A Tory MP has criticised his party for continually failing to tackle “burning injustices” and “life chances” because “something else always comes along”.
Paul Manyard, the MP for Blackpool North and Cleveys, said that the backlash over free school meals should not have been a surprise and that it was no accident.
Writing for Conservative Home, he said: “We sort of had advance warning of the storm. A similar debate had occurred that led to us expanding the scheme over the summer holidays. We had a period when we could have developed policies to ensure that the right support reaches the right children and, most importantly, in the right manner to have the impact required”.
But Manyard said that “this issue illustrates our wider challenge on social policy.”
Criticising both Theresa May and Boris Johnson, he explained: “Our life chances agenda gets put to one side, we fail to extinguish our burning injustices, because “something else” always comes along. Instead, we don’t just need to build back better with economic policy, but use the challenges of the pandemic to address social concerns too.”
Manyard insisted that their heart was “in the right place”, pointing to the 2015 election manifesto, Theresa May’s speech when she arrived in Downing Street, and the 2019 election victory “whose foundation is a whole new demographic cohort of supporters.”
But he warned: “We put all this to one side because something else ‘more important’ comes along to deflect us. We are, I fear, fast reaching a point, to quote Keith Joseph from back in 1997, where our policies and performance no longer match the analysis and principles on which millions have backed us in past general elections.”
The former minister called for the government to “move much more quickly to fill what has now become a policy vacuum”.
He urged the party to not ignore food poverty as part of their plan to restart economic growth, adding that the lessons since 1945 are if they do not get it right, “someone else will try”, even if they do not agree with the answers.