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Westlake Legal Group > policy development

John Penrose: Grassroots Tories, the Conservative Policy Forum needs you

John Penrose is MP for Weston-super-Mare.

The next five years could redefine Britain for a generation at least. Brexit will create an inflection point for our country; a moment of change at least as big and important as the one faced by the post-war Attlee Government that founded the NHS and the modern welfare state.

So where will our next set of big, era-defining ideas come from? What will our generation leave to our children and grandchildren, to match the NHS and the welfare state?

The Conservative Policy Forum (CPF), the Party’s internal think-tank (which I chair), stands ready to play its part in finding them. We regularly ask Conservative members what they think about key policy areas, tapping into the collective wisdom and experience of the Tory crowd on everything from health, education, and policing to foreign policy and defence.

The most recent example was our general election ‘Members Manifesto’, proposing everything from maintaining NHS care based on clinical need rather than ability to pay to a review of UK tax havens. Almost half of its ideas appeared in some form in the official Manifesto itself a few weeks later, a hit rate that other think tanks would love to match.

It also proved the modern Conservative Party’s centre of gravity isn’t the billionaires and hedge fund managers that Labour likes to pretend. Instead it turns out that, collectively, Party members are a reliable, sensible, balanced, and decent group of people – rather like most Brits, really. Ask them a sensible question, and you’ll get a sensible answer.

And, of course, persuading people to participate is miles easier if you know your ideas will genuinely reach cabinet ministers and Downing Street policy wonks. Ours definitely do, and no other think tank can make the same claim as credibly as us.

But the challenge of finding, refining, and testing era-defining ideas is enormous. So the CPF has to raise its game, and we’ve set ourselves three huge challenges to make sure we’re ready for the task ahead.

The first is membership. Most think-tanks don’t really want or need lots of members, but it’s absolutely central to the way the CPF works.

It means we’re already the biggest think tank in the country but, now the Conservative family has just discovered a load of long-lost cousins in northern towns that haven’t voted Tory in years, we’ve got to get even bigger. They’ve all got to be signed up and included too, so all those new voices are authentically heard in our policy debates from now on.

Secondly, we may be able to help raise the Conservative Party’s general membership at the same time. There are more than a few seats which have just elected brand-new Tory MPs for the first time in decades (or ever, in some cases), but where the local Party membership is microscopically small. They urgently need more members to support their campaigns and back them up.

As most people get involved in politics because a particular idea or a cause lights them up, the chance to get your ideas included in Government policy ought to be one of our biggest membership recruitment drivers too.

Third, we’ve got to rediscover the thrill and theatre of debating ideas and policies. Ideas are the raw material of politics. They’re what gives people the passion, energy, and zeal to do great things and support important causes.

But, strangely, the Conservative Party has never been particularly comfortable about exploring this at a grassroots level. We’re brilliant at coffee mornings, thank you very much, and pretty good at stuffing envelopes and delivering leaflets too. But we’re a bit nervous, for some reason, about discussing policies.

We shouldn’t be, and the CPF can be the way we fill that gap. We’re the organisation which can play host to friendly, respectful debate, and feed the flames of passion for ideas. Online or onstage, in pubs or clubs, in the north and the south, on every topic, we have to hold debates which encourage Conservatives to be comfortable duelling with ideas and rival policy proposals.

Last year’s Party Conference was a great example. For the first time in years, there was a genuine policy debate on the main Conference stage. CPF members pitched rival ideas, and then the audience voted; think of ‘Strictly Come Politics’, or perhaps ‘Political X Factor’ if you prefer. But, crucially, it was fun – and it showed what we’ve been missing all these years.

Once Labour chooses its new leader, the battle of ideas will truly be joined. The stakes couldn’t be higher, but nor could the rewards.

I hope as many people as possible will get involved in the CPF. It’s a great way to see which policy ideas can survive and flourish, and which ones might just be that elusive, era-defining flash of brilliance that could become our generation’s legacy to our grandchildren. No person or political party has a monopoly on wisdom, so your country needs not just you, but your ideas as well.

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

Andrew Green: The vagueness of Conservative immigration policy poses a serious risk to the Party long-term

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

Labour are said to be switching their focus back to their traditional seats to shore them up against assaults by the Brexiteers. If so, they have a problem. Their immigration policy rides roughshod over the views of many of their working class voters. Furthermore, their long-term strategy is to change our society in ways deeply unwelcome to these same voters as I outlined in my article of 25th November.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives need a serious policy if they are to win the battle for these crucial seats where immigration is a very important issue. The time for comic campaigning is well and truly over.

The comedy opened with a Home Office minister unwilling to tell the Today programme whether or not it was Conservative policy to reduce immigration. The same morning the Home Secretary confirmed that reduction was, indeed, the policy – only to row back that afternoon to a neutral position. This was, frankly, ridiculous given that 30 million UK adults wish to see a reduction in immigration, 18 million of them “by a lot”. This includes 84 per cent of Conservative voters.

The publication of the manifesto sought to draw a line under that confusion. The Conservatives can now say that they have a policy, but it is weak and could easily fail in execution. Most of the measures outlined were sensible enough but minor in their effect. The key passage was the following:

‘There will be fewer low-skilled migrants, and overall numbers will come down. And we will ensure that the British people are always in control.’

This wording is nothing if not ingenious. “There will be fewer low-skilled migrants”. The only low-skilled migrants admitted to the UK have been from the EU. So the first question is: will the Government proceed with its proposal to allow low-skilled EU migrants to come to the UK after Brexit for 11 months before returning home for what they describe as a “cooling off period” before they are allowed to return to work here? Obviously, it will be impossible to control the numbers. This scheme would simply be an underhand device to keep such workers out of the official long term immigration statistics. In practice it would completely undermine their key statement (notice: not a “pledge”) that there will be fewer low-skilled migrants.

In any case, the latest immigration statistics show that net migration from the EU is down to about 50,000 a year out of an overall net figure of 212,000. Clearly, there is not much scope for further reduction by eliminating low-skilled EU workers even if they abandon their dodgy 11-month visas.

