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Iain Mansfield: Brexit by October 31. Stop using the Left’s language. And stand for skilled workers. Essentials for our next Prime Minister

Iain Mansfield is a former senior civil servant, winner of the Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit prize and a Conservative councillor candidate. He writes in a personal capacity.

Our next Prime Minister will take office at the most challenging time since the 1970s. Not only is there Brexit – an issue of fundamental national importance, that has destroyed the last two Prime Ministers and poses an existential challenge to the future of the Conservative Party – but the old political assumptions are changing. Across the West, traditional voter coalitions are shifting, as citizens reject centrist compromises. Flatlining productivity, unaffordable houses and millions of voters feeling abandoned, either culturally or economically, are just some of the challenges they will face.

Many of those who voted for David Cameron in 2010 are lost to the party, alienated by Brexit. In Britain today, age and education level are better predictors of a person’s vote than class. To win a general election, our next Prime Minister must forge a new coalition of voters that unites the traditional Tory shires with the left-behind Leave voters in the Midlands and North. Even more importantly, they must deliver authentic right-wing policies that address the causes of ordinary working people’s dissatisfaction. People want change and, if the Conservative Party does not deliver it, they are likely to seek answers in the flawed blandishments of Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism.

In that context, there are three essentials that our next Prime Minister must prioritise for the good of the people, the nation and the party:

  • Leave the EU by 31 October, on WTO terms if needed.
  • Openly champion conservative values rather than speaking the language of the left.
  • Reposition the party as the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes.

Leave the EU by 31 October, on WTO terms if needed

Not only is delivering on the outcome of the referendum a democratic imperative, it is vital for the continued existence of the party. Recent polling shows that, if we have not left the EU, the Conservatives are likely to suffer devastating losses in a general election; these figures could be even worse if large numbers of members, councillors or even entire associations defect to the Brexit Party. Many members have held on over the last few months purely out of hope that the next Prime Minister would deliver where May failed: another betrayal in October would see these members permanently lost.

Leaving with a deal is preferable, if some changes to the backstop can be agreed and Parliament will pass it. If not, as I have argued previously on this site, we have nothing to fear from No Deal. Preparations for such should be put into top gear on the first day in office. The Prime Minister must make clear that they will under no circumstances ask for an extension; and that they are, if needed, prepared to systematically veto any measure put forward by the EU on regular business if the UK is for some reason kept in. While every effort should be made to secure a deal, if it cannot be reached, Parliament must be faced with the simple choice of permitting a WTO exit or voting no confidence in the Prime Minister – a gamble, admittedly, but one that is preferable to another disastrous extension.

Openly champion conservative values rather than speaking the language of the left

In recent years too many Conservative politicians have allowed our opponents to define the playing field. We cannot beat the socialists by adopting the language and assumptions of socialism. Our next Prime Minister must stop feeding the narrative of identity, grievance and division, with its assumption that an individual’s potential is defined by their characteristics, that so-called ‘burning injustices’ are solely the responsibility of the state to address, and that the government always no best.

Changing the narrative will be a long endeavour. The systematic appointment of those with conservative values into key ministerially appointed positions; an authentically right-wing approach to policy making in Whitehall; and the withdrawal of state funding from the network of organisations that maintain the left’s grip on the policy narrative are essential. But over and above this, the Prime Minister must be willing to personally stand up and champion individual liberties and freedoms; to condemn progressive authoritarianism and to be visibly proud of Britain, our culture and the rich global heritage of our citizens.

Reposition the party as the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes

Young, metropolitan graduates may once have been natural Conservatives, but no longer. There is little hope of reversing this in the immediate aftermath of Brexit. Instead of squandering our effort here, our new Prime Minister should instead make the party the natural home of the skilled working and lower middle classes, particularly in the midlands and north.

Such voters have a natural affinity to the traditional conservative values of low tax and individual liberty, but also greatly value and rely day-to-day onn strong public services. This places the Conservatives in a difficult position after a decade of austerity: Labour made hay campaigning on cuts to police numbers and falls in per pupil spending in 2017. But how to fund significant increases in core services without raising taxes or alienating core Conservative voters, such as via the disastrous proposals on social care in the 2017 manifesto?

