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Westlake Legal Group > Boris Johnson MP

John Penrose: The conventional wisdom about this leadership election is wrong. Hunt’s spending plans are neither unaffordable nor irresponsible.

John Penrose is MP for Weston-super-Mare and a Northern Ireland Office Minister.

If you listen to the sober-sided, serious economists at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, or to the Chancellor Philip Hammond himself, you’d think the Conservative leadership election is a horrible bidding war of doolally spending promises from Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson. Has the party of sound money lost its soul? Betrayed its heritage? Are Margaret Thatcher and Milton Friedman spinning in their graves as leadership contenders try to out-Corbyn each other with unaffordable spending promises?

Well no, not really. I can’t speak for Boris Johnson but, as someone who’s been involved in a lot of Jeremy Hunt’s policy development work, that’s not what we’re doing at all.

Let’s start with the charge that, if it was right to introduce austerity in 2010, we should do the same for Brexit in 2019. Otherwise we aren’t being consistent.

But the problem in 2019 isn’t the same as 2010. Brexit isn’t the banking crisis, thank goodness. And if the problem is different, the answers should be too.

By 2010, Gordon Brown was trying to keep the economy going with huge increases in public spending, paid for with ballooning debt. Something like one pound in every four the Government spent had to be borrowed, to be repaid by taxpayers later. If we’d carried on like that, pretty soon the country’s credit card would have been snipped up and the bailiffs would have been knocking at the door. So we simply had to throttle back, to stop spending money we hadn’t got.

But today is different. Public spending isn’t ballooning and borrowing is under control. We’re living within our means, and there’s even headroom for a bit more spending if we’re careful. We’ve come a long way, and it hasn’t been easy. You can understand why Hammond doesn’t want the next Prime Minister to blow it.

What are today’s problems, if they’re different from 2010? The biggest is that some – although certainly not all – firms are putting off growth-creating investments until after the Brexit fog has cleared. And that no-one knows whether our trade with the EU will be easy or awful once we’ve left.

So it makes sense to spend a bit of money to promote economic growth. Post-Brexit Britain needs a stronger, more dynamic, more energetic, turbocharged economy, so we’re prepared for the challenges of life outside the EU. And Jeremy Hunt’s plans to cut corporation tax to 12 and a half per cent, increase investment allowances and exempt small high street firms from business rates would do exactly that. They would spark economic renewal and investment in UKplc, making us more resilient in economic shocks and recessions, and more productive and efficient so we can grow faster too.

In other words, it’s OK to use different answers in 2019 than in 2010. But what about the charge that we’re making the same mistake as Brown, by spending and borrowing unaffordably?

Hunt is on pretty firm ground here, because he agrees we’ve got to keep the national debt falling relative to the size of our economy. That means borrowing can’t balloon, and we’ll always be able to repay our debts. And his business career helps here too, because his plans to turbocharge post-Brexit Britain’s economy would mean we’d be investing to grow. They’re sensible investments in our economic future, not pale copies of unworkable, hard-left Corbynomic plans.

Nor is he expecting to do everything at once. We’d need to raise defence spending progressively over five years, for example, to allow time to plan. Otherwise you’d simply waste money on the wrong things.

The same goes for fixing illiteracy. That will take ten years, building on the huge progress over the last decade that has seen more pupils being taught in good or outstanding schools than ever before.

And some of the plans would only be temporary, too. The pledge to help farmers adjust to a post-Brexit world has to be a hard-headed, short term plan to help re-equip machinery, buildings and breeding for new global markets, for example. Not a woolly, open-ended subsidy.

The plans have got to be about changing things, so we’re ready for a new world. Not expensively preserving the way they were before we voted to leave. Transformation and preparation, not status quo. But, for Hunt’s proposals at least, they are sound, practical, affordable ideas. And, most important of all, they’re thoroughly Conservative too.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Andrew Green: Neither candidate for the Tory leadership is serious about immigration

Lord Green is Chairman of MigrationWatch UK and a cross-bench peer.

In my article of 11 June I outlined why the present scale of immigration is so important to the future of our country. Meanwhile, polling of Conservative Party voters shows that an extraordinary 88 per cent of them support the present government’s policy of reducing net migration to tens of thousands a year.

So how have the candidates been able to duck any serious discussion of an issue that is so central to the future of our country? The short answer is that they are both “liberals” on immigration as, nowadays, is much of the press and certainly the BBC.

There is, of course, the argument that to make repeated vows to reach a certain outcome and then to keep failing to do so can only do more harm than good. The answer to that, surely, is to set an achievable target as a focus for policy and make sure that it is achieved.

Sadly, the Conservatives have gone down a much more dangerous route. They have outlined a post-Brexit immigration policy that could well run out of control, and are now “consulting” about 130 organisations – nearly all of which want to see more immigration.

