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Theresa May sets down her vision for bigger government as she slams "divisive" Labour party

Julian Harris
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The Conservative Party Conference 2016 - Day Two
May will today address Conservative activists gathered in Birmingham for the final day of their conference (Source: Getty)

Theresa May will wrap up the Conservatives’ conference today with a dramatic pledge to move her party further away from free-market liberalism and towards an approach that favours even greater government control.

The new Prime Minister, who replaced David Cameron in July, will set out her vision for Britain, which she says will put “the power of government squarely at the service of ordinary working-class people.”

The move signals a concerted attempt from the Tory leader to dominate the centre-ground of UK politics. May will slam the Labour party as “not just divided, but divisive – determined to pit one against another. To pursue vendettas and settle scores. And to embrace the politics of pointless protest that doesn’t unite people but pulls them further apart”.

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May will tell Conservative activists, gathered in Birmingham for the final day of their conference, that she is determined “to set our party and our country on the path towards the new centre ground of British politics – built on the values of fairness and opportunity.”

The PM is expected to say: “It’s time to remember the good that government can do. Time for a new approach that says while government does not have all the answers, government can and should be a force for good; that the state exists to provide what individual people, communities and markets cannot; and that we should employ the power of government for the good of the people.

“Time to reject the ideological templates provided by the socialist left and the libertarian right and to embrace a new centre ground in which government steps up – and not back – to act on behalf of the people.”

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May’s government will “step in to repair [markets] when they aren’t working as they should,” she will say.

The new PM has raised eyebrows since entering Downing Street, initially by creating a new department for industrial strategy – a decision that appeared to signal a belief in an economy orchestrated by government. At the time, Mark Littlewood of the free market-leaning Institute of Economic Affairs said: “It sounds pretty menacing; like a gigantic licence to engage in central planning.”

May’s government has also signalled its intention to push down executive pay in the City, force companies to put workers on boards, and impose stricter national interest tests before agreeing to mergers and acquisitions.

Earlier this week, chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed that he would abandon George Osborne’s plan to run a budget surplus by 2020.

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