PM vows to tackle 'everyday injustices' as part of 'shared society' vision
Theresa May has promised government action to ensure the system works for ordinary people, as she set out her vision for a "shared society".
The Prime Minister took aim at politicians of the recent past who hailed the advance of liberalisation and globalisation while dismissing "legitimate" public concerns about the "unfairness and division" that resulted.
Their approach had fuelled the rise of extremist political groups on the right and left, which feed on resentment and despair among people who are "just about managing" in the face of job insecurity, stagnating wages and unaffordable housing, she said.
In one of the fullest statements of her political philosophy since her arrival in 10 Downing Street last July, Mrs May promised that her administration would offer a "mainstream centre-ground" solution to the "everyday injustices" suffered by ordinary working-class families who had been ignored for too long by Westminster.
And she said the Government would respect the bonds which hold families, communities and nations together, while fighting the influence of a "cult of individualism" which undermined them.
Last year's Brexit vote had exposed divisions between a struggling younger generation and a more prosperous older generation; a wealthy London and the rest of the country; and between the rich, successful and powerful and their fellow citizens, said Mrs May.
In a speech in London setting out plans to help people with mental health problems, she said: "The central challenge of our times is to overcome division and bring our country together, by ensuring that everyone has the chance to share in the wealth and opportunity on offer in Britain today."
Apparently signalling an ambition to be more interventionist than earlier Conservative PMs, Mrs May said that government has "a clear role to play" to nurture strong relationships within society and to "correct injustices and tackle unfairness at every turn".
But Labour's shadow minister without portfolio Andrew Gywnne said: "It'll take more than a speech and a slogan for Theresa May to convince people that she wants to tackle division in society.
"The Tories should be judged on what they have done in government. Over the last six years they have systematically failed to stand up for the majority. Under the Tories those at the top have been given tax breaks while everyone else suffers, working people have had vital support cut and our NHS is being run into the ground."
And Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: "Every time Theresa May opens her mouth on Brexit the pound falls further. It's clear this Government is taking us towards a destructive hard Brexit that would hurt jobs, increase prices and blow a hole in the budget."
Mrs May warned that d isillusioned voters were calling the "old certainties" of globalisation, free markets and free trade into question and asking whether they were "actually working for them", she said.
"When they lose their jobs or their wages stagnate or their dreams such as owning a home seem out of reach, they feel it is even working against them, serving not their interest or ambitions, but those of a privileged few," she said.
"This is dangerous for it sows division and despair as the gap between those who are prospering and those who are not gets ever larger, and resentments grow.
"And it emboldens the voices of protectionism and isolation who would tear down all we have achieved and take us back to the past."
In an apparent break from the free-market, small-state beliefs of Margaret Thatcher, she said her administration would be "rooted not in the laissez-faire liberalism that leaves people to get by on their own but rather in a new philosophy that means government stepping up".
:: A Housing White Paper to make homes more affordable;
:: An Industrial Strategy Green Paper setting out plans to boost investment and prosperity and ensure it is shared throughout the country;
:: Action to increase the number of good school places;
:: A "new agenda of social reform" to "support - and where necessary enforce - the responsibilities we have to each other as citizens"
:: Moves to "repair" dysfunctional markets;
:: Action to deal with a "minority" of business leaders who try to "work to a different set of rules" to the rest of society.
Mrs May said a "shared society" would be "one that doesn't just value our individual rights but focuses rather more on the responsibilities we have to one another".
"Just as we need to act to address the economic inequalities that have emerged in recent years, so we also need to recognise the way that a more global and individualistic world can sometimes loosen the ties that bind our society together, leaving some people feeling locked out and left behind," she said.
"And the central tenet of my belief - the thing that shapes my approach - is that there is more to life than individualism and self-interest."