Much will depend, therefore, on their so-called “Australian-style” points-based system which is outlined in the manifesto. However, the problem with such systems is that they are both complex and heavily dependent on the salary and qualifications required. Currently, the earnings requirement is £30,000 a year except for occupations deemed to be in shortage, such as medical staff. The skill requirement has long been set at degree level. However, both these criteria are under siege by a range of industries which have profited from the low salaries paid to EU migrants, especially from poorer member states, and the training costs that they have saved.

The Government is ducking the key issues for the time being by asking the Migration Advisory Committee to conduct research on some technical points. Meanwhile, the Home Office is separately consulting over 130 different organisations for their views on future immigration. The overwhelming majority represent employers (who want more workers from abroad), the higher education sector (who want more overseas students) as well as migrant welfare bodies. Extraordinarily, the voice of the public will hardly be heard. Indeed, Migration Watch is one of the very few organisations to have spoken up for the many who want a reduction in immigration together with a serious focus on training the domestic workforce and investing in the technology that will help raise our productivity which has been virtually flat for ten years – despite massive levels of immigration, which according to the immigration industry is supposed to raise productivity.

In addition to pressures from employers for more low-skilled workers, there could be a very large number of applications from the third world where even highly-skilled people may not be highly paid. They will, of course, be encouraged to apply by family members already in the UK. It follows that it will be vital to retain the current level of skills and salary if the numbers are to be kept to a reasonable level. We estimate that, if industry’s demands are met and the skill level is reduced from degree to A-level, and the salary requirement from £30,000 to £21,000 a year, about nine million UK jobs will be opened to new or increased international competition.

This points to the most serious risk of all – the clear possibility that the new regime will lead to a massive increase of immigration that will be extremely difficult to bring back under control. We saw it under Blair when net migration quadrupled in a few years. We saw it again when, alone except for Sweden, we opened our labour market to the EU without a transition period. If this should happen yet again public confidence in our governing class, already extremely low, would take yet another severe battering.

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

Ian Warren and Will Jennings: Addressing the needs of towns is key to winning this election

Ian Warren is a data analyst and political consultant. Will Jennings (pictured) is Professor of Political Science at Public Policy at the University of Southampton. They are co-founders of the Centre for Towns.

Towns will decide who enters the door of Number 10, Downing Street on Friday 13th December. Going into this election, around two-thirds of the top 100 marginal seats are ‘town’ constituencies. On current trends we are likely to find most of the closest contests will take place in our towns on election day. This is because Labour continues to pile up large majorities in major cities across England and Wales, whilst the Conservatives dominate in rural and semi-rural communities. What remains are dozens of marginal constituencies in small and medium-sized towns, and which are often highly competitive from election to election.

At the Centre For Towns, we believe the electoral importance of our towns can be leveraged in a positive way to draw specific policy commitments from all political parties. In recent months both Labour and the Conservatives have spoken about the needs of people in towns through policies on devolution, high street regeneration, broadband, and (our particular favourite at the Centre for Towns) buses. We have welcomed the Government’s Stronger Towns Fund and Future High Street interventions but also recognise the Labour Party’s commitments to coastal and post-industrial towns; types of town which face perhaps the most acute challenges of all of the UK’s towns.

On current projections, the Conservatives may find themselves representing coastal towns like Grimsby, Workington, Barrow and Rhyl on December 13th. They could also be representing post-industrial towns in Nottinghamshire, the North East and South Yorkshire. Should Labour manage to hold on to seats like Bolsover, Bassetlaw, Rother Valley, Rotherham and Hartlepool, it will have done so by the skin of its teeth on current polling. Either way, the two main parties will need to confront the desperate needs of those places and deliver both short- and long-term solutions.

Recognising those challenges and identifying the towns with the most pressing needs is only the first step. We require a deeper analysis and understanding of challenges faced by towns than that which, for example, informed the Future High Street fund (welcome though that was). At the Centre For Towns we have detailed how an ageing population has markedly changed the composition of towns across Britain (as shown in the figure below). Places do not age at the same rate everywhere. Our towns have steadily aged over the past 30 years as more and more people live longer and younger generations move away, whilst our cities have grown younger as they have attracted large numbers of young people for work or study.

Westlake Legal Group Towns-age-rate Ian Warren and Will Jennings: Addressing the needs of towns is key to winning this election Young People Towns Tory Manifesto 2019 Strategy policy development Older people Marginals Labour Manifesto 2019 Highlights demographics Comment Coastal Communities Cities 2019 General Election

An ageing population, combined with the Conservatives holding a 40-point lead over Labour amongst older voters, has meant many towns are more friendly to the Conservatives than they were a decade ago. The table below (with data on demographics generated from the Centre for Towns data tool) reports information of the population of some key marginal towns over the last three decades, specifically their increase in the number of over-65s and decrease in those aged between 18 and 24. This reveals a stark pattern. These ex-industrial and coastal towns have aged markedly, while the number of young people has declined, and this trend is projected to continue into the middle of the century. For such areas, these profound demographic shifts will require a response from all political parties.

Westlake Legal Group Towns-demographic-changes Ian Warren and Will Jennings: Addressing the needs of towns is key to winning this election Young People Towns Tory Manifesto 2019 Strategy policy development Older people Marginals Labour Manifesto 2019 Highlights demographics Comment Coastal Communities Cities 2019 General Election

An ageing population diminishes the spending power of a town, often pushing its high street into a spiral of decline as it increasingly caters to discount retail while flagship retailers shut down. It also means larger numbers of older people who enjoy free bus travel and fewer working-age commuters paying full fare. Bus companies close unprofitable routes as a result. The growing number of old people living in towns means shortages of social care provision are felt acutely. Housing needs in older towns are different. So is transport planning and the skills base. The list goes on.

These present fundamental challenges for a government of any colour. What is it about coastal and ex-industrial towns, for example, which has seen a fall in the proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds? What can be done to ensure our young people see them as attractive places to make a home and get on in life? We want our young people to fulfil their ambitions wherever that may be, but is it healthy that so many don’t believe their home town offers the sorts of economic or cultural opportunities which make superstar cities so attractive? So, whilst we welcome short term support for high streets, for example, our public policy will need to confront much deeper concerns about the future viability of our towns.