To find the funding the next Prime Minister must be bold enough to slay the progressive sacred cows that soak up billions annually in public funding. Three immediately spring to mind:

With the additional £15 billion plus a year, the Prime Minister could at a stroke increase police funding by 25 per cent (£3 billion), boost school funding per pupil by 20 per cent (£8 billion) and increase spending on social care by 20 per cent (£4 billion). And then split the proceeds of further growth between public services and tax cuts.

As well as this, we should champion the interests of the high street, enterprise and small businesses and oppose crony corporatism. Multinational companies that make use of aggressive tax avoidance, abuse their market position or actively work against UK sovereignty should not enjoy government grants, procurement or time in No. 10. Fundamentally, our next Prime Minister should spend more time listening to the Federation of Small Businesses and less time listening to the CBI.

Conclusion

As members, we have two candidates set before us. Both are able politicians and tested leaders who represent the best the Parliamentary party has to offer. As we assess who should be not just our next leader, but our Prime Minister, we should do so against their ability to deliver these vital elements.

Both have committed to delivering Brexit by October 31 – but which one has the ability, the genuine will and the courage to do so by any means necessary? Both are true-blue Conservatives – but which one will truly champion our values, taking the battle to our adversaries with the eloquence and conviction of a Thatcher or a Churchill? Both recognise the importance of reaching out to new voters – but which one can devise and push through the policies needed to unite the Tory shires with the Leave voters of the north? Consider carefully and cast your vote.

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

Sajid Javid: I’m in this race because I want to level the playing field, to lower the ladder to everyone.

Sajid Javid is the Home Secretary, and MP for Bromsgrove.

The first time I felt like an outsider was when I was six years old. My cousin told me we needed to change our walking route to school because of the ‘bad kids’ who supported the National Front.

At school, when I wanted to do the O levels and A levels I needed, I was told that kids like me should know their limits. When I was a new graduate seeking a job in the City, I met old-school bankers in old school ties who thought what my father did for a living was more important than what I could do. And when, after 20 years in business, I wanted to give back to my country by moving into politics and looked for a place in the only party I had ever supported, there were those who told me it just wasn’t for me, or that I should join Labour.

So I am used to people trying to tell me what I can’t do, and I’m used to proving people wrong. That is why I am optimistic and determined about what we Conservatives can do, together, to fix the problems we are facing as a party and as a country.

I have put myself forward to become the next Prime Minister of our United Kingdom because I believe I am uniquely placed to deliver on the three most significant challenges that our country faces. We need to deliver Brexit. We need to unify our party and our country. And, for the good of that country, we need to keep Labour out of government.

I’ve got a credible and honest plan to deliver Brexit. I’ve got the background, experience and positive vision for the future that will bring us together. And if we get all that right, then we will keep Jeremy Corbyn out of Number 10.

This is a moment for a new kind of leadership and a new kind of leader. We can’t risk going with someone who feels like the short-term, comfort-zone choice. Our party needs to “change to win”, not unlike we did a decade ago.

At a time when our country feels so divided, we cannot afford to divide it still further. We cannot call ourselves a One Nation party if whole swathes of that nation don’t think we share their values or understand their needs, whether that’s young people, people from minority backgrounds, or working-class people who don’t see anyone who knows what their lives are like.

I’m not in politics to be a player in the game of thrones. I want to make a difference. I take people at face-value. I’m more of a man of action than words. I first took an interest in politics when I realised the power government had to give – or not give – people the opportunities they deserve. That will be the acid test for my policy agenda.

For me the fundamental question about the role of the state is whether – as the socialists believe – government should tell people what to do and how to live, or whether – as Conservatives have always said – it should give them the freedom and support they need to achieve their potential. I know where I stand, but for too many people this has become a discussion about abstract ideas rather than very real lives.

I’m in this race because I want to level the playing field, to lower the ladder to everyone. For me hard work, public services, and my family were the success factors. I want everyone in this country to feel that if they have a go, they will have every opportunity to succeed. That requires world-class public services. For me, public services aren’t just names of government departments, they were my ladders of opportunity.

My biggest priority would be education. Our schools, colleges and universities are the biggest engines of social justice we have. I recently laid out a long-term plan for education, ensuring that every child has the chance to get on in life. We need an education system which supports our FE colleges, encourages skills and apprenticeships and allows lifelong learning to become the norm.

We also need to reset our relationship with teachers and other public sector workers, like nurses and the police. I have committed to significantly increasing resourcing for our police, providing enough to get an additional 20,000 officers on our streets.

