A Labour of love for Tory Theresa’s election pitch
As Theresa May launched her manifesto for the general election, the FT went behind the scenes in her bunker as she and her two fanatical chief aides Nick Timothy, her policy supremo and Fiona Hill, her chief enforcer, drew up the details of her policy pitch to the nation.
Theresa May: So Nick, what do we have for the manifesto? Nick Timothy: Well boss, we need to surprise them. Something to stretch our appeal deep into Labour territory. People want their country back. They remember when we had jobs and hope and Green Shield Stamps. What happened to Green Shield Stamps? When I was growing up in Birmingham everyone had Green Shield Stamps. We need to win back the ordinary people. TM: With Green Shield Stamps? NT: No, with a cap on energy bills. TM: Isn’t that a bit statist? NT: Listen boss, I was talking to Ed Miliband’s policy guru the other day. He thinks the energy cap is a really good idea. When I was a boy growing up in Birmingham, everyone had an energy cap. TM: Don’t we believe in free markets? NT: What are you, a Tory? Fiona Hill: ( on phone) Is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Another minister once briefed against Theresa. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. NT: We need attacks on foreigners. TM: I’m not sure about violence, Nick NT: No prime minister, not attacks on foreigners. A tax on foreigners. Treat them as a luxury item, make people pay more for them. Levy VAT on purchases of foreigners. When I was growing up in Birmingham we always taxed foreigners. It’s the only way our people can compete. I was talking to Gordon Brown the other day. We need British jobs for British workers. TM: Hmm. What else? NT: Redistribution. A wealth tax. TM: What? NT: A wealth tax, but paid only by people with dementia. TM: That sounds a bit leftwing NT: I was talking to Noam Chomsky the other day. He’s very keen on the idea. We need to deal with these parasitical homeowners with their bourgeois attitudes. Fiona Hill: (on phone again). Listen Philip. Not another word. You’ve messed with the wrong marine, pal. NT: We need a policy to win back those ordinary workers. TM: What do you suggest? NT: Well, I was talking to John Prescott the other day. What about renationalising the railways? TM: What? If Corbyn proposed this we’d call him a communist FH: No we wouldn’t. We’d get the Daily Mail to do it for us. TM: But renationalising the railways? NT: We need to secure for the workers, by hand or by brain, the full fruits of their industry. When I was growing up in Birmingham every boy had a train set. No one has one now. Ordinary hard-working families want their train set back. And we need more workers’ rights, employees on boards, wildcat strikes, flying pickets. When I was growing up in Birmingham we always had flying pickets. TM: I thought we didn’t like militant trade unionism, Nick. NT: That’s the kind of thing Thatcher would say. TM: Thank you NT: That wasn’t a compliment. We need an old-style industrial strategy. We need to pick some winners. TM: Like a new tech corridor? NT: A tech corridor. We never had a tech corridor when I was growing up in Birmingham. But we did have British Leyland. I’ve been talking to Roy Hattersley. Everyone loved British Leyland. It was the envy of the world. We should promise an Austin Allegro to every hard-working family. FH: (on phone) Philip, tell me. When you wake up in the dark do you still hear the screaming of the lambs? TM: Fiona, stop threatening the Chancellor. FH: I must go, Chancellor. I’m having an old friend for dinner. TM: Now what about the launch of the manifesto. I thought we’d call it Forward, Together. NT: It’s a bit Churchillian. TM: Well that’s OK isn’t it? NT: You know what would be good. We should get a great big stone with all our policies carved on it? TM: Haven’t I seen that before somewhere? FH: Prime Minister, I do hope you aren’t going to be any trouble here.