At the Centre For Towns we want politicians from all parties to recognise these challenges and address them with long-term planning that transcends party politics. Crucially, we have consistently asked that our towns’ greatest asset, their people, are given the power and resources they need to tackle some of these challenges themselves. Devolution is still a patchy settlement in England. City-regions are the devolved geography of choice, but vast tracts of land are excluded from city-regions. Indeed, even within city-regions, towns are too often treated as dormitory units rather than places with their own identity and distinct contribution to make. We are hopeful that the party manifestos will commit to hyper-devolution of the kind which empowers people in towns to turn their areas around, giving them a clear sense of agency.

This belief in the power of people in communities should appeal equally to both the Conservatives and Labour. In the coming election, the pivotal importance of our towns to the result should help concentrate their minds. Our hope is that after 12th December the focus moves to long-term planning and devolution of real power and resource to towns themselves. After all, isn’t this what they meant when the public voted to ‘take back control’ in June 2016?

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

Rachel Wolf: The Right is good at producing ideas. We need to get better at founding and running institutions.

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

Every week ConservativeHome publishes a list of public appointments because ”our Party has punched beneath its weight”: few Tories apply.

There are other issues with appointments. Previous administrations have treated the appointment of someone on the Left to lead a review or run a project as a major moral victory (Labour does not tend to return this favour). This is classic bubble thinking – who outside Westminster would notice?

Nevertheless, the basic analysis of this site is right. Not enough apply. The problem is broader, and deeper, than appointments to pre-existing, government-funded jobs. We remain, on the Right, insufficiently interested in creating and running the institutions that deliver on ideas as well as think about them.

On ideas, we are blessed. I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Centre for Policy Studies in the last year and they – along with others – have come up with a series of brilliant proposals for future governments.

But coming up with the idea is only the first step, and it is simplistic just to say ‘government should deliver’.

I was reminded of this twice in the last few weeks.

First, because I’ve been reading the General Election Manifestos of the last several decades. In 1945 the Conservatives failed to win an election with ‘Winston Churchill’s Declaration of Policy to the Electors’. The author of Labour’s manifesto – which led to the government that founded much of the welfare state – was Michael Young. He later created, among many others, the Open University, Which?, and the first Research Council for economics and social sciences. He has been more important to people’s lives than the vast majority of Cabinet Ministers. I can’t think of any organisations like his being created now.

Second, because this month is the tenth anniversary of the launch of the New Schools Network (NSN), the charity I founded to create Free Schools. I set up NSN because I did not believe that putting Free Schools in an election manifesto was enough – civil servants weren’t going to hunt for the teachers and charities and community groups up and down the country who might want to set up the first schools. I remain convinced of this – I don’t think there would have been many Free Schools without NSN. I don’t think many of our social justice reforms would exist without the Centre for Social Justice, which was founded by Tim Montgomerie, the former editor of this site.

We need many more of these kinds of entities, across the country. For example, we now have a plethora of graduate public sector recruitment programmes – Teach First for teachers, FrontLine for social workers, Unlocked for prison officers. That’s brilliant.

But when I think of my grandmother, who became a social worker when her kids had grown up, and had all her life experience to draw on, I wonder how many older people we are failing to tap. The government is never going to do that well.

Or if I think of my mother, who had young children in the US, and relied on pre-existing co-op systems for babysitting and childcare, I wonder why we don’t have equivalent structures here.

I look in vain for the equivalent of Which? for schools. No producer interests – just an organisation that aims to inform and help parents really understand what their kids should be learning, what that looks like, and how to get the best for their child.

You may think these are terrible ideas – and you may be right! i think my point still stands – governments alone do not create change, and we still lack institutions that can.

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

Penny Mordaunt: We must reunify the country – and MPs can start by helping, not hindering, Brexit

Penny Mordaunt is MP for Portsmouth North, and is a former Defence Secretary and International Development Secretary. Dan Hodges will be interviewing her about this article at the Big Ideas Tent Festival later today.

I told an elderly constituent that I was going to a “Big Tent event” this weekend.

“Big Ted?”, she replied. “Teddy Boys?”

“No.” I said. “A……Big……TENT..ER” I replied.

“You going camping?”

“No”, I said. “It’s in London and it’s not that sort of tent.”

“Oh, I see. So it’s like a music festival! Like the Isle of Wight?”

“No”, I said. “It’s not that sort of festival. We’re going to talk about politics stuff like Brexit and Trump.”

“Oh, I am sorry”, she said. “Well maybe it’ll be raining and it will be cancelled”.

Doris is wise. She tells you a lot about the way people think about politics these days. They hate the fighting and the hysterics. Nobody wants to hear it any more. It’s a big turn off.

So let’s clear up a few things right away. There’s a lot we all agree on.

We love our country. We love our union. We love our democracy. We love our monarchy. We all love a good takeaway. And the thing we take really seriously is our cricket. There weren’t any Brexiteers or Remainers watching Ben Stokes score his century. Just some very proud people.

So let’s be clear about a few things.

Democracy won’t die if a Prime Minister prorogues Parliament. It will though if we lose sight of what unites us. It will if we lose respect, plurality of thought and the ability to think critically.

So hang on to your hats, I’m about to say something controversial.

I think that we will look back on this part of our history with pride.

I know commentators and many of the public are exasperated. That other nations look on smugly smirking at “what a state” we are in. I know individuals and business have been poorly served – and we must deliver certainty to them all soon.

Yes, you want to throw things at the telly every time some of our fellow citizens appear, telling us we have collectively lost our minds, or to play the glockenspiel in protest in the background of the 10pm news.

I know MPs have not covered themselves in glory. That the very idea of referenda brings you out in a rash. And I know many of you, sensible, practically minded folk are just exhausted at the relentless argy-bargy, irrational hysteria from all sides.

But I stand by what I say. The fact that we had the courage to put the question. That we trusted the public to decide. That despite the complexity, the difficulty, the opposition, we as a nation are determined to deliver. We were right to hold a referendum. What else could have resolved the distinct unease so many in our country felt at being part of the EU on its current trajectory? We have tested our political and legal institutions to the hilt, and yet they remain strong. The fact that so many people who voted to remain in the EU accepted the result because they trust in those institutions.

Well, that’s a great thing. And we are a great country.