In the party hustings Boris Johnson has left all this to one side. Instead, he has largely confined himself to proposing an “Australian-style’ points based system – unaware, apparently, that the UK has had such a system for nearly ten years, and that it has failed to control immigration. In any case, the Australian version is extremely complex, yet covers only 15 per cent of all migrants entering Australia.

The tough Australian approach to illegal immigration by “boat people” is a wholly different matter. While this might make an ‘Australian-style’ label popular in focus groups, it has nothing whatsoever to do with their points-based system or indeed their immigration policies in the round, which are intended to encourage very high levels of legal migration to boost the size of a very under-populated country – quite the opposite situation to our own.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt proposes to abandon the present net migration target of tens of thousands, reduce the general salary requirement of £30,000 needed to come to work in the UK, and introduce “flexible” immigration policies for different parts of the country. These, of course, can only increase the numbers still further.

So, to flush them out, I wrote to them both, as foreshadowed in my article on 13 June, asking whether it was their policy to achieve a substantial reduction in net migration and, more specifically, whether they would set an objective of net migration of even 150,000 a year.

Hunt provided a careful response reiterating the policies outlined above, but with no mention of a target nor of a substantial reduction – just “continued work” to bring the numbers down to “sustainable levels” (undefined, of course). Yet the policies he mentioned are very likely to increase immigration rather than decrease it. As for Boris Johnson – no response. Either he and his staff are too disorganised, or he is keeping his head down, perhaps hoping Conservative Party members will simply fail to notice he has said nothing of substance on one of the most pressing of their concerns.

All this is bad news for those who value the society that we have inherited from our forbears and who see the country changing before their eyes. The Conservatives, of all people, will have failed them. If so, it will be left to the Brexit Party to provide the only beacon for the opposition to mass immigration which is very much alive across the country.

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The 17 Conservative MPs who rebelled against the Government on prorogation – and the ministers who failed to vote

In this afternoon’s defeat on the amendment intended to prevent prorogation of Parliament, 17 Conservative MPs rebelled against the government, while several ministers did not vote. One minister – Margot James – resigned after rebelling. The Government lost by 315-274.

Here are the 17 rebels:

Guto Bebb

Steve Brine

Alistair Burt

Jonathan Djanogly

Justine Greening

Dominic Grieve

Sam Gyimah

Richard Harrington

Margot James

Phillip Lee

Jeremy Lefroy

Oliver Letwin

Paul Masterton

Sarah Newton

Antoinette Sandbach

Keith Simpson

Ed Vaizey

James’s resignation adds one to the tally of the ‘awkward squad’ a new Prime Minister will have to tackle – and it is that factor, and how it erodes the Government’s majority, which raises the chances of a General Election, more than an obstacle to prorogation in itself.

One Labour MP, Kate Hoey, rebelled to vote with the Government. Ian Austin, a former Labour MP sitting as an independent, voted the same way.

As ever, we must be careful in how we report on those who do not vote. Not voting is not necessarily a deliberate abstention. Sometimes MPs are ill or absent with family crises, ministers in particular often have aspects of their jobs that take them away from Westminster or out of the country without permission, and so on.

There are at least two such examples today. Karen Bradley didn’t vote, but she is in Northern Ireland on a planned trip. Jeremy Hunt didn’t vote either, but he has official permission from the Whips due to the leadership contest (Boris Johnson has this permission too, but he did vote with the Government nonetheless).

However, we do know that some Cabinet ministers are willing to deliberately defy the whip, and openly snub collective responsibility. I warned when they first did so back in March that allowing it to pass without consequence would simply lead to further breaches, and it seems almost certain that this is what has happened.

Of those who defied the whip in March, David Mundell and Amber Rudd fell into line and obeyed it today, while Greg Clark and David Gauke repeated their stand and did not vote. They were joined in their absence by Alan Duncan, Rory Stewart, and, most outrageously of all, Philip Hammond.

It’s hard to imagine a starker illustration of the utter dysfunction the May era has wrought than a Chancellor of the Exchequer junking collective responsibility while hanging onto office for as long as possible. Strangely the Prime Minister’s ‘final speech’ yesterday on the topic of “the state of politics” did not reflect on her own contribution to the problem.

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Henry Hill: Hunt and Johnson declare Backstop ‘dead’ and promise to protect Ulster veterans

Hunt and Johnson declare backstop ‘dead’

Both candidates for the leadership have confirmed that they will not sign up to the Northern Irish backstop, the Guardian reports.

In a quite striking hardening of position, both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt insisted that the mechanism could play no part in any deal between the UK and the EU – even if it were amended to include a time limit or unilateral exit mechanism, which Eurosceptics had previously indicated they might accept. Johnson went so far as to say that the backstop had been “devised by this country as an instrument of our own incarceration in the single market and customs union”.

