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HS2. We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because…

The Conservatives originally supported HS2 as a modernisation symbol during their opposition years.  It would run north from Heathrow along the M40 corridor as an alternative to a third runway at the airport.  Now we are on course to have both that runway and HS2, if Boris Johnson gives the scheme the go-ahead after a review panel’s report.

That muddle over purpose is the right place to begin reviewing where HS2 has got to.  Once they took office, David Cameron and George Osborne promptly reverse-ferreted (reverse-tracked?) on the scheme, and almost immediately adopted Andrew Adonis’ plan – remember him? – to run HS2 from Euston to Birmingham and beyond.

The best part of ten years on from that decision, the critics have been proved right on costs.  Three years ago, the Taxpayers’ Alliance estimated that these would come in at some £91 billion, not the £55 billion originally stated.  The latest calculation is £100 billion.  The price could be even higher.

This site has long argued that the plan is the white elephant of white elephants – that HS2 comes with environmental, visual and communal costs; that mid-to-late twentieth century technology may be out of date by the mid-to-late twenty-first, and that one doesn’t need a high speed service to update the West Coast main line.

It would have been far better, as the ConservativeHome Manifesto argued six years ago, to scrap the scheme and re-direct the planned public investment in its entirety to a Northern Infrastructure Fund, providing core finance for a generational programme for transport and communication links between key urban centres.

Osborne is still defending HS2, and his rationale remains narrowly political – avoiding anything much to do with delivery (such as taxpayer costs and passenger use) and concentrating almost entirely on perception (such as what cancellation might mean for the Government’s image).

This is to reheat the argument that has driven the scheme: that Britain should commit itself enthusiastically to grands projets, that a U-turn would be a morale-sapping admission of failure, and that HS2 is a symbol of Conservative commitment to the north and midlands.

It is a case that will weigh heavily on Boris Johnson’s shoulders as he contemplates responding to the review panel – and to Lord Berkeley’s minority report claiming not only that the costs are out of control but that the figures have been fiddled.

The Prime Minister will be sensitive to the claim that if he, the “Brexity Hezza”, U-turns on HS2 then any big future scheme he advances – a land bridge to Ireland; his beloved new airport in the Thames Estuary, some Ozymandian space exploration enterprise – will be mocked out of its own headlines.

Junking the plan would also open him to accusations of betraying the Midlands and North.  As it happens, Conservative MPs are divided about the scheme, and no less north of the Watford Gap that anywhere else.  But there is a knotty political problem in the West Midlands.

Our columnist Andy Street is committed to HS2, and is up for re-election this spring.  Is Johnson really going to pull the rail line from under his feet?  The West Midlands Mayor is only one illustration of a broader issue.  Our readers will be aware of sunk costs.  These are by definition financial.  But welcome to the world of sunk political costs.

John Downer’s pro-HS2 piece on this site last year is a useful introduction to the concept.  At one level, the article on behalf of the scheme from a group of business leaders was what it said it was – an account of how one job-creating project can produce job-creating spin-offs.

At another, it told a story of how there is now what Ike Eisenhower might have called an HS2-Industrial Complex: contractors, suppliers, archaeologists – even, apparently, environmentalists.  To mix metaphors even further, it’s a gravy train with many fingers in it.  Furthermore, Phase 1 of the project is already under way.

Department of Transport officials have previously mulled pulling Phase 2 of the project – or at least Phase 2b, which would run HS2 from Crewe to Manchester and from the West Midlands to Leeds.  One friend of ConHome told the site that “this would be a very British solution – a half-built railway”.

It would make Johnsonian sense to do it all the other way round: in other words, announce that Phase 2 will be undertaken first.  There have been briefings that such will be the decision.  But even if technically viable that would be to abandon Street – unless a reason can be found to put a decision off mañana-style.

We are not at all sure about these briefings.  Paul Maynard, the Rail Minister, is said to be supportive of the scheme.  Dominic Cummings is instinctively sceptical about it but has his eye on other matters.  And then there are those sunk political costs: that mass of interwoven lobby interests.

It needs no genius to point out that the idea of sunk economic costs is a fallacy.  That of sunk political costs may be too.  Johnson will never be more powerful than in these first few months after his great election victory.  If he wants to tell the HS2 lobby to take a running jump, there will never be a better time to do it than now.