But I know it has been painful. We’ve lost a little pride and trust in each other. And that’s damaging for our politics and all we want to achieve as a nation. So how do we move past the division and the anger? How to we restore pride in ourselves, pride that is necessary if we are to have the ambition and confidence, we will need post Brexit? How do we remake ourselves?

The Big Ideas Tent Festival – a cross-party and no-party initiative spearheaded by George Freeman – takes place this weekend. Its goal is to bring people together to talk about the things we all care about. I hope all have a great day, but also that it will serve as a timely reminder to MPs who reconvene next week to focus less on Punch and Judy protest and more on the substance of the issue before us. It is incumbent on all of us – not just the Prime Minister – to show leadership at this time. And exiting the EU in a way which is best for the UK must be part of a programme to swiftly restore the standing of our politics and trust and confidence in each other.

We have that opportunity next week.

There is talk of parliamentary gymnastics to stop a No Deal, while the clock ticks down to precisely that. Have we learnt nothing? If you don’t want to leave without a deal, then you need to get one.

If we focus on that real issue, and the outcome I think most MPs want to see, then our actions could be the start of restoring that pride and trust.

The nation needs us to deliver on the referendum. I know the chap outside Parliament with the glockenspiel doesn’t, nor do those MPs who want to stop any form of Brexit. But a majority voted for it and an even larger majority wants us to get it done. So if, like me, you hope to do better than parting on WTO terms or in a disorderly way, can I suggest that we all focus our efforts on ensuring we secure a deal.

There’s not been much commentary on the chances of a deal, but there is a good chance. It is, and has always been, manifestly in the interests of EU member states that the UK secures one. Commissioners recognise, and have said, that they know they must compromise further to give the UK Parliament an acceptable arrangement. There is no practical impediment to it. It’s a matter of political will. It’s a matter of good will.

I’ve been struck that those objecting to the Prime Minister’s latest move only seem to talk of being able to debate Brexit or stop no Brexit. Not a pip-squeak about the time it may take to get a deal negotiated and passed through both Houses.

All efforts should be on that task. It’ll be a challenge in the timeframe, even if the starting point for it is the Withdrawal Agreement.

So next week MPs’ true motivations will be laid bare. Shall we triangulate against the new Prime Minister for political advantage? Shall we prevent the will of the people being delivered? Shall we assert we’ve “no mandate for No Deal” ignoring that 17.4 million voted to “leave the EU” – no ifs, no buts? Do so and your true motives or susceptibility to Westminster group-think will be laid bare.

Instead of the theatre of staging an alternative parliament, why not spend some time persuading your EU sister parties of the merits of an amicable settlement?

Instead of blocking highways and by-ways, why not help organise your local EU citizens to write to the governments of their member states?

Instead of describing just how ghastly you think your Parliamentary representatives are, why not think how you might resolve this moment of crisis without creating another?

If you really can’t face helping Brexit in any form perhaps you could speak to the Commission about the unease felt by the British people about the EU’s current trajectory, and how they might reform? Or persuade them that an implementation period is a good idea, as it would be for those who want the UK to have second thoughts? Or apply pressure on both sides to give EU and British citizens working here and in Europe the certainty they need?

And press the Prime Minister on the timetable for a newly negotiated deal to pass Parliament before 31st October.

We’re all responsible for what happens next. Help or hinder, the choice is ours.

If we work together, we can and will repay the trust the public still have in Parliament. If we manage a good Brexit against this backdrop it will not only be a great thing, it will be an historic thing.

It will give hope to others and confidence in ourselves. Our determination to make a success of it, against all the odds, should send a clear message to all that we are a great nation capable of determined acts to consciously chart our way in the world. That sort of behaviour has marked our history and it will our future, too. We will stand on our own for what we believe to be right, and we trust in democracy, whatever the cost. Because the politicians couldn’t decide, we thought we’d ask the people. And they told us.

There are those who see the future of British politics as a fight between two forms of populism – left and right. That’s not inevitable. If we are to have a richer, more capable form of politics, then Brexit is a necessary but not sufficient condition.

Our political parties must remain broad churches. Big tents, shall we say!

We need debate and competing ideas, but also cooperation and respect for each other. The narrative that sees all conservatives as evil, or all socialists as daft, must be rejected. We should do this by setting agreeing the national missions that can unite our nation.

The Prime Minister is seeking a consensus on social care. Perhaps he does not want to make it an election issue, perhaps he recognises he needs to build support to get any enabling legislation through Parliament. And perhaps he may recognise that on these big issues they require public buy in and a long-term approach. I do not know his motivations, but he is right to tackle the issue swiftly and he is right to seek buy-in from others.

But if this is right could not the same be said for other areas of policy?

The future of the railways?

How about a new economic model based on housing?

What about defence procurement, which can take decades?

And if that is the case for domestic policy, surely it is doubly true of our foreign policy.

Our stance towards partner nations. Or major global challenges such as climate change and plastic pollution.

Building a consensus especially across party lines would seem a sensible thing to do, yet it is rarely mooted except in exceptional times.

There have been attempts to explicitly build a political narrative around this approach, such as Blair’s third way, but that had more to do with the Labour Party’s internal strife than bringing the nation together.

Holding the centre ground has long been seen as the way to win elections. But the centre is not just a place to win from, it’s a place to deliver from, too.

The only way to create, the growth, the focus, the long-term new investment, the sustained effort and understanding to address the challenges and seize the opportunities of our times is to create national missions the whole country can get behind.

Take the example of social care. Our goal should surely be that every one of our citizens can live in dignity and be supporting to live a meaningful and fulfilled life. A way of raising new funding isn’t all that is required. Care systems for older people are linked to care for children and adults of working age. They are linked to potential employment rights for carers, how local authorities can commission services to promote innovation and quality, or their policies on council tax discounts and planning so that it is easier for people to take care of their relatives at home, the support of the third sector, a culture of caring as well as skills in a valued and appropriately remunerated workforce and new technical innovation. To get everyone who can contribute to that we need understanding of what the nation is trying to do over and beyond budgetary cycles, or parliaments and governments.

People want politicians from across the divide to work together. They want us to agree on more, in part because they want reassurance in an increasingly complex and troublesome world.

Gone are the days when all keeping themselves safe required was for them to lock the front door.  People are feeling more and more powerless. But being told they are more and more responsible.

