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Building the Perfect Meal With Sheep Lungs and a Suitcase

Westlake Legal Group 00haggis-5-facebookJumbo-v2 Building the Perfect Meal With Sheep Lungs and a Suitcase smuggling Sheep Scotland International Trade and World Market haggis Black Markets

Some smugglers drive it across the border from Canada. Others sneak it through airports or send it in the mail, wrapping the contraband in T-shirts and towels to deceive the authorities. A few even make it at home.

But this is no international drug ring. It is the black market for Scottish haggis, a savory pudding of boiled sheep innards wrapped in a sheep’s stomach.

On Saturday, Scots across the world will dine on haggis to celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns, the 18th-century Scottish poet. But for haggis purists in the United States, celebrating Burns Night can be a challenge. Since the 1970s, the Department of Agriculture’s food-safety division has banned the sale of sheep lungs, which give traditional haggis its distinctive crumbly texture.

Many of the millions of Americans with Scottish ancestry have happily settled for an increasingly wide array of lung-less haggis (or, repulsed by the thought of eating sheep innards, avoided the dish entirely). For decades, however, a small but impassioned contingent has resorted to illicit methods to bring authentic haggis onto American soil, motivated by a commitment to tradition and a fondness for the taste and texture of boiled lung.

“If people want something, they’re going to get it,” said Patrick Angus Carr, the chairman of the New York branch of the Saint Andrew’s Society, a Scottish heritage group. “How much cocaine and fentanyl is smuggled into the country every day?”

Some of the haggis smugglers are ordinary expats nostalgic for a taste of home. Others are butchers or even famous chefs. Nick Nairn, a celebrity chef in Scotland, made his name in the 1990s as the youngest Scot to win a Michelin star, and once cooked birthday lunch for Queen Elizabeth. But he has also engaged in occasional freelance haggis smuggling. For three years in the mid-2000s, Mr. Nairn brought haggis into New York for a wealthy client’s Burns Night celebration, packing the sausage into a black, hard-shell suitcase.

Twice, he made it through the airport without a hitch. But even the best-laid schemes of haggis smugglers can quickly go awry. On his third trip, Mr. Nairn, groggy and hung over after a few too many glasses of wine on the plane, noticed an airport sniffer dog running toward his bag.

“You just kind of crap yourself, because it’s officialdom, and obviously you’ve done something wrong,” Mr. Nairn said in a recent interview. “You don’t muck about in the U.S. when it comes to that sort of stuff.”

Mr. Nairn’s haggis was confiscated — and later incinerated, an airport official told him — but he avoided a fine.

Such incidents are common in the haggis black market. The full extent of the smuggling is unclear, but anecdotal evidence suggests that a fair number of Americans have crossed the border into Canada to buy haggis made with lungs. (While the use and importation of animal lungs are banned in Canada, some butchers there have been known to sell authentic haggis anyway.) Others have gone further: slaughtering a lamb themselves, then extracting the lungs and making haggis at home.

Over the last four years, United States customs officials have seized around 17,300 “ruminant byproducts” at airports across the country and land crossings along the Canadian border — a total that includes haggis as well as other types of animal imports, including certain goat and elk products, according to agency records.

That figure is a small fraction of the more than 1.4 million agricultural products confiscated at those same ports of entry since 2015. But at least some illicit haggis makes it past American authorities. Paul Bradshaw, a Toronto butcher who learned his trade from a “haggis master” in Scotland, said he had sold authentic haggis to hundreds of Americans.

“You can kind of get away with it,” Mr. Bradshaw said. “I would just label it ‘lamb sausage’ if I knew they were crossing the border.”

Mr. Bradshaw stopped selling haggis in 2017 to focus on other parts of his business, but he said he planned to continue making it at home, mailing the sheep innards to his family in Florida in boxes labeled “clothing” or “gifts.”

A newcomer to the world of international haggis smuggling might be forgiven for wondering why anyone would consider breaking the law to obtain an animal lung. For some Burns Night devotees, however, the historical roots of haggis exert a strong emotional pull: Before Burns helped popularize it in his poem “Address to a Haggis,” the dish was typically consumed by peasants who had to use every part of the sheep to make the most of scarce resources.

“I wanted to do everything as authentic as possible,” said Blair Watkins, a teacher in Virginia who holds an annual Burns Night celebration for his friends. This month, after a butcher refused to sell him sheep lungs, Mr. Watkins went to a nearby farm and slaughtered a lamb himself.

