The prime minister’s former adviser has revealed how political apathy could have paved the way to a landslide victory for the Conservative’s in 2019.
Rachel Wolf was one of the two people who wrote the policies in the manifesto that lead to a large majority in government.
The London Economic asked her whether there were any specific policies that made the manifesto successful.
Wolf said: “Yes and no is the answer, the truth is, most people don’t read manifestos. Most people in politics don’t read manifestos.
“What I think the manifesto and more importantly the election campaign did, was reflect a priority on the towns, smallest cities of particularly England and Wales, many of which are post-industrial, which had been relatively less productive, had a slow decline of place safety and a lost sense of a vibrant community.”
She said the Tory manifesto had a “whole host of ways of addressing that” – from skills to transport, the high street and jobs.
She added: “The truth is what I think people heard was the focus, the job now for the government is to deliver on it.”
“We are worried about politics”
During The Chicago Council on Global Affairs conference, Wolf expressed concern about the “developed world”.
She said: “It seems to me that the reason why we’re talking about this and why we care about this so much, these regions, is that we are very worried about politics.
“There are seismic changes happening, and the kinds of politicians that are voted for, the kinds of parties that are voted for, and what that means for everything.”
‘My own Tory government uses poor slogans’
But she thinks her own government’s slogans such as “levelling up” and “left-behind” are “poorly phrased”.
She said: “It’s probably fortunate that most voters don’t ever hear them.
“They don’t consider themselves to be left behind, they don’t consider themselves to be levelled down, what they do consider themselves to be is ignored, and they see a slow degradation of their living environment, quality of life, and opportunities for their families.”
“This is what I hear from post-industrial English areas”
Wolf said that she hears similar concerns from people across different regions: “People say ‘there’s graffiti on the cenotaph and when I walk past it there are loads of addicts, and I don’t feel safe about my family walking there and going into town’;
“They say ‘there’s nothing to do; the high-street is boarded up; there’s no shops to go to; the market that I used to love has disappeared; everything that I took for granted about my town when we were poorer is disappearing.
“ ‘I don’t know what my children are gonna do but I don’t want them to be in the cycle of manufacturing that we have gone through, I see no reason why they would be able to or want to stay if they do well.’ “
Wolf’s advice to politicians
Wolf said politicians can do a lot to address people’s safety and quality of life, things which can have an impact in a short period of time and “create a sense of momentum”.
But she said people are not going to see the results of any serious economic investment and change programme within “one parliamentary term”.
She also spoke about politicians doing videos of themselves in places that matter to people, a strategy which she thinks was “core” to driving success for the Tory government.
She said people want a place in which their families like to live and feel able to stay in – and politicians showing themselves to be reflective of them is key.
“People’s primary sense of identity comes as much from their local village or town as their country, although they also tend to be intensely and quietly patriotic,” Wolf said.