As we grapple with issues of terrorism, Huawei, global warming, a potential repeat of the financial collapse, and the challenges of AI and new technology, then a consensus from your elected representatives is rather reassuring.

No wonder organisations like Onward are pointing out the importance of security and belonging to voters, not just freedom and choice. They want us to make the right call on issues which affect their lives. They want us to do a good job.

Despite everything, and their disappointment, the people have faith still in our democracy.

So, we must not let those who have put their faith in us down.

Democracy isn’t under threat from a Prime Minister who will prorogue parliament, or a Queen who consents to it.  It is under threat from a lack of responsibility and an absence of critical thinking from many in public life.

That is why the Big Tent is such an important initiative. And why the actions of MPs next week could have huge ramifications for politics in years to come.

So, next week lets help not hinder. Let’s get a good Brexit done. Let’s end the toxic tribalism affecting our parties and our politics and start the healing.

We don’t have to all agree. We just have to respect plurality of thought, each other and the results of referenda.

Next year, I may bring Doris with me to the Big Tent.  I like to think she’d enjoy hearing about the things that unify rather than divide us.

Whenever I think about what I do, I sometimes ask myself, would Doris be proud?

And by this time next year, do you know? I think she would.

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

Rachel Wolf: Would-be Prime Ministers should be wary of the long-term cost of short-term policy pledges

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

During the 2016 leadership contest, Theresa May announced that she’d create a new Brexit Department; put employees on company boards; block foreign takeovers of UK companies; and introduce measures to reduce energy bills (eventually a price cap).

The reasons for these policies are obvious. She was under enormous pressure to show commitment to Brexit: a new department was an easy announcement (merging and creating departments is low-hanging fruit). She also wanted to capture the new Leave voters who might vote Conservative – more intervention on markets was a way of doing this and helped distinguish her from Cameron.

The decisions she made in those few weeks made a huge difference to her policy agenda as Prime Minister – even if, in the end, she was unable to implement very much. If she’d ended up in a real competition with Leadsom, who knows what else she’d have announced.

I don’t agree with all these proposals – but more importantly, I’m not convinced that given time and space she would have agreed with all of them.

Judging by the snowballing announcements from current leadership contenders, they too are using policy to show they have the ability to lead a government while also creating dividing lines with their opponents.

Well, not Boris. As the front runner it would make little sense him to risk losing votes by laying out a detailed governing strategy. But for others, the only way they can potentially overtake Boris’s enormous lead with members and persuade MPs to put them into the final two is with ideas.

Dominic Raab has been notable in recent months – long before the leadership contest launched – for raising his profile in part through policy. His knife crime article back in March proposed making stop and search easier; increasing the probability of sentences if you’re caught with a knife; and having a fund across government departments to fund preventative programmes with young people. More recently, Sajid Javid has promised to turn on the spending taps to reduce crime – spending over a billion on more police if he becomes Prime Minister.

Meanwhile Esther McVey has promised to halve foreign aid spending while Rory Stewart wants to double the amount of it to be spent on climate change.

It’s also a reasonable assumption that Michael Gove has at least 50 policies up his sleeve. Last time he entered a leadership race people were sceptical he’d written his very policy heavy launch speech in the 12 or so hours since making a public decision to run. As someone who worked with Michael many years ago, I’m surprised it took him that long.

Few of these policies will be truly thought through and tested. I remember when I was in the Conservative Research Department working at midnight to ‘cost’ a policy on education by combing through government accounts (I think in the end I promised we’d scrap an unnecessary new database to fund it). The whole exercise was patently ludicrous and designed to have credible footnotes in a press release that no one read – but it was entirely normal in an environment where a tiny number of people were responsible for policy development.  This is the world that even the best-resourced leadership candidates are in now.

In fact, they’re in an even worse situation. At least in opposition you have time – to think, discuss, develop your position. These leadership candidates don’t have that either – they are in a tight race where they need to maintain momentum.

Poorly thought-through policies that exist solely to win among members or damage opponents will bring a world of pain to the successful candidate. The frontrunners need to be very careful that what they announce now is important enough to be worth saying – cutting through to members and the public – and is a principle they’re willing to govern, not just campaign, under.

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“The Conservative Party should stand up for all those who feel powerless in Britain today”- Gibb’s reformist speech

This is the full text of a speech delivered today by Nick Gibb, the schools minister, to the Social Market Foundation.

Thank you, James for that introduction. And thank you to the Social Market Foundation and Edelman for hosting and organising this morning’s event.

The SMF notes prominently on its website, “British politics is in flux”. Well, you can say that again. And after several years serving as a minister and very much sticking to my brief under two prime ministers, I wanted to take this opportunity to draw on my experience at the Department for Education and offer a wider perspective on some of the particular challenges that we face.

And by ‘we’, I mean several groups.

I mean the country…as we face up to testing times and seek to find ways to bring people together after years of rancour and division.

I mean the people who run businesses…as trust in business – and in the economic consensus that sustains it – continues to fall.

I mean the Conservative Party…now so consumed by Brexit that our great successes as a government over the past decade – and all the progress we have made as a country – has been forgotten.

And I mean politics as a whole…because what we know from Edelman’s own research is that trust in – and respect for – our political system is falling. And that creates the space for the populists, with their divisive rhetoric and easy solutions, to fill.

That is what we are witnessing today. Populism is on the march. It threatens to upend not just our political system, but so many of the old certainties on which we have come to rely. And it’s on the march for a simple reason: because mainstream politicians have not done enough to listen – let alone respond – to the priorities and concerns of the people who pay our salaries and give us our jobs.

But my conviction this morning is this: it is not too late to turn things around.

For if there is one thing my time at the Department for Education has taught me it is that if you do the hard work nothing is impossible. If you approach each challenge with what Martin Luther King described as the “fierce urgency of now”, change can happen. And a clearly articulated vision, the drive to make it happen, and the determination to see it through can yield extraordinary results.

That is why I believe so passionately in the capacity of politics and politicians to make a difference – to change lives for the better, which is what we all set out to do. Because I have seen it happen. And it is why I recoil when I hear politicians attacking the political process in this country. There will always be disagreements between parties and politicians. But I believe that politics is a noble calling; that people enter a life in politics with good intent; and that politics at its best can provide the forum in which we settle our differences, overcome divisions, and find the compromises that allow us to all move forward together.

