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Eddie Hughes: Our values must drive CCHQ. That means moving it to a town or small city – not a big one.

Eddie Hughes is MP for Walsall North.

On Monday evening next week, we will have the introductory meeting of the Blue Collar Conservatism caucus. More than 120 Conservative MPs have signed up so far to be part of this great movement, and I’m hoping to have the opportunity to make the following pitch.

Don’t move from London to another metropolitan bubble.  Moving from London to, for example, Manchester, would be nearly pointless

The news that CCHQ is going to move out of London is excellent. The goal has to be to make it more representative of Conservative voters, and more in tune with ordinary people. However, the risk is that it moves from London to, say, Manchester, which is incredibly similar – a large metropolitan area which is very diverse, has lots of graduates, and is politically unlike its surrounding areas.

Indeed, in political terms, we would be moving from the single largest urban conurbation in the UK where we have roughly three-in-ten seats (21 out of 73 so 29 per cent) to the second largest conurbation where we have one-in-three seats (9 out of 2,  so 33 per cent).

Telling our new voters that we are changing, and so we are moving out of London to the city most like London in the whole of England risks being seen as patronising and illustrating a lack of understanding. Manchester is more like London than most of the Conservative seats in the country, including the new seats we gained in the last election.

If we are going to change the adviser network, we need the Conservative Research Department and comms team to move.

As an MP, you meet a lot of advisers. Some of them are great and genuinely helpful and conservative in every sense, and unfairly get a lot of flack. Others seem less conservative and more about networking in the London social scene than applying conservative principles and policy expertise to get the right results. The Conservative Research Department (CRD) and comms teams have to move when CCHQ moves. There is no need for a policy or comms presence in London outside Number 10 and the existing special adviser network.

Moreover, we need to ensure that those coming up as advisers are people that are not trapped in a metropolitan bubble, but are focused on the issues our voters, who tend to be in small cities, towns and rural areas – whether in the South, Midlands or North – are focused on.

So the new CCHQ seat needs to be in a town or small city.

The heart of the Labour core vote is the large metropolitan areas – Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham, London. These areas tend to have higher number of graduates, smaller numbers of SME businesses, and more ethnic diversity, all key drivers of the Labour vote. As noted above, simply moving from a large metropolitan base to another is likely to keep CCHQ stuck in a metropolitan mindset.

With this in mind and writing as an MP from one of our recently-acquired Blue Collar seats, the new CCHQ office has to be somewhere that is not a large metropolitan area. Suggestions I will put to the Blue-Collar Conservatism caucus are as follows:

  • Stoke-on-Trent. All three MPs are now Conservative (up from none in 2010). With 2 trains an hour less than 90 mins to London, it fulfils the criteria. It is an hour from Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Warwick universities and has Keele university nearby.
  • Derby. While only one of two MPs from Derby are now Conservative, 9 out of 11 in surrounding Derbyshire are Conservative. It also has two trains an hour from London and gets there in 90 minutes. It is close to Nottingham university and not too far from some others (e.g. Sheffield is an hour away, ditto Warwick and Birmingham).
  • York. While York itself is Labour, North Yorkshire has 12 MPs and only 2 are Labour and 3 are 2017 or 2019 gains. It is just over 2 hours from London but several hundred miles away. This would be close to York and just a half hour train from Leeds and hour from Newcastle.

The point of this list is to not be exhaustive. It is to point out that simply moving from one large metropolitan region in the South to another one in the North is not what is necessary. If we are trying to ensure that CCHQ in future is more representative of the typical voter, and if we are trying to send a signal, we need to make sure we choose a small city or town to base ourselves in, not just move from London to another large metropolitan area.

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

Greg Hands: Crime will be the central issue in this year’s election for Mayor of London

Greg Hands is the MP for Chelsea and Fulham.

I am delighted to have been asked by Shaun Bailey himself to be his Campaign Chairman for this year’s Mayoral election.

I have known Shaun well since 2007, and have always been a fan of this very different politician, a man who really wants to do the job as Mayor of London.

The General Election result highlighted what I have been seeing on the doorstep for many months, a complex and fluid change in the way Londoners are voting. The election turned out to be a mixed picture in London for the Conservatives. We lost a fantastic MP in Zac Goldsmith which will leave the Commons a poorer place and many outstanding candidates didn’t quite make it over the line.

However, our gains in Kensington (Felicity Buchan) and Carshalton (Elliott Colburn) were significant for our future hopes in London. The failure of Labour and the Lib Dems to make real inroads will be cause for concern for them ahead of the Greater London Assembly and Mayoral campaigns next year.

Lack of delivery in City Hall

The warning signs should by flashing loudly for Labour big wigs in City Hall. With the General Election out the way and as Brexit falls away from the public’s mindset, Sadiq Khan’s abysmal record on crime, housing, and the environment will be filling up the column inches. Never has a Mayor gone into a re-election campaign with such a poor record of delivery.

Knife crime continues to plague our streets, yet Khan has failed to act, saying it will take a decade to turn things around. 147 people were murdered in the capital last year, the highest level since 2008. But instead of moving resources to the Police, Khan wastes London’s resources on press officers. On housing, Khan has managed to grind all house building to a halt due to his ideological position and hatred of developers. And he fundamentally failed to call out Jeremy Corbyn on anti-Semitism, something that should shame him and his team.

The need for change = Shaun

In Shaun Bailey, the Conservative Party has chosen a true Londoner. He is a black, working class guy, who grew up in the shadow of Grenfell Tower. A man who has had to grind his entire life to make a living and raise his family. In his early 20s he found himself homeless, sofa surfing with friends and family. He chose a career of helping young people avoid a life of crime and has served the people of London as a Greater London Assembly member.

Shaun is probably one of the most sincere and genuine people in politics. He has no dreams of grandeur, he just wants to deliver for Londoners. He wants to have affordable homes for our young people, he wants a clean environment for our children, and he wants safer streets for everyone, now.

