Earlier on this week The Guardian reported that
Conservatives need to recognise that elections are won on economics and public services rather than culture wars, Michael Gove has said in what will be seen as a rebuke to Suella Braverman.
Addressing the National Conservatism (NatCon) conference in Westminster, a day after Braverman gave a highly partisan speech to the same event which condemned “experts and elites” and “political correctness”, Gove was at pains to make no direct criticism of the home secretary.
But asked in an onstage interview whether Conservatives needed to engage with such issues, Gove highlighted what he said were the virtues of “gentleness and stability and discourse”.
He said: “I think that the overwhelming majority of people in this country prefer civility. This goes to the whole question of the so-called culture war that is raging at the moment.
“There are certain principles you should defend, absolutely. And it is absolutely critical that we don’t deny biological reality or that we don’t feel that we should apologise for aspects of our past, which are genuine sources of pride.
“But we should do so with the self-confidence that means we don’t need to be strident.”
Gove, the communities secretary, said the changing media and social media landscape had helped increase the prominence of culture war issues. “The way in which algorithms work tends to drive people towards poles, and the way in which particular sections of the media work means that they tend to become echo chambers,” he added
However, he argued, voters were far more likely to judge parties and governments on other areas.
“I actually think that economics is still central,” Gove said. “When it comes to the boring and vulgar task of winning general elections, and the even more boring and even more dispiriting task of government, the most important thing to do is to concentrate on the right economic policies, the right policies for public service delivery and so on.”
Gove’s words are a polite rebuttal of the increasing tendency of some Tories, as highlighted by the NatCon gathering, organised by a rightwing US thinktank, to take more overtly combative approach to subjects like race and sexuality, and to borrow ideas from populists such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Giorgia Meloni of Italy.
Braverman devoted much of her speech to railing against what she said was an attempt by the left to devalue Britain’s heritage, while Tory MP Miriam Cates said “cultural Marxism” was one reason for the UK’s falling birthrate.
Gove is right, you only have to look at that polling from Redfield & Wilton to see that, which isn’t atypical of current polling from other pollsters.
If the Tories focus on the culture wars during the general election campaign then they are focussing on a core vote strategy, a strategy that doesn’t win elections. In the last year people have to face the choice between heating and eating, that’s what should be the Tory focus.