“Politics is the language of priorities”. So said Nye Bevan, who was quoted by Harold Wilson, and they had a point.
Judging by a recent poll on ConHome, there are a lot of Conservatives out there who have some concerns about the Prime Minister’s priorities.
I got into active politics in 1998, fired up by concerns about the EU, and the proposed single currency, and the way that the independence of our nation was being undermined by Brussels. I still have those concerns. But in the meantime, and for about the last five years, I’ve also become increasingly involved in the issues of climate change, energy security, and most recently energy costs, which are undermining the competitiveness of our economy, and threaten our children with penury.
So when the excellent Tim Montgomerie of ConHome asked Conservatives to rank “Cameron’s ten biggest mistakes”, I was delighted to see that my two political priorities seem to be theirs as well.
Number one on the list was Europe — and explicitly Cameron’s failure to honour his “cast iron guarantee” of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, on the poor excuse that the Treaty had already been ratified. And the second? “Supporting climate change policies that are likely to increase energy bills”.
I must confess to a sense of vindication to find that my top two issues are their top two issues as well, not least because some commentators (including some MEP colleagues) are constantly assuring me that the public out there don’t really care too much about Europe. The EU typically comes about tenth on a list of voters’ priorities, after health and education and jobs and tax and immigration and so on.
But I think there is a dawning realisation that the EU affects all these other issues. EU policies are driving up energy bills. Increasing immigration. And costing jobs. And now Brussels is demanding new EU taxes, and the EU budget goes ever upwards, despite restraint on spending in member states (and in households). And over-arching these on-going issues is the unfolding euro crisis, like a slow-motion train crash. It has already cost this country many billions of pounds, and will cost a good deal more before it’s over. Suddenly, Europe matters (and not in a good way).
Of course I have written at length elsewhere on the EU and climate — but the other concerns of ConHome respondents are interesting as well. Failure to carry through bold NHS reforms; making a big deal of the Big Society, which few understand; prison policies; opposing grammar schools; letting Nick Clegg loose in the pre-election TV debates; failure to prioritise defence; immigration; lack of clear economic direction.
I’d be inclined to add: a disgraceful leftist policy on University admissions; excessive foreign aid; and failure to deliver on the commitment to repeal the discredited Hunting Act.
Let’s just hope that someone in Cameron’s office is keeping a close eye on ConHome. And that despite his current travails, the Prime Minister can find a few moments to listen to his natural supporters, and to prioritise conservative values ahead of the Guardian’s prejudices.
This article first appeared on ConservativeHome.