If we want world-class public services, we need a vibrant economy to pay for them. That means a low tax economy, and a Conservative Government which backs business, rewarding those who work hard and take a chance. It means we need to invest in growth.

I have outlined plans for an ambitious new £100 billion National Infrastructure Fund, to invest in projects which will ensure the British economy is fit for the future. It would prioritise projects outside London and the South East, recognising that we need to rebalance the economy, and deliver economic growth all around the country. This, in turn this will help us build a more united country.

This does not just depend upon economic growth. We must also focus on the root causes which damage life chances. The measure of any society is how we help the most vulnerable. I would focus on early intervention, look at how we tackle addiction, and focus on rehabilitation of offenders.

I believe a vital part of this equation is the role of the family. I was lucky to have a family who constantly encouraged me, but so many problems stem from family breakdown. I would make it a priority to look at how we can strengthen families right across Government.

We also need to build a stronger national family, including overcoming the sense of haves and have-nots. The housing crisis has driven a huge wedge between generations. As Communities Secretary I increased building rates to the highest levels in decades, but we need to go much further, building hundreds of thousands more homes, whole new towns, and get home ownership back up.

I am passionate about our country because, for my family, Britain was a choice. They came here for freedom, security, opportunity and prosperity. It is because of these strengths that I have always been an optimist about Britain’s future. And I believe if we can unite both our party and our country, we can secure for future generations all the things that make this country a beacon for the world.

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

George Freeman: Our new book. In which forty Tory MPs band together to help revive conservatism

George Freeman is the founder of the 2020 Conservatives Group, the Big Tent Ideas Festival and Chair of the Conservative Policy Forum. He is MP for Mid-Norfolk.

The Conservative Party is in a hole. We need to stop digging. And start thinking seriously about the real causes of the EU referendum result, the grievances it spoke to – and set out a plan to honour that referendum result by leaving the European Union and setting out a bold programme of domestic reforms.

The EU referendum was a massive vote to reject the political status quo and embrace radical, small c conservative reform. The 17.4 million Labour, Conservative and unaligned voters who voted Leave were voting for radical change. The genius of the Leave campaign was its call to “take back control”. It spoke powerfully to huge swathes of the country feeling marginalised by a potent mix of globalisation, post-Crash austerity, an influx of low paid labour from Eastern Europe, the decline of traditional market towns and high streets, fear of economic marginalisation from automation and the gig economy and a deepening despair at a sense of injustice at the gap between the “unaccountable elites” and the ordinary citizen.

Brexit spoke to – and has enshrined – the principle divide in Britain which is no longer between Left or Right, or North and South, but between those with comfortable lives and those on the margin.

This is hardly surprising. After eight years in office overseeing painful local public spending cuts, in the wake of the £700billon bank bailout, MPs expenses scandal and Blair’s dishonest Iraq war dossier which have entrenched a sense of Parliament dangerously detached from the people it serves, the Brexit referendum was a roar for reform. A number of us had been warning David Cameron and George Osborne it was coming.

Handled properly it could – and should – have been a catalyst for that most difficult of political challenges: renewal in office. But Cameron misjudged the mood and treated Leavers with contempt. Theresa May misjudged the mood as a mandate for a toxic combination of hardline anti-business UKIP rhetoric and bureaucratic Brexit bungling.

Now we choose a new leader in the teeth of a deepening public anger and pressure – whipped up by Farage and Banks – the Dick Dastardly and Mutley of British politics – to embrace the “kamikaze” approach of an anti-business No Deal Brexit.

Get this wrong, and we risk the destruction of the Conservative Party for a generation: losing our professional, business, metropolitan and liberal supporters to the Liberal Democrats, our Leave supporters to the Brexit Party and those who just want competence in office to stay at home in despair.

If we are to avoid gifting a broken Brexit Britain to Jeremy Corbyn, John Mcdonnell and Len McClusky, the next Conservative leader has to do three things:

  • Deliver an EU Withdrawal which a majority of moderate mainstream British voters in the centre ground can support
  • Embark on some bold domestic reforms to tackle the legitimate grievances which fuelled the Referendum vote
  • Restore some grip, vision, inspiration and unity to a divided country and Party.