And we would.  But the Prime Minister is bound to be asking some very hard questions.  These will include: how many alternative schemes for the Midlands and North are anything like “shovel-ready”?  If our aim is to ensure that Red Wall seats gain visibly by 2024, how many would do so, were HS2 to be scrapped?

For all these reasons, we suspect that the scheme will get the go ahead – perhaps with some fig leaf to hang over the rising costs; possibly with some apparent new gain for the North.  And Street will sail towards his poll in May with a good chance of being re-elected.

“I fear the worst,” one HS2-sceptic within Number Ten told this site yesterday.  Steve Barclay said on The Andrew Marr Show that his “gut feeling” was that the plan will go ahead.  Cabinet Ministers like Barclay don’t usually advertise what their stomach is telling them without good reason.

“We’re here because we’re here because we here because we’re here,” the old First World War song had it.  So it may be with HS2.  It’s here because it’s here – because a mass of political as well as taxpayer capital has been poured into the scheme.  And more will come.

Slow train coming; fast train coming.  On and on and on HS2 is likely to go, consuming taxpayers’ money like the furnace in some old steam monster, belching out its over-runs like black smoke – with a mass of reports and inquiries panting along in its wake.  It’s a high price to pay for this legacy from Cameron’s modernisation project.

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

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 

How to help hold those new Red Wall seats. Introducing the Midlands and Middlesbrough masterclass.

Imagine yourself as a new Conservative MP for a Red Wall seat – one previously regarded as safely Labour.  There are few or no Tory councillors.  There is no local Association worth the name.  You weren’t a target seat last month and had no special help from CCHQ.  You didn’t expect to win.  Now you are on your own.

The Whips, James Cleverly and company are telling you to be in your constituency as often as possible – campaigning.  How and with whom?  What do you do from the Thursday evening – probably – until Monday morning? (P.S: we’re assuming the necessary time and space to take some time off from politics during this period for the good of your mental health.)

Part of the answer lies in utilising the expertise of your predecessors – that’s to say, the Conservative MPs who won Labour seats in the North and Midlands in 2017.

Consider their majorities in that year and last month.

Jack Bretherton: Stoke-on-Trent South

  • 2017 majority: 663 (49 per cent of the vote).
  • 2019 majority: 11,271 (62 per cent).
  • Swing: 13 per cent.

Ben Bradley, Mansfield

  • 2017 majority: 1057 (47 per cent).
  • 2019 majority: 16,306 (64 per cent).
  • Swing: 15 per cent.

Simon Clarke, Middlesbrough and South-East Cleveland

  • 2017 majority: 1020 (50 per cent).
  • 2019 majority: 11,626 (59 per cent).
  • Swing: 11 per cent.

Eddie Hughes, Walsall North

  • 2017 majority: 2601 (50 per cent).
  • 2019 majority: 11,969 (64 per cent).
  • Swing: 13 per cent.

Lee Rowley, North East Derbyshire

  • 2017: 2861 (49 per cent).
  • 2019: 12,876 (59 per cent).
  • Swing: 10 per cent.

It’s reasonable to assume that they had a personal vote last month, and didn’t just gain from the pro-Tory swing.

Bradley and Rowley have both written about the 2019 election and their local experience on this site.  Bradley’s piece emphasised values. Rowley’s did too.  He also wrote as follows:

“There is no secret magic formula for holding a seat like this; no grand ‘House of Cards’ plan which makes Labour seats blue. But there is a certain place where you can start. Turn up. Get involved. Be interested. Properly support your community. And most of all roll your sleeves up. That red wall has tumbled because people want to get things done. So, get going.”

He emphasised focusing on limited but deliverable local priorities; holding meetings in different places – “not necessarily because there were burning local issues but often just to give people the opportunity to chat” and staying in touch.  (Hughes wrote yesterday on this site about moving CCHQ northwards.)

The Whips and Cleverly and company should call this Gang of Five in; arrange for them to hold a series of workshops for new Red Wall seat Conservative MPs; produce a handbook – or something like it, and ensure that there’s plenty of follow-up.

CCHQ already provides incumbency support, and all new MPs have had induction.  But that is not quite the same thing.  If a Tory MP feels that he or she needs advice or help, they are more likely to confide in a colleague, who they mix with in committees or in the lobby, than go to CCHQ, which can feel a bit remote.