Hunt, on the other hand, appeared to tee himself up for failure by saying: “If we are going to get a deal we must have an absolute cast-iron commitment to the Republic of Ireland that we will not have border infrastructure.” The decision to rule out any infrastructure whatsoever – to maintain a so-called ‘invisible border’ – is the root problem with the backstop. If an alternative mechanism for doing so (in a manner compatible with British territorial integrity) existed, the backstop would be a non-issue.

Since the EU has repeatedly ruled out re-opening the deal, blanket refusal on the backstop would put both candidates on track for a no-deal departure. Whilst this might not be the preferred option for Hunt, a strong line on Northern Ireland is undoubtedly necessary if either candidate wishes to maintain the Party’s working relationship with the DUP and the Government’s wafer-thin Commons majority.

In other news, both Johnson and Hunt have expressed support for measures aimed at protecting ex-servicemen who served in Northern Ireland from prosecution and historical tribunals. They have both signed a ‘Veterans’ Pledge’ organised by the Sun, which this week criticised Theresa May for her continued refusal to protect those who fought the IRA.

Meanwhile an SNP MSP has claimed that Ruth Davidson’s authority inside the Scottish Conservatives has been “shredded” after a growing number of her colleagues endorsed Johnson’s leadership bid. The contest has previously put a spotlight on the limits of her influence after the Scottish Tory leader endorsed Sajid Javid, only for none of the party’s 13 Scottish MPs to follow her lead.

Bebb to stand down over Brexit

Whilst the grassroots may not yet have managed to deselect a sitting Conservative MP over their stance on Europe, this week saw the latest indication of how Brexit might be redrawing the frontiers of the Tory ‘big tent’.

Guto Bebb, the arch-Europhile who represents the Welsh constituency of Aberconwy since 2010, has announced that he will not seek re-selection for the seat at the next election. This means another Tory-held Welsh seat (after Montgomeryshire) will be selecting a new candidate.

Bebb, who prior to joining the Conservatives was a member of the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru, accused the Party of tacking towards the “type of nationalism” – which he claimed was ‘English nationalism’ behind the rise of UKIP and the Brexit Party. He has ruled out rejoining Plaid.

This departure puts a spotlight on an awkward question facing both leadership candidates (Bebb could not bring himself to vote for either one). Whilst CCHQ has thus far taken a strong line against deselecting Tory MPs, it is an unavoidable fact that the Party can’t fight a general election intended to break the deadlock on Brexit with candidates who are opposed to the Government’s policy on the same. If Johnson were to seek a mandate for no deal, what does he do about the likes of Dominic Grieve, Philip Hammond, and David Gauke?

Bradley criticised over rushing Northern Irish legislation

Last week, I wrote about now Westminster’s decision to legislate on abortion and same-sex marriage had set a useful precedent for the DUP in their ongoing push to introduce full direct rule to the Province.

This week Sam McBride has written in the News Letter about how the episode highlights the ongoing flaws in Karen Bradley’s approach to governing Ulster (to the minimum possible extent she can get away with). The Secretary of State continues to use Commons procedures intended for unexpected events or emergencies to fast-track Northern Irish legislation through the Commons with minimal scrutiny, even when circumstances do not require it.

He explains how sloppy drafting by Stella Creasy, the Labour MP behind the abortion amendment, has left the Government with what might be an impossible task: introducing new regulations by an October deadline it cannot meet.

It has been a hallmark of Bradley’s ill-starred tenure at the Northern Irish Office that she has poured her efforts into hiding both from Parliamentary scrutiny and from the difficult decisions the ongoing failure of devolution poses for Westminster. Jeremy Hunt’s announcement that he would keep her in post was by far the most bizarre of his leadership campaign, and one must hope Johnson pays sufficient interest to the NIO to give it a much-needed shake-up.

News in Brief:

  • Ireland’s ma in Brussels says border checks can be avoided in no-deal exit – Belfast Telegraph
  • Assembly Members have paid their families huge sums – Wales Online
  • Lord Trimble’s daughter in same-sex marriage – News Letter
  • ‘Neverendum’ killing investment in Scotland – The Times
  • The Welsh Government’s legislative agenda – Wales Online
  • Unionists fear land grabs if Northern Ireland joins Republic – The Guardian

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What Johnson will be like as Prime Minister

Boris Johnson has never prepared himself properly, which means his whole life has been a preparation for being unprepared.

But how should the rest of us prepare ourselves for the Johnson prime ministership which now appears almost certain to begin in the middle of next week?

He possesses such a prodigious gift for attracting attention that correspondents from around the globe ask me, because I wrote a life of Johnson, what kind of a Prime Minister he will be.

