22 Jan 2014

Nicky Morgan steps into Theresa May’s shoes with a plea for positivity

It’s a long time since we’ve heard the prime minister appeal for sunshine to win the day.

David Cameron Announces Government ReshuffleAfter the Ukip councillor David Silvester’s ill-advised attempt to link the weather and politics, I’m loathe to blame the floods on anyone.

But perhaps it would do everyone a power of good if David Cameron let the sun into Downing Street again.

That’s certainly Treasury minister Nicky Morgan’s view.

The economic secretary generated a few headlines this morning with her plea to the Tories to spend less time talking about what they hate, instead opting for a sunnier outlook on life.

She believes the Conservatives needed to have something more to say than:

“we’re against this, we’re anti-that, we don’t like them, we don’t want them here, we don’t want them doing this.

“If we talk about what we hate all the time, we’re not talking about what we like and what we want to do to help people who want to do well”.

Quite so. But it’s a message her colleagues seem to have forgotten during the travails of government.

Politics is a brutal business and since 2010 the Tories have been engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the opposition, trying primarily to right the economy, cutting public spending and in particular welfare.

But in the meantime, the touchy-feely Cameron – dubbed the “aromatherapy” candidate during the Tory leadership race – has disappeared from view.

And there are a fair few Tories, particularly in marginal seats, who argue that swing-voters will be put off if in the struggle for economic growth, Cameron returns to “nasty party” form.

The Tory brand was badly tarnished during the uncaring “no such thing as society” Thatcher years.

The detoxification began when the home secretary Theresa May challenged the party faithful to shed its “nasty party” image in 2002. Hugging hoodies and huskies followed, along with “the big society”.

Now, Cameron’s said to curse the “green crap”, so the old mantra “vote blue, go green” is well and truly buried.

In its place, once all’s said and done on the economy, the Tory leadership now seems more interested in “banging on” (to coin a phrase the PM himself once used) about welfare cuts, immigration and Europe – aided and abetted by the PM’s tough campaigns chief Lynton Crosby.

There are many Conservatives who are uneasy about this, and Morgan does them a favour in speaking out.

It’s hard to make a mark in her Treasury job, as it’s a role with little media profile. So she’s canny to raise her voice on issues other than economic policy.

After all, the “nasty party” jibe, though controversial, was what brought May to attention. That, and those leopard-print shoes.


Follow @cathynewman on Twitter

Tweets by @cathynewman