The scale of the revolt against the status quo demands bold reform. Not the technocratic tinkering and endless self-congratulatory initiative-launching of Ministers looking busy on Instragram, but real reform.

This is a 1975, 1945, 1905 moment of profound disruption. The old order will be replaced by a new order. The only question is who will shape it? Can the Conservative Party make this a moment of bold and inspiring renewal in the same way that Mrs Thatcher and Keith Joseph did in 1975, Attlee, Churchill, Beveridge and Butler did in 1945, and Churchill and the Liberals did in 1905 to see of socialism by creating pensions and national insurance?

Too often, we forget that the great institutions we cherish as permanent were once mere ideas – whether the NHS, the BBC, the London Docklands, universal suffrage, the Right to Buy or the privatisation of the old state industries. They were bold ideas which reshaped a whole generation and quickly became permanent fixtures.

When was the last time any modern politician had an idea on the scale of any of these? We now face a genuine battle of ideas with a resurgent hard left and we need urgently to rediscover the power of political imagination.

So what would a bold programme of Conservative reform look like today? In our book Britain Beyond Brexit: a New Conservative Vision for a New Generation, published today by the Centre for Policy Studies, I and forty MPs from all sides of the party – Leave and Remain, North and South, left and right, urban and rural – have set out a collection of pieces to frame that programme.

Our book sets out a range of policy proposals across six defining themes we believe must be at the centre of a coherent and compelling narrative for the New Conservatism: identity, opportunity, enterprise, social justice, security and citizenship.

Of course, many may ask: is the Conservative Party capable of that task, amid the seemingly endless and deepening divisions of the Brexit civil war?

The successes and failures of a post-Brexit new conservatism will be based on understanding the profound societal, economic and technological changes coming at us. Not how we return to the old dividing lines of the 1980s or 1950s, but how we address the profound challenges of our age: issues such as globalisation, digitalisation, genetic engineering, sustainable development, religious extremism and the traumatic rupture of the crash and its legacy on our public finances.

We have got to be brave enough to tackle the big issues of the day. Low and fragile growth. A fragmented health and care system. Structural deficit. Intergenerational unfairness. Deepening anxiety, disillusionment and despair. Rising pressure on weary public servants in creaking public services. Stubborn ghettos of low aspiration and deprivation. Housing unaffordability, homelessness and small town decline. Sluggish infrastructure. Bad planning.

For our elderly – and the families and community of carers who look after them, we need a fair system of funding and providing elderly care. For the young, the urgent priority is addressing housing and the wider issue of economic disenfranchisement. Put simply, we’ve built an economy where the principal mechanism for building economic security – owning a home – is getting beyond the reach of all but the most privileged. Is it any wonder that a whole generation of millennial voters – with little or no chance of acquiring a house or any capital – are seduced by the rhetoric of anti-capitalism?

We face a genuinely historic challenge: are we going to make Brexit a moment of catalytic renewal of conservatism and our nation? Or a moment of annihilation by a new alignment of a new generation of voters?

To avoid a decade of decline in a post-Brexit Britain run by Corbyn, we urgently need a new conservatism for a new generation.

I hope our book will help light the way.

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

Neil O’Brien: How our new leader should use our fiscal firepower to promote Conservative values

Neil O’Brien is MP for Market Harborough and is a board member of Onward.

One of the first big decisions for our next leader will be how to play the Spending Review.

There are some massive decisions to make just weeks after the new Prime Minister arrives, and these choices should be at the heart of the current leadership election. The first is about how fast to reduce debt.

After nine years of difficult decisions, Government debt is forecast to fall from 83 per cent to 73 per cent GDP over the next five years. That means scope to cut tax and increase spending in a prudent way in the near term, while keeping debt as a share of GDP falling.

How should we use this fiscal firepower we’ve built up?  We should use it to promote Conservative values. The Spending Review should fund good public services. It should back business, but in a way that helps poor areas. It should help support family life, and help those on low incomes to earn more, and keep more of what they earn.

Let’s start with public services first.

Conservatives must be the party of law and order. We now have room to increase police numbers and fulfil pledges we made in opposition about increasing prison sentences. That requires investing in more prison places. But because the police and prison budgets are relatively small (£14 and £4 billion respectively, out of total spending of £840 billion), it wouldn’t cost much to invest in fighting crime.

School spending is at a record high, but pupil numbers are growing fast. After accounting for inflation, school funding per student is eight per cent below its peak in 2015.  We should take real spending per pupil back to its peak and keep it there. That would cost about £4.6bn extra a year by 2022-23. It would be a good investment, and shut down the scare stories put about by the hard left.

The second big thing we need to do is to get the economy moving.

We should learn from Ireland.  Between 1990 and 2017 Ireland grew its Gross National Income per capita from 25 per cent below the UK level to 45 per cent above it.

How did they overtake us? Relative to the size of its economy, Ireland attracted four times more inward investment than the UK.  Those new factories and offices have transformed productivity, putting rocket boosters under Irish wages. Ireland’s low rate of corporation tax, just 12.5%, has been a magnet for investment.

Since 2010 we’ve cut the UK Corporation Tax rate from 28 per cent to 19 per cent, and it’s scheduled to fall to 17 per cent in 2020. We should finish the job, and cut it to the Irish rate, showing that Britain is open for business.

But it would be no good having an economy that’s only strong in some areas, or for some people.

A report I have out today for the think tank Onward, Firing On All Cylinders, presents clear evidence that more balanced economies are richer overall. There are no large countries which have a more regionally imbalanced economy than the UK, and are also richer than the UK.

It’s not hard to understand why. In an unbalanced economy resources like land and infrastructure are overloaded in some places, but underused elsewhere. Because people (particularly lower skilled workers) don’t simply leave their homes in the face of local economic problems, having greater distances between unemployed workers and job opportunities creates problems, and high unemployment can lock in patterns of worklessness.

Politicians often talk about rebalancing the economy (particularly since the referendum) but policies to do so have often failed.
Labour’s approach didn’t work. Rather than moving a few back-office jobs in the public sector to poor areas, it’s the private sector we need to grow.

We should learn from the way that Margaret Thatcher used investment tax breaks to lure Nissan to invest in Sunderland, transforming not just wages locally, but a whole moribund industry.

My report finds Britain’s tax treatment of investment is the least generous of any G20 country, helping explain why investment and productivity in Britain are so much lower than competitors.

Fixed investment in Britain has been lower than the OECD average in every year but one since 1960, while rising countries like South Korea have nine times more robots per manufacturing worker than the UK, making them much more competitive.

But there’s a double whammy from a tax system hostile to investment: it’s particularly bad for poorer regions, because they are more reliant on manufacturing, which requires twice as much capital investment per worker as the rest of the economy. My report shows how Britain’s unusual tax system helps explain why Britain has de-industrialised more than any other G20 country since 1990, hitting poorer areas hardest.

While manufacturing accounted for around a quarter of productivity growth nationally since 1997, it provided 40-50 per cent of productivity growth in poorer regions like Wales, the West Midlands and North West.

As numerous business groups have argued, we should cut tax on investment. Plus we should go even further in cutting it in poorer regions, to attract inward investment there.

We should give the Department of International Trade a new mandate to drive inward investment to poorer places and also rebalance the government’s most growth-enhancing spending. At present the types of government spending with the greatest potential to spur growth are too concentrated on areas that are already successful.

Finally, the Spending Review must make sure working people feel the benefits of growth in their own pockets.

With the Income Tax Personal Allowance now at £12,500, compared to a National Insurance threshold around £8,600, raising the threshold for National Insurance would help more poor households than raising the Personal Allowance.

Families with children are twice as likely to be poor, because there are more mouths to feed, so helping working families with children on low incomes should be a high priority.

Until the 1970s we used to recognise children in the tax system, recognising that having children reduces your ability to pay tax.  It’s time to start doing so again, because Conservatives should support family life as well as hard work.

We should raise the National Insurance Primary Threshold to £13,000 for people with children. That would increase post-tax income by up to £1,100 for a two-earner couple.

And we shouldn’t stop there. Our other great tool to help low income workers is Universal Credit. We should cut tax further for the poorest working families by turning UC into “UC Plus”. That means dramatically increasing UC Work Allowances and creating a separate Work Allowance for second earners, meaning people keep more of what they earn.

UC Plus would increase incomes for working households by up to a further £4,300 for those who benefit most.

We should put the poorest at the front of the queue for tax cuts because we can see from our previous reforms that cutting tax for the lowest paid creates a double win: it increases incomes directly, but also encourages work and increases employment.