Mark Spencer himself has built up his Sherwood majority from three figures in 2010.  So the Chief Whip would presumably get the point.  Both Cleverly and Boris Johnson himself have operated in London – the opposite of Red Wall territory but, nonetheless, natural Labour territory.

It would be no use telling these new MPs to go back to their seats and campaign while leaving them to sink or swim on their own.

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

Eddie Hughes: Yes, let’s move CCHQ resources to the regions. But do so authentically.

Eddie Hughes is MP for Walsall North.

Last month’s produced the largest Conservative majority since 1987, ended the Brexit impasse and saw the emergence of Blue Collar Conservatism – now the true voice of hard working people up and down this country. It’s vital that we demonstrate that we are worthy of the trust that these voters have placed in us.

With this in mind, one proposal being considered is the idea of slimming down the Conservative Party’s Central Office (CCHQ) in London and moving its resources to the regions. But this must go beyond mere symbolism. If we are going to set up a CCHQ in the regions we must do so in a manner that does not patronise nor condescend to those we are seeking to serve.

We can learn a number of lessons from the BBC’s decision to relocate large parts of its operation from London to Salford in 2011, in an attempt to create more specialised content and to boost their approval ratings in the North.

The BBC’s plans to better serve its audience in the North, by having northern people creating television shows that would appeal to a northern audience, appear not to have been realised. The 2017 National Audit Office report found that a total of 894 members of the existing London staff had been paid relocation allowances worth a total of £16 million – with just 39 people from Salford having been recruited to work at the new Salford based HQ. What’s the point of re-locating if you’re still almost exclusively employing people from London and not the area you’re moving to?

Dominic Cummings is thinking along the right lines. His blog proposed an unorthodox approach to the recruitment of new staff for Number Ten. I’m not suggesting that we adopt the same approach for the regional CCHQ office, but it would be appropriate to experiment with new ways of identifying talented people who may not naturally apply for such roles.

A similarly unorthodox approach has been adopted by a number of leading organisations, keen to move away from restricted talent pools, often exclusively made up of students at Russell Group universities with at least a 2:1 degree. Instead, they are choosing to focus on school leavers and unearthing the hidden talent that already exists in the labour market.

The publisher Penguin Random House, for example, has removed the ‘degree filter’ from its recruitment process, so that academic qualifications no longer act as a barrier to talented people entering the industry. Job applicants are encouraged to demonstrate their potential, creativity, strengths and ideas.

The advertising firm J Walter Thompson (JWT) has enacted an innovative recruitment process, moving away from its reliance on university leavers as its default source of talent. JWT has adopted a ‘blind CV’ recruitment, which will no longer be looked at until the candidates are whittled down to a much later stage. Instead, applicants are now asked to answer six questions which demonstrate their skills and suitability for the job, and their answers are used to assess them for interview selection. This has led to JWT focusing on candidates’ skills and talents rather than academic opportunity and achievement.

What surprised me most of all is how forward-looking our Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) has become. The Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) recently ranked MI6 in the top 75 UK employers who have taken the most action on social mobility. In a bid to attract talented individuals who might not otherwise consider themselves to be suitable candidates, MI6 has launched a new recruitment programme aimed at increasing the number of female, ethnic minority and working class recruits.

Rather than focusing on academic credentials, candidates are being judged on the suitability of their skills to the role with job adverts focusing particularly on their problem-solving abilities, enthusiasm, team spirit and their determination to make a positive impact. MI6 continues to work hard to broaden its appeal and has committed to create a workplace that is representative of the country it serves. The Conservative Party would do well to follow its lead.

If we really are becoming the Party of Blue Collar Conservatives, capable of representing and reflecting the voices of hard working people up and down this country, our Party must be the change that we want to see.

The Prime Minister gets it. He has said many times that former Labour voters have “lent” us their votes for this election. So if we are to deserve their continued support, we need a wholesale upheaval of CCHQ, not just short-term, virtue-signalling tampering.

In December 2019, the Conservative Party took down the so-called Labour red wall across North Wales, the Midlands and Northern England. If we get this right, we have a once in a generation chance to obliterate it forever, to put the Labour Party into the dusty history books and to put in its place a Party that truly cares, understands and is equipped to improve the lives of so many people.