“We should utilize everything that we can,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Other purists insist that no substitute can adequately replace the texture or taste of lung.

“It’s a bit dirty-tasting,” said Ben Reade, a Scottish chef who once smuggled a suitcase full of sheep innards into Denmark. “It probably tastes a little bit like a sheep’s breath smells.”

Haggis smugglers often complain of a single American “import ban.” Really, though, haggis is subject to two prohibitions.

Since 1971, the Department of Agriculture has banned the production and importation of animal lungs because of the risk that gastrointestinal fluid might leak into them during the slaughtering process, raising the likelihood of food-borne illness. And in 1989, the government banned imports of beef and lamb from regions, including Britain, affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease.

Scottish butchers have fought these bans for decades, arguing that the American government’s food-safety concerns are exaggerated. Now there is some hope that Brexit will revive the debate. Once it leaves the European Union, Britain will seek to negotiate a trade deal with the United States, which could open the door to renewed discussion of the haggis prohibitions.

“It is still the case that, you know, the United States of America, the people of the United States of America, don’t eat any British lamb or beef or haggis from Scotland,” the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, said at a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence in September. “We think we could free up the U.S. market.”

Still, not all haggis devotees believe that the sausage has to come from Scotland or even contain lung. Over the last two decades, several American companies have developed alternatives to the traditional haggis recipe, replacing the lungs with ingredients like beef liver.

Scottish Gourmet USA, a North Carolina company that uses liver in its lung-less haggis, supplies major Burns Night celebrations across the country, shipping thousands of boxes a year, said Anne Robinson, the company’s founder.

Still, Ms. Robinson said, she continues to get calls and emails every year from Scots whose haggis has been confiscated or who want advice on obtaining lung.

“They ask me: ‘What can I do? How can I do it?’” she explained. “And I say: ‘You’ll have to find your own local butcher who will actually sell you whatever parts you need. Or you’ll have to make it yourself and butcher your own lamb.’”

Either that, or take your chances at the airport. About 15 years ago, Matthew McAllister, a native Glaswegian working in Connecticut, wanted to take Scottish haggis to an office potluck.

Over Christmas vacation, he bought haggis from a butcher in Glasgow, and carefully covered it with T-shirts. But when he landed at Newark and retrieved his luggage, his suitcase was wrapped in tape, with a notice explaining that items had been removed.

“It felt like a part of my home had been taken from me,” he said.

Mr. McAllister showed up at the potluck empty-handed. As the group munched on samosas, he explained that the boiled sheep innards he had tried to bring from Scotland had been confiscated.

“They all laughed,” he recalled, “and said this was probably the best thing that could’ve happened.”

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

For Haggis Purists in the U.S., the Law Is No Obstacle

Westlake Legal Group 00haggis-5-facebookJumbo-v2 For Haggis Purists in the U.S., the Law Is No Obstacle smuggling Sheep Scotland International Trade and World Market haggis Black Markets

Some smugglers drive it across the border from Canada. Others sneak it through airports or send it in the mail, wrapping the contraband in T-shirts and towels to deceive the authorities. A few even make it at home.

But this is no international drug ring. It is the black market for Scottish haggis, a savory pudding of boiled sheep innards wrapped in a sheep’s stomach.

On Saturday, Scots across the world will dine on haggis to celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns, the 18th-century Scottish poet. But for haggis purists in the United States, celebrating Burns Night can be a challenge. Since the 1970s, the Department of Agriculture’s food-safety division has banned the sale of sheep lungs, which give traditional haggis its distinctive crumbly texture.

Many of the millions of Americans with Scottish ancestry have happily settled for an increasingly wide array of lung-less haggis (or, repulsed by the thought of eating sheep innards, avoided the dish entirely). For decades, however, a small but impassioned contingent has resorted to illicit methods to bring authentic haggis onto American soil, motivated by a commitment to tradition and a fondness for the taste and texture of boiled lung.

“If people want something, they’re going to get it,” said Patrick Angus Carr, the chairman of the New York branch of the Saint Andrew’s Society, a Scottish heritage group. “How much cocaine and fentanyl is smuggled into the country every day?”

