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Westlake Legal Group > David Gauke MP

WATCH: Gauke indicates he could not serve under Johnson

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Ten questions about entryism in the Conservative Party

I’ve written several times before about claims that the Conservative Party is being infiltrated en masse by organised and hostile entryists. Every time the allegation has come up, it hasn’t borne very much scrutiny.

Nonetheless, like Chris Williamson or the DFS sale it keeps coming back. This week it has returned yet again, following the recent confidence vote in David Gauke’s constituency association and Baroness Wheatcroft’s breathless claim that the Conservative membership has “changed horrendously” and has “been taken over to a large extent by the far right”.

So it falls to me once more to look at the central facts of the matter, this time by answering the most common questions in the hope of bringing a bit of reason to a discussion which generally lacks it.

Membership has risen, hasn’t it?

Yes, it’s up from 124,000 in March 2018 to 160,000 as of late May 2019.

Surely that’s a sign of entryism in itself?

Not necessarily. For a start, the Party carried out its own recruitment drive, particularly in late Spring-Summer of 2018, targeting potential new members from its own data. That will have contributed to the increase. And the implementation (at last) of a centralised membership system around the end of 2018 meant that for the first time every Conservative member automatically receives a renewal reminder when their membership is up – something previously left haphazardly to associations, and which routinely led to members being lost in large numbers every year. Better retention alone has helped the Party to keep thousands of members on board.

Then there’s the fact that it has been obvious for quite some time that there was a leadership election coming, 14 years since the last contested race to lead the Party and the first time ever that a sitting Prime Minister has been chosen by a party’s members. Plenty of people have been attracted to join by the simple prospect of getting a say in that decision. That makes it a riskier time for entryism than normal, but it doesn’t make someone joining to get a vote on the leadership inherently an entryist.

But Arron Banks says he has 25,000 infiltrators in the Conservative Party, doesn’t he?

He does indeed say that. (He also said he would run in Clacton against Douglas Carswell, and that he was going to revolutionise British politics with a party called the Patriotic Alliance, but hey.) When I wrote about this last time he was saying that his entryist army was 30,000 strong, not 25,000. For either figure to be correct, it would mean between 70 and 85 per cent of those new 36,000 members were ordered to join by Leave.EU, and the other pull factors mentioned above – not least getting to vote on a new leader – had attracted only a small minority of them. That seems unlikely.

What’s more, there’s still no concrete evidence that these supposed proxies exist. CCHQ tracked incoming traffic from Leave.EU’s email and promotional campaign, and rejected the membership applications arising from the click-throughs. They reportedly totalled not much more than 100 applicants. Elsewhere, much-publicised campaigns against named MPs, like Damian Collins, have simply fallen flat. It’s not unreasonable to ask: where’s the proof for these grand claims about numbers and influence?

Could they have got in another way?

While Leave.EU’s online links do not seem to have generated many direct applications for membership, it’s possible their publicity could have spurred likeminded people to join the Conservative Party through another, less direct, route, which might be harder to spot and track. Indeed, I expect it’s likely that some people did so – but it’s inevitable that the higher effort involved, when compared to simply clicking through an email, would have limited their numbers severely.

Even had they done so, there are further barriers to cross. Every new membership applicant pings through on VoteSource, the party’s voter contact tool, to the relevant officer or agent in the local association. They have the right to approve or reject any new member within 14 days of their application, and they are regularly reminded by CCHQ of their responsibility to check up on who these new members are. That involves checking their past canvassing responses, and where possible doing a social media sweep. Neither dataset is perfect, or complete, but from those I’ve spoken to it seems that many associations are quite strict in rejecting people automatically if they had told canvassers they support any other party in recent years.

Some may slip through the net, either by being discreet, or applying to an association which is either too busy to look closely or less strict in its enforcement. But tens of thousands? Really?

So why are there ex-UKIPers and other proven hostiles in the ranks?

The example that often springs to mind is the former UKIP candidate who played a prominent role in the No Confidence vote against Dominic Grieve. Similarly, one of Nick Boles’s critics in Grantham and Stamford was a former UKIP councillor, and David Gauke tweeted about a self-declared Brexit Party member attending his association’s No Confidence vote. They’re important examples which deserve scrutiny.

In the latter case, if it was known that this guy was a member and was so flagrantly in breach of the rules, it’s hard to work out why he wasn’t simply reported (by Gauke or others) and promptly expelled. In Grantham, as I reported at the time, the former UKIP councillor on the Association executive had been welcome to the Party by Boles himself as a defector. In Beaconsfield, the former UKIP candidate was previously a Conservative, who had rejoined post-referendum on the basis that UKIP’s job was done.

Of those three, one – seeking to stand for a rival party – is obviously unacceptable, but the other two seem to me to be entirely in keeping with the Conservative Party’s stated aim of wooing people back to the Tories as a way of healing some of the harm done by the UKIP boom. And, indeed, with Rory Stewart’s desire to broaden the Party by reaching out to people who do not currently support it.

Simply being an ex-Kipper is not in itself evidence of hostility, still less entryism. After all, many Kippers were previously Conservatives. If we take the view that they should never be welcome – or that they would be welcome to cough up their £25 but should never participate in the democratic processes of the Party – then we guarantee the divide on the right will never be healed.

But what about all the deselections?

You might not know it from the coverage, but there still haven’t been any deselections. Yes, really. It is five years since the last two Conservative MPs (Tim Yeo and Anne McIntosh) suffered such a fate. To hear some discussion of this topic you’d imagine there was a small army of unseated MPs. But there aren’t. Some of those who have left voluntarily – Boles, Allen, Wollaston, Soubry – might in time have faced an attempt. It’s possible that they felt compelled to leave by the prospect of deselection, of course, but the fact still stands.

Ok. But what about all the deselection ballots?

This is another misleading idea: that there’s a host of deselection ballots taking place where members vote to get rid of their MPs. This isn’t the case. As this site warned anyone dreaming of deselections back in October, and as I wrote at greater length when the Boles row blew up in January, the Conservative Party rules don’t even provide rank and file members with a vote on deselection in almost any circumstances. In fact, the only time a member would get a vote on the deselection of a sitting MP would be if that MP exercised their own special right to demand a full ballot of the local membership as a measure to save themselves – something Crispin Blunt used successfully back in 2013. Anyone joining the Party with a view to forcing and then voting in a deselection ballot has wasted their money.

So what are these votes we keep hearing about?

There are two types of proceedings underway across a small number of associations.

The first is a simple No Confidence vote. These are non-binding and have no effect to deselect the MP (see Grieve and Philip Lee, for example, who are still in place despite losing them).  When passed, they are embarrassing and a warning about grassroots discontent, but they aren’t deselections.

In various cases – such as Gauke’s – they haven’t passed, which should give further pause for thought about believing claims of secret armies or the party being “taken over” by sinister forces. Elsewhere – in Sam Gyimah’s constituency, for example – the local and regional party machinery has opted to reject them as invalid to even debate.

The second form of proceedings is what you might call accelerated readoption. In the Tory system, only an association executive – the core of officers, councillors and senior activists – actually get to decide whether an MP is readopted as a candidate at the next election. That is normally done at a time of the MP’s choosing. But in some cases disgruntled execs have formally asked their MP to apply early for readoption – a pretty clear threat that they intend to crack the whip, or get rid entirely. However, this process falls into a grey area of the Party rules. Cleverly, Boles simply refused to send such an application, effectively creating a stalemate. A couple of other MPs have followed suit – though they’re really just postponing a clash, it remains the case that the idea of ruthless associations voting out their MPs all over the place is a major exaggeration.

But aren’t the meetings full of people who’ve never been seen before?

This is line has come from a few embattled MPs, keen to dish out a bit of doubt about their local critics. It’s perfectly possible that it is true, but it doesn’t amount to very convincing evidence of entryism.

Spend any amount of time inside a Tory association and you’ll witness an eternal battle to persuade members to come to events, buy tickets for things, and come out campaigning. There are plenty who pay their subs and then never come to anything. In momentous times, and with something as controversial and unusual as a no confidence ballot, for example, more of them will turn up. I’m aware of several people who have been relatively inactive members for many years but who have even been stirred by recent events to sign a motion calling for a confidence ballot. The test for a Conservative member to be allowed to attend a meeting or vote in a ballot is not whether their MP recognises them.

There will no doubt be newer members turning up to these meetings, too. Some, as I’ve noted above, may indeed have joined up wanting to support a change – of MP, or policy, or the Party’s structure. Some might even be former UKIP supporters or members. But aside from the three-month period after joining, there is no limit to a member’s participation in party democracy just because they are new.

Watchfulness is healthy, but paranoia is not. It would be absurd for the Conservative Party to spend years lamenting its falling membership, only to panic and try to forbid new members from getting involved just as the numbers start to rise.

Where is all this anger from, if not entryists?

You don’t need to be a Banks-controlled entryist to be displeased at the failures of the Government or the behaviour of some Conservative MPs. A majority of Conservative Party members in 2016 voted Leave, and like the rest of the 17.4 million who did so, they’re more than a bit brassed off at the current situation.

Is it really so impossible that genuine members might truly be angry, on their own accord and with no entryism required?

It’s also important to note that there simply isn’t a direct correlation from an MP’s views on Brexit to open revolt in their association. A topical dispute might light the touch-paper, but more often than not an MP with serious association problems is in trouble because they had already lost some degree of popularity due to longer-standing issues. As one Grantham and Stamford activist told me of Boles: “If feeling towards him was warmer generally in the association, people would say ‘oh, move on’, but instead, he doesn’t have that electoral goodwill in the bank.” In the reverse situation, there are MPs who have proved troublesome to the progress of Brexit but who have not faced an association rebellion.

Grieve and Gauke are interesting exceptions to this rule. Both had good relationships and reputations locally prior to their recent troubles. The former has managed to burn through a lot of that trust and positivity in a short time, by the sheer radicalism of his political position on Brexit and his refusal to be moderated by his association’s advice. He duly lost the confidence vote, for that reason. By contrast, the Justice Secretary certainly blotted his copybook by failing to vote with the Government at a crucial time, but he won his confidence vote because his critics’ annoyance about it simply wasn’t shared by enough of their fellow members. He had, after all, abided by his promises at election time.

In a sense, the Gauke ballot is an instructive case with something to say about this whole panic: yes, he faced a no confidence ballot. Yes, that means some of his local members are very displeased. But that isn’t the end of the story: he then won the vote comfortably. The all-powerful entryist takeover we keep being told about would hardly let that happen.

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

Nicky Morgan: The danger of Putin and the danger of populism

Nicky Morgan is Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, a former Education Secretary, and MP for Loughborough.

In 2016, Michael Fallon, then Defence Secretary, said to the Defence Select Committee that leaving the EU would be an “extraordinarily irresponsible thing to do at a very dangerous moment”, adding that it would be “absolutely applauded in Moscow”.

It is notable that Vladimir Putin chose the G20 summit to denounce liberalism and trumpet the growth of national populist movements. The challenge for those of us who think that liberal democracy is still the right path to follow is how we push back against the Russian President’s statements.

Whether Brexit is a symptom or the cause of the rise of populism in the UK is a moot point. But the UK is not immune from the growth of populism, which can also be seen in the US and in other EU countries.

And there is no doubt that, for a number of reasons, the political and wider ‘establishment’ has either created or not addressed the conditions in which populism flourishes. The MPs expenses scandal, the financial and banking crisis, the resultant lack of wage growth, the seeming unwillingness to address people’s concerns about immigration have all contributed to a feeling that ‘the people at the top’ just aren’t listening.

Into that mix, it is easy to see how a few strong voices claiming to represent ‘the will of the people’, and denouncing the ‘metropolitian liberal elite’, have stoked the flames of populism.

Already we begin to see the dangers of accepting that liberalism has run its course. On Friday night, David Gauke had to face a no-confidence motion tabled by some in his local Party. Such a motion stems from the notion amongst some new(ish) members of our Party that if you aren’t a full-blooded Brexiteer then there should be no place for you in the Conservative Party of 2019. This is wrong.

A liberal, tolerant and open approach to our politics and to national debate is being repeatedly challenged until those who believe in it are left weary and feeling isolated. The populist approach is always to find an ‘other’, which more and more people to criticise until that ‘other’ is left isolated and lacking in support – witness the fact that being reconciled to Brexit isn’t enough: we are now expected to actively believe in it.

This is not a problem confined merely to the right of British politics. Local Labour parties have been testing the commitment to Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum for a while, and are now preparing to de-select those who don’t pass the test.

We are at a dangerous crossroads in Western politics. Our future Conservative Party leadership needs to address both quickly and effectively the problems which have led to the rise of populism, but they need to do so in a way which doesn’t fan the flames.

So, for example we need an approach which makes it clear that we can both control immigration whilst recognising that our economy needs immigrants, and that we have a proud track record of welcoming many millions of people who have chosen to make the UK their home. We need to work out a way to update our representative parliamentary democracy whilst recognising that it is still the best system of governance (a tip: let’s avoid any further referendums).  We need to work out a way to sustain and enhance wage growth while updating the skills of many workers who left education a long time ago. And we need to work out a way to value multiculturalism whilst being clearer and less apologetic about our own British values.

Conservative Party MPs and members have several choices before them. The key one is not actually who becomes leader: it is about whether we choose to allow Putin to write off our liberal democratic system, or show that we will do what we do best as Conservatives – keep the bits that are working and find a way to update the bits that aren’t, without acceding to the siren voices of populism.

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

Iain Dale: If you’re coming to a hustings I’m chairing, draft an original question – and I’ll try to call you.

Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

I’ve just finished reading ConservativeHome’s highly informative and entertaining interview with Boris Johnson. Put together with some of the other interviews he’s done this week, and you start to get the impression that the BoJo MoJo is returning.

I’ve always thought with big personalities like Johnson that things only start to wrong when their handlers try to muzzle them. He is like a big, loveable bear. Try to restrain him, and he becomes all sad and morose.

But give him the opportunity to show what he can do, and he will entertain the crowds and reap the rewards. The simple message is that sometimes you just have to let Boris be Boris, and accept the risks that come with that in terms of messaging.

In the ConHome interview, he reveals that he will expect every cabinet member to sign up to leaving the EU on  October 31st, come what may. It’s not quite the promise Esther McVey made in her short-lived leadership campaign, where she said she wouldn’t have any Remainers at all in her initial cabinet, but it’s quite something to reveal at this stage.

In theory, this might rule out Jeremy Hunt remaining in the cabinet. David Gauke has already said he wouldn’t serve, and it’s highly doubtful whether Amber Rudd or David Lidington could sign up for that. It’s clear that the composition of the next Cabinet will be very different to the current one.

– – – – – – – – – –

Some of you will have been at the Birmingham hustings last Saturday. It proved to be quite an event.

Given the story that dominated the news that day, I had no option but to ask Johnson about it, when it came to the 15 minute interview stage of the proceedings. I had planned my first question, but not what happened afterwards. I believed he might address the so-called elephant in the room during his speech, which I thought would have been the ideal way to deal with it. But that didn’t happen.

Without going into all the details of the exchange, I would genuinely have only spent a minute or two on it had he given any semblance of an answer. It was his prerogative not to, of course – and that’s the option he chose to take.

At the third time of asking some in the audience started booing me, while some others were apparently shouting to him to “answer the question”. My first reaction when I heard the booing was to burst out laughing – but I didn’t. Frankly I had expected some sort of reaction like that, but I was only doing my job.

To CCHQ’s credit, no one tried to influence any of my questioning to either candidate. I totally get that if you’re supporting a candidate you want to protect them and their reputation by any means possible. I certainly wasn’t trying to do anything other than do my job – even though clearly some people thought I was grandstanding.

I didn’t look at Twitter until much later that evening, and it was quite something. A lot of people thought I shouldn’t have even asked one question, let alone five. Well, it’s a point of view I suppose, but we don’t live in a country where journalists are shackled from asking any question they like.

Just think of the fallout – not just for me, but for the party, or indeed Johnson himself – if I hadn’t asked a single question and just talked about Brexit or whatever other subject. It would have been written up as being something that might happen in North Korea. Move along, nothing to see here.

I would have rightly been seen as a complete patsy. No one would have emerged well from it. I totally get that Johnson himself, and his entire campaign team were probably pretty displeased by it, but a few days later, in the cold light of day, I’d be disappointed if they didn’t accept that I did the right thing.

– – – – – – – – – –

Today. I’ll be chairing the hustings in Exeter, then tomorrow it’s Carlisle and Manchester, followed on Tuesday by Belfast – and, next Friday, Gateshead and then next Saturday in Nottingham.

I had thought it would be great to spend so much time with the future Prime Minister of this country.  But I suspect whoever wins will be sick of the sight or me and the sound of my voice by the time we get to the last of the 16 hustings in London on July 17.

The challenge for me is to try to keep things fresh and not cover the same old, same old territory in each hustings. In a sense, I’m relying on the audience to do that, by coming up with some original questions.

I thought both candidates were very revealing when I asked them in Birmingham: “What’s the biggest personal crisis you’ve faced, and what did you learn from it?” We need more questions like that, rather than the hoary old chestnuts of “Will you definitely promise one hundred per cent to leave on October 31st?” or “Will you cancel HS2?” Been there, done that.

So that’s your challenge. If you’re coming to one of the other hustings, please do submit the most original question you can think of. No one from CCHQ interferes in the question selection process – so if it’s a corker, and I think it will elicit interesting answers, I’ll try to call you.

– – – – – – – – –

One other aspect of this week has fascinated me and it’s that people seem to think they know which candidate I favour. Some think it’s clear I support Johnson, others think it’s clear that I support Hunt.

Truth is – I don’t have a vote, and in all honesty I am genuinely undecided who I would vote for. I totally get Johnson’s argument that we must come out on October 31st, and the consequences for the Conservative Party and democracy would be catastrophic if we don’t.

But then again, Hunt’s argument that he’s best placed to negotiate a deal with the EU is also compelling. The truth is that, since I am uncharacteristically on the fence, I’m actually in a good position to give a voice to the ‘undecideds’ in these hustings.

The difference is that they have to come to a conclusion and put their X in a box. I do not.

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Gauke. Uncorked today, corked tomorrow?

This site supports the autonomy of local Conservative Associations, and believes that the Conservative Party should implement the Brexit referendum decision.  These views interact in the case of David Gauke who, later today, faces a no-confidence vote from members of his Association in South-West Hertfordshire.  They do so in the following ways.

First, this evening’s vote will not be binding.  But each local Association should have the right to select whoever it wants as its Parliamentary candidate.  If members in South-West Hertfordshire want to select a candidate other than the Lord Chancellor for the next election, that should be their right, and neither Downing Street nor CCHQ should seek to bar them.

Second, there is no suggestion that Gauke is anything less than a diligent constituency MP.  Nor is he in breach of the Conservative Manifesto’s commitments on Brexit.  Indeed, he has voted to leave the EU three times.  You may or may not like the form of Brexit that he has supported – Theresa May’s deal.  But that is beside the point, or should be.  If blocking leaving is your measure, you might as well seek to deselect every single Spartan.

Finally, the Justice Secretary will be blamed by some for helping to drive extension – and, thereby, the imposition of June’s European elections, the rise of the Brexit Party, the collapse of Tory poll ratings, and the threat to the Party’s future.  The charge is justified.  But extension is not in itself wide of the manifesto.  And the ultimate responsibility for it rests not with Gauke, but with the person who buckled under pressure, and conceded it: Theresa May.

So, in our view, his local Association should not vote today to deselect him.  But there is a sting in the tail.

The 2017 Conservative Manifesto is one thing; the next election’s manifesto will be another.  We may well be very close indeed to that election, and therefore to the manifesto being written.  Boris Johnson has committed himself to leading Britain out of the EU by October 31 at the latest.  And, in his his interview with this site yesterday, to members of a future Johnson Cabinet being fully signed up to this policy.

Gauke has already indicated, quite properly, that he couldn’t serve in such a Cabinet, if leaving on October 31 meant leaving with No Deal.  But if the Commons seeks to frustrate such as outcome, and a general election followed, the Conservative Manifesto must commit the Party to the same end as Johnson’s Cabinet appointments: in other words, to leaving the EU with No Deal if necessary.

At this point, Association autonomy and Brexit commitments may clash.  What should happen if a local Association wants, in such circumstances, to reselect a pro-Remain local Tory MP?  Our answer is uncompromising.  Autonomy must prevail.  But to say that an Association has the right to select whoever it wants as its candidates is not to say that it should simply act as it wishes. What one is free to do isn’t always what it is wise to do.

So if the next Conservative Manifesto commits to a No Deal Brexit if necessary, as it should, our take for what it’s worth is that each Association should select a candidate committed to the pledge.  If that means not selecting the present MP, so be it.  That is the principle which should apply – even if the MP in question holds an office as distinguished as that of Lord Chancellor.

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Johnson is set to face an early general election. His Cabinet must be ruthlessly shaped to fight it – on a No Deal platform.

Conventional Cabinet-forming means representing as wide a Party spectrum as possible, and sending Ministers to departments that they will hopefully run for several years.

The unique circumstances that Boris Johnson will face in a month or so, if as expected he wins this Conservative leadership election, require tearing up that usual wisdom – and taking risks.

No Deal is not Johnson’s preferred option (nor should it be).  But we will all know whether he is prepared ultimately to lead Britain out of the EU without a deal and honour the referendum result by the Cabinet that he appoints.

It must be one whose members are all signed up to No Deal if necessary, and an election if Parliament prevents Brexit on October 31.

For a Prime Minister Johnson will not be able to afford Cabinet splits, resignations, noises off – or election campaign rows.

Sure, he will, in effect, have no Commons majority: but that problem will not be solved by forming a Cabinet of anti-No-Dealers-at-any-cost as well as of No Dealers-in-the-last-resort.  That way lies the fate of Theresa May.

Instead, he must throw the dice.  His Government must push for No Deal if necessary.  Or for an election on a No Deal manifesto if his Government is no confidenced while seeking to deliver it.

If an election is forced on the Conservatives without Brexit having been delivered, only the most strenuous effort to push it through the Commons, without a deal if necessary, stands a chance of warding off Nigel Farage.

It follows that Johnson must be ruthless – and move as fast as possible while the authority of his expected leadership win is fresh.  Out must go Philip Hammond, Greg Clark, David Gauke plus, it seems, Rory Stewart, and others.

It seems unlikely that Amber Rudd’s affection for Johnson will overcome her anti-No Deal convictions.  So be it.  The diciest, most difficult task of all will be squaring Ruth Davidson and Scotland’s Conservatives.

Here is the kind of shuffle that he should now start to plan.  It is drawn up to meet three non-negotiable requirements.

First, its members must be prepared to sign up to a Johnson policy of Brexiting on October 31.

Second, it should, within that parameter, be drawn as widely as possible from across the Party.

Third, its members will ideally have some experience of the department to which they will be sent.

Finally, they should also be chosen with an eye to presentation skills during an election campaign.

We suggest roughly as follows.

– – –

Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: Jeremy Hunt.

The expected runner-up must be bound in completely to the Johnson administration.  The new Prime Minister should delegate much of the day-to-day running of the Government to him.  Hunt will be reluctant to leave the Foreign Office, but could not refuse the promotion, unless he is determined to resist the October 31 deadline.

Brexit Secretary: Dominic Raab.

The EU must be sent the clearest possible signal that Britain intends to leave the EU at the end of October.  There could be none less ambiguous than sending Raab back to his old job.  That he knows the department is another advantage.

Chancellor of the Exchequer: Sajid Javid.

The present Home Secretary is committed to that October 31 deadline, can be relied upon to swing the Treasury behind No Deal preparation, is economically literate, and in an election campaign would be an aspiration icon as well as an attack dog.

Foreign Secretary: Liam Fox.

The International Trade Secretary isn’t a Johnson fan, but he voted against the extension of Article 50, is a very experienced Minister…and not at all someone you’d want loose on the back benches in current circumstances.  He could hold the fort in the Foreign Office during an election’s duration.

Home Secretary: Penny Mordaunt.

The doctrine is that a woman must hold a great office of state, and it justifies moving Mordaunt out of defence, and promoting her.  Though a Hunt supporter during this contest, she opposed extension in the Commons lobbies, and was part of the 2016 Vote Leave team.  She is well placed to strike the right balance on immigration policy.

Defence Secretary: Michael Gove.

There is a strong case for sending him to the Foreign Office, to try to help heal the wounds of this contest.  But defence will be an important element of any election campaign, and Gove could be relied upon to make the most of it.  He may have no experience of the department, but he has certainly pondered the role.

Business Secretary: Liz Truss.

The Chief Secretary is naturally combative, gutsy and a reformer..  She would therefore be a risky fit in an outward-facing, voter-sensitive department such as education – at least during an election.  But as a critic of the Business Department, she would run it will an exacting eye, and treat the corporate lobbies with a healthy scepticism.

Justice Secretary: Robert Buckland.

The Prisons Minister is, in Tory terms, well left-of-centre – a stalwart of the Tory Reform Group.  He is also capable, a Johnson backer, and a realist.  Geoffrey Cox should go to the Justice Ministry soon, but is needed for continuity in the Brexit talks.  Buckland, a lawyer and former Minister in the department, will do very nicely in the meantime.

Trade Secretary: Greg Hands.

It may be that Government policy on Heathrow would prevent Hands’ return, but he was a Minister of State in the department, understands trade policy, and is one of the Party’s best-briefed opponents of a customs union, against which he has written frequently on this site.

Health Secretary: Matt Hancock.

He is running the department with an absence of fuss, has avoided NHS disputes, understands the relationship between technology and healthcare, brings enthusiasm to everything he does – and has therefore written the case, despite his Treasury ambitions and leadership campaign, for staying exactly where he is.

Education Secretary: Damian Hinds.

It is very tempting to give a new policy (showering the department with money) a new face.  The itch should be resisted.  In an election campaign, it is best to have someone in place who understands the department and the issues – and who can present calmly and clearly, as Hinds does.

Work and Pensions Secretary: Alok Sharma.

The Work and Pensions Minister knows his way round the department as a senior Minister in it, is a Johnson backer in this contest, and has been unlucky not to make it to the top table before.  If Rudd won’t serve or is too risky an appointment, Sharma would slot straight in.

Environment Secretary: George Eustice.

Like Ed Vaizey (never appointed Culture Secretary) or Nick Gibb (never appointed Education Secretary), Eustice is one of the club of Ministers-Or-Former-Ministers-Who-Know-Their-Subject.  An honourable and prescient resigner over Brexit policy, he is well-known to the farming lobby and would be all over No Deal preparations.

Housing Secretary: Kit Malthouse.

Now purged, at least for a while, of his own leadership ambitions, Malthouse served under Johnson during the latter’s Mayoral period. He understands the brief, is in place at the department, and would offer, as he would put it, “a fresh face”.  Bring the Malthouse Compromise into the Cabinet.

Culture Secretary: Nicky Morgan.

Talking of Malthouse, let’s reinvent Morgan.  Our columnist is the ultimate Good Egg, having both a strong sense of Party unity and a willingness in extremis to back a No Deal plan.  We don’t want to lose her, but she would be a more-than-useful ambassador from Johnson to the Party’s centre-left.

Northern Ireland Secretary: Theresa Villiers.

This is one of the most daunting appointments of all, given the challenge of dealing with Ireland’s Government.  Villiers is a Brexiteer who understands Northern Ireland, having served there as Secretary of State, and knows the players.  If anyone can square conviction, knowledge and diplomacy, it is Villiers.

Transport Secretary: Gavin Willamson.

Johnson has little choice but to return to Cabinet the man who has successfully managed the whipping of the first stage of this leadership campaign.  It is a very fine judgement as to whether to send him back to head up the Whips’ Office.  On balance, we think it best he be given a department of his own that he will run with enthusiasm.

International Development Secretary: Priti Patel.

The new Prime Minister will need supporters in Cabinet, and people who are committed to Brexit.  Patel fits both categories.  She understands the department, grasps the need for aid money to be spent wisely, and would slot in neatly back there.

Scotland Secretary: David Mundell.

This is arguably the most crucial appointment of all.  No Deal, or a No Deal election, presents particular challenges in Scotland.  Johnson’s support among Tory Scottish MPs has been minimal in the Parliamentary stage of this contest, and he should must be prepared to give the experienced Mundell as much leeway as possible.

Wales Secretary: Alun Cairns.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Party Chairman: James Cleverly.

Cleverly radiates a sense of confidence rare among top-flight politicians, understands social media, is calm on TV, has CCHQ experience, and is itching to do the job.  Now that his own leadership campaigning has calmed down, he can be expected to work well with Lynton Crosby, who will surely return.

Leader of the Lords: Natalie Evans.

Again, if it ain’t broke, etc.

– – –

Entitled to attend –

Leader of the Commons: Andrea Leadsom

Continuity knocks.  Leadsom has blossomed as Leader of the House.  There’s no reason to move her.

Chief Whip: Steve Barclay

This is a hard call, and there are arguments for sending for Williamson, or taking a quite different tack and approaching Graham Brady.  Barclay is a Leaver and an ex-Whip – at one point the only Brexiteer in the office.  He is calm, methodical, well-liked…and was a Johnson voter this week.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Julian Smith

Never sack a former Chief Whip.

Brexit Minister of State: Steve Baker

Johnson should cut the number of Ministers entitled to attend Cabinet, but he could do a lot worse than put Baker, under Raab, back in his old department in charge of No Deal preparations, and allow him to contribute when Brexit policy is being discussed.

Attorney-General: Geoffrey Cox

See “Justice Secretary”.

– – –

So that’s –

23 full Cabinet Ministers, as now (including Johnson).

Six women full Cabinet members. There are five now.

Three visible ethnic minority members.  There is one now.

Eight original Johnson voters in this contest plus four people who switched to back him.

– – –

There are a mass of Ministers and others who would need care and attention.  With no majority, Ministers leaving through the exit door, Team Johnson members queueing at the entrance, other Ministers champing at the bit for promotion and other leadership candidates’ backers to keep quiet, this will be the devil of a shuffle to manage.

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Mordaunt leads the pack in our latest Cabinet League Table

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-May-19-1024x965 Mordaunt leads the pack in our latest Cabinet League Table ToryDiary Theresa May MP The Cabinet Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Ruth Davidson MSP Rory Stewart MP Philip Hammond MP Penny Mordaunt MP Paul Davies AM Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Mel Stride MP Matthew Hancock MP Liz Truss MP Liam Fox MP Karen Bradley MP Julian Smith MP Jeremy Wright MP Jeremy Hunt MP James Brokenshire MP Highlights Greg Clark MP Geoffrey Cox MP David Mundell MP David Lidington MP David Gauke MP Damian Hinds MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Chris Skidmore MP Chris Grayling MP Caroline Nokes MP Brandon Lewis MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP

*Note: Theresa May scored -68.7, and Chris Grayling -72.4.

This month’s Cabinet League Table is very much a snapshot of the end of a regime. With the race to succeed Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party about to begin, there is very likely to be a substantial reshuffle in the near future.

A glance at the above chart suggests why one is needed: only eleven Cabinet ministers record positive scores from our panel, and even the top-rated minister has barely hit +50. Here are some takeaways:

  • Mordaunt tops the poll. Our last two surveys both had her in fourth, so the Defence Secretary’s leap to the top of the podium will do nothing, so soon after she wrote for us about the leadership, to cool speculation that she might be about to enter the competition herself.
  • Truss holds on to second place. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has endorsed Boris Johnson, so no leadership speculation here, but her energetic championing of small-state, pro-freedom Conservatism is clearly striking a chord with the grassroots.
  • Davidson is back. Ruth Davidson’s return to the front has been noted, and rewarded with a 16-point increase in her positive rating. Were she in the Cabinet, she would have taken the silver medal position from Truss.
  • In fact, all three podium slots are held by women. Mordaunt, Truss, and Davidson are the three most popular Conservative politicians with our panellists. At present not one is running for the leadership, but it nonetheless challenges lazy stereotypes about the Tory grassroots and should give those MPs in the leadership race food for thought.
  • Although May’s score remains Stygian. Although she is at least scoring better than Chris Grayling this month, this score is a sour note on which to depart Downing Street and will cast a shadow over those candidates trying to carry forward aspects of her legacy.
  • Gove, Hunt, and Javid have respectable scores… Of the leadership candidates running from the Cabinet, these three are clustered together near the top of the table. Ratings in the low-to-mid 20s would not ordinarily look like endorsements, but alas these are not ordinary times.
  • …whilst Hancock and Stewart struggle. The Health Secretary is at least in the black, with a score of 5.6. The International Development Secretary however is on -18, scarcely an auspicious jumping-off point for any leadership bid.

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WATCH: ‘I have a very high opinion of Michael Gove’, says Gauke

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“Populism of left and right poses enormous risks to this country’s prosperity.” Gauke’s speech to Onward – full text

This is the full text of a speech delivered by David Gauke, the Secretary of State for Justice.

Thank you, Richard for hosting us and Will, for that introduction. And may I thank Onward for the opportunity to make this speech.

And I think I should begin by stating what this speech is not. It is not, predominantly, a speech about Brexit – although it certainly touches upon it.

It is not a leadership campaign speech, for two very good reasons. First, I do not believe that we should change the leadership of the Conservative Party until we have addressed the manner of our departure from the European Union. Second, when it comes to any future leadership election, my position is to resist the clamour to stand. I remain confident that my resistance will be greater than the clamour.

But it is a speech about the future of the Conservative Party. And, indeed, the future of British politics as a whole. It is a speech that sets out the choices of direction for my party, a choice that will define the Conservative Party – and British politics – for a generation.

I set out how the rise of populism, the fragmenting of traditional party loyalties and the impact of Brexit means that there is a case for the Conservative Party to become a more populist, anti-establishment, culturally conservative party. But I argue that such a choice would limit our electoral appeal and leave the UK badly placed to take advantage of the opportunities of the 21st century. In other words, this is a speech that argues for a Conservative Party to be a broad church and an advocate for mainstream values.

Ladies and gentlemen, we live in an era of extraordinary political turbulence.

Around the rest of the world, we have seen new, populist parties quickly finding themselves in government. In the US, we have seen someone who has never held public office elected as President.

One of our two great political parties is led by Jeremy Corbyn, someone who spent his first 32 years in Parliament on or beyond the fringes of British politics. And a new political party – the Brexit Party, led by someone who has stood unsuccessfully for Parliament seven times – is currently riding high in the opinion polls.

Policies and politicians that, not that long ago, could be dismissed as extreme, divisive or impractical are succeeding in winning large numbers of votes. Mainstream politicians (as that term has generally been understood for decades) are on the defensive.

We live in a period when the forces of populism are strong. Anti-establishment messages resonate. Whether of the left or of the right, whether Jeremy Corbyn or Nigel Farage, the politician that argues that much of the public has been let down by the ‘elite’ will strike a chord.

That ‘elite’ might be defined in cultural terms – the ‘liberal elite’, seen as putting the interests of migrants or international institutions ahead of the indigenous population. Or the ‘elite’ might be defined in economic terms – the ‘rich and powerful’, the ‘beneficiaries of neo-liberalism’, who put their interests ahead of the interests of wider society.

Either way, the populist politician of left or right will argue that his policies will diminish the power of the elite, redistributing it to their supporters.

There is no doubt that this populist mood contributed to Leave’s victory in 2016. That is not to say that all Leavers were populists or that all Leave arguments were populist arguments. They weren’t. But there is no doubt that the 2016 Leave campaign tapped into a sense of grievance that the elites were not listening to those who felt disenfranchised and that the referendum enabled those voters to ‘take back control’.

The emergence of populism raises two questions, in particular, which I will attempt to answer.

  • Why is this happening now?
  • How should mainstream politicians respond to it? Specifically, how should British Conservatives respond to it?

So, the first question: why now? Or perhaps it is worth asking, why not before?

There have always been plenty of people who think their interests are not best served by those in positions of power, angry about foreign competition or immigration, sympathetic to a strong man willing to break the rules. And, on many measures we were less liberal – attitudes to capital punishment, homosexuality and racism, for example – than we are today.

Yet, in the past, the voices of populism were marginalised. People voted for mainstream parties and the leadership of mainstream parties robustly resisted populism. There were a limited number of media outlets some of which certainly flirted with populism but were never fully captured by it.

The emergence of social media has enabled those with non-mainstream views to find the like-minded. The once marginalised find reassurance in digital echo chambers. The views of extremists can be disseminated to the susceptible as online communities where they won’t face challenge. It should concern us all that Tommy Robinson had nearly twice as many Facebook followers as the Prime Minister.

This has played out in a period of moderate increases in living standards. The financial crash and the ensuing Great Recession resulted in a collapse in trust for those in authority and a significant hit to real incomes. Our public finances were predicated on a level of growth that proved to be illusory. The adjustment – what some describe as the years of austerity – was made no less painful by the fact that it was both necessary and inevitable.

Add to that, we are living through a period of substantial structural change. The emergence of China as a major manufacturing power has, as a whole, been beneficial to Western countries as it has helped lower the cost of living. But those dispersed benefits don’t take away from the fact that there have been concentrated costs for those who worked in now uncompetitive industries.

A similar point can be made about new technology. Even without foreign competition, the number of manufacturing jobs would be falling as robots allow us to do more. This trend will only continue, except it won’t just be manufacturing jobs. That is not to say that employment will fall – I am optimistic that technology will mean different, more productive and interesting jobs, not fewer jobs. But it does mean disruption and insecurity.

There are many who argue that rising inequality is a driver for populism. I am a little cautious about this, at least in the context of the UK, simply for the reason that inequality (contrary to what nearly everyone thinks they know) is not, in fact, rising. As the IFS has pointed out, income inequality has remained pretty consistent since the 1990s and, since the Great Recession of the late 2000s, earnings growth has generally been greatest for lower earners.

Nonetheless, economic insecurity is clearly a contributing factor. But I would place greater weight on cultural insecurity – the fear that their culture is under threat and being marginalised. Parts of society not only feel economically disadvantaged but culturally disadvantaged.

In recent decades, we have seen dramatic changes in the nature of our society – changes which, I would argue, are overwhelmingly positive. Conservatives should welcome changes that have made society more open and diverse and have meant that life has become much better for women, gay people and ethnic minorities.

But elements of society look back to a period where their position in society was more secure and stable, their culture dominant and with an expectation that that culture would remain dominant throughout the life times of their children and grandchildren.

These concerns are too often dismissed and sneered at. For example, it is often said that older Leave supporters voted with no concern for the long term consequences for their grandchildren. On the contrary, what strikes me about many older Leave voters was that they were concerned that the country future generations will grow up in will be different – and, in their eyes, worse – than the one they grew up in. I don’t agree with that pessimistic outlook, but it is a sincere and well-motivated point of view.

This sense of a changed cultural orthodoxy is often felt strongest in those communities that have traditionally voted for centre left parties, parties that have, in recent decades, been perceived as being more focused on furthering the interests of disadvantaged minority groups rather than on the centre left’s previous principal objective – furthering the economic interests of the working class. The desire to protect the interests of vulnerable groups is entirely laudable but the change in priorities has been noticed by some of the centre left’s traditional supporters. Whether it is the Democrat-voting ex-steelworker in the Rust Belt, or the Labour-voting ex-miner in the East Midlands, they don’t feel that they are part of a privileged majority. At best, they feel invisible to the concerns of their traditional parties. At worst, they consider their traditional parties to be hostile to them.

This has led to a reaction. The perception is that the once dominant culture is under attack and, unless defended, will no longer be around for future generations.

The disenchantment of the traditional working class with the left clearly creates an opportunity for the right, as we have seen in the US. And it is argued by some that the Conservative Party needs to reinvent itself as a party that focuses on that part of the electorate – that the Conservative Party must become more of an insurgent, anti-establishment, anti-elite movement; determined to protect our nation’s cultural identity from cultural change and the challenges of globalisation. It is an approach that has worked electorally elsewhere and, it is argued, the evidence suggests that it can work here.

It is an argument that deserves to be taken seriously. It is true that there is an opportunity to appeal to voters who have not traditionally voted Conservative but feel ignored by the centre-left and repulsed by the resurgent hard left. And, of course, we should seek to attract non-traditional voters – particularly as our economic policies should be designed to benefit all parts of society.

It is also the case that the concerns of those who feel invisible must be recognised by mainstream parties. For example, a balanced approach to immigration – that recognises the benefits it has provided us but also accepts that uncontrolled immigration is unsustainable – is fair, reasonable and nothing of which to be ashamed. If mainstream parties do not address such concerns, it will leave the pitch clear for others.

But the case I want to make is that it essential for the sake of the country that the Conservative Party resists the temptation to become a populist party.

Populism would make us a poorer and a more divided nation. Ultimately, it won’t satisfy the voters who feel most disillusioned with the current political system. And it will result in the loss from the Conservative coalition of support of younger voters, more liberal-minded voters and pro-business voters.

If the Conservative Party becomes a populist party, it will drive away voters in metropolitan and suburban areas that will make the task of winning a Parliamentary majority all but impossible.

London, the Home Counties and the Oxford-to-Cambridge corridor have rapidly growing populations and have, for the most part, been fruitful areas for returning Conservative MPs. But we are already on the retreat in London. In the relatively tight general election of 1992, we achieved 45% of the vote in London and 48 seats. In the tight general election of 2017, we achieved just 33% of the vote and 21 seats.

As last week’s local elections demonstrated, we should not take our support for granted in the wider South East, especially if we are seen to be hostile to the values of liberal, university-educated, centrist voters.

However, this is not just about electoral calculation. The biggest problem with populist policies is that too often, they’re just plain wrong.

Let me begin with the economics. The vast majority of Conservatives look back with pride at how Mrs Thatcher’s governments turned round the British economy from being the sick man of Europe to being a dynamic, enterprising powerhouse.

She did so not by embracing populism but by confronting it. Whereas populism tends to seek to preserve existing jobs and industries, insulating an economy from foreign competition, the 1980s were a period when the government did not seek to prevent necessary structural changes. She took steps to make our economy more open through both unilateral and multilateral measures, foreign investment was encouraged, structural change embraced.

And whereas populism tends to be fiscally irresponsible – it is the politics of saying ‘yes’ and rarely of saying ‘no’ – the Thatcher governments’ fiscal approach was thoroughly conservative, ensuring that we sought to live within our means, tightly controlling public spending and even allowing the tax burden to rise when necessary to get the public finances under control.

A responsible government cannot agree to every spending proposal put in front of it. Nor can it afford to pursue every proposal for unfunded tax cuts. I am the first to argue the case for a competitive, pro-business tax system – I am very proud to be associated with our corporation tax reforms – but the idea that cutting taxes inevitably pays for itself is simply the right-wing equivalent of the magic money tree.

And whereas Mrs Thatcher’s Government was essentially pro-business, populism, in the end, becomes an anti-business movement. If populism involves standing up to powerful elites, populism of the right as well as the left will too often portray business – particularly disrupters and innovators – as creators of misery not creators of wealth.

That is not to say that Conservatives should never criticise business – there are legitimate arguments to make about the wider responsibilities of business – but if the Conservatives find themselves advocating policies widely considered to be economically damaging by business, we should not be surprised if this has a damaging impact on business investment and our long-term prosperity, as well as diminishing our electoral appeal.

For the Conservative Party to become a truly populist party would mean abandoning our beliefs in an open, dynamic, pro-business economy and in fiscal responsibility. Or to put it another way, it would involve shredding our economic credibility.

And there could not be a worse time to do so. When the Labour Party has adopted an economic agenda that, when implemented elsewhere, has invariably had catastrophic results, diminishing our own credibility and deserting the economic battlefield leaves our country at risk and throws away a huge electoral opportunity.

So, does this lead us to maintaining a more orthodox approach to economics, but emphasising an agenda of cultural conservatism, wholeheartedly addressing the concerns of those who feel left behind and invisible?

It would be an agenda based on tough immigration rules and taking on political correctness. It would be assertive and fearless in defence of traditional values and promise a return to a simpler, more innocent age.

But even if we avoid the temptations of economic populism, cultural populism takes us down a dangerous path. So, let’s turn to the non-economic arguments.

First, populism leads to a more divided society.

Populism is one of the reasons why our political debate becomes coarsened, language more extreme, civility dismissed as weakness.

And a political strategy that seeks to exploit a sense of cultural insecurity would exacerbate divisions within society and send a clear message to minority populations and liberal voters that the Conservative Party was not for them. It would leave us as a Party narrower and as a society angrier.  We need to de-escalate the culture wars, not inflame them.

If we base our appeal on the distance we create from the ‘liberal elite’ by emphasising cultural matters, what is to stop someone else coming along who might be less restrained, less subtle, more forthright in taking on liberal opinion?

If we validate a narrative that our country’s problems are caused by an out-of-touch liberal establishment, why won’t the most anti-establishment position become ascendant? What is to stop relatively mainstream Conservatives from being, if you’ll pardon the pun, trumped? Aping populism won’t defeat populism. It is a dangerous trajectory.

Second, populism undermines stability. Our political stability has been a great asset to this country but populism inevitably involves an attack on those institutions that have been essential to delivering that. In recent years, we have already seen too much of this. Our independent judiciary has been described as ‘enemies of the people’ and our non-partisan civil service has been roundly abused.

And, third, populism would undermine the United Kingdom. In the context of the United Kingdom, right-wing populism means English nationalism. Such English nationalism repels voters in other parts of the UK, is neglectful of the importance of the Union and, consequently, encourages separatist movements.

So, a properly populist approach would be economically wrong-headed, increase division in society, undermine our institutions – and the stability that they bring – and destabilise the integrity of the United Kingdom. In short, it is not where a responsible political party should be.

If our response is not to become a populist party, how do we respond? How does a mainstream centre-right party survive and prosper in an era of populism? How, ultimately, do we defeat populism?

This is not a speech designed to set out a policy agenda. Nor is this an issue that is fundamentally about policy but about tone, attitude and ambition. So here are seven points to bear in mind.

First, if we want to be a broad church, we should try to de-escalate the culture wars. That means recognising that, within the Conservative movement, there will be social conservatives and there will be social liberals. There always have been and, by and large, we have managed to rub along alright together. Historically, we have always found more to unite us than divide us.

Second, our politics needs to be more civil. Whether talking about fellow Conservatives or indeed decent people in politics as a whole, we should all try harder to speak in a more respectful way, not impugning motives without good reason, recognising that someone holding a different view doesn’t make them a bad person. Liberal democracy requires a level of tolerance and civility in our political debate which is increasingly absent. A coarsened political environment is an environment in which the populist politician can flourish.

Third, we won’t defeat populist ideas by sneering. People concerned about rapid changes in our culture and our economy are not ‘deplorables’, to use Hillary Clinton’s phrase. We might disagree with them, but they should be treated with more respect than has often been the case.

Fourth, the arguments for mainstream politics need to be presented as benefiting society as a whole, not about furthering the interests of one group over another. We should believe in One Nation Conservatism. Too often, populists argue that if a policy is good for one group it must be bad for another – that we are in a zero sum game.

A policy which encourages wealth creation is described as a handout to the rich at the expense of the poor. Or a policy which reduces racial discrimination favours ethnic minorities over the majority population. But life is not a zero sum game.

If people are encouraged to invest, to be entrepreneurial, to create wealth, the individual and society as a whole can benefit. And if barriers to advancement are removed, if opportunities are widened, the individual and society as a whole can benefit.

Fifth, we need to be open and straight-forward that many decisions are complex, that life involves trade-offs and that an easy, simple answer is often the wrong one. In response to the glib, easy answer, we shouldn’t be frightened to say that, “well, it’s a little bit more complicated than that”.

Those of us who are politicians should treat the public as adults and be prepared to set out that we may often face a range of imperfect choices, that most choices have costs as well as benefits. Over-simplifying issues – a tendency of the populist politician – only increases scepticism in our politics when claims turn out to be untrue. If we want to rebuild trust in our politics, we should strive harder to communicate the factors that influence any decision or policy.

Sixth, the Conservative Party has to win the economic debate. The economy should be at the heart of the centre right’s case to the electorate. A focus upon creating prosperity is an approach that more often unites rather than divides the Conservative Party and has a resonance with voters who know that their living standards would be put at risk by our opponents.

Populism of left and right poses enormous risks to this country’s prosperity. And, ultimately, those who would lose out from these economic failures would be those who already feel left behind.

We need to be confident in making the case for the market economy, for allowing business to create wealth, for being outward looking, for embracing technology. Our economic record in government since 2010 is something of which we should be proud – the deficit slashed, employment at record levels – given the mess we inherited.

And seventh, our message has to be aspirational and optimistic. We must be advocates for policies that benefit all parts of society, so that those who have voted Labour when it was anchored in mainstream values look again at us and see us as a party determined to protect and advance their interests. We should be driven by a desire to expand opportunity, to give more people a chance to have a good education, a good job, to own their own home and have access to world class public services.