They wish to know about his ideology, even about the ideological differences within the Johnson family, and have noted with concern the reports that he has no grasp of detail, and no respect for facts, so is unfit for high office.

It occurs to me that a better place to start is with a letter written in Hampstead by John Keats in December 1817, at the age of 22:

“several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.”

Johnson cannot be understood by those who demand certainty. The fact-checking mentality, however meritorious it may appear to those who adopt it, is a fatal hindrance in Johnson Studies.

So is the attempt to define him in ideological terms. He has not surrendered his freedom of judgment to an ideology. Like most of us, he is a mixture of instincts, prejudices and flashes of insight, contradictory impulses shaped by an evolving tradition of behaviour and the discovery of what works.

His imagination is always in play. Thoughts, feelings, jokes, images and original turns of phrase crowd in upon his fertile mind. He is a man of Negative Capability.

To the ideologist this sounds recklessly fluid. To the fact-checker it looks like a licence to make things up, i.e. to tell lies.

And to the expert, who yearns to tell us what we can and cannot do, it seems childish.

Like everyone else, I have no way of knowing how Johnson’s prime ministership will turn out. It could be triumph or disaster, or a mixture of the two.

In historical terms, disaster is the more likely outcome. Most Prime Ministers end up being blamed for something.

But there is often an initial period when things go well (cf Blair, Eden, Chamberlain), and Johnson starts with the advantage of low expectations. Fact-checkers, ideologists and experts already find his approach to politics intolerable.

So do commentators as eminent as Matthew Parris, Max Hastings and Bruce Anderson. They regard him (I paraphrase) as an adventurer, a clown, a rogue, an embarrassment.

They wax so vehement they sound blinded by anger, and do him the service of setting the bar so low he may exceed it.

We have just seen, on the far side of the Atlantic, an example of the futility of denunciation. American moralists compete to pass the severest judgment on Donald Trump.

Yet Trump won the election, and has not yet been a complete disaster. The moralists who wrote him off can still expect eventual vindication, but have had meanwhile to endure some painful surprises, including the discovery that millions of Americans have the impudence to laugh at their distress, and to take a wicked delight in doing so.

Johnson is not the same as Trump. Our next Prime Minister is better educated, and less given to sowing enmity. I realise that Remainers who have not forgiven Johnson’s role in the EU Referendum will disagree with the second half of that sentence.

But as Buzzfeed reported a year ago, Johnson is impressed by the President:

 “I am increasingly admiring of Donald Trump. I have become more and more convinced that there is method in his madness.

“Imagine Trump doing Brexit. He’d go in bloody hard… There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere. It’s a very, very good thought.”

Johnson is about to go in bloody hard, and people will find it difficult to tell how serious he is, and whether he really means it.

For much of the time, he may not know himself. Brexit is a negotiation in which you have to advance and retreat according to circumstance, not chain yourself to some fixed position which proves untenable.

There will, he says, be “creative ambiguity” about the £39 billion we are going to pay the EU. He will not deny that we may, in law, be obliged to hand over a large chunk of that money, but he will create uncertainty about when, if ever, Brussels is going to get paid.

At the same time, he will seek to marshal public opinion behind his position. This factor, so important since the 1820s, still tends to be downplayed by members of the Establishment who believe themselves to be in possession of superior knowledge.

If Johnson advances the proposition that we should not pay until we are given a fair deal, the public is likely to side with him, however much the experts insist this withholding of payment simply cannot be done.

Peter Foster, Europe Editor of The Daily Telegraph, reports on Twitter that “TeamBoris by all accounts is in chaos”, with “a vipers’ nest of competing factions all vying” for his ear.

In my view, that is an exaggeration. But Katy Balls of The Spectator recently provided a helpful list of eight different groups which consider themselves entitled to the new Prime Minister’s ear.

Those who feel they are losing that contest will let their dismay be known, which will make it harder to read Johnson’s intentions and work out what his bottom line is, which is as he would like it.

Here, it should be remembered, is a man who is unscrupulous enough to employ experts of his own. He did so at City Hall, but wasted his first six months because with a few exceptions, he had not yet identified the experts he needed.

The Mayor of London serves a fixed term, so could afford to do that. The Prime Minister has an unfixed term. If Johnson wastes his first six months in Downing Street, they will be his last six months.

He is well aware of this fact, and has a better understanding than in 2008 of the capabilities of his colleagues, having served with a number of them in Cabinet.

The situation is fraught with danger, and there in the spotlight will be Johnson. It is a position he has often occupied since the age of 17, and usually though not invariably it suits him.