Clearly, this may sound like a romantic view given where we are today.

It is widely accepted that we are in the midst of a political crisis, the like of which few of us has experienced before.

We are witnessing a clash between the twin forces of direct and representative democracy which has unbalanced our system of government and thrown it into a tailspin.

But this clash between the two forms of democracy is – like the issue of Brexit itself – about something even more profound. It is about power. And where we believe power should lie.

As much as anything, Brexit is an argument that says power should reside at the level of the nation-state – not at a supranational level where institutions are often unaccountable and typically all too remote.

The vote to embrace Brexit and to leave the EU was partly about the issue of where political power should lie, but it was also driven in large part by people who felt utterly powerless themselves in the face of macro political, economic and social forces over which they had too little control, or none at all. In other words, Brexit was and is about the assertion of power at every level.

And the determination to deliver Brexit is driven by a simple belief: that power should ultimately lie with the people of this country – not with any other body, group or organisation.

In 2016 Parliament and the Government were explicit: the decision whether to leave or not leave the European Union would be decided by the referendum. The people’s decision was final. That is why so many MPs have set aside their own concerns, or have been prepared to compromise by accepting a deal that they think is imperfect, in order to deliver the will of the people. Because ultimately, in a democracy, the people are sovereign. They are the masters. And government is their servant.

It is to the Prime Minister’s eternal credit that she has never once forgotten this fact. Despite all the difficulties, she has always been determined to deliver the will of the people: because she knows that to fail to do so will only reinforce the sense of powerlessness that drove so much of the Brexit vote and risk opening the doors of our democracy to populism.

The crisis of capitalism

Yet, this is where we are today: confronted by the very real prospect of the rise of a narrow-minded and nasty populism of the right led by Nigel Farage or Tommy Robinson and a romantic but equally nasty brand of populist socialism on the left led by Jeremy Corbyn. A man who seeks to create and exploit perceived imbalances of power; who attacks and demeans the media – and encourages his supporters to do the same; who despises our allies while refusing to condemn the actions of our foes; who uses the language and the rhetoric of the populist as he seeks to set one against the other.

Yet who, despite this, continues to command a loyal following among younger voters and managed to attract substantial number of their votes at the last general election just two years ago to put him on the brink of Number 10. And we Conservatives must not kid ourselves that Corbyn’s brand of socialism is so-outdated and extreme that it will not be attractive to those of all backgrounds and economic circumstances who nevertheless feel ignored by our current polity or whose concerns have been left unaddressed.

This fact was brought home to me recently during a trip to the theatre.

The musical Hadestown is a love story, but it carries a deeply political – and undeniably left-wing – message. It denounces the values of capitalism while venerating the ideals of a socialist society.

And as I watched it being performed, I became aware of a remarkable phenomenon. I looked around me. The theatre was full of what would best be described as middle-class young people. Intelligent professionals. The future of this country. Full of idealism and hope. The kind of people who cheered Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury and gave him their vote two years ago. And they cheered again at Hadestown.

It was a revealing moment for me. Because those young people were essentially cheering the destruction of an economic and social system that has done so much more to advance their goals and values than any other the world has ever known.

The capitalist system has done more than any other to lift the poorest out of poverty, to open the world up to exploration, to inspire the inventions that have transformed the ways in which we connect and talk, expand our knowledge, broaden our horizons. It’s a system that has helped us treat diseases that were otherwise regarded as death sentences; that has supported the expansion of freedom where previously repression and dictatorship reigned; that is developing technology to help tackle climate change. And let us remember that it is a system that quite simply helps us to fund the lifestyles we want and the public services we rely on. That helps us to lead the good life we want for ourselves and others.

No other economic or social system comes close to being able to make the claims that capitalism can make. And yet here we are, in 2019, with an audience of intelligent and informed young people cheering its destruction and replacement with something we know to be much worse: systems that crush the spirit of those with an enterprising bent. Socialist systems that always end in one-party states, with freedoms smashed by the jackboot of the secret police. It happened right across Eastern Europe until 1989 and it is happening in Venezuela and North Korea today. Which is why we should worry when a generation of young people seem oblivious to its horrors.

A host of recent studies have shown a creeping tendency for young people in the West to think that democracy – the very thing we so often take for granted – may not necessarily be the best or most viable form of government. One such study from January 2017 found that a quarter of the young people surveyed agreed that “choosing leaders through free elections is unimportant”.

Given the near unimaginable sacrifice of countless people in the past and in some other parts of the world today, it should come as a profound shock that so many could be so blasé about such fundamental liberties.

The causes of that crisis

This is a political crisis. And it goes to the heart of the crisis of capitalism too as the two things so often go hand in hand.

But if we step back, it is not hard to discern the roots of the crisis. For the evidence is all around. And we – moderate, mainstream politicians – must accept our share of responsibility.

Yes, the capitalist system has lifted people out of poverty and generated millions of new jobs, but it has also created a world in which the average pay ratio between a FTSE 100 CEO in the UK and their employee is 145 to 1. To me and to many, that just doesn’t seem fair.

Yes, the wealth created by the capitalist system has extended educational opportunities and helped to increase our collective knowledge, but it has also fostered a system in which a university vice-chancellor can earn £450,000 a year while students leave university plagued by debts as they start out on their working lives. That just doesn’t seem fair.

Yes, the globalised capitalist system may have broken down borders and fostered a more connected world, but it has also allowed big corporations like Google, Amazon and Facebook to make huge profits and use outdated double tax treaties designed for a mercantilist era to undermine the spirit of taxation that says you should pay your fair share. That just doesn’t seem fair.

Yes, the capitalist system has benefited many – but it is far from perfect. There will always be those who try to exploit it and so Government has a crucial role to play to enforce the rules, to change them where necessary, and so to maintain public consent. Over the last few decades, Labour and Conservative governments have been guilty of ignoring the steady scream of dissatisfaction, anger and powerlessness that is now overwhelming our political system. So it is essential – both for the defence of capitalism as the best system to govern our economic and social life, but also for the future of the Conservative Party as we face up to the threats of populists like Jeremy Corbyn – to seek to swing the balance of power back in favour of those who too often feel powerless in the face of the big economic and social forces that hold sway.