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 

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.

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

Ben Bradley: Voters tore down the Red Wall because they were sick of Labour talking down to them and holding them back

Ben Bradley is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Mansfield.

Last week saw an historic Conservative victory, not just in terms of its scale but also its geography. The ‘Red Wall’ of Labour seats across the Midlands and North of England crumbled to dust as the election night coverage announced ‘Conservative gain’ over and over; Darlington, Bishop Auckland, Redcar, Blyth Valley, Ashfield, Bolsover… too many to name.

It was an incredible night and a result that really shouldn’t be a massive surprise. It’s something that those Conservatives who already represent and understand some of the issues and viewpoints from these communities have been predicting. We’ve been calling for a ‘Blue Collar Conservative’ revolution and a focus on the issues that matter to those working class towns outside of the Westminster bubble. This time we had a manifesto that dealt with those issues; investing in public services, tough on crime, prioritising the NHS, directing the cash to infrastructure for the regions.

Over the weekend a journalist described Mansfield to me as “the first blue brick in the red wall”. I have to say I love that analogy, it plays to my ego of course, and is something I’m hugely proud of. There are lessons to learn from Mansfield, as well as from North East Derbyshire, Stoke, Walsall and Middlesborough that were won in 2017, and now of course from the many other seats like them that have voted blue for the first time.

Since I was elected in 2017 I’ve been at pains to try and explain the difference between Labour voters in Islington and in Mansfield. It’s not ideological up north, it’s historic. It’s not socialism that drove the Labour vote, but industry. You’ve only got to watch an episode of Peaky Blinders to get the gist of why Labour was born as a movement; protecting workers, fighting for better conditions. Some of the leaders of that movement were socialists, but the workers were largely just trying to improve their lot. To put food on the table. It was about them and their families, not some wider ideology. So many people in places like Mansfield spent their whole working lives in highly unionised industries, where you couldn’t get a job without joining up to the union and paying in to the Labour Party. That was just how it was. “We are Labour round here”.

It made sense in many ways, to back the “party of the workers” when you felt your conditions were poor. It wasn’t an ideological commitment to socialism, it was about improving life for you and your family, about getting on and a sense of community. It was an innately conservative stance, actually, wanting to be rewarded for your work and aspiring to a better life for your family, very similar to the message we now hold at the centre of our Conservative Party.

From an ideological perspective if you’re going to be a socialist you have to be able to afford it! You have to have enough money already to not be concerned about the state taking more away. You have to be able to afford to rise above the control of an oversized state and to extricate yourself from the things that will impact on your freedoms. If you’re scrapping around to put food on the table, the idea of having more taken from you to fund others when you are the one grafting 50 hours a week is horrifying. It’s not pro-worker, it’s hitting the workers the hardest.

Labour doesn’t get that any more. It looks down on working people rather than helping them up. It calls for an end to aspiration and self-improvement. The message is “don’t save or train for a new job or buy a house. There is no point. You are too downtrodden and the rich elites will never let you.”

If you’re struggling, you want hope, not misery. A hand up not a hand out. You don’t want to be told that the whole system is rigged against you, you want to see that there are opportunities to be seized and a chance to make things better. Labour in places like Mansfield have spent decades harking back instead of looking forwards. When I stood in 2017, my Labour opponent, the MP of 30 years, said “it will just remind people about what Mrs Thatcher did”. As it happens I think people were sick of being reminded. It was before I was born! People want to move on and are fed up with politicians blaming people instead of acting. There’s only so long you can moan about the past when you’re failing to do anything to take us forward. People want hope, not misery. That’s why the red wall has fallen. It was a wall built to hold people back. Where once there was a wall, we need to build a ladder.

Even Brexit falls in to that argument, too. These communities voted to Leave, just to be told they were wrong, thick, racist. That they were condemned to misery and failure as a result, and that Labour refused to deliver it. Lecturing instead of listening. We’re hearing the same narrative now from left-wing figures; ‘‘the right-wing MSM have duped these working class people, they can’t think for themselves and they’ll regret it’’.

So far, Labour haven’t learned from their mistake. They are responding in the same way they responded to defeat in the referendum, and without accepting the blame for their failures they’ll only repeat the cycle. They have to look at themselves. They need to understand these reasons that they lost, not just blame the media and ‘stupid voters’. If they keep saying ‘our message was right but people didn’t understand’ or that is was just solely about Corbyn and not about their wider offering, they will struggle to recover.