Trump’s popularity with a section of the American public proceeds partly from his gifts as an entertainer. He is a more practised performer on reality TV, and on Twitter, than the rest of the Republican contenders put together, and uses that ability to set the agenda.

Johnson’s success will depend on his ability to do the same, outflanking the Establishment by mobilising the country. He is not yet a good parliamentarian, something which generally takes far more time than he has devoted to it.

But he is a star performer with the wider public, able to transform the atmosphere when he enters a dull shopping centre on a quiet Wednesday afternoon.

His critics will regard his use of this talent as vulgar and unparliamentary, but his prime ministership will be immeasurably strengthened if he can carry the public with him, persuade them to back his version of Brexit, and put the Conservative Party in a position to win a general election.

We live in a free country. That remark used often to be made when someone had made a remark in questionable taste. One suspects that during the Johnson prime ministership, we shall be hearing it pretty often.

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Ben Roback: The racism row. Trump has set a trap for the Democrats – but risks also falling into it himself.

Ben Roback is Head of Trade and International Policy at Cicero Group.

In contemporary politics, it is difficult to identify ‘moments’. The speed at which politics and the news move tends to blur one ‘crisis’ into the next. As proof of that, until yesterday the agreed topic for this column was Kim Darroch’s resignation, but that has already been blown out of the water by allegations of racism following Donald Trump’s singling out of four Democratic congresswomen. It is a rare occasion when two genuine ‘moments’ take place simultaneously, and both have the potential to have a real and lasting impact.

On the former, there is a very real danger that the leaked cables in the Ambassador’s name push the UK to the fringes of the White House at a time when increased tension around Iran and the desire for US-UK trade talks to progress means a close relationship is vital.

On the latter, we have had an early insight into what the first stage of the 2020 presidential election will look like. It was best exemplified not by the President himself, but latter by Kellyanne Conway when the White House advisor responded to a question by a member of the press by herself asking: “what’s your ethnicity?”

The exchange has to be seen to be believed, and it perhaps explained why she felt the need to subsequently clarify her remarks. In that one question, Conway accidentally unveiled the hardest element of the 2020 Trump playbook: questioning loyalty and demanding proof of how American you are.

First it was Hillary, now it’s “the squad”

In 2016, Trump made Hillary Clinton the focus of his campaign strategy. “Lock her up!” became the chant synonymous with Trump campaign rallies. In playing the woman and not the ball, the terms of the election became about personality perception. Now that the 2020 cycle is underway, the Trump team has a new focus – “the squad”. For successive days now, the President has gone on the attack with freshman Democratic Congresswomen in his sights.

Four women from minority communities: it is not hard to consider why they have become a target for this administration. Presidential outriders have worked their very hardest so spin the President’s attacks as a criticism of their left-wing views, but it would take a Herculean mountain of salt to look beyond the need for Mr Trump to pick his latest political enemies ahead of a major re-election campaign.

In 2016, Trump won the white vote by over 20 points and, second only to the economy, immigration is his strongest talking point going into the election proper. By the time it takes place, he will have a nominated Democratic to focus his ire on. According to a CNN poll conducted last month, 74 per cent of Americans agree that there is a crisis at the southern border.

So, what’s the political calculation? In stage one of the campaign, call into question the patriotic loyalty of four minority women who don’t look like or stand for the Trump agenda. In stage two, turn the attacks on the nominated Democratic candidate, while pivoting more towards the strength of the US economy.

“The squad” – under attack for their political views and victimised for not passing the “Trump test”

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (29) who is closely linked to Bernie Sanders’ and Elizabeth Warren’s brand of left-wing Democratic politics. “AOC” flipped the political script when she defeated Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley in the New York primary and since then has charted her own course in advocating “democratic socialism”. Of Puerto Rican descent, Ocasio-Cortez was born and raised in the United States.
  • Rep. Ilhan Omar (37) has been far from shy of controversy since her election to Minnesota’s fifth district. Born in Somalia, Omar moved to the United States as a child. In her short time in Congress so far, her views on foreign policy and the US-Israel relationship has prompted rebukes from Republicans and Democrats alike.
  • Rep. Rashida Tlaib (42) was born in Detroit to Palestinian immigrant parents. Alongside Ilhan Omar, she was the first of two Muslim women elected to Congress.
  • Rep. Ayanna Pressley (45) was born in Cincinnati and raised in Ohio. She became the first African American woman to be elected to the US Congress from Massachusetts.

A high-risk Republican strategy that will energise their base – but also the Democrats’

Building the wall and making America great again were two of the pillars on which Donald Trump built his 2016 campaign. A similar formula will be deployed in 2020, but with the benefit of an economy that is firing on all cylinders – and that could prove to be an ultimately winning combination.