A party that stands with the powerless

And that means embracing the zeal of the revolutionary and adopting the fierce urgency of now, as we seek to take up the mantle of change.

The starting point is to be clear that the Conservative Party should stand up for all those who feel powerless in Britain today. It should stand for all those who feel they have too little control. It should stand up for the weak and stand up to the strong. It should be the party for all those who feel their voice is unheard as they go about their lives in modern Britain.

We must talk with passion and conviction about the everyday problems of modern life. We need answers to the challenges parents face with the rising costs of child care and the concerns confronting the children of elderly parents navigating their needs for social care. We need answers to the difficulties of would-be first-time house buyers. We need to take action, and be seen to take action, to deal with this generation’s greatest challenge: the devastating impact of climate change.

I believe that there is much for us to learn from the approach we have taken with education over the past few years. We have broken the stranglehold of Local Authorities and shifted the power to parents and pupils. The academies and free schools programme has revolutionised educational provision in this country partly because those schools know they have to be more responsive to local parental demands. We have introduced greater competition, given parents and pupils an element of control – and outcomes have been transformed.

We have successfully taken on the education establishment and changed the way that reading is taught, pushing our country up the international league tables for reading. We have transformed maths teaching both at primary and secondary, reformed our GCSEs, removed thousands of worthless qualifications that the poorest in society were being duped into taking. Grammar, punctuation and spelling are now being taught as never before and we’re testing to ensure children know their times tables.

There is a great deal more to do. Sometimes I feel as if we’ve only just begun when you consider the fact that in Nottingham, which is the 8th most deprived area in the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, 80 per cent of secondary schools are rated good or outstanding compared to just 50 per cent in prosperous Hertsmere, 243rd most deprived out of 326 local authority districts in that same index.

In other words if it is possible for schools to be good or outstanding in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country, why can’t it be so in all areas of disadvantage? And if it is possible in some areas of disadvantage, why are there some prosperous areas with too many underperforming schools and poor standards?

Why is it that one state school in east London, Brampton Manor Academy, recently reported that 41 of its students have received offers from Oxford and Cambridge but, although the DfE does not centrally collate information on university offers, looking at the 2017 destination tables, there were no students with an Oxbridge destination from Blaby, Bassetlaw, Braintree, Broxborne, Broadlands (in Norfolk), to name just the local authorities beginning with a B; and none from Chorley, Corby, Castlepoint, – you see where this is going! Overall, there were 45 out of 323 local authority districts with KS5 students without a single student with an Oxford or Cambridge sustained destination. A good education is the fundamental building block for a good life. Ensuring that every child attends a good school must be central to the Conservative Party’s mission to stand for the powerless, ensuring the success of our reforms, the opportunities they represent, is spread to every corner of the country.

So there is more to do in Education, but with vision, drive and determination we have already come so far. And it is this spirit – this revolutionary zeal that has informed our education reforms – which we Conservatives must apply across the full realm of political life as we seek to tip the balance of power in favour of the hardworking people of Britain.

There are some who argue that the anger in our political discord is also driven by the pace of social reform that we have seen over the last two decades. Some seem to relish the kind of culture wars that dominate debate between many Democrats and Republicans in the United States.

I am, unashamedly, a socially liberal Conservative. How could I not be? My life has been completed by legislation introduced by Tony Blair and David Cameron to recognise same sex relationships. Having always believed that marriage and family were the cornerstone of a strong, free and happy society, being able to marry as a gay man was the greatest moment of my life. And what have I discovered since? That my joy has been shared by so many of the people I work with every day, by members of the Bognor Regis and Littlehampton Conservative Association, by constituents who I meet at my surgery, at community coffee mornings, in local businesses, out on the street. I simply don’t buy the argument that the British are a moralistic, disapproving and mean-spirited people.

We are a nation that embraces change, gets on with it, and doesn’t worry too much about what other people do unless it gets in the way of their lives. We laugh at, rather than obsess about, what goes on in the bedroom: we are the nation of ‘Carry On’ and ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’. Innuendo is a national pass time. Isn’t it, Mrs?

What people do worry about is a feeling that change is being imposed and they are unable to express a view. That an elite in Westminster has little interest in or knowledge of how change can impact everyday life. Where concerns about immigration are dismissed or ignored, where people feel talked down to, where long held values can become out of fashion overnight, it is hardly surprising that a sense of powerlessness grows.

Tackling this sense of powerlessness over the actions of vested interests – whether in the political class or in large economic corporations – offers a way forward for the Conservative Party.

Let us think, for example, of the role that big tech plays in our lives today – and of the way in which the behaviour of the big tech companies has damaged the reputation of capitalism as a whole.

We embrace all the advantages of new technologies. We share details of our lives with family and friends. We click a button and have almost anything we want delivered to our door. A question that once involved a trip to the library can now be answered by a simple tap on a screen that we all keep in our pockets. As an Education Minister and as a citizen of course I welcome that. And of course, none of it would have happened if we didn’t live in capitalist, democratic societies.

But at the same time, elements of the tech revolution have gone too far. They have produced new concentrations of power. Supranational companies that see themselves as alternatives to the nation-state. Organisations and corporations that think they can’t be controlled.

Now, because the capitalist system still works, these big tech companies may soon have had their day. New start-ups are emerging to take on the behemoths with better, more people friendly alternatives.

Again, this simply wouldn’t happen under a socialist economic system of command and control.

So, we need to support these endeavours. But in the meantime, we need to take action too.

That means having the courage to regulate where we need to regulate. It means enacting policies that disrupt these concentrations of power. And it means ensuring that these companies are paying their fair share of tax.

There is nothing un-Conservative about this. Capitalism does work best when least fettered by rules and regulations that can crush innovation and stifle enterprise. But the free market has always relied on rules and the rule of law for it to function. It relies on the state to provide security, infrastructure, enforcement of contracts, title to land and the protection of intellectual property.

We need to make sure those rules and regulations are fit and proper for the challenges of the 21st century, as Teddy Roosevelt did to tackle the concentrations of power at the start of the 20th century.

But ‘Big Tech’ has become a common target. What about other areas where the balance of power has become inverted and has grown out of all control? Where can – and must – politicians act?