Crime will play a central part in the Mayoral election. The heart-breaking stories that we read about on a daily basis will not go away anytime soon. With a lack of City Hall interest and leadership, our streets, our homes, and our communities do not feel safe places to be. This is not limited to the inner-city areas, this is something that is felt from Harrow to Bromley and everywhere in between. There were three knife crime murders in Fulham last year, in my constituency.

Shaun’s plan is one of zero tolerance, tougher sentences for those caught with acid or a knife, a record amount of police on the streets with money already available in City Hall, and ending the fights that are raging on our streets. It is Shaun’s strength of character, and understanding of what is happening under the radar on our streets, that will make the difference.

Conclusion

I am looking forward to working with Shaun to build his campaign, tell his story, and sell his plan to people across London. We need to end Khan’s miserable tenure on 7th May and turn City Hall into a machine that delivers for Londoners.

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

Neil O’Brien: Research and Development. We invest disproportionately in the first at the expense of the second. Here’s how to improve.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2020-01-12-at-18.42.42 Neil O’Brien: Research and Development. We invest disproportionately in the first at the expense of the second. Here’s how to improve. warwick Switzerland South West South East Slovenia Sheffield Richard Jones Research and Development Oxford North East London Korea Israel investment Highlights Higher Education Innovation Fund East Midlands Dominic Cummings Defence Czech Republic Columnists China Cambridge America

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough

Consider your smartphone. In one sense, a triumph of free market innovation. In another, a product of the US military-industrial complex.

As the left-wing economist Marianna Mazzacato points out, many technologies in your phone were developed by the US government for military use. The GPS you use to navigate to the chippy was developed to land nukes accurately on Soviet military targets. The internet we use to look at cat gifs was originally ARPANET, intended to make military communications resilient to nuclear attack.

Around the year 2000, the US Defence Advanced Projects Authority invested in research to develop a voice-activated assistant for the military. The technology was later commercialised and sold to Apple.

There are several lessons from the iPhone story: the role government can play in research by “pulling through” new technologies and commissioning things. The non-linear nature of research and the unpredictable way new technologies multiply one another.

I’m mentioning this now because government is thinking big about science, research and innovation.

Dominic Cummings now-famous blogpost seeking: “Data scientists and software developers, PhDs… in maths or physics… Weirdos and misfits with odd skills” made people notice it, but the Prime Minister’s intent has been pretty clear: the biggest new spending commitment announced during the election was to invest an extra £3.2 billion a year in on Research and Development (R&D) by 2023.

Boris Johnson is right to increase investment in R&D: we’ve slid from being a leading investor in research to somewhere at the back of the pack. Looking at public and private investment as a share of GDP, between the early 1980s and 2015 we plummeted down the OECD league table, from the 3rd heaviest investor to the 23rd.

Relatively poor countries like Slovenia and the Czech Republic now invest more of their national income in science. China substantially more. Leading innovators like Israel, Korea and Switzerland are racing away, investing twice as much as us. We spend just under 1.7 per cent GDP on R&D, and the Government’s goal is to get us up to the OECD average, around 2.4 per cent.

This matters because economists have increasingly recognised the central role of innovation in driving economic growth. Indeed, in 2018 Paul Romer won the economics Nobel Prize for his work on this point.

Government investment in R&D stimulates private sector investment: as we saw with the iPhone, innovations created for one reason by government can be repurposed by businesses. More researchers means a bigger pool of talent for firms to draw on. So the Prime Minister is quite right to invest more.

But we also need to change the way that the Government invests. There are two big problems that stop government investment having the beneficial effect it should.

Problem one: the Government’s spending is concentrated in the so called “golden triangle” of Oxford, Cambridge and London, rather than helping to “level up” poorer places where it might have more impact.

Problem two: UK government spending is weighted towards early stage, foundational research, rather than close-to-market development work (More “R” than “D” as it were). For decades politicians have lamented how breakthroughs made in Britain get commercialised elsewhere. But part of the problem is that we’re investing in a way that means they get the benefit of our research: of the money government spends on R&D in Britain 13 per cent goes on later phase development. In the US it’s 45 per cent, and in China 56 per cent.

These two problems are linked. “Pure” research tends be focussed on top universities in the golden triangle, rather than in firms themselves. That’s why the private sector’s own investment in research is much more balanced across the country than the government’s.

In London, for every pound of R&D investment by government and universities, the private sector invests just over a pound. In the West Midlands the ratio is quite different: businesses are investing five pounds for every government pound.

In 2017, the South East and London accounted for a third of all private business investment in R&D, and the midlands and north also accounted for a third. But the South East and London got 39 per cent of government and university investment, while the north and midlands got just 28 per cent.

This imbalance is driven by the core science budget: the Research Councils (which fund projects) and Quality Related “QR” funding, which universities allocate.

Of these core funding streams, a government analysis suggests nearly half (46 per cent) of grants in England have been going to just three cities: Oxford, Cambridge and London. As Professor Wilsdon of the University of Sheffield told a recent Select Committee inquiry: “there are observable trends towards greater concentration over the last 20 years.”

The graph of the top of this piece shows that per head, the big winners from the core science budget were London, the South East and Scotland, the three richest parts of the UK, where constraints on growth like housing costs and congestion bite hardest.

The graph also shows that when government spends in ways that are more joined up with industry, there’s a more even spread. Funding through Innovate UK (which does things like giving research grants to start up firms) sees places like the North East, South West and East Midlands doing relatively better. But this sort of spend is currently just a small part of the budget.

What to do about our two problems?

First, scale up existing funding channels that are more commercially focussed and better spread. Make sure a good proportion of the extra money goes to bodies like Innovate UK and things like SMART grants to start up firms.