I believe strong economies are built on broad foundations: more geographically balanced economies are stronger overall; and economies where all groups see the benefits of growth have higher employment. In short, a strong economy is one that is firing on all cylinders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, populism leads to a more divided society.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will happen, one day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Halfon: Stop calling Corbyn a Marxist

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

Conservatives have got to stop calling Jeremy Corbyn a Marxist. Not because he isn’t from the most socialist part of the socialist wing of the Labour Party. Nor to appease the approach that the Opposition leader stands for.

But simply because that the term doesn’t resonate with the public – certainly not with the younger generation.

I don’t meet many people these days who have a strong predilection for or against Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky…or Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela for that matter. In the streets of Harlow, and elsewhere, voters will not be convinced of the ills of Corbyn by hearing, “Don’t vote for Labour because he is a Marxist”. Such terminology means very little to most ordinary folk.

With the same end, Tories fall into the trap of regularly describing Labour’s programme as “hard Left”. Again, as well as being unintelligible to most members of the public, what on earth does this actually mean? Outside the Westminster village, people who are not as politically engaged aren’t thinking in terms of ‘the hard Left’ or ‘Marxists’, if they even understand the origins of these labels, at all (though they may well think of Corbyn as more extreme than his predecessors).

During the 2017 election, the attack dogs at CCHQ focused on Corbyn’s “extremism” and the Labour leadership’s apparent close links with the IRA, Hamas and Hezbollah. Reams and reams of newspaper coverage (which still continues) emphasised the Labour leader’s alleged terrorist and neo-Communist tentacles.

The electorate’s indifference to all this was clear to see. Families were more worried about school funding, police on the streets, and whether their children could have free tuition at university – to all of which, of course, we had very little response.

Whilst Conservatives were branding Labour’s 2017 manifesto as one of the most left-wing since Michael Foot, the public were just hearing about an end to austerity, more money for health and education and better train services.

So our attack lines on Labour need to be reimagined.

First, we should describe what Labour in Government would mean for our country. Rather than putting Corbyn under an intellectual umbrella of Marxist/Communist philosophy, which has proven unrelatable, far better to set out how Labour would be damaging the economy, in turn damaging public services and damaging our country’s security? Our message is clear: Labour would damage Britain.

Second, Tories can make a virtue out of the fact that Corbyn’s Labour (unlike that of the Blair and Brown years) make no hard choices. In contrast, the Conservatives take difficult decisions when they need to be made; not because they want to, but for the sake of economy – a relatable stance for those millions of hardworking families worrying also making decisions about how to spend money wisely.

Third, greater emphasis must be placed on Corbyn’s threat to public services and the cost of living. Under a Labour Government, the country will run out of money or, as Margaret Thatcher more accurately described, “other people’s money”. No funds for our hospitals, schools and police and no finance to hand back the people their own money in the form of tax cuts makes for some uncomfortable reading.

People are afraid of economic upheaval and, as shown by some Conservatives in Canada, it is possible to make the case that strong public services depend upon a robust economy. Just imagine a Tory Party political broadcast of a hospital and NHS in crisis because the country has no money.

Fourth, the Conservatives need to focus on national security. Merely arguing Corbyn is a hard-Left Trotskyite who wants to get rid of our nuclear weapons does not work. People care deeply about security and seek confidence in a strong defence. A damaged economy means no money for proper funding of our armed forces, nor to protect our families against the evils of ISIS, Putin, Iran et al.

The anti-semitism crises that has infected the Labour body politic does hit home, and undermines Labour’s aim to be a values-based party. Whilst tragic, it is also poignant, leaving a nasty taste in the mouth of voters as to what the Labour Party stands for. But that is very different to proclaiming its anti-semitism as a means of shouting that Corbyn is a Marxist.

Of course, in the Conservative salons and think tanks, there should be continued reflection about Marxism, communism and the philosophical roots of Corbyn’s socialism. Perhaps even a Museum of Communism as a way of remembrance of all the horrors and many millions of deaths that the ideology has caused. This would be a good way of educating voters of the horrors that communism led to. Nevertheless, attacking Her Majesty’s Opposition Party simply won’t cut the mustard with voters.

So, please put the unreconstructed Marxist monikers to one side, focus on developing our own compassionate Conservative brand and develop a credible attack on Corbyn’s Labour – something that can really resonate with millions of our fellow countrymen and women.

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