The President will continue to stoke fears about immigration by doubling down on issues at the US-Mexico border. At the same time, he will continue to deploy his own brand of visual patriotism whilst seeking to question the loyalty of his opponents by suggesting their criticism of the US government is in fact a hidden hatred for America.

Candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in 2020 have coalesced around fierce criticism of the President and the intention behind his tweets (as did Downing Street, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt). After the president’s latest outburst, consider the Democratic base officially riled up. On that basis, the White House playbook risks turning out Democratic voters as a natural by-product of seeking to turn out Republicans. The events of this week are a clear hint that the 2020 election will be even uglier than 2016. On that basis, “the squad” will be the first of many targets for a brutal campaign ahead.

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Robert Halfon: Skills, social justice, standards, and support for teachers. A four-part manifesto for the new Prime Minister.

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

Whether it is Boris Johnson’s £4.6 billion earmarked for schools, or his pledge to boost funding for apprenticeships, education has received vital oxygen during this leadership contest.

The Education Select Committee’s upcoming report on school funding, which we will publish later this week, supports the logic of these pledges – in particular, the need to support further education, which has for too long been considered the Cinderella sector.

But we must look beyond this. Education policy is an enormous montage of different worlds. In the months and years ahead, the new Prime Minister should collect these into one ambitious strategy. He can do this by focusing on the following four “S”s: skills, social justice, standards, and support for the profession.

First, skills.

Around nine million working aged adults in England have low literacy and/or numeracy skills. Many end up in low-skill, low-paid jobs – their life prospects dragged into the quicksand. And a third of England’s 16-19-year-olds have low basic skills.

We must urgently address this by building on the fine work of Damian Hinds and Anne Milton.

In particular, the new Conservative Government should build a world-class apprenticeship offer. It is vital to better understand what is driving the dramatic decline in Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships, and increasing FE funding is a necessity. We would be in a remarkable position if we were able to offer an apprenticeship to every single young person in our country who wanted one.

In terms of lifelong learning, we should build an adult community learning centre in every town, restructure existing employer tax reliefs so that they receive more generous relief when investing in low-skilled employees, and introduce a social justice tax credit, which would expand the number of employers who benefit from tax breaks when they invest in training for low-skilled workers in areas of skills needs.

The curriculum also needs reappraising to make sure our country is ready for the march of the robots. 28 per cent of jobs taken by 16-24-year-olds could be at risk of automation by the 2030s; many low-skilled jobs are at risk and even higher skilled jobs are not immune. Policy makers must consider what it means to develop the skills of the future, and how best to do this. There should be a Royal Commission, with the finest scientists, economists and academics in the land, looking at the effect that AI, automation, and robots will have on society, the economy and our education system, as well as how we should respond to these challenges.

Degree apprenticeships, the crown jewel in higher education, should be at the heart of our higher education offering. The Government must aim to have at least 50 per cent of students doing degree apprenticeships. They allow students to get good quality jobs and earn whilst they learn without a lead weight of £50,000 dragging from their feet.

It is time to reflect on what we consider to be an ‘elite university’. Do they just have good research rankings or are they institutions that deliver high graduate employment outcomes, meet our skills needs and address social disadvantage? We must better recognise the unsung heroes of higher education, like Portsmouth University which came top of The Economist’s “value-added” university rankings (this compares graduates’ wages with what they would have been expected to earn if they had not gone to that university), or Nottingham Trent which has exceptionally high numbers of disadvantaged students and incredibly high destination outcomes.

Second, social justice.

Currently, social injustice inhabits every part of our education system. Almost half of children eligible for free school meals are not ready for primary school. Disadvantaged children are 19 months behind by the time they do their GCSEs. Just 33 per cent of pupils on free school meals get five good GCSEs. And the most disadvantaged students are almost four times less likely to go to university than the most advantaged students.

Good schools are not just bastions of learning but also places of community. And yet schools in many deprived areas struggle to attract experienced teachers and leaders, who are so instrumental in driving up quality. Teachers in disadvantaged areas are also less likely to teach subjects in which they are qualified, and access to good initial teacher training varies by geography.

So how to dismantle these obstacles to learning? Social justice must be the beating heart of our education policy. A bold, assertive agenda that has compassion and aspiration right at its core.

The DfE should incentivise elite initial teacher training providers to set up shop in disadvantaged areas and support the subsequent development of local teachers. This might involve new funding, but they could also consider making use of existing funds – for example, we spend £72 million on opportunity areas, although we don’t really know exactly what impact they are having.

Disadvantaged pupils should also enjoy the benefits associated with our best private schools, including extensive social capital. I attended a private school and am a huge fan of their transformative potential. But, given the extensive charitable benefits that private schools get, they must do more to open their gates to acutely disadvantaged pupils. This could be done by better incentivising schools through the tax system.