Second, develop new channels that help pull through demand, which the US is so good at. Do what the Connell Review implied, and create a ringfenced budget to procure innovative products, as the US does. I’ve met firms who have used the US SBIR scheme and it has transformed their prospects to be able to say they have a contract with the US government.

Third, do more to build up research centres which genuinely bridge academia and industry. Richard Jones widely-discussed paper is right to say we should try to build on the success of places like the Advanced Manufacturing Centre in Sheffield and the Warwick Manufacturing Group. More mission-oriented centres like the Faraday Institution might be part of this. Government should review which of the “Catapult” centres are worth building on or not.

Fourth, we need to rethink university funding and incentives. Far more of universities’ research budgets should reflect their industrial work. For example, last year about three per cent of Oxford’s grants from Research England funded work with industry. Things like the Higher Education Innovation Fund, which supports work with business, should be a much larger share of their funding. Professional esteem and rankings should change too. One business-minded Vice Chancellor of a northern university lamented to me that his work to spin out new businesses and attract investment was given no value compared to the Research Excellence Framework rankings.

I could go on. There’s loads we can do to make research investment more effective. It’s great to have a dynamic new government that’s interested in and investing in research. If we play our cards right, we can create all kinds of opportunities for people right across the country.

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

Shaun Bailey: We need tougher sentences to protect the LGBTQ+ community

Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.

In the past four years, there has been a disturbing rise in homophobic hate crime in London. As someone who has experienced racial hate both on the streets and online, I stand in total solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, many of whom suffer horrible and unacceptable abuse.

The Government and the Law Commission are currently looking at reforming hate crime laws. As part of that, something must be done, and so I urge people to join me in calling for tougher sentences to protect the LGBTQ+ community. Political leaders at all levels of Government need to grasp the scale of this problem, which has increased by 51 per cent since 2016.

In the short term, I would like to see our Government make homophobic hate crime an aggravated crime in line with racial and religious hate crime. This would ensure harsher sentences and could be achieved as part of the sentencing reforms.

We cannot afford to ignore this issue as LGBTQ+ hate crime is growing at a faster rate than almost all other types of hate crime. In the past 12 months alone, 2,835 recorded incidences of homophobic hate crime were reported to the authorities in London. Yet research by Stonewall, a charity set up to represent and protect the LGBTQ+ community, suggests that 81 per cent of people who experience LGBTQ+ hate crime do not report it to the police.

I fear that what has been reported is only the tip of the iceberg. It is completely unacceptable that in a city that prides itself on being as open and tolerant as London, 13,974 homophobic hate crimes could have occurred over the last year – five times the reported figure.

Yet tougher sentencing alone will not protect the LGBTQ+ community. We must address the spread of the vile ideology driving this disgusting form of hate. We need to target the platforms that allow bigoted ideas to circulate. To do this, we must also hold social media platforms to account. We must demand that such ideas are not allowed to spread and to do so we must put pressure on the social media companies to remove abusive content and the users spreading it.

No single community should ever feel singled out, victimised, or punished, and we must not stand idly by as this form of abuse continues to increase. So please join me, sign my petition, and help put pressure on our Government to take the necessary steps to protect our brothers and sisters. United we can stand together in total solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

In our battle to retake City Hall, I have a crime plan will ensure that criminals on and offline are put under pressure, not victims. I will fight for London’s values of openness and acceptance.

Not a single Londoner should feel unsafe for being themselves.

Join Shaun in calling for tougher sentences to protect the LGBTQ+ community by singing his petition.  

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

Rachel Wolf: Where education reform has succeeded – and where it has failed

Rachel Wolf is a partner in Public First. She had co-charge of the 2019 Conservative Manifesto. She was an education and innovation adviser at Number 10 during David Cameron’s premiership and was founding director of the New Schools Network.

A while ago my company did two in-depth projects looking at the attitude and understanding of parents with children at primary and secondary school. Most of the people we talked to were “C1 C2 D” – in other words, the people who just voted Conservative. These terms can seem a bit meaningless (and the difference between a C1 and a D is very large) so here are a a few examples: one of the men was a joiner and another drove a van; quite a few of the women had part-time administration jobs in local small businesses and a couple worked in shops.

(If this sounds sexist it is not meant to – it is just a fact that women with children from these backgrounds tend to work part time and get jobs to fit.)

I have been very involved in school reform for the past decade – including founding and running the main Free School organisation, New Schools Network. The conversations were an eye-opening measure of where we had succeeded and where, to date, we had failed.

Three discussions summed it up.

The first was with a group of enraged parents in Yorkshire. Their school was in special measures and there were no local alternatives. They had been told their school was a failure, that their children’s futures were probably blighted, but that they could do nothing. No one else seemed to be fixing the problem either. This is exactly what the academy programme was designed to address – it has worked brilliantly in some parts of the country, but we still struggle to get enough people to take over schools and turn them round in others – primarily outside of the South East and our major cities.

This is why Ofsted has just published a report on ‘stuck schools’ (those that have remained poor despite continued interventions and new leadership) with a proposal to do more to support them. Academies have not, at least yet, worked everywhere.

But it was noticeable that many of those stuck schools blamed parental disengagement (Ofsted made clear they couldn’t verify if this were true). I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with a school leader where the parents weren’t considered inadequate in some way – either too disengaged or too nagging.

Of course some schools must cope with suffering children with very troubled families. But most parents are not troubled, and in the case of the Yorkshire school they were neither disaffected or disengaged. They were impotent.

The second group was in London. It was a different world. Many of the parents fell over themselves to talk enthusiastically about particular schools. London schools have moved from being among the worst in my childhood to being the best in the country. A huge proportion of the schools that consistently get kids from very disadvantaged backgrounds (often from ethnic minorities) into elite universities are in London.

Free Schools, the project I was involved in during the coalition years, are one reason for this triumph, indeed what was striking about the London groups was how many parents could name individual free schools. Many of the best schools in the country are now Free Schools. But a lot of those – probably too many – are in London.