Some of the haggis smugglers are ordinary expats nostalgic for a taste of home. Others are butchers or even famous chefs. Nick Nairn, a celebrity chef in Scotland, made his name in the 1990s as the youngest Scot to win a Michelin star, and once cooked birthday lunch for Queen Elizabeth. But he has also engaged in occasional freelance haggis smuggling. For three years in the mid-2000s, Mr. Nairn brought haggis into New York for a wealthy client’s Burns Night celebration, packing the sausage into a black, hard-shell suitcase.

Twice, he made it through the airport without a hitch. But even the best-laid schemes of haggis smugglers can quickly go awry. On his third trip, Mr. Nairn, groggy and hung over after a few too many glasses of wine on the plane, noticed an airport sniffer dog running toward his bag.

“You just kind of crap yourself, because it’s officialdom, and obviously you’ve done something wrong,” Mr. Nairn said in a recent interview. “You don’t muck about in the U.S. when it comes to that sort of stuff.”

Mr. Nairn’s haggis was confiscated — and later incinerated, an airport official told him — but he avoided a fine.

Such incidents are common in the haggis black market. The full extent of the smuggling is unclear, but anecdotal evidence suggests that a fair number of Americans have crossed the border into Canada to buy haggis made with lungs. (While the use and importation of animal lungs are banned in Canada, some butchers there have been known to sell authentic haggis anyway.) Others have gone further: slaughtering a lamb themselves, then extracting the lungs and making haggis at home.

Over the last four years, United States customs officials have seized around 17,300 “ruminant byproducts” at airports across the country and land crossings along the Canadian border — a total that includes haggis as well as other types of animal imports, including certain goat and elk products, according to agency records.

That figure is a small fraction of the more than 1.4 million agricultural products confiscated at those same ports of entry since 2015. But at least some illicit haggis makes it past American authorities. Paul Bradshaw, a Toronto butcher who learned his trade from a “haggis master” in Scotland, said he had sold authentic haggis to hundreds of Americans.

“You can kind of get away with it,” Mr. Bradshaw said. “I would just label it ‘lamb sausage’ if I knew they were crossing the border.”

Mr. Bradshaw stopped selling haggis in 2017 to focus on other parts of his business, but he said he planned to continue making it at home, mailing the sheep innards to his family in Florida in boxes labeled “clothing” or “gifts.”

A newcomer to the world of international haggis smuggling might be forgiven for wondering why anyone would consider breaking the law to obtain an animal lung. For some Burns Night devotees, however, the historical roots of haggis exert a strong emotional pull: Before Burns helped popularize it in his poem “Address to a Haggis,” the dish was typically consumed by peasants who had to use every part of the sheep to make the most of scarce resources.

“I wanted to do everything as authentic as possible,” said Blair Watkins, a teacher in Virginia who holds an annual Burns Night celebration for his friends. This month, after a butcher refused to sell him sheep lungs, Mr. Watkins went to a nearby farm and slaughtered a lamb himself.

“We should utilize everything that we can,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Other purists insist that no substitute can adequately replace the texture or taste of lung.

“It’s a bit dirty-tasting,” said Ben Reade, a Scottish chef who once smuggled a suitcase full of sheep innards into Denmark. “It probably tastes a little bit like a sheep’s breath smells.”

Haggis smugglers often complain of a single American “import ban.” Really, though, haggis is subject to two prohibitions.

Since 1971, the Department of Agriculture has banned the production and importation of animal lungs because of the risk that gastrointestinal fluid might leak into them during the slaughtering process, raising the likelihood of food-borne illness. And in 1989, the government banned imports of beef and lamb from regions, including Britain, affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease.

Scottish butchers have fought these bans for decades, arguing that the American government’s food-safety concerns are exaggerated. Now there is some hope that Brexit will revive the debate. Once it leaves the European Union, Britain will seek to negotiate a trade deal with the United States, which could open the door to renewed discussion of the haggis prohibitions.

“It is still the case that, you know, the United States of America, the people of the United States of America, don’t eat any British lamb or beef or haggis from Scotland,” the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, said at a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence in September. “We think we could free up the U.S. market.”

Still, not all haggis devotees believe that the sausage has to come from Scotland or even contain lung. Over the last two decades, several American companies have developed alternatives to the traditional haggis recipe, replacing the lungs with ingredients like beef liver.

Scottish Gourmet USA, a North Carolina company that uses liver in its lung-less haggis, supplies major Burns Night celebrations across the country, shipping thousands of boxes a year, said Anne Robinson, the company’s founder.

Still, Ms. Robinson said, she continues to get calls and emails every year from Scots whose haggis has been confiscated or who want advice on obtaining lung.

“They ask me: ‘What can I do? How can I do it?’” she explained. “And I say: ‘You’ll have to find your own local butcher who will actually sell you whatever parts you need. Or you’ll have to make it yourself and butcher your own lamb.’”

Either that, or take your chances at the airport. About 15 years ago, Matthew McAllister, a native Glaswegian working in Connecticut, wanted to take Scottish haggis to an office potluck.

Over Christmas vacation, he bought haggis from a butcher in Glasgow, and carefully covered it with T-shirts. But when he landed at Newark and retrieved his luggage, his suitcase was wrapped in tape, with a notice explaining that items had been removed.

“It felt like a part of my home had been taken from me,” he said.

Mr. McAllister showed up at the potluck empty-handed. As the group munched on samosas, he explained that the boiled sheep innards he had tried to bring from Scotland had been confiscated.

“They all laughed,” he recalled, “and said this was probably the best thing that could’ve happened.”

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

Henry Hill: Johnson to spearhead pro-Union strategy with more visits to Scotland

Prime Minister plans more and longer visits north of the border

“Scots are set to see a lot more of Boris Johnson in 2020 as the Prime Minister seeks to strengthen the Union and up the UK Government’s involvement in Scotland”, according to the Herald.

Apparently Boris Johnson is planning on holding more Cabinet meetings north of the border, as well as making more visits and overnight stays, as part of his new and self-appointed role as Minister for the Union. According to one source that spoke to the paper, strengthening the United Kingdom will be one of the Government’s main domestic missions after January 31.

The regular visits serve two purposes. First, it is apparently hoped that Scots will warm to the Prime Minister if they see more of him, rather than merely the version of him that filters down through a broadly hostile political and media class.

Second, they aim to make Scotland appear a normal part of the prime-ministerial beat, rather than gifting the SNP the optics of such jaunts looking like official visits from a foreign potentate or remote “governor general”.

This will apparently fit into a broader effort to deliver a much more joined-up “constitutional strategy” for the Union than has previously been the case, combating a ‘silo mentality’ which has seen individual Whitehall departments operating in isolation. It will apparently also involve the British Government backing (and branding) more things such as infrastructure projects so that the tangible benefits of the Union are more apparent on the ground.

Hopefully this close material engagement will be matched by equally vigorous intellectual engagement with the state of the Union. As I wrote for The Critic this week, Johnson needs to wrest the thought-leadership of unionism away from the die-hard devolutionaries lest he end up defaulting to their non-solutions when the crunch comes, as David Cameron did.

One such figure is Gordon Brown, who popped up this week to insist that the key to keeping Scotland in the UK is yet more constitutional concessions to nationalist premises and the establishment of an elected senate.

Spotlight on Stormont’s lack of opposition

The Northern Ireland Assembly is back, alas. The various local parties might have almost immediately accused Julian Smith of essentially tricking them into returning (the demands for even more money were almost immediate) but too late, they’re committed for now.

With the initial will-they-won’t-theys disposed of, we now know that all five of the Province’s main parties – the pro-UK Demoratic Unionists and Ulster Unionists, the nationalist Sinn Fein and SDLP, and non-aligned Alliance – have taken up ministerial posts in the new Executive.

Yet this means that there will only be a grand total of five MLAs outside the governing coalition: two Greens, one apiece for the Traditional Unionist Voice and People Before Profit (both of which backed Leave, incidentally) and Claire Sugden, an Independent Unionist.

Owen Polley has written in the News Letter about how much easier it will be for ministers to circle the wagons now that the UUP and SDLP are inside the tent, even as Sinn Fein and the DUP are already facing charges of returning to the two-party ‘carve up’ that prevailed prior to the Assembly’s collapse. Meanwhile The Journal offers a different perspective, quoting academics who defend Stormont’s lack of formal oppisition.

It looks as if the best that can be hoped for, for now, is that increased Treasury vigilance over how public money is spent in Ulster – especially as Arlene Foster braces for the official findings on the “cash-for-ash” scandal – can offset the lack of domestic scrutiny.

But with the Northern Irish Office obviously committed to not taking responsibility for the Province, it is not obvious that the Government will have the leverage necessary to drive change through risk-averse, pork-barrelling local leaders.

In other news, the European Union has threatened to impose sanctions if Boris Johnson doesn’t enforce the internal border he has signed up to between Northern Ireland and the mainland, and Stormont’s finance minister is apparently not pursuing a cut in corporation tax.

Scottish Conservatives offers SNP a budget deal

Ever since losing their majority in the 2016 Holyrood elections, the Scottish Nationalists have passed their budgets with the assistance of their separatist allies, the Greens.

This has had the effect of dragging their economic policy somewhat leftwards, and so this year the Scottish Conservatives have drawn up an alternative. Murdo Fraser, the Tories’ shadow finance secretary, is talking up a return to something like the working arrangement that existed between the SNP and the Conservatives during the former’s first period of minority government after taking office in 2007.

In exchange for sparing Scotland various “madcap” Green proposals, the Tories would instead press to keep Scottish taxes harmonised with those in the rest of the UK, as well as a review of business rates. You can read Fraser’s case here.

However it may well be that the Greens end up rowing in behind the SNP regardless – they have previously been criticised for putting separatism before their own environmental agenda when push comes to shove.

In other news, Michelle Ballantyne has confirmed that she is “fighting to win” in the Tory leadership race, despite having initially entered it to prevent a coronation.

This week in the SNP

It’s been another fairly torrid week for the Nationalists. First, Nicola Sturgeon has bowed to MSPs’ demands for a full review into the Scottish education system.

Then an SNP MSP is under fire for refusing to represent constituents who oppose independence, whilst a former Nationalist minister has publicly argued that the First Minister could claim victory even in an unauthorised ‘wildcat’ referendum, arguing that the “political reality” would be independence even if the poll had been boycotted by unionists.

And there’s been a touch of sub-Stalinist history-editing over at the party’s official website, whose ‘History’ page no longer makes any reference whatsoever to Alex Salmond, the man who took them into government in Edinburgh, secured the 2014 referendum, and led the ‘Yes’ campaign. As good a sign as any of how the Nationalist leadership think his upcoming trial will go.

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

Henry Hill: Carlaw sets out his stall as the Scottish Tory leadership contest begins

Carlaw kicks off Scottish Conservative leadership contest…

Jackson Carlaw, the interim leader of the Scottish Tories, has launched his bid to win the position full-time with a warning to members about the extent to which the Party might need to change to win power.

The Daily Telegraph reports his saying that “even some well-established” policy areas might need to be jettisoned ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021. Plans to set out a ‘blue-collar’ agenda could include dropping the Conservatives’ long-standing opposition to free tuition fees in Scotland, despite the s

Although Carlaw does not support radical change to the Party’s structures, especially the link to the British Tories, he has won the backing of MSPs sympathetic to such ideas such as Murdo Fraser and Adam Tomkins.

Senior party figures were reportedly hoping crown Carlaw in order to avoid spending three of the remaining 15 months before the Holyrood elections focusing inwards. However Michelle Ballantyne, the party’s shadow social security minister and a former nurse, has declared her intention to run if she can get the requisite 100 nominations from the membership. Writing in the Telegraph, she set out how her life experience gives her the very ‘blue-collar’ credibility which Carlaw intends to strive for.

He remains the overwhelming favourite to win. The real question is how he intends to fight the 2021 elections, and whether any candidates who have kept their powder dry this time might push for the leadership in the event of a disappointing result.

…as Scotland makes its present felt in the Labour leadership battle

The launch of the Labour leadership contest was remarkable, in part, for the almost complete absence of Scotland from analysis about the party’s election defeat and its path back to power.

Happily this is no longer the case, but the resultant debate has put a spotlight on a long-standing but growing division within the party about – or indeed, whether – to combat Scottish nationalism.

In an interview on Good Morning Scotland Jess Phillips set out her opposition both to Scottish independence and to another referendum on the question. She added that, in her view, Labour has suffered for not having clear stances on key issues such as independence and Brexit – and is probably aware that the party’s remaining Scottish vote leans heavily towards the Union.

Another strongly pro-UK candidate, this time for the deputy position, is Ian Murray, the MP for Edinburgh South. He has held his seat amidst two Scottish Labour wipe-outs in part by distancing himself from the wider party – at least one of his leaflets apparently featured endorsements from the Spectator and the Daily Telegraph but not the Labour logo.

