach to the school curriculum has taken us back to Victorian days, when the system served the elite and not everyone”.

    Well said, Nigel. It was designed to keep people ‘in their place’. There are still echoes of Gradgrind today.

  • Grammar schools do not work for everyone; evidence shows they make matters worse for those who do not get in to one

    Yes, but provided the admissions are done correctly (ie, it’s the clever pupils who get in, regardless of class / parental income / etc) how is that a problem?

  • Q1 – Is this thread about looking in the rear view mirror?
    Q2 – Is there anything this party has not debated about Grammar schools – is it fair to say there is a broad consensus – is breaking this subject down into its component parts simply to reach the conclusion nearly everyone has reached anyway a useful use of time?
    Q3 – Time – a party that spends the majority of its time analysing, finds itself reacting to stuff and constantly on the back foot.
    At what point do people say. I have enough information now on X topic to be reasonably sure I am credible and have thought things through?
    Q4 – Getting into the drivers seat and setting your own direction is harder than sitting in the back and analysing stuff that happens to you.
    At what point are people willing to say, breaking stuff down further and further and further is simply giving other parties the benefit of our analytical in sight?

    Other MP’s staff must love reading this site. It gives all the information others need to run with before we’ve even made coffee.

  • Michael Cole 3rd Mar '17 - 12:07pm

    Well said Martin, Katherine Pindar and others.

    We must continually and repeatedly contrast Theresa May’s empty words with the reality to come.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Mar '17 - 12:25pm

    @Mike S “Is there anything this party has not debated about Grammar schools – is it fair to say there is a broad consensus”
    I’ve debated it often enough on this site to know that the consensus is broad but not unanimous!
    I’ve always thought that the party’s policy was too conservative: opposing grammar schools in principle but in practice appearing not to want to scare away voters in areas that already have them by threatening to change anything. I’m glad that the Autumn Conference last year passed a motion that signals a more radical policy and “calls on the government to abandon the selection by ability and social separation of young people, into different schools”. I look forward to hearing this message loud and clear in the local elections.

  • P.J – Land reform, as well as industrial democracy, had been Liberal’s chief policies for a long time.

    I don’t have much information about Libdem’s science and technology as well as infrastructure policies, but as I said, May’s idea to create an equivalent of DARPA is quite interesting. But regarding infrastructures, Libdem should compare the costs of Hinkey and HS2 to the amount of money that the government promised for national broadbands and regional infrastructures. They shoud also take a look at Rolls Royce mini nuclear reactors.

    I also read about the success of East Asian countries and found that many illiberal policies are actually good for industrialization. One example is State control of capital flows, and the state would decide which sectors would receive funds, but, how much each firm in these sectors receive would depends on their export performance. Another policy, of course, is infant industry protection.

  • Katerina Porter 3rd Mar '17 - 5:12pm

    Article by Martin Wolf in Financial Times comments on Mrs May’s declaration for “families just managing” was that her policies will mean a slight tax increase for the top 1%, tax cuts for the next 7% and more benefit cuts for the poor.
    On schools the Finns have the most successful schools in Europe. Preschool till 7 is based
    on Froebel lines, learning through play and learning to play together, then comprehensives with no league tables no outside testing till final exams vocational and academic at 18. Teaching a highly regarded profession. Grammar schools damage the children who fail the eleven plus and expectations in secondary moderns. There is no need for segregating more able pupils, comprehensives are large enough to accomodate both and setting by subject allows for those who are brilliant at maths and weak at French

  • Outside of Brexit, what is the biggest issue of the day?

    It affects every man, women and child in the country, it respects no amount of affluence, privilege, nationality or religion.
    It is the biggest potential vote winner there is and every single person in the the country cares passionately about it.
    Without this one thing, life is compromised, sometimes devastated, earning capacity reduced or nullified, loved ones lost, lives devastated, life cut short and dreams dashed.

    It is the biggest emotional sell in politics and every single human being in the country at some point in their lives will literally have no choice but to put their faith, their trust and their dignity on the line and hope that we have as a Nation have done everything we can to ensure the ‘health’ of the one service we will all literally place our lives in at some point.

    The Lib Dem’s have arguably the most respected MP in this field.
    This policy area should be our biggest strength. It has the capacity to unite everyone in the country like no other area.

    What is the Lib Dem policy on the NHS?
    Is it thought through, costed, joined up?
    Where is is being passionately communicated to the population?

    Why do I open a newspaper today and find Labour getting all the attention in this area.

    This should be Lib Dem core priority.
    The Lib Dem’s could OWN this.
    The Lib Dem’s need to be radical, honest and hit the populous with the truth, the implications and what is required to protect the health of us all.

    70 million people are well aware of the phrase:

    **”there is nothing more important than your health”**

    We may be surprised – convincing people to dip into their pockets to protect their own health and dreams and those of their family may not be as difficult a sell as it is assumed.

  • “She (May) added: “The Union I am determined to strengthen and sustain is one that works for working people across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.””

    In that one sentence May mentioned Wales and NI more than I had previously heard her do so, more than I previously heard David Cameron manage and moreso than I’ve heard Tim Farron or Nick Clegg manage. We can absolutely criticise a “UK works for everyone” slogan considering it only took her one sentence but maybe we could also be doing more.

