General Election 2017: The UK does not need a more interventionist government – Prime Minister Theresa May must resist any radical change of direction in her Conservative party manifesto

Julian Harris
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Theresa May Visits The West Midlands
May said she decided to hold an election while on holiday in Wales (Source: Getty)

A recent conspiracy theory floating around Westminster suggested Prime Minister Theresa May was deliberately veering away from her predecessor’s 2015 manifesto.

Why? To goad her critics into demanding another General Election. Every cry accusing the PM of lacking a mandate would be welcome at Number 10, the whisperers said, paving the way to a vote that should ultimately give her more power.

Whether you believe this, or May’s version – that she simply dreamt up the idea while hiking in Wales – or something in between, we are now awaiting a new Tory manifesto, and one with huge importance.

Read more: Could the General Election make the Lib Dems the new opposition?

After a series of electoral twists and turns, the country suddenly faces the realistic prospect of five years of undisturbed May-led Conservative rule (backed up by a thumping three-figure majority, if certain pollsters are to be believed).

So what can we expect? One option is that May takes this opportunity to rubber stamp her plan for a more interventionist form of conservatism, as laid out during last autumn’s party conference. “Government can and should be a force for good,” she said at the time. “The state exists to provide what individual people, communities and markets cannot... we should employ the power of government for the good of the people.”

Read more: Theresa May has ruled out participating in TV election debates

There is little doubt that May meant what she said, but not all senior Conservatives agree. Those of us who believe society and the economy thrive with less intervention must hope the Prime Minister heeds the warnings of her Cabinet colleagues.

In recent weeks Philip Hammond, Boris Johnson and Amber Rudd have all made fairly liberal comments about migration levels post-Brexit, recognising the benefits brought by people who come to work and study on these shores.

Business secretary Greg Clark, furthermore, has insisted the government’s ominously-named industrial strategy will have more in common with Margaret Thatcher’s Big Bang than it does with “picking winners”.

Read more: The PM is right to seek a mandate of her own

Hammond and others appear to have convinced May of the importance of the UK’s financial services sector, meanwhile, as well as the need to eliminate the government’s large annual deficit. She also seems to have rowed back on some of the more hardline plans to interfere in the running of UK businesses.

Britain has long been a relatively liberal, open, capitalist country. The PM must allow it to remain so.

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