August 5, 2021

David Cameron needs to reconnect to the ordinary voter, says senior backbencher

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David Cameron

David Cameron

By Julie Henry The Telegraph, UK

A senior Conservative backbencher has urged David Cameron to reconnect to the ordinary voter to tackle a crisis of governance in Britain.

Bernard Jenkins, the MP for Harwich and North Essex, warned against an obsession with the “centre ground” of politics and said that any to move to change the Conservative Party leadership following the Eastleigh by-election was “for the birds”.

He criticised the Westminster village for losing touch with ordinary families and said that what voters wanted was “people to tell the truth”.

And he urged the Prime Minister in the up coming budget to admit that the situation with the economy had become more serious since the Coalition came to power.

Bernard Jenkins

Bernard Jenkins

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Jenkins, a former vice chairman of the Conservative Party said: “We have got to recognise a far broader point than ‘lets just press the immigration button or the Europe button and everything will be alright’.

“This is not a crisis for a government, it is a crisis of governance. We are living in a country where politicians talk about fixing things like immigration, like over regulation, like high taxation, but they seem powerless to deal with it.”

Mr Jenkins, who chairs the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, said that the country was looking for leadership which was “more agile and took some risks to show that it actually understands how ordinary people feel.”

He criticised the obsession in British politics with the middle ground because of the mistaken belief that appealing to it was the only way to win elections.

“There is this facile debate about the centre ground as if there is a big bell curve of voters in the middle where we all have to crowd,” he said.

“The entire Westminster village is crowded in to that space. All main stream political parties lost at Eastleigh. What this by-election shows is there is no such thing as the central ground, there is no great pile of voters in the middle to be harvested cynically by politicians.”

The MP dismissed the idea that there would be any serious challenge to David Cameron’s leadership of the party in the coming year.

“The idea that changing the leadership in the Conservative Party as a quick fix – we must avoid the idea that there is some kind of silver bullet to get us out of the hole,” he said.

“David Cameron has shown himself to be intellectually agile and capable of embracing change. But he has got to lead the whole British political establishment to understand that if we are going to avoid an Italian situation, where comedians start getting elected, the whole British political establishment has got to be forced to engage more actively with what ordinary people are feeling.”

The scandal of Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust demonstrated the extent to which politicians had become divorced from what voters worry about, he argued.

“This is a crisis which evidently killed 1,100 or 1,200 patients and yet nobody has resigned – there is no crisis in Westminster about that,” he said. “There is a sort of eerie silence in Westminster about it. We haven’t even had a debate about the Francis Report.

“This is one of the biggest crisis in one of our biggest public services that I can ever think of. There is a sense that the professional, managerial class at Westminster has become completely detached from what real people worry about.”

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