  • @ Matthew
    Thank you for your reassurance. Looking at the 2015 manifesto I think you would have to read between the lines. Being a relative newbie in the Libdems I am sure you are right. For anybody interested here is the full link to the actual report by Shelter. It is a very insightful, if a little bit weighty document, and in IMHO a little deficient in market integration of Civic Building, but well worth read.


  • John Littler 5th Mar '17 - 7:50pm

    1) With Cable making a great start on Industrial Policy and Ed Davey on the Green Bank, LibDem economic policy should concentrate on building on this and tying in with German /Scandinavian/ Northern European style Co-operative Capitalism, which has produced the highest broadly spread living standards and strongest public services in the history of mankind, with the possible temporary exception of oil producing hotspots.

    Co-operative Capitalism sounds a bit of a mouthful but is a different model to the Anglo Saxon American model. It is more inclusive across society and across regions of the country and produces less extremes of wealth and less poverty.

    The Anglo laissez faire model can never work as well in the UK as in the USA, as the UK does not have the extensive cheap space and land or natural resources as the USA. Nor does it have the advantages of the huge single, home market and economies of scale.

  • John Littler 5th Mar '17 - 7:51pm

    2) Under Co-operative Capitalism the government has more of a role than under the Anglo model, ensuring that business finance is available on the ground, that publicly funded quality and relevant training supports employers, that government encourages exports, such as with proactive support to overseas trade shows and trade delegations, as well as offering business publications at no charge.

    Co-operative Capitalism is especially supportive of science and product development. Workers rights and benefits are strong and a policy of Industrial democracy operates, including workers on company boards. This produces a stronger togetherness feeling within companies and ensures that the view from the coal face gets into decision making without uncomfortable truths being filtered out.

    In Germany, recessions are lessened by the government policy of supporting staff who would otherwise be made redundant, for training or other work, until the upturn arrives. This both reduces the economic depth of hit of downturns, which are usually minimal there and ensures that German firms are the first to be able to expand to meet rising demand.

  • John Littler 5th Mar '17 - 7:52pm

    Germany also has a huge balance of payments surplus, largely a balanced budget, large holdings of foreign currency and gold and five times the Industry of the UK. Germany also has the same stable, reliable industrial giants that it had 30 and more years ago, party by the use of unsaleable “Golden Shares”, while the UK’s major companies have been sold abroad, broken up, asset stripped etc.

    Co-operative Capitalism extends to promoting the regions from regional assemblies with realistic powers and budgets.

    It does cost some more taxes to run the above system, but it targets resources to make industries work better and in particular strengthens the regions and manufacturing and the balance of payments, which are terrible in the UK and add to borrowing of now expensive foreign currency. It up skills the workforce and increases average wages, while discouraging the telephone number salaries of top Directors.

    The alternative of cutting taxes on corporations and the rich has not worked. The extra money does not trickle down much to most people and is instead, stockpiled in case of individual or company future need, largely uninvested, moved overseas into tax havens or used to buy property, ever bidding up the price and for pointless land banking.

    The LibDems should be offering this incredible model as an alternative to McDonell’s £500bn borrowing and the Tories uncomfortable new fumblings in this area.

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Mar '17 - 11:07pm

    Co-operative Capitalism sounds very good, John – can you get it debated and potentially accepted as Liberal Democrat policy next?

  • Martin Roche 6th Mar '17 - 7:15pm

    The idea of Cooperative Capitalism is right on the button, though I’d prefer simply Better Capitalism. The issue of who controls wealth, how the cake is divided and the benefits, protections and opportunities open to employees and the promotion of business and exports engages many millind of people. The Tory model is antediluvian and the Labour model kills enterprise. Great opportunity here for Liberal Democrsts, but keep it simple and clear and be clear about the benefits.

  • John Littler 7th Mar '17 - 2:34pm

    Thanks for the comments. Or you could call it “Co-operative Enterprise” or “Inclusive Capitalism”


    Co-operative Capitalism Summarised: UNCCP (United Nation’s Co-operative Capitalism Project)

    We cannot deny the benefits of pre millennium capitalism. Free market capitalism has created developments that have been enormously beneficial to the living standards of mankind. That entrepreneurs are more creative, inventive, industrious, tenacious, risk averse or more philanthropic has benefitted living standards in countless ways.

    Economic theory has traditionally worked on the assumption that human behaviour could be explained largely in terms of an inherent tendency to maximise self-interest and yet we have evolved successfully by being collaborative.

    Furthermore, research findings on motivation have shown that being part of something larger than ourselves is an even more effective motivator than self interest.

    The capitalist world is at an evolutionary turning point. The old carrot and stick approach can be replaced with a collaborative co-operative capitalism, a tax refinement to the capitalist business model, which will still encourage entrepreneurs and wealth creation.

    Introducing co-operation into capitalism will improve overall productivity.

    So how can we create an employment framework that builds trust and that sense of motivated co-operative effort whilst also retaining the positive aspects of free enterprise and the potential of wealth creation for entrepreneurs?

    A framework is proposed that provides a common bond, a focal point in which all employees participate equally.

  • John Littler 7th Mar '17 - 2:36pm

    This seems to sit well with Liberalism and Social Democracy, as well as with Vince & Davey’s policies in the coalition.

    There needs to be a big vision as well as to tie in with the most successful countries in Europe.

  • Neil Sandison 13th Mar '17 - 1:18pm

    Co-operative capitalism tied to social justice for all could be a winning ticket for the Liberal Democrats in 2020.

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