The immigration issue is overshadowing the spirit of optimism which once defined Cameron's Conservatism

There is a danger that the buzz and momentum around that initial modernisation is being lost

Share
Related Topics

At the moment, nearly every day, I read newspaper headlines about how the Government is taking steps to prevent Romanians and Bulgarians from coming here simply to claim benefits. And in every Autumn Statement and Budget, the Government promises yet another crusade to slim the welfare budget.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s important that policymakers properly manage immigration and our welfare system. But it is misguided for the Conservative Party to make these issues so predominant, to clear everything else off the decks. Essentially, Downing Street’s messaging is currently narrow and too negative.

There was a generation of people in their twenties and thirties who were drawn to a modernised Conservative Party at the end of the last decade, who worked and campaigned hard for the party. They were attracted to the newly found optimism, open-mindedness and humanness of the party. There is a danger that the buzz and momentum around that modernisation is being lost.

The determination to find new ways to tackle poverty, beyond just mere cash transfers, stressing the role of parenting and a “Big Society” too, enthused the progressive-minded. There was a willingness to embrace new ideas – not just blindly following old ideological assumptions – to tackle a range of issues people deeply cared about: better schools and hospitals, the quality of childhood, the local environment. Cameron talked the language of families, not just about pounds and pence.

This liberal conservatism thrives across Whitehall department with positive and creative policy-making. But it is under the public radar, as Number Ten increasingly narrows its messaging and reacts to agendas too often set by opposition parties, Labour and Ukip.

What I find inspirational about Conservatism, and many others do too, is how positive it is about people’s potential, no matter their background or identity. Conservatism should always get behind and reward those working hard to succeed in life, trying to break into the labour market, the housing market and the world of business. This includes the overwhelming majority of immigrants and those on benefits.

Yet, policy attention on immigration and welfare is unbalanced at the moment. It’s cap central. A cap on immigrants. A cap on benefits. Strangely, no cap on pensioner benefits – which includes free TV licences and bus passes for the wealthy – which constitute the majority of the welfare budget.

Universal Credit, mired with technical problems, is stuck; sad, as it offers a positive vision for those trapped in worklessness, disentangling the complexity of a system where withdrawal rates often make work unworthwhile. So other positive policies are desperately needed, or more pessimistic noises on welfare will prevail. Raise the minimum wage and reward jobseekers who get into work quick.

On immigration, sure, ensure the relatively small amount of abuse of UK generosity is thwarted; but streamline visa applications, and take students out of the immigration cap, to show we’re also fully behind the brightest and the best coming here.

Ultimately, the Tories need a balanced position on immigration and welfare: that’s where the public are. But surely we came into politics, into government, to do much more than address the relatively small amount of abuse of our welfare and immigration systems? Broaden the message, talk about issues which deeply affect the majority of people: for instance, ideas to give more choice for parents to get their children into a good school, to make healthcare more responsive and humane, and to make the internet safer, especially for children. Ultimately, there must be a positive vision from Conservatives to win voters at the next election: a society where ambition and effort is always supported, and where families and relationships come first.

Ryan Shorthouse is the Director of Bright Blue

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd end the war on drugs

Patrick Hennessey
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants