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Westlake Legal Group > Esther McVey MP

Javid keeps the gold but Johnson and Rees-Mogg fail to medal in our Cabinet League Table

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Sep-19-1024x956 Javid keeps the gold but Johnson and Rees-Mogg fail to medal in our Cabinet League Table ToryDiary Thérèse Coffey MP Theresa Villiers MP Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Liz Truss MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

Another month in and once again the Johnson Ministry appears to be holding fairly steady in the affections of grassroots activists.

There has been a slight downward drift, illustrated by the top scores no longer breaking the plus-80 barrier, but there are no ministers with negative scores and compared to the tail end of Theresa May’s time in office these are healthy scores.

Yet is it the calm before the storm? We are now only a month away from the October 31 Brexit deadline, which the Prime Minister insists he’s going to meet but nobody can really see how he can. Our next survey will be conducted as he runs into that tempest – it will be interesting to see what affect it has.

A few details:

  • Javid gold again… The Chancellor has seen his score slip a little but, as that is in line with the overall trend, he remains the most popular member of the Government amongst party members for the third month in a row.
  • …as Johnson slips… Last month the Prime Minister was ranked second by our panellists and just a couple of points shy of Javid. This month he slips to sixth after losing more than 12 points. Is this simply a response to various stories this month, or a foretaste of a backlash next month?
  • …and Rees-Mogg stumbles. It’s been an even worse month for the Leader of the House, who has fallen from a bronze-medal position last month to 11th place now after a fall of almost 15 points.
  • …but Brexiteers benefit. The beneficiaries of the above moves are principally Michael Gove, Geoffrey Cox, Dominic Raab, and Stephen Barclay. It is not until Liz Truss, in tenth position, that we find a Remainer.
  • Two departures. It’s goodbye to Amber Rudd and Jo Johnson, who both resigned from the Cabinet this month, and hello to Thérèse Coffey, who takes over from Rudd at Work & Pensions. Johnson’s successor, Chris Skidmore, is not attending Cabinet.
  • Wallace rebounds. Last month we asked what might have caused the Defence Secretary to suddenly slump to near the bottom of the table. Whatever it was, it’s passed – he’s now just below Rees-Mogg after gaining 20 points.

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

McVey makes wider home ownership central to the Tory mission again

Esther McVey used to be the Work and Pensions Secretary until she resigned last year. She is now back in Government as the Minister of State for Housing and Planning. Supposedly, that is a demotion. But surely her new job is trickier and more important. For all the controversy about the welfare reforms, they are in place and proving effective. When it comes to wider home ownership, that central Tory mission, there have been some tentative signs of progress. Yet the fundamental problem with the housing market remains. It isn’t really a market. Supply is artficially constrained by the state. So increased demand just pushes up prices. The planning system has also managed to ensure that usually what new building is allowed looks awful. This understandably strengthens the anti-development lobby, the NIMBYS, making the shortage even worse. Solid economic growth would help with many of the Government’s objectives – being able to afford increased spending on public services while also cutting tax. However, the experience of recent decades has been that periods of growth might have resulted in an abundance of many things this has not included homes. While everything else has become more affordable, housing has become less affordable.

In her first speech as Housing Minister, last week in Newport, McVey was clear that “we have to tackle this Great British housing building problem.” She said:

“Too many people feel that vital link between hard-work and owning their own home is broken. And when that link is severed, social mobility and opportunity falls away.

For so many people in our public sector, like our nurses and our teachers, like our police, owning their own home feels like the dream that has been taken away from them.

This is not right, they are the backbone of our country. They deserve a home of their own and they are looking to us to see what we can do. They are looking to us to fix it like we look to them to teach our kids like we look to them when we need healthcare, to look after us. They’re looking to us now to return that favour and look after them.

So, that’s 300,000 more homes a year to build. Each and every year.

Now we’re getting closer to that target – we’re building more, more than before. In fact last year we built more homes than in every year bar one in the last 31 years.

In Greater Manchester, the number of extra homes built is rising by more than 12 per cent.

In Birmingham, it’s rising by 80 per cent.

Only in London, have the number of new homes fallen.

While the trend is heading upwards, I’ve found there’s still serious barriers stopping that progress unnecessarily, and we need to understand what those barriers are, understand what is getting in our way so we can remove them.

We also need to focus on Brownfield sites – what are we doing there? Are we doing enough there? Are we building enough homes there? Regeneration must be something we should be most proud of, turning round, I call it, unloved land.”

If we accept that the issue is supply rather than demand, then it follows that the “Help to Buy” scheme won’t work. It will certainly have helped some people – but overall have pumped up prices even more and so been unhelpful to others. Theer was a hint in McVey’s speech acknowledging this:

“There is a limit to what Government can do, for example, Help to Buy is precisely that. It is helping people to buy, it is not helping somebody to make a profit, it is not helping to increase the prices of property. It is about helping people to buy.

“So this Government will be vigilant about what is working, keeping an eye on our goal. That is a shared goal, helping people into a home and into home ownership.”

There were some specifics concerning the modest changes announced so far:

“We’ve looked at ownership models, so making Shared Ownership more accessible for working families. We’ve started that already so buyers can have a staircase of one per cent increases rather than ten per cent leaps.

 We’re going to look to expand Shared Ownership, supporting it in different ways, taking out what we hear to be the difficulties of it, the expense of it. It shouldn’t be unfair for those trying to get onto the housing market.

And Rent to Buy, so people can rent knowing that they are going to buy, knowing that they’ve got a bit of breathing space, maybe it’s in five years, maybe it’s in ten years, but they will get to own that property –  so they can plan, knowing they have the certainty of getting a deposit and getting that house.

 And Right to Build, so many places around the world have far more people building their own homes, so we’re going to be there, whether its support for Right to Buy or Right to Build.”

This was a speech which championed home ownership:

“A dream that the vast majority of the public still have and continue to have.

And why is that? It’s about having a stake in society, it’s about having security, it is about aspiration, it is actually about freedom. It’s about financial security, and it’s about safety for you and your family and it provides people with a real stake in their community.”

She also balanced the statistics about recent achievements by saying:

“It is a scandal, possibly the greatest scandal over the last 30 years that we’ve had a shortage in houses. And that has led, as we know, to a rise in renting and costs, and to a fall in home ownership which has destroyed the aspiration of a generation of working people.”

So this was her starting point. A statement of intent. After the depressing messages from some of her predecessors, this is welcome. I look forward to the Party Conference and the election manifesto to see if it will be followed by the specific radical policies required. Mine would include a much bolder offer on shared ownership, an end to state land banking, zero VAT for the renovation of old buildings, and delivering on the right to buy for housing association tenants which has already been promised. And above all, to have a presumption in favour of allowing development (including in the Green Belt), provided it adhered to local design codes that had popular consent, which could give confidence that what went up would be beautiful.

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

Transparency on developer contributions is welcome

When Sir Eric Pickles was the Communities and Local Government Secretary there was a change in the approach to accountability in our town halls. The “tyranny of sameness” was eased. We saw the demise of the Audit Commission. Box ticking and data sending were slashed. Instead of councils being agencies of Whitehall, a spirit of “localism” was brought in. Councils were judged on results rather than micro-managed; for instance, the New Homes Bonus offered an incentive and that proved more effective than centralised targets. But accountability did not disappear – it’s just that it came from below rather than from above. Council Taxpayers were given the power to veto excessive increases. Schools were given greater autonomy especially if they chose to convert into academies. There was a shift to “neighbourhood planning”.

Part of this new accountability was greater transparency. Spending on all items over £500 must now be published – empowering “armchair auditors” to spot poor value for money.

Broadly this legacy has remained intact – although in recent years councils have been able to impose inflation-busting Council Tax rises without the bother of securing approval from their residents in referendums. But since Sir Eric’s tenure, radicalism has given way to consolidation. Now there are some signs it might revive. Last week came news of a welcome enhancement in terms of transparency.

The Government announced:

“Local people will be able to see how every pound of property developers’ cash, levied on new buildings, is spent supporting the new homes their community needs, thanks to new rules coming into force.

“Builders already have to pay up for roads, schools, GP surgeries and parkland needed when local communities expand – in 2016 to 2017 alone they paid a whopping £6 billion towards local infrastructure helping create jobs and growth. Yet before today, councils were not required to report on the total amount of funding received – or how it was spent – leaving local residents in the dark.

“New rules will mean councils will be legally required to publish vital deals done with housing developers so residents can see exactly how money will be spent investing in the future of their community.”

Esther McVey, the Housing Minister said:

“The new rules coming into force today will allow residents to know how developers are contributing to the local community when they build new homes – whether that’s contributing to building a brand-new school, roads or a doctor’s surgery that the area needs.”

The rules are designed “to give greater confidence to communities about the benefits new housing can bring to their area.” If the sums provided under Section 106 payments and the Community Infrastructure Levy were spent effectively then I do think it would help make new housing more popular. It is not just a matter of the developers handing over the money. It is also being able to check to see if it has been spent as agreed. The money is not meant to just sit in a ringfenced bank account or to pay for bureaucrats salaries. It is meant to go on specific projects such as planting street trees, or road improvements, or a new playground in the local park. Then when a planning application comes along residents can balance the disruption and extra pressure against the promised benefits that will be delivered.

When I was a councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham I persuaded my Conservatve colleagues to publish a schedule of funds held under Section 106. Alas and alack I am no longer a councillor and Hammersmith Town Hall is now under socialist rule. Labour has not been quite so brazen as to cease publication but it has became more of a struggle to keep the information up to date. The Council still claims:

“We update the transparency schedule every three months.”

The difficulty is that it isn’t true. The latest schedule is from two years ago.

There is a case that these developer contributions are an unjustifed obstruction to getting the new homes we need. If the population increases then so will tax revenue. More children means more funding for schools as the money follows the pupil. New homes means new Council Tax. So what is the logic in giving the councils an extra bung? Better for the property developers to focus on coming up with a good scheme. Regular readers will know my view that beautiful, traditional design is the key. That is why the mission of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, chaired by Sr Roger Scruton and Nicholas Boys Smith, is so important.

If we are going to have these billions of pounds of developer contributions sloshing around, then giving us some chance to keep track of where it is all going is welcome.

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

Javid, Johnson, and Rees-Mogg hold their podium slots in our Cabinet League Table

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Aug-19-1024x954 Javid, Johnson, and Rees-Mogg hold their podium slots in our Cabinet League Table ToryDiary Theresa Villiers MP Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP Jo Johnson MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP   Last month we published our first Cabinet League Table of the Johnson Ministry. It offered a sea-change from Theresa May’s embattled government, both in terms of composition and the estimation in which party members held it.

One month on and the general picture hasn’t really changed. If anything, over August there was a general upward drift in the scores, reflecting what many commentators – including our own Mark Wallace – thought was a very strong start in the role.

It goes without saying that the data for this was collected prior to the return of the Commons and the Government’s miserable week therein. We might therefore anticipate a quite different set of results in October.

Here are a few of the details:

  • Post-Ruth politics. Our survey was front-page news in Scotland last month when it showed the Scottish Conservative leader, so often one of the most highly-rated individuals, down to a positive score of just +14. Perhaps it was an omen of things to come, because Ruth Davidson has since stepped aside, triggering a battle for the future of the Party in Scotland.
  • Javid tops the poll again. The Chancellor puts on four points to take his score into the mid-Eighties. This suggests that activists are either untroubled by the Government’s decision to move away from spending restraint, which Sajid Javid is by necessity spearheading, or are at least not holding it against him.
  • Johnson and Rees-Mogg fill out the podium. No change in the ordering of any of the top three, and both the Prime Minister and Leader of the House have put on about five points to their score.
  • Gove climbs… The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is climbing the ranks. But will his ongoing defence of May’s deal, and reports that he is leading the charge against Johnson’s disciplining of anti-No Deal rebels, put a dent in his score next month?
  • …as does Cleverly. Of course small changes in position may not be terribly significant, but the Party Chairman is nonetheless one of the most popular politicians in the survey. If this continues it can’t hurt his chances of being offered a Cabinet brief in a future reshuffle.
  • What happened to Wallace? In a survey which generally saw very little movement – save for two outright departures – there are a couple of obvious exceptions. Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has seen his score drop by over ten points and now languishes near the bottom of the table.
  • Williamson wins members over. The other is the Education Secretary, who has seen his stock rise from +27 to +45 and gone from being close to the bottom of the table to comfortably in the middle.

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

Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Jul-19-1024x955 Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government ToryDiary Theresa Villiers MP The Cabinet Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Ruth Davidson MSP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP Jo Johnson MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Highlights Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

When Mark predicted last month that it would be the last Cabinet League Table with that line-up, he was more right than he might have expected. Boris Johnson ushered in the new era with one of the more brutal reshuffles in modern political history.

A glance at last month’s table illustrates how the clean break has certainly restored the Cabinet’s standing in the eyes of the grassroots: every single member has a positive rating, nearly all of which would have put them comfortably in the top ten during the ancien régime.

But how much of that is due to unfamiliarity? This isn’t usually something we scrutinise, but no fewer than 16 of the politicians above-listed had ‘Don’t Know’ as their highest single response, with a couple more avoiding that fate by a bare handful of votes. A blow to the egos of a few, perhaps, but it does also mean that those ministers still have plenty of scope to make a positive impression.

Here are a few of the other takeaways:

  • Javid leads the pack. The Chancellor holds onto the position he took last month, and continues to enjoy the dividends of a good leadership election. Remarkable to think that two months ago this spot was held by Penny Mordaunt, now on the backbenches.
  • Johnson in his prime. Theresa May departed our table with a score of -61.2 (that’s lower than Chris Grayling), so Boris Johnson’s +77.2 is a happy contrast. However, he ought to recall that at one point his predecessor recorded record-breaking positive scores too. Fail to deliver and his standing will fall, fast.
  • Rees-Mogg makes the podium. Perhaps unsurprising, but the titular star of our Moggcast is a hit with the membership. Leader of the House is a good position for retaining their favour too, as Andrea Leadsom discovered, as it offers numerous opportunities for scoring points off John Bercow.
  • Brexiteers on top. Also unsurprisingly, Leave-backing MPs dominate the top of the table – it isn’t until Liz Truss, in seventh place, that we find a minister who backed Remain in 2016. Amber Rudd, one of the surprise survivals of the reshuffle, is at the bottom of the table. Except…
  • Davidson in the doldrums. The Scottish Conservative leader has previously been relatively shielded from the ups and downs of the Cabinet, often chalking up podium positions as she focused her fire on the SNP. She is currently the lowest-ranked politician in the entire table, most likely fallout from her highly-publicised split with the Prime Minister and hostility to No Deal.
  • Survivor spread. Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be a particular position pattern for those ministers who did appear in our previous table (apart from the generally improved scores). Truss, Michael Gove, and Steve Barclay are at the upper end of the table, Rudd and Brandon Lewis near the bottom.

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

Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Jul-19-1024x955 Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government ToryDiary Theresa Villiers MP The Cabinet Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Ruth Davidson MSP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP Jo Johnson MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Highlights Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

When Mark predicted last month that it would be the last Cabinet League Table with that line-up, he was more right than he might have expected. Boris Johnson ushered in the new era with one of the more brutal reshuffles in modern political history.

A glance at last month’s table illustrates how the clean break has certainly restored the Cabinet’s standing in the eyes of the grassroots: every single member has a positive rating, nearly all of which would have put them comfortably in the top ten during the ancien régime.

But how much of that is due to unfamiliarity? This isn’t usually something we scrutinise, but no fewer than 16 of the politicians above-listed had ‘Don’t Know’ as their highest single response, with a couple more avoiding that fate by a bare handful of votes. A blow to the egos of a few, perhaps, but it does also mean that those ministers still have plenty of scope to make a positive impression.

Here are a few of the other takeaways:

  • Javid leads the pack. The Chancellor holds onto the position he took last month, and continues to enjoy the dividends of a good leadership election. Remarkable to think that two months ago this spot was held by Penny Mordaunt, now on the backbenches.
  • Johnson in his prime. Theresa May departed our table with a score of -61.2 (that’s lower than Chris Grayling), so Boris Johnson’s +77.2 is a happy contrast. However, he ought to recall that at one point his predecessor recorded record-breaking positive scores too. Fail to deliver and his standing will fall, fast.
  • Rees-Mogg makes the podium. Perhaps unsurprising, but the titular star of our Moggcast is a hit with the membership. Leader of the House is a good position for retaining their favour too, as Andrea Leadsom discovered, as it offers numerous opportunities for scoring points off John Bercow.
  • Brexiteers on top. Also unsurprisingly, Leave-backing MPs dominate the top of the table – it isn’t until Liz Truss, in seventh place, that we find a minister who backed Remain in 2016. Amber Rudd, one of the surprise survivals of the reshuffle, is at the bottom of the table. Except…
  • Davidson in the doldrums. The Scottish Conservative leader has previously been relatively shielded from the ups and downs of the Cabinet, often chalking up podium positions as she focused her fire on the SNP. She is currently the lowest-ranked politician in the entire table, most likely fallout from her highly-publicised split with the Prime Minister and hostility to No Deal.
  • Survivor spread. Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be a particular position pattern for those ministers who did appear in our previous table (apart from the generally improved scores). Truss, Michael Gove, and Steve Barclay are at the upper end of the table, Rudd and Brandon Lewis near the bottom.

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

Johnson’s reshuffle. Live Blog. What will happen to Hunt?

9.45am

We are opening this live blog earlier than is perhaps proper.  Boris Johnson will not kiss hands until this afternoon, after Theresa May’s final PMQs, and a last statement from her outside Downing Street.  He is not Prime Minister yet and therefore cannot formally begin his reshuffle.

However, we can identify some themes and points even at this stage.

  • There will be at least three Cabinet resignations today – Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Rory Stewart are set to depart before Johnson takes office – and there are therefore at least three vacancies round the Cabinet table.  David Lidington will presumably refuse to serve under a Government committed to an October 31 No Deal: ditto, surely, Greg Clark.
  • Julian Smith, who as Chief Whip is entitled to attend Cabinet, is clearly moving up down or out.  That’s because the appointment of a new Chief Whip has been briefed out: Mark Spencer.  Spencer is Number Three in the current Whips’ Office, has served in it since the 2016 election, and is thus very experienced in terms of this relatively inexperienced office.  The key to the appointment seems to be, as so often, in trust: Spencer has served as Johnson’s whip, and the two men get on well.  He is low-profile – which one wants in a whip – has been doubling up as Deputy Commons Leader, and is a former Remainer.  That his appointment has been welcomed on Twitter by both Rory Stewart and Steve Baker is a sign that Spencer has an ecumenical appeal among his colleages.  We also read the appointment as a sign that Johnson expects most of his trouble to come from the pro-Remain wing of the party, and wants to combine reach to it with continuity in the Whips Office.
  • Elsewhere, there is a mass of rumour and speculation, which this blog will try, not entirely successfully, to avoid getting drawn into.  Buzzfeed has a scorecard of conflicting lobby predictionsWe made some recommendations over a month ago, based on the premis that Johnson’s Cabinet members must, repeat must, be committed to leaving on October 31, if necessary without a deal (which raises the question of whether Amber Rudd is now reconciled to this position).  Johnson said that such is his intention when interviewed by this site.  Needless to say, this site will also be keeping a record of which of our ideas have been followed up – if any.
  • Having cautioned against reshuffle briefings, there are two that looks reasonably solid.  The first is that Johnson will appoint “a Cabinet for modern Britain”.  In crude political terms, this means he is seeking to escape being framed by his opponents as a narrow right-winger – a British Trump fixated on a nativist version of Brexit.  In crude appointment terms, that means more women (Theresa May’s Cabinet has only four full women MP members) and more ethnic minority members.  Names to watch for therefore include: Priti Patel, Alok Sharma, Andrea Leadsom, and perhaps Esther McVey, Lucy Frazer, Rishi Sunak and Victoria Atkins.  Either Theresa Villiers or possibly Nicky Morgan could also return, but it is unlikely that both could do so.
  • The second briefing is of a stand-off between Johnson and Jeremy Hunt (which this site can confirm).  The former has reportedly decided to demote Hunt, in effect, by offering him Defence, which the latter is resisting.  For what it’s worth, our take is that the new leader would be wrong to seek to move Hunt down a rung because, if the Foreign Secretary is prepared ultimately to back leaving on October 31, Johnson will need all the senior support for this position he can get.  And after all, Hunt has just nabbed a third of the membership vote in the leadership election.  And our view is also that Hunt would be wrong to refuse Defence: it is a very senior post, if not a great office of state, and many MPs, not to mention Party members, would take a poor view of Hunt being unwilling to take responsibility for our servicemen and women.  Especially after the defence spending aspirations that he expressed during the leadership contest.
  • Finally at this stage, moving Hunt into Defence would mean moving the recently-appointed Penny Mordaunt out of it.  Such a plan would be consistent, given Johnson’s stress on promoting women, with a move up for Mordaunt into a great office of state.  But she was a Hunt supporter during the leadership election, and she and Johnson reportedly don’t get on.  That is an ominous storm-cloud.

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

Patrick Spencer: Some advice for the new Conservative leader. Stick to these three ideas to boost productivity.

Patrick Spencer is Head of Work and Welfare at the Centre for Social Justice.

The Conservative leadership contest has proved to be the battle of ideas that the party wants, needs and should probably have had back in 2016. Yes, Brexit has dominated the discussion, but in amongst chat of proroguing, No Deals and backstops, we have heard interesting ideas about, for example, tax reform, a national citizens’ service and early years support for young mothers. During the Parliamentary stage of the contest, the Centre for Social Justice hosted the Social Justice Caucus of Tory MPs, holding their own hustings event for the Conservative leadership, and the candidates didn’t disappoint.

The litany of new ideas stem from the fact that most of the candidates felt it is time to reshape the Government’s fiscal strategy. The last nine years have been defined by successive Coalition and Conservative government’s support for fiscal rebalancing. David Cameron and George Osborne successfully formed governments after two general elections on a platform of fiscal prudence.

However, the political landscape has changed. Younger voters who weren’t around to vote in 2010 now make up a sizeable chunk of the electorate. Years of austerity, job growth and a much healthier national balance sheet has meant that ‘austerity’ is increasingly unpopular.  Combine this with the perceived economic harm that a No Deal Brexit may cause, and the case for loosening austerity is compelling.

In this vein, Boris Johnson has argued for lower taxes on higher earners as well as increased spending on education. Esther McVey wanted to cut the International Aid budget and spend savings on the police and education. Dominic Raab called to raise the National Insurance Threshold and cut the basic rate of income tax. Michael Gove hoped to reform VAT so that it becomes a Sales Tax. And Sajid Javid said he would slow the rate of debt reduction, which would free up £25 billion for new spending commitments.

Even outside of the leadership circle, Tory MPs and right-of-centre think tanks are advocating for a new spending strategy.  Neil O’Brien has coined the ‘O’Brien Rule’, which allows for budget deficits as long as debt as a percentage of GDP is falling. This sentiment was echoed by Philip Hammond, who called on every leadership candidate to commit to keeping the deficit under two per cent of GDP as long as the national debt was falling.

Considering the appetite to do something, the next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister should be warned that spending for spending’s sake is not a good idea. If the decision is taken therefore to loosen the fiscal taps, it should be carefully targeted so that this increases growth and more importantly, productivity.

The Centre for Social Justice released a report in 2017 that highlighted a clear policy agenda that used tax and spend policies to boost productivity across the UK. It is roundly recognised that the productivity conundrum in the UK has not been the result of any one issue but, rather, is a confluence of factors that have taken hold of our economic and social machine.

First and foremost, British companies do not invest and innovate enough. Compared to other countries we have lower levels of capital investment, lower uptake of new-generation technologies such as robotics, and entrepreneurs sell out too early. Britain has a proud history of innovation and technology, and yes we do have several world beating unicorn companies, but in recent years we have lost ground in the innovation stakes to the US, Germany and the Asian economies.

The CSJ recommended a raft of policies that could help reverse this, starting with a ramp up in public funds available for research and development. Public cash for R+D has a crowding in (as opposed to crowding out) effect. We also called (counter-intuitively) for the scrapping of Entrepreneurs Tax Relief. It is expensive and does little to help real entrepreneurs, and only acts as a tax loophole for asset strippers (this policy has recently been advocated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Resolution Foundation). We also called for simplification of the tax system. Look at the Annual Investment Allowance, for instance, that was decreased by 75 per cent in 2012, increased by a factor of 10 in 2013, doubled in 2015, only for it to then be almost cut in half in 2016.

Second, the CSJ called for a radical increase in support for vocational education in the UK. While businesses needed some help to innovate and compete, the labour market needs support in terms of skills and competencies. Recommendations included a new spending commitment for FE colleges and more support for adult learners who are in low skilled work. The Augar Review called for the Government to make £1 billion available for colleges, a good start but realistically the Government will have to go much further in the future. here is an example of where public money can make a big difference in public policy.

Last, if the next Prime Minister wants to support productivity growth, they can look at rebalancing growth outside of London across Britain’s regions. London is home to less than a quarter of the UK’s population but contributes to 37 per cent of our economic output. It attracts a disproportionate number of high skilled and high paying jobs. Public spending on infrastructure in London dwarfs that spent in the North and Midlands. Reversing this trend will of course take a generation, but by boosting transport spending on inter-city transport (most obviously Northern Rail), tax breaks for companies that set up in struggling cities such as Doncaster, Wigan or Bradford, as well as more money for towns and cities to spend on green spaces and cultural assets (such as museums, public art, restaurants and bars) that attract young people.

These three productivity-generating policy areas will allow any Government to loosen the fiscal taps without bankrupting the country. When the next Prime Minister appoints his Chancellor, he or she would be well advised to stick to the basics of cutting taxes, spending more on education and rebalancing growth outside of London.

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Tom Tugendhat: The last two men left standing in this contest must resist the temptation to slug it out

Tom Tugendhat is Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and is MP for Tonbridge and Malling.

In a contest which has been framed around personality, it is striking how many ideas have been generated by the Conservative leadership contest.  Each of the ten candidates original candidates had something to say. Each has championed a new vision of Britain, and each has given Conservatives plenty to think about.

It’s also showcased some good news about how the Conservative Party is changing. Which other party in any other country could boast a contest that included a television presenter, two newspaper columnists, an entrepreneur, an old-school adventurer, a second generation Muslim immigrant, or the son of a Jewish refugee? Not as tokens, but each arguing on merit their own cause as an advocate of an idea.

I backed Michael Gove’s determination to do everything he can to strengthen our United Kingdom and make this country a cleaner, greener place to live. But there are parts from other campaigns that were inspiring. I love Esther McVey’s promoting of Blue Collar Conservatism that has underpinned the Conservative movement for generations and Dominic Raab’s focus on home-ownership and cutting taxes for the lowest-paid.

Andrea Leadsom’s defence of EU citizens who live in the UK and the need to give them (my wife included) certainty about their future status is a proposal I completely back and Matt Hancock’s continued emphasis on mastering cutting-edge digital technologies as the key to our country’s future prosperity is one I have been pushing for since I discovered that parts of Kent are less well connected than Kabul or Khartoum.

At a time when faith in politicians is waning, Rory Stewart showed us just how we can rebuild trust not only through outreach but by talking about the real issues that change people’s lives.

And Boris Johnson? What isn’t there to say about him? He has picked up school places and tech infrastructure, taxes and the living wage and, closest to my heart in our in a time of educational separation – apprenticeships. That, along with his ability to animate the faithful make his contribution so powerful.

But he’s not alone. No one could be unmoved by Sajid Javid’s back story and determination. His pledge to recruit 20,000 more police is a welcome return to the values many expect of us – protecting those most in need. And as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I’ve long admired Jeremy Hunt’s ability to master the widest of briefs and understand the details that drive change in our world. His commitment to fund our armed forces and diplomacy properly is also hugely welcome.

The range of these ideas gives me great hope for the future. Partly because they confound the lazy allegation that we have run out of them. Partly because none of them need be mutually exclusive. And partly because Brexit is the biggest shift in UK policy in generations with massive implications for everything from the NHS to housing policy: there is a massive opportunity for creative thinking.

While there is no shortage of ideas, there has been a shortage of leadership. We need a Prime Minister now who will take us through Brexit and confront the challenges beyond. The 2016 referendum, and the three years since our vote to leave, have revealed many profound political problems – common to many other countries – that we now have both an opportunity and a duty to address.

The poorest have felt the impact of the financial crisis hardest, while the benefits of our economic growth have been imperceptible to too many: especially those who do not live or work in our big cities. We have to build beautiful new housing that reflects the way we live today. We need to ensure that our education system is focused on endowing our young people with the skills that translate into career security in a world which has already been transformed by internet connectivity and will be further by automation and AI. Finally, everything we do must be sustainable. The policies we pursue today must not imperil our children’s future.

The temptation for the last two men left standing in this contest will be to slug it out. There is a real danger that the race becomes acrimonious and divisive.  We are at our best as a country when we are unified. I know from my time chairing the committee that has scrutinised both Foreign Secretaries that each man is above this.

Let us spend the next week scrutinising these two potential leaders. Then let’s unite behind whoever wins to deliver Brexit and a compelling vision of the future for this great country.

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Clark Vasey: Only Johnson can deliver Blue Collar Conservatism

Clark Vasey is the founder of Blue Collar Conservatism and was the Conservative Candidate for Workington in 2017

Since we first set up Blue Collar Conservatism in 2012, I have worked with Esther McVey to encourage the Conservatives to focus on the working class voters who have been taken for granted by Labour. They have been consistently let down by that party, and have been turning to the Conservatives in greater numbers than any other group. With the election of Jeremy Corbyn and his brand of posh metropolitan socialism followed by the Leave victory in the EU referendum, we were well placed to achieve an historic realignment.  But in 2017 with a Brexit message diluted by unpopular policies we lost ground.

With our failure to deliver Brexit, what was once an opportunity now poses an existential threat to the party. Rather than winning over working class voters we now risk losing them hand over fist to the Brexit Party, as both the European elections and the Peterborough by-election demonstrate.

If we are still in the EU come 1 November, we risk irreparably breaching trust with these voters and offering Corbyn a route to power. Yet if we can deliver a proper Brexit at the end of October, thereby depriving Nigel Farage of his narrative of betrayal, then the potential of connecting with these voters remains. Corbyn does not speak for working- class people and, with Tom Watson determined to turn Labour into a party for metropolitan remainers, Labour are dropping any pretence of speaking for its traditional communities.

This is why Esther relaunched Blue Collar Conservatism earlier this year. Once we have delivered Brexit, we must build an agenda for working people by focusing on the issues which matter most to them. Being on the side of the people who need us most is not only the right thing to do, but is the only way in which we can win a majority. And it is only with that majority that we can keep out the most destructive socialist government in our history, and transform our country with the opportunities which will follow leaving the EU.

I was proud to support Esther in a campaign which put Blue Collar Conservatism on the agenda of this leadership contest. When the dust has settled, people will look back and see that she presented the most coherent and costed campaign in this contest.

This was possible because we applied three simple principles of Blue Collar Conservatism – 1) that resources should be focused on things which really matter to people, 2) that we must always ensure people are able to keep more of their own money and 3) that we must use Conservative policies to grow the economy to enable us to do 1 and 2.

You do not win working class voters by dipping into Ed Miliband’s bag of tricks. We need a Conservative agenda which delivers the things which really matter, not watered-down Labour policies.

This is what Esther did with her calls for more spending on police and schools funded by taking the DfID budget back to 2010 levels. This why Esther talked about public sector pay and fantastic initiatives such as a new Police Covenant. This was about genuinely shifting the dial on these issues which cause us huge pain in constituencies across the country. It was also about challenging orthodoxies within the party such as the 0.7 per cent of GDP on international aid, which would have an important symbolic effect of showing we are listening, and are not just focused on Westminster priorities.

Over the coming weeks and months Blue Collar Conservatism will continue to make the case that the party must win over the support of working people, particularly in the Midlands and the North. Esther’s Blue Collar Conversations pub tour is making its way around the country talking to people who would not normally engage with Conservatives. This is helping us build up a body of ideas which our voters and potential voters actually want. But the most important challenge for us now is that the new leader recognises the importance of this agenda for our party and our country. This is why it was so welcome that Boris Johnson endorsed Esther’s Blue Collar agenda.

When it comes to shaping a popular agenda incorporating Blue Collar Conservatism there is only one remaining candidate in the contest, and that is Johnson. This is not about an individual’s background, but their ability to connect with people and present radical Conservative policies which will make a positive difference to them.

However, first we must deliver Brexit. If we are not out of the EU by 31 October we will never be given a hearing on what comes after, no matter how positive. Johnson is the only candidate who can restore trust on Brexit and deliver Blue Collar policies which will secure a Conservative majority and keep Corbyn out of Downing Street.

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