In the course of this speech, I have merely touched on the issue of the era – Brexit. And I don’t intend to dwell on it. But I believe the approach I have set out should apply to how we address Brexit.

We should put the economy at the heart of how we deliver Brexit ensuring that we maintain strong trading relationships with our biggest trading market.

We should discourage a culture war over Brexit. We need to cool the temperature of the debate recognising that the divisions in society need to heal. We should make the case that honourable and decent people can hold strongly different views. And such views do not make them racists, on the one hand, or traitors, on the other. As a political party, we Conservatives also need to make it clear that we want to win the support of those that voted for either side in 2016.

Indeed, if we focused on gaining the support of just one side of the debate, there is a risk that this support would fall away when Brexit becomes a less significant issue.

It will happen, one day.

And we need to set out more clearly and openly the trade-offs and choices that lie ahead of us as we establish a new relationship with the 27 member states of the European Union. Reluctance by some participants in this debate to accept that some choices have costs has meant that the debate on our future relationship has been, too often, characterised by wishful thinking.

This wishful thinking – that, for example, we could have the exact same benefits as membership of the EU but with none of the obligations – has not survived the collision with reality. But it has left some voters bemused and angry that the simple Brexit they were promised by some has not been delivered. But over-promising, over-simplifying and failing to deliver will only encourage further disenchantment.

So let us approach Brexit as we should approach all issues. Seeking to build broad support, respectful of those arguing in good faith, open and honest about the consequences of the choices ahead of us, mindful of the economic impact – particularly on those most vulnerable in society – and taking a practical approach in order to find a constructive way forward.

Brexit is a test for the country. But it is a test for the Conservative Party. What sort of party should we be? Do we succumb to populist arguments that may win easy applause but, in the end, will leave the public disappointed? Do we have the courage and honesty to spell out the trade-offs, the risks as well as the opportunities?

More broadly, the Conservative Party will have to make a choice about its future. We could become a populist party, defined by one particular position on the Brexit debate, seeking to exploit anxiety and resentment about a fast-changing world. But such an approach would be inconsistent with the great traditions of Conservatism in the UK, would narrow our electoral appeal and take enormous great risks with our economic prosperity and the integrity of the United Kingdom.

The case I have set out today is that Conservativism should be broad, not narrow; open, not closed; forward-looking, not yearning for a mythical past. It should be based on an appeal to the common sense, pragmatic instincts of the majority. We should seek to unite, not divide. In short, One Nation Conservatism.

Pragmatic, practical, reasonable but determined. That is the character of the British people. That is the character of Conservatism at its best.

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Potemkin legislation

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-04-17-at-07.25.35 Potemkin legislation Work Women and equality Women wages Treasury ToryDiary Stella Creasy MP sport Sam Coates (The Times) Sajid Javid MP rent Public Sector Northern Ireland NHS Local government and local elections Local Elections (general) Liz Truss MP Julian Assange jobs James Brokenshire MP immigration housing Home and family Highlights healthcare Health football Family and relationships exports employment Elizabeth Truss MP Economy DUP divorce disability Diane Abbott MP David Gauke MP David Blanchflower Conservatives Abortion

The ten most recent subjects covered by the Conservative Party’s Twitter feed are as follows: record employment, the provision of free sanitary products in primary schools, Conservative councils recycling more than Labour ones, more statistics about work and wages, record women’s employment, workers’ rights, an exports increase, more disabled people in employment, an end to no fault evictions, Conservative councils fixing more potholes than Labour ones, banning upskirting, funding more toilets at motorway service areas to help people living with complex disabilities, Sajid Javid criticising Diane Abbott over Julian Assange, kicking out racism in football, and a new law to protect service animals.

One might pick out three main themes, local election campaigning aside.

The first is the vibrancy of Britain’s jobs market and the country’s robust recent record on employment.  The aftermath of the Crash and the Coalition’s slowing of public spending growth, a.k.aa “austerity”, didn’t bring the five million unemployed that David Blanchflower believed possible.  The Government has to keep shouting about our employment rates because people have got used to them.  A generation is growing up that cannot remember the mass unemployment of the 1980s.

Then there are a battery of announcements aimed disproportionately at younger women voters, who were more likely to switch to Labour at the last election.  Those of a certain disposition will argue that some of these are trivial, and that women and men both want government to get on with addressing big issues: Brexit, health, the economy, immigration, education and so on.  But part of the point of banning upskirting, say, or providing more free sanitary products is gaining “permission to be heard”, in order to make some voters, in this case younger female ones, more receptive to what Conservatives are doing more broadly and widely.

Which takes us, third, to law-making – not admitttedly the only means, or even necessarily the main one, by which government can act, but indispensable none the less.  Under which category we find a new law to protect service animals and the proposed end to no fault evictions, about which James Brokenshire wrote on this site recently.  The two may seem to have nothing in common but, on closer inspection, tell part of the same story.

Namely that, as Sam Coates keeps pointing out, the Government can’t get any plan which is remotely contentious through the Commons.  Only the most uncontested ideas, such as providing police and other service dogs with more protections, can make it through the House. And this new service animals measure isn’t even Government leglislation.  It came about through a Private Members Bill tabled by Oliver Heald and then backed by Ministers.

Meanwhile, the proposal to end no fault evictions isn’t contained in a Bill at all.  The headline on gov.uk about the plan refers to an “end to unfair evictions” and “the biggest change to the private rental sector for a generation”.  But the text of the announcement refers to “plans to consult on new legislation” and refers to an earlier consultation, on Overcoming the barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, to which it has now published a response.

As with housing, so with divorce.  On ConservativeHome today, Frank Young makes the point, in his article on the Government’s plans to ensure that no fault divorce can take place more frequently, that “it remains to be seen if the Justice Department’s enthusiasm for new legislation will be matched by government business managers and the ability of the current government to get any legislation through”.  For David Gauke has unfurled not a new Bill, but a White Paper.

Ditto Liz Truss’s announcment on a £95,000 cap on exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs. “Six-figure taxpayer-funded public sector exit payments to end,” gov.uk’s headline declares.  The sub-heading is more candid than the one beneath the housing headline.  “A consultation has been launched outlining how the government will introduce a £95,000 cap to stop huge exit payments when public sector workers leave their jobs,” it says.  The Treasury confirms that legislation will be required.

Now think on.  As Sam goes on to say, Theresa May’s successor may take against these ideas or indeed all of them.  In which case, they will doubtless be quietly put to sleep.  And that successor may be in place soon.  (Regretfully, we have to add: as soon as possible after European Parliament elections, assuming these happen, please.)

Conservative MPs don’t want a general election.  Nor do we.  But the more one ponders the state of this Parliament, the more one sees why one is the natural solution to this impasse – and would be knocking on the door, were it not for the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.  These recent announcements are Potemkin Legislation.  They cannot be put to the Commons without risk of them being amended out of their original intention.

Nor can the Government legislate easily elsewhere.  Consider any proposals affecting women – to take us back to near where we started.  Up would pop Stella Creasy, looking for a means of changing the abortion laws in Northern Ireland.  Which would further strain the Conservatives’ relationship with the DUP, such as it is.  Prepare, when Brexit isn’t before the Commons, for many more Opposition Days.

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