Cameron’s family relaunch at odds with new research showing sharp rise in anxieties about kids’ future prospects
David Cameron, like Tony Blair before him, was initially successful in positioning himself as what voters described as a ‘family man’. Despite his privileged education and background, this was a point of connection with middle England. Like them, he cared about his kids. Like them, he put their future first.
I remember conducting discussion groups with disaffected swing voters after the 1992 election. They felt let down by Labour. They believed that Labour did not understand their drive to make their children’s lives better than theirs had been. Blair understood how ‘bettering yourself’ was not a luxury but an imperative, and he helped Labour to get it too.
In the early days of Cameron’s leadership he also reached out to aspirational families with promises about inheritance tax and schools.
Clearly, against a backdrop of recession, maintaining optimism is hard. BritainThinks’ new poll shows fewer agree that ‘my children will be better off than I am’ than they did at the end of the coalition’s first few months (from 35% in 2010 to 27%). We also see a 9% increase is those who agree ‘I’m worried that the next generation won’t have the opportunities that mine had’.
More worrying still for the Government is the 71% who now agree ‘I’m worried that there’s a generation of young people who may never be able to get jobs because of the recession’. This is up 8% since December 2010. Women voters – already the biggest critics of Government performance – are even more likely to agree at 75%.
As Cameron tries to feel his way forward after disastrous local election results, refocusing on the family is an obvious strategic move. However, most parents see looking out for their kids’ future prospects as their core responsibility. Failure to help with this – or worse still, placing obstacles in the way will make any promise about support for families seem hollow.
Deborah Mattinson is the Founding Director of Britain Thinks