Third, standards.

There is no doubt that education has improved in recent years. I have a great deal of admiration for the work the Government – and in particular, Nick Gibb – has done to improve standards.

The evidence is clear. The Government has furnished our children’s education with more rigour. The proportion of six year olds passing the phonics check increased from 58 per cent in 2012 to 82 per cent in 2018. We are stripping out qualifications that hold no real currency. Our Free Schools Programme continues to produce such gems as King’s College London Mathematics School. Since 2010, 1.8 million more pupils are in good or outstanding schools. And we have some of the finest universities in the world.

It is important to build on this and export rigour to every part of our education system and that includes technical education. The Government is starting to do this in its post-16 Skills Plan, which will produce a smaller number of T-Level qualifications that employers recognise and value. The next step is to make sure these new qualifications land safely.

The Free Schools Programme must emphasise community and not get subsumed into larger academies’ broader programmes. And we must apply the logic of high standards to non-mainstream alternative provision, where 1.1 per cent of pupils achieve five good GCSE passes and the supply of good schools is highly variable.

Finally, support for the profession.

It is vital that we support our teachers. We can build the best facilities in the world, but without their most precious element, they are just empty shells.

The education sector needs to continue to attract the brightest individuals. And the Government should support their professional development. We can learn lessons from countries that have a strong record in this area, such as Singapore, which gives classroom teachers more flexibility to hone their trade; places an unusually strong emphasis on peer support (around four fifths are either mentored or a mentor); and has a clearly defined ladder of career progression.

It is also important to make teachers’ lives easier. According to the OECD’s latest international survey, our teachers work more than they used to, and their working week is higher than average. Teachers also spend less time teaching than they did five years ago. Our next Prime Minister must free teachers from unnecessary bureaucracy, and give them more time to do what they do best: teach.

So to sum up.

Skills, social justice, standards, and support for the profession. These should be the four, interlocking foundations of the next Prime Minister’s education programme. Together, they allow those who cannot even see the ladder of opportunity to find it, and they give us all the chance to climb high and build prosperity.

Some of this can only be delivered with wisely targeted resources, but funding alone is not the answer. These four foundations are as much about ingenuity, creativity and resourcefulness, as they are about hard cash.

We have a unique chance to address the broad restlessness that exists in society. By extending the ladder of opportunity to those who currently lack it, and by nurturing our raw talents more generally, we can ensure the next generation climbs that ladder and gets the jobs, security, and prosperity that they, and our country, need. It is well within our ability to make sure this happens.

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Johnson’s August 2) Finding support among opposition MPs – or at least trying to – before any no confidence vote

It is now overwhelmingly likely that Boris Johnson will be the next Conservative Party leader and become Prime Minister.

He may well face a no confidence vote in September, and the Brexit extension expires at the end of October in any event.

So he and his new team will have to hit the ground running in August. We continue our series on what he should do during that month and late July before the Commons is due to return on September 3.

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That no confidence vote may come next week, in the wake of the declaration of the leadership election result, though this is on balance unlikely.

But whether it does or not, it is worth beginning to think through the arithmetic, as Dominic Walsh has done in the New Statesman.

It is probable that in the wake of the Brecon by-election, as Walsh says, the Government will have an effective majority of three.

That would be 311 Tory MPs plus ten DUP MPs: so a maximum of 321 of these MPs would face a maximum of 318 other MPs.

We do not know how many Conservative MPs would refuse to support Johnson, or even oppose him, in a no-confidence vote in the Commons.

The new Downing Street team should, however, look closely at the 15 independent MPs: of these, two abstained in January’s no confidence debate: Ivan Lewis and John Woodcock while one, Sylvia Hermon, voted with the Government.

Back in January, there were only eight independents.  One of these, Fiona Onasanya, is no longer an MP. That leaves seven – Frank Field, Kelvin Hopkins, Jared O’Mara and Stephen Lloyd, plus the three named above.

To them, we can add Ian Austin, Nick Boles and Chris Williamson; and then Heidi Allen, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith and Sarah Wollaston – about half of the original Change UK group.

Then there is the other part of that group: what now calls itself the Independent Group for Change (do keep up): that’s Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Joan Ryan and Anna Soubry.

That raises the total of votes in play to 20.  But it is not quite the end of the story.

For there is a small group of Labour MPs who sometimes vote with the Government on Brexit.  Their numbers rises and falls, but as recently as June eight of Jeremy Corbyn’s backbenchers went into the same lobby as the Government to oppose a move headed by their party to take control of Commons business.

They were: Kevin Barron, Ronnie Campbell, Jim Fitzpatrick, Caroline Flint, Stephen Hepburn, Kate Hoey, John Mann, Graham Stringer.  Which brings us to 28.