The third discussion was in the East Midlands. The parents we spoke to didn’t have children at terrible schools. But they weren’t particularly good either. All the schools were quite similar in standards and approach.

Those parents weren’t miserable – they didn’t know anyone who sent their kids to schools that were markedly different (private schools are another, foreign, world for these groups and are irrelevant in their mind). The primary parents dutifully did all the homework the school suggested. They were competent and loving – like almost every parent in the country. But we knew, looking at the data, that the children at these schools could be doing much, much, better.

These are the parents we have, in my view, most consistently failed in the last decade, and where we continue to have the least to say. We’ve done some important things – the children in those schools, for example, will be taught to read using better and more effective methods than a decade ago. But we haven’t empowered the parents to demand more for their children. The NHS has been on a ten year drive to help people take charge of their own health – including developing their own exercise programmes and detailed nutrition guides for children. We need the same in education. What should your children know? How do you hold your school to account? What is happening to pupils in other parts of the country?

Nor have we given them alternatives. The very original plan for Free Schools – which was to deliver new schools and therefore offer real choice– was supposed to help these areas and these parents. Instead, they focused on areas with population growth (mostly London and the South East).

In this next five years, I really hope that this quiet majority of parents and pupils are the focus of our new Conservative government. As I said in my last column, we have to remember – as we so often fail to do in education – that most people are neither part of the elite nor in troubled families. We should measure our success in the next five years not only on whether we help the most disadvantaged, but on how much better things are for most families in most areas of the country and opportunities that all children have to succeed.

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

Ben Brittain: Get Brexit Done and innovate like Israel

Ben Brittain is a Policy and Data Analyst for a regional economic institute. 

The Conservatives were gifted their ‘stonking majority’ by deprived constituencies that are far removed from the growth and economic power of London. The UK is a tale of two economic nations – a wealthy and highly productive London and South-East, and everywhere else, where gross value added more resembles former communist states. It was in these former mining and industrial heartlands of the Midlands and the North where working-class people lent their vote to the Conservatives to ‘get Brexit done’.

The challenge for this new government is to make the economy one whole, bridging the productivity and wage gap between London and the periphery towns of city-regions. The government will want to reward the North and Midlands for their support at the polls. But getting Brexit done is only one step. The next is to embark on a long process of economic revival in these regions, drive agglomeration within cities through transport infrastructure and skills investment.

The Government has the opportunity to level-up productivity right across the whole UK. For that, we must not look not to Silicon Valley and seek to replicate it on the Tyne – but instead look to Israel.

Today, Israel is considered an innovation superpower, with more companies listed on the NASDAQ than any other country except the United States. The Israeli success in innovative industries, such as ICT, is based on an R&D-intensive, novel-product-based, export-oriented business model. One that the UK should adopt to create a post-Brexit, R&D-heavy, exporting economy.

Israel is a hot-bed of ground-breaking technology companies such as Waze and the autonomous driving company, Mobileye, which has been snapped up by Intel for $15.3 billion. These large dominant companies are an exporting successes, but large innovative companies have to start somewhere.

Israel’s success is driven by its impressive start-up culture, and this start-up friendly ecosystem is actively fuelling an innovation economy. Israel started more than 10,000 companies between 1999 and 2014, with 2.6 per cent of these start-ups creating revenues of more than $100 million. Their success is down to reform-oriented policy makers driving change in the public sector, embedding innovation, unafraid of the role of the state as a friend to free-markets and individuals that want to start an enterprise.

The UK needs to embed five elements within its future growth framework to drive innovation. These are: support for start-ups; a substantial growth in the training of scientists and engineers; empower research-oriented civic universities and drive commercialisation within universities, expand access to venture capital, and utilise the strength of government and big-data in regional industrial strategies. All of these interact with each other to drive the process from invention to innovation.

The UK has an unrivalled higher education system that is ready to plug-in to regional economies and drive sector specialisations. To achieve this, BEIS should restart the work of the Smart Specialisation Hub and bring it in-house, to further understand how productivity is evolving in regional firms. Businesses are best placed to lead in the identification of new opportunities for growth, and many regions are already developing highly-productive sector clusters, which should not be hindered by central government imposing their own industry preferences. Instead, local industrial strategies should identify current productivity strengths and seek to implement necessary supportive interventions and create the correct ecosystem for their growth.

A culture of people, business and universities fully attuned to research and development is required, as is leveraging long-term private sector commitment. Regions should focus on what they are good at – such as the automotive industry in the West Midlands – prioritise research and innovation investment in a competitive environment, and implement policies that are strategic, based on a shared vision for regional innovation and development (such as the development of UK’s first Tesla-style battery gigafactory in the West Midlands which will build on current agglomeration).

Creating dynamic and innovative clusters in regions previously neglected and cut-off from London’s success will ensure the success of Brexit is the success of Wales, the North and the Midlands. If there are greater opportunities for high-skilled, well-paying work in innovative companies, focused on exporting, catalysed and fuelled by free-ports across the region, in industries such as space, AI, life-sciences, health and clean energy, then London will no longer suck the life out of those regions. More local residents will have better paid jobs, with more disposable income to spend in local high-streets, meaning the physicality of neglected towns in places such as Darlington and Walsall can be overcome.

The nation could be one economic success story; a real One Nation Toryism. To do that the Government will need to get Brexit done and Innovate like Israel.

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

Susan Hall: In 2020, we must offer a positive and progressive alternative to Labour-run London

Susan Hall is the Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Assembly.

I am deeply honoured to have been elected by my colleagues, as the new Leader of the Conservative Group, on the London Assembly. I certainly have big shoes to fill; Gareth Bacon has been an exemplary and effective Leader who will make a first-class MP for Orpington.

I am acutely conscious that I have become Leader at an extraordinarily important juncture for our party and city. We needn’t remind ourselves that in May, Londoners will decide whether they want four more years of Sadiq Khan running our city or change with Shaun Bailey. Londoners will also be electing a new group of Assembly Members to hold the Mayor to account – whoever that is.

