Commentary (The Times)

Economy: “Cameron draws line under Thatcher policies” (‘General Well-Being’ versus GDP)

Document type: Press
Source: The Times , 22 May 2006
Journalist: Rosemary Bennett, The Times
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 401 words
Themes: Conservatism, Economic policy - theory and process

Cameron draws line under Thatcher policies

By Rosemary Bennett, Deputy Political Editor

DAVID CAMERON will tell business leaders today that there is “more to life than money” as he attempts to make a clean break with Thatcherism.

He will tell business leaders that “general wellbeing” is more important than personal wealth and will list beautiful surroundings, culture and better relationships as society’s new goals.

The Tory leader, who enjoys considerable wealth of his own, has made a timely intervention on the subject of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. Her years in power are the subject of a television adaptation of the award-winning novel The Line of Beauty, which charts the highs and lows of the decade.

However, Mr Cameron will also use his speech to a Google Zeitgeist conference in Hertfordshire to promise that there will be no new laws to promote flexible jobs for working mothers, saying that companies should be free to find their own answers to the work-life balance.

He will make clear that a Conservative government led by him would have different priorities from Mrs Thatcher’s.

“Wealth is about so much more than pounds or euros or dollars can ever measure. It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money, and it’s time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB — general wellbeing,” he will say.

“Wellbeing can’t be measured by money or traded in markets. It can’t be required by law or delivered by government.

“It’s about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture, and above all the strength of our relationships. Improving our society’s sense of wellbeing is, I believe, the central political challenge of our times.”

This is likely to be unpopular with right-wingers in his party who think that Conservatives should stand for wealth creation and tax cuts.

It was confirmed last night that Mr Cameron’s marketing guru, Steve Hilton, would move into Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCH) to “sharpen up” the party operations.

He will work alongside the party’s chairman, Francis Maude, another Cameron appointee.

Critics have said that the party machine was not performing as well as it could.

A serious test will come in the Bromley and Chislehurst by-election after the death of Eric Forth. Although “normal by-election drill” will apply and a shortlist of nominees will be drawn up by CCH, officials say that local candidates will be considered.