Don’t get me wrong: we’ve not turned everyone in the North East in to hardcore Tories. For many it was a tough thing to vote blue; for many we were the least-worst option. The good news is that we are saying the right things, but we are not trusted. No politicians are trusted right now. Come the next election Brexit will not be there, Corbyn will not be there. It remains to be seen if we’ll face a competent Labour Party or not.

Either way, we have a point to prove and we have to repay the people who have put us in to power. They have done so off the back of our message, our Blue Collar Conservative promises to back our public services and invest in these places that have so often been forgotten. The proof will be in the delivery; in showing whose side we are on. We have to show a tangible difference and improvement, and we have to restore some faith in Government and politicians. If we deliver, if we get this right, then this could be an incredible few years for our country.

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David Davis: How to keep the new working class voters we won last Thursday – and win even more

David Davis is MP for Haltemprice and Howden, and is a former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

The Conservative victory last Thursday was not just a landslide win: it marked the beginning of the transformation of our political landscape and our country.

The new MP for Blyth Valley, Ian Levy, won a mining constituency never previously held by the Conservatives . As a former NHS worker he is, like many of his new colleagues, anything but a toff, and signals a coming transformation in the complexion of the Party both in Parliament and the country.  A number of the new 109 MPs are Tory working class heroes.

The question on everybody’s mind, from the Prime Minister to the newest arrival, is: “now that we have won them can we hang on to them?”   If we are any good at our job, the answer to that question should be a resounding “yes”.  Many Labour MPs – not just the left-wing apologists for Jeremy Corbyn -are consoling themselves that these Labour constituencies will return to type at the next election.

But they should look at Scotland, where the SNP swept aside a previously dominant Labour Party riddled with complacency and corruption – and it still has not come back.   The same could happen in England and Wales if they are not careful.

It was clear on the doorstep during these last six weeks that the electoral base of the Conservative Party has changed dramatically. Our voters are more working class and more urban. They are more provincial and less metropolitan.  They have a no-nonsense common-sense, and are certainly not politically correct. They have a quiet unassuming patriotism – proud of their country but respectful of foreigners.  They are careful with money, and know it has to be earned.   They want tougher policing but also have a strong sense of justice.  They depend more on public services, and are the first to get hurt when these fail.  Many of them would be classified as “working poor” and dependent on welfare payments, although they themselves may not see it that way.

So what should we do in order more fully to win their trust? Obviously we should deliver on our manifesto: get Brexit done, and provide more money for the health service, for education, for the police, and for more infrastructure – not least new broadband.   But this is nowhere near enough.   A manifesto should be a lower limit on delivery, not an upper limit on aspiration.

This should be no surprise. The Thatcher manifesto of 1979 was fairly slim. It certainly did not detail the actions of most radical and eventually most successful government of the twentieth century.

What Thatcher achieved was a revolution in expectations: about our country, about ourselves, about what was possible.  We have to do the same.

And our target should be unlimited.   We should be planning to prove to our new base that we care about improving their lives, but we should also be targeting the votes of younger people, too.   There should be no no-go areas for the new Conservatives.   Fortunately, the necessary policies are similar, and they require Boris Johnson’s hallmark characteristic – boldness.

There should be a revolution in expectations in public service provision, from health care to education. This is about imagination more than money. There are massive technological opportunities opening up, from genetics to big data to diagnostic technology, and we should be enabling the NHS to make better use of it.

On the education front, the international comparisons have not shown much progress since the turn of the century, despite the best efforts of successive Education Secretaries,  Other countries from China to Belgium have seized on new technology to completely reengineer the classroom. We should be doing the same.

And we should now work to further social mobility.   None of my doorstep conversationalists mentioned this phrase, but many talked about the opportunities (or lack of) for themselves and their children, which is the same thing.   We used to be a world leader in social mobility; now we are at the back of the class.   Every government since Thatcher has paid lip service to the problem, but none has done anything about it.   Indeed, they have made it worse.

Take for example the disastrous university tuition fees and loans system introduced by Tony Blair and made worse by David Cameron.   It has delivered poor educational outcomes, high costs, enormous debt burdens and widespread disappointment, as well as distorting the national accounts.