In the run-up to this crucially important election, our Conservative Group at City Hall will be focussing relentlessly on two things: highlighting Sadiq Khan’s record as Mayor of London, and setting out an alternative and positive vision for London.

There can be no doubt that Sadiq Khan’s tenure as Mayor has taken our city backwards rather than forwards. Over the coming weeks and months, the whole of Khan’s Mayoralty will be picked apart and evaluated, but last year tells you everything you need to know about this Mayor’s inability to run our city competently. In the last full year before the election, you would have thought that Khan would have pulled out all of the stops and shifted his performance up a gear. But instead, 2019 was the year when Khan’s mayoralty took a nosedive.

The first job of the Mayor of London is to keep our city safe, and last year showed that Sadiq Khan simply isn’t up to this job. As of mid-December, a record 142 people had been murdered on the streets of London, up from 133 in 2018. Similarly, the deeply concerning surge in knife crime showed no sign of abating, with the number of offences increasing by nearly 1,000. The sad reality is that an ever-increasing number of young Londoners are being drawn into a life of crime, becoming both the perpetrators and victims of heinous violence. This is nothing less than an utterly tragic trend, and one which Sadiq Khan has entirely failed to reverse.

Regrettably, we have a Mayor who is complacent in the face of violent crime. He has consistently and perversely chosen to spend tens of millions on more City Hall staff, cultural projects, and PR, while simultaneously bringing out the begging bowl and bemoaning government cuts. We have called time and time again for Khan to treat London’s crime epidemic as an emergency by diverting as much money as possible away from the nice-to-haves and investing in more bobbies on the beat. These calls have fallen on deaf ears, but we Conservatives at City Hall understand that Londoners are crying out for extra police officers, not more press officers.

2019 was a year when homeownership became even more of an impossible dream for thousands of Londoners. Official figures show that the Mayor is on course to deliver just half of the number of homes he promised to build during the 2019/20 financial year while failing to start anywhere near enough units on TfL land. The number of family-sized homes built by the Mayor plummeted in 2018/19 – forcing a growing number of Londoners to move out to the home counties and beyond in order to raise a family.

We want to see a fundamental re-think of the planning system in London. Our city’s greenbelt is precious, but there is no reason why brownfield land should be excessively protected. Sadiq Khan’s decision to place tight planning restrictions on disused industrial land makes no sense, and we’d want to unlock this space for new housing. We would also reverse the Mayor’s decision to remove a family-sized homes target; City Hall should be using all the levers at its disposal to ensure that families can afford to live and thrive in our city.

Last year also proved that Khan is simply unable to manage big transport infrastructure projects. Crossrail – which was due to open a year ago – is now overrunning by up to three years at an additional cost of £3.4 billion. The Mayor’s misguided decision to partially freeze fares means that other crucial capacity-boosting projects such as the Sutton Tram or the Northern and Jubilee line upgrades are no closer than they were a year ago.

Next year the Mayor plans to expand the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) to the North and South circulars – meaning that anyone in a non-compliant vehicle will have to pay £12.50 to drive within the area. The ULEZ extension takes a blanket approach to tackling the localised problem of pollution hotspots, and this move will have a disproportionately large impact on poorer Londoners who have no option but to drive within the ULEZ for work, medical reasons, or to do the school run. The General Election showed that at a national level the Labour Party has lost touch with its working class voters. The ULEZ extension demonstrates that the Mayor of London suffers from the same problem.

Rather than spending millions on rolling out a tax which would hit poorer Londoners, we would want to scrap the ULEZ extension completely and use the savings to invest in cleaning up our bus fleet. Unlike the ULEZ, these buses could be used in a targeted way to help clean up the air in some of London’s most polluted hotspots. Whoever is Mayor after May needs to take a sensible and objective look at fares: is it right to freeze pay-as-you-go fares when this comes at the expense of transport improvements and doesn’t benefit the millions of Londoners who use travel cards?

As we enter 2020, memories of 2019 will leave Londoners in no doubt that Sadiq Khan’s mayoralty has been at best a retrograde step for our city and a worst an unmitigated disaster. Under my leadership, the London Assembly Conservatives will continue to offer a positive and progressive alternative to Labour-run London and work flat out to ensure that the Khan years become nothing more than an aberration in London’s political history.

 

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

Sunder Katwala: The Conservatives, ethnic minority voters, and the election. Next to no progress.

Sunder Katwala is the Director of British Future.

Not being white remains the number one demographic predictor of not voting Conservative. The party was once again only half as likely to secure the vote of an ethnic minority Briton as of their white British fellow citizens in this General Election. But while that ethnic vote gap was the difference between a hung parliament and a working majority in 2017, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives found another route to a majority in 2019, winning Leave-majority seats from Labour across the North, the Midlands and Wales.

Ipsos-Mori’s How Britain voted in the 2019 election overview estimates that Labour won 64 per cent of the ethnic minority vote, with the Conservatives on 20 per cent (+1) and the Liberal Democrats on 12 per cent (+6).

Labour’s share is nine per cent down on 2017, but level with the party’s performance with ethnic minority voters in 2015. The Conservative performance in 2019 and 2017 reflects a modest decline from securing almost one in four ethnic minority voters (24 per cent) in 2015 in the Ipsos-Mori series.

The Liberal Democrat share doubled in this election – rising from six per cent in 2017 and four per cent in 2015 – though the centre party had won 14 per cent of the ethnic minority vote in 2010 before entering the coalition.

These figures would translate into over two million ethnic minority votes for Labour and perhaps 750,000 for the Conservatives – though the Conservatives would have another three-quarters of a million votes if it were able to level up its performance among minority groups. Caution is advisable about these indicative numbers – there is less data about the ethnic minority vote than any other section of the electorate, with no full-scale academic study since 2010.