Now every single one of these MPs might well vote against a Johnson Government in the event of a no confidence vote.

The new Prime Minister himself might not be the best person to deal directly with any of them.

But his Downing Street Team, or those Conservative MPs in place, might want to talk in particular to Austin and Hoey, and just conceivably Barron who, like Hoey, is retiring.

And that’s before taking into account any other Opposition MP who could sit on their hands rather than vote in such a way as to make an imminent Corbyn Government likely.

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The Moggcast. The Foreign Secretary’s “personal attacks” on Johnson “make it harder” for him to continue serve in top Cabinet roles.

You can also listen and subscribe to the Moggcast on iTunes, through our YouTube channel, or through the RSS feed here.

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Elena Bunbury and Ali Fazel: Why we’ve switched to Hunt

Elena Bunbury is Director of Operations for 1828 and Vice Chair Communications for LGBT+ Conservatives. Ali Fazel is Secretary of University of Birmingham Conservatives and Chair of Birmingham Conservative Policy Forum (CPF).

Young people are becoming more and more liberal, whether it be the natural progression of young people being more socially accepting, or the desire held amongst most to keep hold of more of their first few pay cheques in the adult world.

Coming from the liberal background of Mayor of London, to fully submerging himself in the move away from paternalism, Boris Johnson seems like the clear choice for two young Tory liberals. However, there is a reason we have both made the #SwitchToHunt.

At a time when we face so much political uncertainty, attempting to enact the will of so many people in the turbulent time of Brexit, we need clear, strong political guidance. We need someone we can trust to carry out such a politically sensitive task. This person is Jeremy Hunt.

Coming from a background of entrepreneurship, Jeremy is just the candidate we need to get the deal done. He is no stranger to tough negotiations, but also possesses the diplomacy which has been so lacking throughout this process. Make no mistake, the new Prime Minister will be the one to enact Brexit, and that will be the legacy they are left with, but can Johnson really be trusted to do so?

Initially our views leaned towards him; he was the man of Brexit. It was all he had spoken about for over a year, and it led to his resignation. However, his inability to state his plan left us both with doubts. Time and time again Johnson has been asked about his plans for leaving the European Union, something which Theresa May has shown is incredibly difficult. However, the closest he has got to a clear outline is no more than cheap soundbites without actual substance.

The real turning point for us was Hunt’s well laid out ten-point plan, which stated not only his intentions to leave, but also crucially his plan on how to do so. He showed that although he may have been quieter on the subject, he was just as passionate, if not more prepared.

We are approaching a general election, and for the sake of our party, whose reputation is dwindling, we not only need to make sure Brexit is a success, but that it unites not only our party, but the entire Union.

Recent polls by YouGov have shown that amongst the public, Hunt is considerably more popular with 41 per cent declaring him their preferred successor, compared to a mere 29 per cent backing Johnson. It’s essential that party members vote with prudence. A general election is looming, and we need to ensure we put forward the candidate who is nationally respected.

Pushing entirely towards a No Deal Brexit, as Johnson proudly promotes, cannot be the only option. We not only have to think of the people who voted Leave, but also the people in our fantastic Union who will be impacted every day because of it. Hunt has spoken passionately about the need to reach a deal for the sake of the unity of the Union, but he has also made it clear he has not taken No Deal off the table. This is yet again another sign of his career in business, a smart negotiator knows you do not take cards off the table until forced to do so.

It is time to yet again inspire the nation to get behind a leader who they can trust in, a leader who they feel confident will change their lives for the better, and with Johnson’s continually politically insensitive language and offensive outdated comments, he is not the person to do so. He lacks the integrity to be open and honest about his controversial past and voting intentions. Instead we are met with a series of poor attempts to dodge questions, mixed with a pantomime bravado which could overshadow any journalists’ attempts to reach integrity from him. What Britain needs now is not a showman, it’s a statesman: that’s why we believe it #HasToBeHunt.

It may seem odd that we have switched to Hunt. As explained, our liberal policies do fall more in line with his opponent’s. However, that shows the crossroads we have reached. That we are so fearful of a Johnson leadership, and yet more divisiveness and underhand comments, that we have put policy aside for the sake of backing someone honest, experienced and – most importantly – trustworthy.

We want to fight an election on policy and trust. Trust in our leader, trust in our plan, and trust in our great nation that Hunt speaks so proudly about. Unlike his opponent, he is not just defined by Brexit. Bear in mind that, once we leave the EU, we need dynamic leadership, someone not afraid to have the robust debates to fit our generation’s policy agenda. Only Hunt seems to understand that.

Therefore inevitably, we are proud to have made the switch to Hunt, because we want a prime minister who isn’t afraid to debate, doesn’t have baggage and, most importantly, will get the job done.

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