Utility companies who use confusing, complicated policies and tariffs to bewilder and exploit consumers. Who know that they can get away with it because our lives are busy and therefore they have effective power and control. A Conservative Party that stands up for the powerless shouldn’t stand by and let people be exploited by these multinational corporations. There’s nothing un-Conservative about that. We need to show the will and desire to tackle these monopolies of power and give people more control.

Insurance companies who ramp up premiums on the unwary and loyal, hoping we won’t notice or will be too busy to care. Hoping that the busy lives we lead will mean we acquiesce too easily.

Bosses exploiting their workers. Creaming off vast profits while cultivating or tolerating a culture of bullying and intimidation further down the chain. We should be angry at such people and such companies. The unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism of today.

Investment banks foisting investments they know to be worthless on unsuspecting savers in their retail division.

Estate agents promising higher valuations to home owners in exchange for higher commissions knowing full well the ultimate sale price would be less.

House builders, increasingly dominated by just a handful of companies, building homes of questionable design and resulting in thousands of complaints about poor construction, while making ‘super profits’ that the free market is meant to be designed to compete away.

Banks which are supposed to provide capital for new businesses and young people wanting homes but which are caught deliberately driving small business to the wall and which refuse young people mortgages because of their own malpractice in the past – denying a generation entry to property ownership, the foundation of a capitalist system. Is it any wonder that a musical rendition of a non-capitalist society sounds so appealing to that generation?

An agenda for a bold renewal of Conservatism

It should be our task as a party to act with urgency to correct these abuses and address these injustices, driven by a determination to speak out for the powerless at all times. It must be our mission to restore trust in the political system and in politics as a noble calling; something that with vision, drive and determination can change lives for the better.

To do so is not to validate Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. It is to thwart them. For if we fail to do so – if we fail to address the very real areas in which the capitalist system is failing – a long period of left-wing, socialist government is surely on its way. And it won’t be long before the cheers fade and the idealism is at an end.

This is an insight as old as Conservatism itself. Change to conserve has always been our mantra. Make change where the system is failing to preserve faith in the whole. As Burke put it “A state without the means of some change, is without the means of its own conservation”.

So let us harness that insight and embrace this agenda for a bold renewal of Conservatism. Safeguarding and shaping the future by addressing the challenges of today.

A party for the powerless with a revolutionary zeal to pick up the mantle of change.

Determined to take on vested interests and monopolies of power.

Determined to stand with the people every step of the way.

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

Suella Braverman: We need a Next Generation Manifesto to promote Conservative values to young voters

Suella Braverman is MP for Fareham

When I joined the Conservative Party as a teenager, some 20 years ago, it wasn’t very cool in Wembley, where I lived. When I was involved in my University Conservative branch at Cambridge in the early 2000s, Blair-supporting friends were constantly baffled by my political allegiance. Starting my career as a young barrister in London, I was the shy Tory in my Chambers of ‘right-on’ human rights lawyers. Despite the social stigma, I was inspired by Conservative values of freedom from an interventionist state, personal responsibility and choice, and aspiration for all regardless of background. I wonder whether today, under a Conservative government, things have changed?

The evidence suggests not.

This month’s excellent report produced by Onward is essential reading for any Conservative thinking about the future of our party. The diagnosis was clear: younger voters are generally not voting Conservative. The trend was reflected at the 2017 General Election, when 62 per cent of 18-24 year olds supported Labour whilst only 27 per cent supported the Conservatives. Yet even in 2018, when the Labour Party’s support fell by 12 percentage points, 18-24 year olds didn’t then choose the Conservative Party, but rather fell into the categories of ‘don’t know’ or ‘will not vote’.

The prognosis set out by Onward is compelling: it is getting worse. The age at which people start to vote Conservative has risen from 47 to 51 years old since the last election.

We can claim that the shallow and unrealistic promises made by Labour lured younger, naive voters. We can sit back and just wait, on the assumption that nature will take its course and inexperienced voters will eventually outgrow their innate left-leaning tendencies.

Or we can face up to the reality of steady decline in youth support for our party. A party cannot succeed when the average of its members is claimed to be 72 years old. We can urgently take action to win the next election and save our country from Corbyn by revitalising the case for centre-right, small-state, social justice conservatism to inspire a new generation in Britain.

The Party has made some progress. There are new Young Conservative branches springing up all over the country, recently for instance in Fareham, where energetic young people are joining our party. And many of our leading politicians are persuasively making the case for free markets, liberty and enterprise despite a growing consensus from the left that the state knows best and that raising taxes will solve our challenges.

However, we need to go further – and faster – to actually produce and advocate policies that directly affect the under-35s. And explain afresh why lower taxes and fewer regulations empower communities and produce wealth. How aspirational young people can realise their dreams by taking responsibility over their own lives and that the government doesn’t always have the panacea. Why, for Conservatives, compassion and fairness are intrinsically linked to duty, endeavour and opportunity for all.

Not only should our Young Conservative branches become hotbeds for political discussion, as well as campaigning, but whoever leads us into the next General Election should produce a specific ‘Next Generation Manifesto’ written for younger voters and published alongside our broader and principal Party Manifesto.

The Next Generation Manifesto would cover the main issues that we know younger voters prioritise. According to Bright Blue these are health (primarily mental health), climate change and education. [5]Not only have we made headway in these areas, but we should be amplifying our commitment to them in a way that reflects the main concerns of this age group.

Onward set out a 10-point plan to rejuvenate the centre-right amongst younger voters. Their report concluded that a majority of 18-24 year olds strongly support lower taxes, a government that lives within its means, controlling migration, protecting the environment, enhancing community and prioritising apprenticeships and vocational training over university. Here, we have the skeleton for the Next Generation Manifesto laid out.

The process for the formulation of a Next Generation Manifesto could also include our Young Conservatives as well as the traditional routes for preparing our manifesto at the national level. Local, regional and national Young Conservative policy meetings could start this process now by identifying what younger people are looking for from their political leaders so that the Next Generation Manifesto has legitimacy of representing the ‘youth voice’ whilst also rendering the incentive for younger member participation in our party tangible.

Conservative values are not anathema to younger people. It is up to us to communicate why.

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