There are different patterns among different parts of the electorate: the Conservatives have made some modest progress with British Chinese and Indian voters, while slipping back from a low base since 2010-15 with black British, Pakistani and Bangladeshi voters.

The most diverse Cabinet in British history may have laid the ghosts of the era of Enoch Powell – but the Windrush scandal and the party’s record on anti-Muslim prejudice have created new barriers to expanding the party’s appeal. The Conservatives won 13 per cent of the British Pakistani-origin vote in 2010, but that had fallen back to five per cent by 2017 – and is unlikely to improved this time.

A governing party should certainly not be content with one in twenty voters from a significant minority vote – a share no better than the estimated six per cent of British Jewish voters who voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, mired in an anti-semitism crisis. The clarity and credibility of the party’s review into the handling of anti-Muslim prejudice may offer an opportunity to reset and rebuild.

The Conservatives paid particular attention to winning British Indian-origin voters – but with very patchy results. In Harrow East, where Bob Blackman is the only Conservative to represent a ‘minority-majority’ seat, he outperformed colleagues across London by winning an increased majority on a five per cent swing to the Conservatives. There was also a dramatic 15 per cent swing to the Conservatives in Leicester East – a constituency where six out of ten votes are Indian-origin – after Keith Vaz stood down in ignominy, replaced by Labour NEC member Claudia Webbe. Labour’s majority was reduced from 30,000 to 6,000, but Webbe still won over 50 per cent of the vote.

Analysis suggests these results reflected local dynamics, rather than a national pattern. Joe Twyman of DeltaPoll has shown that there was no correlation between the proportion of Indian-origin voters in a constituency and changes in either Labour or Conservative support.

That applies similarly if the exercise is repeated for Hindu voters. Any dramatic swing to the Conservatives among Indian or Hindu voters should show up in these seats. “If you want to play the politics of voting blocs, then let’s play the politics of voting blocs”, Trupti Patel of the Hindu Forum of Britain told the Times of India – but the claim to command a Hindu voting bloc finds no support in the date.

Nor do outdated gatekeeper claims of this kind become any more legitimate if pursued from the right or the left. Similarly, the Overseas Friends of the BJP generated headlines in both India and Britain, claiming it would campaign to remove anti-Indian MPs from parliament, identifying several Labour MPs with Indian heritage a key targets. This much underestimated the political pluralism of British Indian views. Labour won 18 of the 20 seats with the highest number of Indian voters – and there will be seven Conservatives, seven Labour MPs and one Liberal Democrat MP with Indian heritage among the 65 ethnic minority MPs in the Commons.

The record ethnic diversity of the new Commons reflects the growing realisation that few voters vote on the skin colour of their candidates – so that a large number of black and Asian Conservatives representing areas of low ethnic diversity. So a One Nation party should keep its distance from campaign like “Operation Dharmic Vote” in Leicester, which appeared to explicitly propose voting on the grounds of the faith or ethnicity of candidates. The argument should have been about relative merits of the candidates and parties.

In theory, Brexit was an opportunity for the Conservatives with ethnic minority voters – since the third of British Asians and quarter of black British voters who voted Leave are larger shares of the electorate than have ever voted Conservative. But it also proved a barrier among upwardly mobile graduate and young professionals voters who the party was targeting during the Cameron era. Corbyn-sceptic black and Asian voters were more likely to switch to the Liberal Democrats this time – but the Conservatives might hope to try again once the debate about Brexit moves on.

Overall, the 2019 changes in the ethnic minority vote appear to be broadly in line with those among the electorate overall. That pattern is reflected in actual votes in the 75 most ethnically diverse constituencies, where Labour won 58 per cent of the vote, a fall of seven per cent, with the Conservatives on 27 per cent, matching their 2017 share exactly, and the LibDems up by four per cent to nine per cent, according to Omar Khan’s analysis for a forthcoming Runnymede Trust briefing paper.

Those figures represent all votes cast – by white British and ethnic minority voters – in constituencies where ethnic minority voters make up over a third of the electorate, and a majority of voters in the 50 most diverse seats. Up to half of the ethnic minority population live in these 75 constituencies.

The Conservatives hold five of these seats, having lost several others since 2015, holding just Harrow East and Hendon among the 30 most diverse seats – holding off opposition challenges in Finchley and Golders Green, Cities of London and Westminster, and the Prime Minister’s constituency of Uxbridge.

London voted differently from the rest of England. Labour’s dominance in London is almost entirely attributable to the ethnic minority vote gap. A YouGov poll for the Mile End Institute showed the two major parties neck and neck among white Londoners – a Labour lead of one per cent, compared to a 52 per cent lead among ethnic minority voters, where Labour led the Conservatives by 68 per cent to 16 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats on 11per cent. It is the ethnic minority electorate which means that Labour won 49 seats to the Conservatives 21 and three for the LibDems – and London’s Conservatives will need to work out how to develop a distinct pitch to recover in the capital.

Shaun Bailey will lead the London Conservatives in next May’s Mayoral election, but all 21 London Conservative MPs are white British. Given that the first Asian Conservative MP in London was elected back in 1895, and the second from 1992-97, it is surprising that Mancherjee Bhownagree in the nineteenth century and Nirj Deva in the twentieth century still await a twenty-first century successor. There is growing ethnic diversity on the Conservative benches across Essex and Kent, Hampshire, Surrey and Yorkshire, but not in the capital city during the first two decades of this century.

The contenders for the Labour leadership need to grapple with how to broaden the party’s electoral coalition. Two million ethnic minority voters make up one-fifth of the party’s national vote. The new electoral map confirms Labour as the party of the cities, but the party now needs to construct a bridging cross-class, cross-ethnic coalition across the cities and towns if it is to govern again. That will be heard if the party’s inquest descends into an exchange of culture war caricatures – as some voices stereotype the voters that it has lost as neanderthal xenophobes while others insult those it has keep as out-of-touch metropolitans.

