Theresa May praised Conservatism at the party’s Spring Forum
Describing how Conservatism has always “steered a middle course between ideological extremes” the Prime Minister took aim at Jeremy Corbyn, saying the Tories “put the national interest first” while Labour “set out to mislead people” about Government policies.
In a barely concealed swipe at Momentum, Mrs May said: “The Conservative Party is not for any narrow interest, not for a particular class or a particular region.
“We are a Party that works for the common good of everyone in our society. We are the party that puts the national interest first.
Singling out the Labour leader for criticism over his u-turn on student debt, Mrs May told the Conservative Party Spring Forum that “time and again” the Opposition were “on the wrong side of the argument and the wrong side of history”.
The broadside came after Mr Corbyn last week drew widespread condemnation, including from his own MPs, for politicising the Salisbury poisoning incident and refusing to unequivocally throw his weight behind the Government’s tough stance on Russia.
In a 30-minute address in central London, a confident Mrs May said the very first duty of government was “defence of the realm” and “upholding the rule of law” .
She added: “That’s why the attack in Salisbury was such an outrage, and why it warranted such a firm response”.
Insisting the Conservatives’ commitment to the armed forces, police and security services was “absolute”, she said the party’s central motivation is public service, adding: “That’s why I went into politics in the first place.
‘We must be unafraid to speak out clearly’, said Theresa May
In the face of criticism that the Tories squeeze public services, Mrs May accepted that “some people people question our motives”, adding: “They wonder whether we care enough about our NHS and schools.”
Accepting that some may think the public’s doubts about the party were “unfair”, she said “they are a public fact that we must face up to” and called on supporters to “win the public’s trust”.
“To do that, we must be unafraid to speak out clearly and passionately about our values as Conservatives,” she added.
Drawing on her own personal experience, Mrs May described how her state school education helped her to get to Oxford University, adding: “Everyone in this party cares deeply about our public services. We use them. Many of us rely on them.
We each have our own story of how they have been there for us throughout our lives.
“Mine starts with state schools which helped me to get into a great university and set me on course for a rewarding career.
“As a local councillor and constituency MP, I have seen first-hand how important public services are to people from all walks of life.”
She also said she was “eternally grateful” to the NHS for the way it has helped her live a normal life after being diagnosed with diabetes Type 1 diabetes while she was home secretary.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes, the NHS was there for me
Keeping it under control means injecting herself with insulin up to five times a day.
She said: “When I was diagnosed with diabetes, the NHS was there for me.
“Skilled and compassionate, helping me every step of the way to manage my condition and live a normal life. I rely on the NHS every day and I am eternally grateful to them.”
Arguing that Labour’s “incredible” uncosted promises would bankrupt the country and lead to a “run on the pound”, Mrs May said the party needed “to win the argument” that “only a strong argument can provide the resources our public services need”.
The Conservative leader said ‘driving reform across the [NHS] system’ is essential
Insisting that a Government must “live within its means” she insisted that public sector pay restraint and budget freezes were “essential” in order to deal with a deficit that meant we spent nearly £50 billion in debt interest last year – more than we spend each year on schools.
Saying Britain had now reached “a turning point” in its recovery, she vowed to increase public spending and investment further in the years ahead but cautioned against spending more on the NHS without “driving reform across the system”.
“We know there are areas where bureaucracy can be reduced, costs brought down and the variation in performance reduced.”
Last week it was reported that discussion are underway to make the 1.2 million older workers pay National Insurance contributions, which would raise about £2 billion extra a year for the NHS.
A Tory source said there are no plans to increase taxes.
Calling for the Conservatives to lead Britain in to the next decade and beyond, Mrs May received a 30 second standing ovation for her speech, which came after a well received visit to Salisbury last week when she fist-bumped a supporter and a schoolboy shouted: “I love you Theresa”.
She continued to cat off her stuffy Maybot image in Wokingham on Friday when she was pictured cooing over a newborn baby.
The latest polling puts the Conservatives three points ahead of Labour on 42 per cent with 53 per cent of the public thinking the Prime Minister handled the aftermath of the poisoning incident well, compared to only 18 per cent who think the same of Mr Corbyn.