The heaviest burden of this failure falls on young people from the poorest areas. The Augar Report gave strong hints about how to fix it, even though its terms of reference forbade it from providing an answer.   The new policy aim should be simple.  Allow children of all backgrounds a worthwhile education to get good enough qualifications to start a decent career without crushing lifetime loans. It should be an early priority of this government.  It would be the single most targeted way of helping a generation that deserves our support.

One of Thatcher’s great contributions to social mobility was to encourage home ownership: 65 per cent of young people either owned or were buying their own homes then.  Today, that number is 25 per cent.   The reason is simple.   We are just not building enough homes.  In the last 15 years the population has grown by just shy of seven million people.

We have built nowhere near enough houses to cope with that.   The current incremental strategy is not up to the job, and we need to adopt a wholesale programme of garden towns and villages around the country, and a new process to drive much of the planning gain to reducing house prices and improving housing and service quality.   We should also look very closely at reform of the Housing Association sector, to deliver more homes for both rent and sale.   We were once a proud homeowning democracy, and a return to that would not be a bad aim for a modern Conservative Party.

This would be just a start.   But it has to be paid for.   This has always been the Conservative Party’s trump card: the ability to run the economy and deliver the funding for good public services.   Brexit opens up the possibility of a new economic renaissance, which the Prime Minister believes in, and is capable of seizing with both hands.

But we will need to rediscover the Lawson lessons: that simpler, lower taxes deliver more growth, more jobs, more wealth, and eventually more tax revenue.   Our tax system is now littered with irrational anomalies – most recently demonstrated by senior doctors refusing to do extra work because they were effectively being taxed at 100 per cent as a result of covert Treasury pension taxes.

It is time we swept much of this structure away, and liberated people to gain from their own efforts without excessive state burdens.   It should also not be too hard for us to do it in a way that helps the North as well as the South.  And this does not just apply at the top: the working poor face similar anomalies under the tax credit system.

Which brings us back to the ‘new’ Conservative working classes.   We should not imagine that an appeal to them is a novel gambit bu the Conservative Party.* The most successful political organisation in the world for two centuries has been just that because for most of that time it has relied on the working class for at least half of its vote.

From Disraeli’s reforming government to Shaftesbury’s great social and industrial chang, to Lord Derby’s legalisation of trades unions, we have a long and deep commitment to caring about the welfare of the working classes.   If this were not true, one of Johnson’s old Etonian predecessors as Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, would never have won the impoverished North Eastern constituency of Stockton – and held it throughout the great depression.   And of course in modern times Margaret Thatcher inspired Essex man and held many seats in the North – not least Darlington, which we won back last week.

So we have been here before. Blue collar Conservatism has a proven track record – one we should resurrect.  In this new political battle, the greatest tension will not be left versus right or even fiscal and monetary doves versus economic hawks.   It will be a battle between creativity and convention.   I have always thought that the Prime Minister subscribes to Nelson’s maxi  that “Boldness is the safest course,” so I suspect that this will be a battle that he will relish.   If he does, these will not be the last seats we win in the Midlands Wales and the North.

A few years ago I presented a BBC Radio 4 programme which showed that the Conservative Party has been heavily dependent on working class votes for most of its 200 year lifespan.

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The campaign, week five. Johnson holds his ground – and aims to end next week where he began. With getting Brexit done.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-12-05-at-16.36.15 The campaign, week five. Johnson holds his ground – and aims to end next week where he began. With getting Brexit done. War on terror ToryDiary Terrorism Tax State Schools Scotland schools North NHS National Insurance Contribution National Insurance Midlands Liberal Democrats Law and order Labour John McDonnell MP Jeremy Corbyn MP homeland security Highlights Education Economy donald trump Conservatives CCHQ Brexit Party   Source: Politico.

Lord Ashcroft’s latest General Election Dashboard, published earlier this week, found that, when it came to recent campaign events, “four in ten voters recalled nothing at all”.  Our proprietor also noted a tendency for both left and right-leaning voters to remember stories and incidents which backed up views they hold already.

This suggests that ConservativeHome’s opening position, set out when we began this series of Friday campaign summaries, has proved accurate to date: namely, that bad campaign weeks don’t usually matter in general elections – and that good and bad campaigns affect the result much less than some suppose.

Jeremy Corbyn has fought much the same operation as in 2017, doubling down and widening out on higher spending pledges, and making the centrepiece of his effort the preposterous claim that Boris Johnson plans to sell the NHS to Donald Trump.

Johnson has fought a very different campaign to that of 2017.  Admittedly, his target voters are the same as Theresa May’s were then – the “just about managings”, as they used to be called.  But his means of appealing to them have been very different.

The manifesto has been kept risk-free; the Chancellor has not been absent; TV debates have been minimised – and executed without major cock-ups (so far).  The terror attack at London Bridge didn’t derail the Prime Minister.  He seems to have got through Donald Trump’s visit without damage.

The sum of events to date is that Labour, as last time, has risen in the polls.    That is as likely to be because the party has had more media exposure than outside election time as for any other reason.  Electoral Calculus now predicts a Tory majority of 28 – well down from the 72 it recorded when we opened this series.

But the Conservatives – unlike in 2017 – have seen their ratings increase, too.  The most probable explanation is that many voters indeed believe that Britain should “get Brexit done” – and find themselves settling on that view, as polling day approaches, regardless of the day-to-day campaigning ups and downs.

If anything during the last four weeks has made a difference, it appears to have been the weakening of the third and fourth parties: the Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party.  But both are still in the field and the struggle will be complex – far more so at regional and constituency level than Electoral Calculus’ headline total takes into account.

Its findings must be mediated through those local variants: in particular, the separate-but-related contests taking place in Scotland, in the Leave-backing Midlands & North, and in Remain-leaning London with its prosperous hinterland.  If Johnson can do well in all three, that majority should be higher; if does badly, it won’t be there at all.

The sum of polls suggests that the Conservatives will pull off a win.  The last five how Tory leads of ten, twelve, seven, nine and 13 points, according to Britain Elects.  As we write, there is no suggestion of Corbyn closing the gap; rather, if anything, of it opening up again.

Labour could yet close the divide for a mix of reasons: if there is large-scale tactical voting; if the vote distribution works for it; if its ground campaign is sufficiently strong; if the polls are “wrong” – and perhaps above all if there is differential turnout that favours the party.  Is all this possible? Yes. Is it likely? No.

Downing Street and CCHQ cannot afford to take the chance.  Unlike this website or other observers, they cannot afford to gamble that the campaign will end up making no demonstrable difference to anything very much.  They must claw and scrabble for every vote during the final week of this campaign.

Team Johnson that the election will be won by whoever frames the question that voters will ask themselves in the polling booth.  If it’s: “let’s get Brexit done”, then they believe that Johnson will gain his majority.  That’s where the Tory campaign began.  That’s where they want it to end.

There is a quiet sense in Number Ten that Corbyn and his team haven’t developed a framing of their own for this contest.  So expect to see the Prime Minister and company return to their theme over the weekend: break the Parliamentary logjam, get Brexit done – and then Britain can move on.

Downing Street is keen to stress what might be called the populist part of its programme for the first hundred days of a new Tory Government: more education spending, tougher sentencing, higher NHS charges for migrants.  It claims not to have tried to shape yesterday’s reporting emphasis on national insurance tax cuts.

Our nagging worry is: what about voters who may not want to get Brexit done, but are nonetheless apprehensive about Corbyn and John McDonnell’s tax plans?  Will there be nothing in the last few days to help persuade them that a Corbyn Government would plunder their wallets, risk their jobs and threaten their livelihoods?

Weeks One, Two and Three of this series saw the Conservatives doing well – so much so that in that third week we warned against unrealistic expectations.  Week Four saw Corbyn make some progress.  In this final week, Week Five, he seems to have stalled.  But there are still seven tense days to go.

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Garvan Walshe: How the majority needed to deliver Brexit will thwart the reform needed to make a success of it

Garvan Walshe is a former national and international security policy adviser to the Conservative Party. He runs TRD Policy.

If the polls are right, and the electorate indeed returns a Conservative majority in a week’s time, we can expect the Withdrawal Agreement to be passed, and the UK to leave the EU in short order.

The Prime Minister has promised not to take up the option of extending the transition period provided. Let’s allow ourselves a moment of optimism, and suppose that the majority is large enough to enable him to carry what agreement he can make by the end of 2020 – thus avoiding a repetition of the paralysis caused by Parliament refusing to accept leaving without a deal while simultaneously refusing to accept any kind of deal that could be agreed by both the UK government and the EU.

Britain will then have left the EU, along the lines expressed in the Political Declaration that accompanies the Withdrawal Agreement, with a free trade deal that sets goods tariffs at zero. To conclude such a deal, the EU will require the UK to accept what it calls “level-playing field” provisions on state aid, environmental policy and labour market regulation.

Though the Spartans might balk at this, it does not, in fact, amount to a significant price. Agreement on state aid is actually a bonus: it will stop future Labour governments subsidising failing industries. The Government, after all, intends to continue Britain’s leading role in efforts to combat climate change. Nor is it signalling any intention of deregulating the labour market. Its record in office, from the introduction of real-time information, to automatic pension enrolment and increasing the minimum wage, has been to increase the burden borne by employers, not to reduce it. A Conservative majority that depends on keeping seats in Bolsover and Ashfield is not going to have room for Thatcher-style economic reform.

Nonetheless, the type of Brexit entailed by the Withdrawal Agreement will produce significant economic disruption (and if it did not, what would be the point?), and with it the opportunity for economic reform that would allow Britain to make the best fist of its post-Brexit circumstances.

The kind of trade agreement envisioned by the Withdrawal Agreement has a number of implications for trade policy. Trade agreements themselves don’t generally move trade volumes that much. More important is leaving the Customs Union, which will take Britain out of pan-European manufacturing supply chains, because the need to complete customs formalities as a good goes back and forth from Britain to the EU (and Northern Ireland) will make a lot of that trade unviable.

Such manufacturing that survives will have to make do with a local supply chain, and assemble products from their components in the UK rather than optimise for cost and quality: in other words, British goods will become more expensive, and will be able to make use of a smaller range of components. So it will makes sense to specialise in high value products, from Aerospace to Scotch Whisky, in which British-made goods will still be competitive.

If there is an upside to the gloomy economic models that predict sharp drops in manufacturing output from a hard Brexit of the type planned, it is that the City of London escapes relatively unscathed. Though some activity will move to the EU, most can still be profitably carried out in London. This will have implications for regional distribution: to deal with manufacturing troubles, London will have to subsidise the rest of the country, particularly those manufacturing heartlands with newly-minted Tory MPs.

An island that spurns advantageous trading arrangements with its nearest trading partners, and so reduces the attractiveness of trading with Europe vis a vis the rest of the world, should specialise in goods and services where distance is a less important factor, and transport costs a smaller proportion of the price. Much of this will need to take place by air, and accordingly it follows that the UK should increase its airport capacity. It didn’t build a runway in London during the 40 years it was inside the EU, even though air travel has increased dramatically. It won’t be able to afford to waste the next 40 as well.

Semi-skilled physical and white collar work has been becoming a thing of the past over those last 40 years, too. As technology advances, this will continue. Routine clerical and manual work will be further automated, and the opportunities for people without an education to earn a living will be concentrated on those where human interaction, which forseeable AI technology is not capable of reproducing accurately, is at a premium. Demand for semi-skilled labour in areas like tourism and social care will however stay strong.

Long-term education and skills policy needs to adapt accordingly: as well as developing mathematical skills, softer aptitudes and verbal skills – the premium the best British private schools provide — will need to be developed in more of the population. Just the thing perhaps for a Clacissist Prime Minister with a way with words.

Until that transition to a high skill economy can be made (and it’s something Britain has had difficulty doing, which is why it has had to import so much high skill labour from the rest of the EU), something will need to be done to occupy the people who aren’t ready for it. A silver lining might be in dealing with climate change. Though decarbonising the power sector is a matter of high tech engineering, improving energy efficiency is essentially a construction industry task. That, plus housebuilding, where a major labour shortage is expected as a previous generation of construction workers reaches retirement age, could provide some of the necessary labour demand. The question, as always, is: how it is to be paid for?

Brexit will require a transition to a high tech, high skill, green and low manufacturing economy. In many ways, Britain is already some of the way there, but its current mood of nostalgia for an obsolete manufacturing life will have to be replaced by determination to transform the economy. It remains to be seen whether this be done with a majority based on Northern, post-industrial Britain.

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