The Conservative Government may face choices between bridging and polarising too. It wants to ensure that this Christmas 2019 realignment was not just for Brexit. Will the government prioritise delivering for its new constituents on bridging issues – the NHS, schools and reviving the high streets – that have a broad cross-ethnic appeal, or will it seek advantage in feeding the culture war polarisations that increasingly fuel US politics in the Trump era? Do ethnic minority working-classes feature in the party’s account of rewarding contribution, or will approaches to meritocracy that can combines class and race barriers – like the pioneering race disparity audit – now get shelved?

The tone as well as the policy on post-Brexit immigration reforms will be one early indicator: a skills-based system that is nationality-blind could have broad appeal if ministers are heard to make the case for contribution and compassion alongside control.

The 2019 election shows that not yet solving the problem of how to appeal to ethnic minority voters is not yet an existential electoral issue. Yet it remains core test of any claim to govern for One Nation that the Government’s agenda should resonate and deliver for citizens of every faith and ethnicity.

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Andrew Wood: Understanding why we lost in east London

Cllr Andrew Wood is the Leader of the Conservative Group on Tower Hamlets Council, and a councillor for Canary Wharf Ward.

In east London, Labour won with huge majorities. In my constituency, we came second with 16 per cent of the vote to Labour’s 63 per cent. East London is one of only four areas left with a large number of Labour MPs. So, if Labour rebuilds, it will be from places like here. Therefore, understanding why we lost so badly in east London arguably may be more important than understanding why we won elsewhere. Not because we expect, or need, to win seats here, but because the groups that support Labour here are largely drawn from the young, the professional middle-class, and Muslims. These are groups we can and should be appealing to, if we are to be One Nation Conservatives. These are also groups that are moving out of east London into seats that we do need to retain in five or ten years time. Here are some things we can do to reduce their resistance to voting Conservative.

Send some love to EU citizens

There are simple and quick measures to dispel some of the fears and propaganda that we are about to treat EU citizens like we did the Windrush generation. For a start, retain the right of EU citizens to vote in local elections. Either it is right that Council Taxpayers can vote, or it is not, it should not be a bargaining chip in negotiations. I got elected as a Conservative in an area with large numbers of EU citizens: Conservatives can win their vote. I would go further and give those with settled status the votes in national elections as we do with Commonwealth citizens. They have made a commitment to the UK, let’s return that commitment. It is also ludicrous that the price of UK citizenship is £1,206. In 2020 let’s reduce the price to zero for those with settled status as a further reassurance to them that they can settle here. It will prove that we are not the nasty people of Labour propaganda.

Islamophobia

Many of my Muslim residents are conservatives when it comes to our policies. For example, right to buy is very popular. Many are aspirational; many are small business owners. But they are highly resistant to voting Conservative, in part because Labour have done a better job of appealing to them by making them feel welcome. We need to stop providing any further evidence that we are Islamophobic as it will be shared relentlessly on social media as further proof that we cannot be trusted. I welcome the appointment of Professor Sarwan Singh. I hope he sets clear guidelines about what is acceptable or not. But we need to learn the lessons of anti-Semitism in Labour. We cannot let his report suffer the same fate as the Chakrabarti report on anti-Semitism. If we do not enforce the rules he sets, it will be pointless.

Problems at home

We are building more new homes in east London than anywhere else in the UK. The Manifesto promised to reduce the price of new homes by 30 per cent for local people. In my Ward that still means a two-bedroom apartment would cost over £500,000. As a result, many are forced to rent and won’t build up the capital to buy their own property. And if you do not own your own property will you vote Conservative? But whether you own or rent, the housing market does not work well. If you live in a tall building over 18 metres you may be unable to mortgage it now due to the Advice Note 14 the government issued last year. Housing association tenants and leaseholders are trapped in a monopoly situation, unable to effectively make choices about a range of issues affecting their home. The same applies to leaseholders who think they own their own homes – they really don’t unless they are lucky enough to own their freehold and run their management company. Right to buy is extremely popular with many Labour supporters but until housing associations are forced to sell, it will be half-hearted and will be resisted.

Don’t kill the golden goose

The three most important economic centres in the UK are in London, including Canary Wharf (which generates between £12 billion to £14 billion a year in taxes, very little of which is spent locally). Yes, we need to spend more in the north, especially on infrastructure, but it will take time for that to generate an economic return. You remain dependent in the meantime on places like my ward continuing to generate the golden eggs of employment, taxes, and foreign exchange earnings to make those investments in services and infrastructure across the UK. If you want us to continue to provide those eggs, you need to ensure that the goose is well looked after as well.

Service industries

81 per cent of the UK economy is composed of service industries. 83 per cent of jobs are in service industries. Most of my residents work in service-based industries that heavily rely on our global links, many will be working with EU-27 based colleagues in global companies whether in banking, insurance, business services, accountancy, retail, tourism, transport, health, publishing, IT, education, etc. Yet the debates over Brexit trade deals have ignored this reality. Can we focus on this a bit more to reassure workers in services industries that we also care about them and to protect the most important part of our economy?

Only the paranoid survive

In 1992, John Major won over 14.1 million votes. Still a record, but five years later, it fell to 9.6 million. Loss of our reputation for economic competence, internal division, tiredness, all had a part to play alongside the rebuilding of Labour as a credible alternative. We need to find a way of not messing up and to continue to broaden our appeal, especially to the young, as we cannot rely forever on a weak opposition.

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Neil O’Brien: Policies for a new Britain – in which the central point for new Tory MPs is moors on Sheffield’s edge

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough.

The rain fell. As the weeks of the campaign went by, bright orange Halloween pumpkins rotted on doorsteps, while Christmas decorations gradually went up. Across the country floods came and receded. The short days got even shorter.

