Let’s face it, millions of hearts sank when Theresa May called for yet another election after the barrage of recent summonses to the ballot box.
Indeed, who could blame the public if they’re weary of politics, or see it as a profoundly dishonest game, played for the benefit of a self-interested elite, in which promises count for nothing?
The good news is that Mrs May is wonderfully placed to change all that.
People trust Theresa May as a woman with a mission to improve life for everyone, not just a privileged few
By temperament, this vicar’s daughter stands a world apart from the view – exemplified by Tony Blair and the Cameron/Osborne chumocracy – that politics is a means of helping friends in the City and establishing influential contacts to exploit in later life.
Instinctively, people trust her as a woman with a mission to improve life for everyone, not just a privileged few. Indeed, polls show her scoring higher than any previous leader, Labour or Tory, in categories including patriotism, judgment and understanding of Britain’s problems.
Remarkably, she is as popular in the North as the South, while even Scots now prefer the Tories to Labour.
Mrs May should also benefit in June from the robust health of the economy since the Brexit vote – something that may well not last as the business cycle turns. Meanwhile, her biggest advantage of all is the manifest unfitness to govern of that superannuated Trot Jeremy Corbyn and the ‘coalition of chaos’ he hopes to lead.
But if she is to make the best of everything going for her, it will not be enough merely to trust in her opponents’ unelectability.
For if she finds the right language and policies, she has a magnificent opportunity to redraw the electoral map of Britain – re-establishing the Tories as the party of all regions and classes, speaking for every aspirational family.
This is why it is vital her 2017 manifesto should reject the example of the cynical and dishonest document on which David Cameron went to the country two years ago. In this, he made no fewer than 625 pledges, intending not to keep them but to use them as chips to be bargained away with Nick Clegg in a renewed coalition.
Indeed, Mrs May has made clear she will pledge only what she can deliver – even if this means ditching her predecessor’s most popular but reckless policies, such as his freeze on all the main taxes and the crippling triple-lock on pensions.
Elsewhere, the manifesto gives her the chance to win a mandate for bringing back selective schooling, while enabling her to shore up her plans for Brexit against further sabotage by the Lords.
As for retaining the target to cut net immigration to the tens of thousands, it is true that this won’t be immediately attainable. But by focusing officialdom’s minds on the need to get the numbers down, it can only be welcome.
One grave reservation. This paper is deeply disappointed that, while we’re cutting our defences to insanely low levels, Mrs May intends to retain the law compelling us to spend 0.7 per cent of national output on foreign aid. But at least there is hope she may redefine how the figure is calculated, enabling her to switch aid cash to budgets such as defence.
But Mrs May’s main task will be to make good on the promises she made on her first day as PM, when she vowed to stand up for those who are just managing and narrow the socially corrosive gap between the privileged elites and the have-nots.
Heaven knows, five years will not be enough to tackle the mighty challenges facing us, from putting the NHS on a viable footing to reforming the Lords.
But if Mrs May puts her policies where her heart lies, concentrating on revitalising areas such as the North, she can make the Tories a truly national force once again – and the natural party of government.