A man in a beautiful big Georgian house with a very large Apple Mac in the window told me that we had ruined the country. A man in a bungalow on an estate told me that he’d voted Labour his whole life, but this time he would be voting Conservative.

Leaflets went soggy in the drizzle. Towns and villages turned on their Christmas lights. More rain fell, and then, at the end of it all, there was a flood tide of a different kind. A blue tide, sweeping across the country, particularly in the midlands and north.

That flood has washed away old familiar landmarks. The Beast of Bolsover is gone. Jo Swinson is gone. Jeremy Corbyn is going. The “People’s Vote” campaign has shut down in the light of… how people voted. “Workington Man”, much discussed at the start of the campaign, really did turn Conservative, and sent Mark Jenkinson to Parliament.
Laura Piddock, who’d vowed never to be friends with a Conservative, was replaced by one: Richard Holden.

The Conservative Party has been profoundly changed by the election. Since 1997 we’ve gone from having from three per cent to 34 per cent of seats in the North East. From 13 per cent to 43 per cent of seats in the North West. From 13 per cent to 48 per cent in Yorkshire. From nought per cent to 35 per cent of seats in Wales. And from 24 per cent to 75 per cent of seats in the West Midlands.

Our new intake are 30 per cent of the parliamentary party. And their seats are different. In 2001, we had just no seats in the 30 per cent most deprived constituencies in England. In 2010, we had 24. Now it is 49 of those seats. In 2001, we had just 14 seats in the most deprived half of England. Now we have 116.

Look at the change another way. Average out where in English Conservative MPs elected in 2017 represented, and the centre point was down in the Speaker’s leafy Buckingham constituency. Average out the newly elected Conservative MPs in England in 2019, and the central point is out on the wild and windy moors on the edge of Sheffield.  It would take you a long time, but you can now walk almost the whole length of the Pennine Way without leaving a Conservative constituency.

The Prime Minister also has the chance now to go on an epic trek: one to change the face of British politics forever.
It goes without saying that we need to keep our promises on GBD (Getting Brexit Done) and the NHS. But we can’t let Whitehall just KBO with business-as-usual.

I don’t think we will. The signs of last week’s earthquake have been there for some time, and people like Dominic Cummings have the most been attuned to them. Even some of the 2019 strategy has been road-tested before. Under Cummings in 2001, the no euro campaign ran “Never Mind the Euro, what about our hospitals?” flyposters, riffing on famous the Sex Pistols album cover.

In the James Frayne/Dom Cummings led-campaign against the North East Assembly in 2004, the campaign had a strong anti-politics-as-usual slant, with ads condemning the cost of the proposed “talking shop” for ordinary people.
But now we have a majority, how to respond to the dissatisfaction that’s been growing for so long?

Once we get Brexit done, we should be conspicuous in the use of our new freedoms. We could axe the hated tampon tax or cut VAT on fuel. We can improve animal welfare, banning live exports and puppy smuggling. We could end the absurd practice of paying child benefits to children living overseas. We could help small business, reviewing legislation that curtails lending like the CRD IV and Solvency 2. We could replace bureaucratic EU regional development funding with something better, and end the environmental waste of the CAP and Common Fisheries Policies.

Things like the review of sentencing and end of early release are key to showing the county is under new management.

But the question I am most interested in personally is whether we can have a bold enough economic policy that people in the newly gained Conservative seats can see the difference in five years’ time.

Let’s be clear: many of the places we’ve gained have suffered economic decline for many decades. There is a good economic case for levelling up: there are no major countries that are richer per head than Britain and have a more geographically unbalanced economy. More balanced growth is stronger. But to get it, we need to mobilise in an unprecedented way.

I’d suggest four ways to level up.

First, rebalance the government’s most growth-enhancing spending. Spending which most spurs growth is too concentrated on places that are already successful. We should rebalance spending on innovation, transport, housing and culture to lift the performance of poorer areas. Government should rethink the focus on current demand levels and current strengths which creates a vicious circle for less wealthy areas.

Second, we should recognise that Britain has de-industrialised more than any other G20 country since 1990; that the UK’s tax system is currently uniquely hostile to manufacturing and other types of capital-intensive businesses; and that this has a particularly negative effect on lagging parts of the country which are more reliant on manufacturing.

Despite its small share of overall GDP, manufacturing makes an outsize contribution to productivity growth and compared to professional services is more likely to happen outside city centres.

While manufacturing accounted for around a quarter of productivity growth nationally since 1997, it provided 40-50 per cent of productivity growth in poorer regions like Wales, the West Midlands and North West. More generous capital allowances would help lagging regions, but currently EU rules limit the places in which we can offer such allowances. Let’s use our new freedom.

Third, lets recognise the centrality of private sector investment in growth. Moving public sector jobs around doesn’t cut it. We need private inward investment. That means souping up DIT and making sure we are using every weapon including tax breaks to attract higher end private sector jobs to poorer places.

The highlight of the Conservative manifesto for me was the pledge to invest a stonking £3.2 billion a year in R&D by the end of the Parliament. But unless we spend differently, it won’t benefit lagging areas.

So, fourth, we have to shift the balance of government R&D: from mainly in universities to more happening in firms. From fundamental research, to more applied (like in China and the Asian economies). And from half the core budget being spent in three cities, (London, Cambridge and Oxford) to a distribution more in line with the geographically balanced spending of the private sector.

And more. We should learn from the Connell Review and the way the US uses ringfenced budgets for innovative procurement to put rocket boosters under small tech firms. We should build up innovate UK and make it easier to get SMART grants too.

Obviously, there are a zillion other things: sorting out the over-expansion of low-value university arts courses and under-investment in apprenticeships. Building on funding to fix run down town centres… there’s masses to do.
But above all, somewhere in Whitehall there has to be a strong central point to make all this happen “by any means necessary”.

We start with a huge river of goodwill from this election. Now we need to channel it to get the wheels turning again for places that feel left-behind.

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