Murray has actually refused to rule out creating a separate Scottish party, although he has not ruled it in either. This idea has been more forcefully advocated by Monica Lennon, the Scottish Labour health spokesperson, who believes that the reason for the party’s poor performance is that it is a ‘branch office’ of the UK party. There is frankly not much evidence for this, but an external scapegoat for political woes is not normally a difficult sell.

Clive Lewis has gone even further. Writing in the pro-independence National newspaper, he backed not only a separate Scottish party but also argued that the UK party should not stand in the way of another independence referendum should the Scottish Government seek one. Meanwhile a Scottish trades union leader has urged Labour to go so far as backing independence.

Johnson stands firm against Sturgeon’s referendum demand

The Prime Minister has hit out at the Scottish Nationalists, accusing them of fixating on independence in order to distract from their “abundant failures” in government north of the border. Boris Johnson highlighted critical areas such as schools and education where the Scottish Parliament has overseen falling standards.

Meanwhile Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, has confirmed that he has received a request for a second referendum from Nicola Sturgeon.

However he has reportedly said that it would be “completely wrong” to give the Scottish Parliament authority to hold binding votes on separation whenever it wishes, arguing that this would lead to a series of ‘neverendums’ wherein the SNP simply re-staged the vote until they finally won.

This is correct, but the case against actually runs deeper than that. As I have written previously, granting Holyrood the power to quit the Union whenever it wishes actually undermines what even the most mercenary federalist deems one of the UK’s core functions: the pooling and sharing of resources. The fate of the British State must always ultimately rest in the hands of the British Parliament.

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

As of last week, the Tories are Britain’s working-class party

People will be picking through the aftermath of Thursday’s seismic election result for a long time to come, and perhaps no aspect of it more than the transformation of the class composition of the Conservative voter base.

The Tories led Labour in every social grade, and their lead was bigger amongst C2DE voters than their ABC1 counterparts. The class correlation with voting Labour, which has been weakening since 1997, has apparently finally disappeared altogether. Meanwhile the Opposition’s strongest results were amongst voters who earn between £40,000 and £70,000 a year, whilst the Conservatives enjoyed bigger leads amongst the <£20,000 and £20-40,000 groups than the £40-70,000 and £70,000+ groups.

All of this means that comparisons between Boris Johnson’s victory and Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 win are misleading. The Conservatives did have success wooing working-class voters in the Eighties, but Thatcher took office on the back of a commanding lead amongst the middle classes.

The Government clearly grasps the implications of this, namely that holding together the Party’s new coalition will require quite a different policy offer to what the Tories have typically offered in recent decades. This is doubly true if, as the evidence suggests, there is still scope to even further expand the Conservatives’ reach in old Labour heartlands.

A more left-leaning Toryism, which has already matched Thatcher’s high-water mark in Wales with room for growth, could also narrow the alleged ‘values divide’ which is so often trotted out to justify pushes for Scottish independence or ‘devo-max’.

It also poses an acute challenge to Labour, namely how to win back working-class seats lost to the Conservatives without exposing themselves to challenges from the Liberal Democrats or the Greens in their liberal, urban modern heartlands. It isn’t an impossible task – the Tories hold their new conquests alongside swathes of their traditional seats, after all – but it doesn’t yet look as if their current leadership contenders know how to meet it.

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

The Politics of And. Securing the Majority. 3) Wanted: a Department for the Union

he phrase is Tim Montgomerie’s.  He used to deploy it roughly as follows.  Yes, politics means making choices.  But they doesn’t always have to be either/or.  The Conservatives can have immigration control and international development.  Green growth and more fracking.  Same-sex marriage and transferable tax allowances.

The new majority Tory Government won’t necessarily smile on these examples.  But it will want to follow the principle.  To this end, ConservativeHome is reviving The Politics Of And.  In one series, we will examine Securing the Majority.  In another, Growing the Majority.  Boris Johnson will want to do both.

– – –

So Cimate Change is to come out of the Business Department. And Trade to go back in.  And DfID to go back into the Foreign Office.  And immigration to come out of the Home Office.  Or so the briefing tells us.

Yet nothing very much is apparent yet on how to respond to the bad Conservative election result in Scotland.  The Party is down by seats by more than half – from 13 to six.

It’s all the other way round in Wales, where the Tory representation is up from eight seats to fourteen.  The Party won 36 per cent of the vote, only five per cent less than Labour.

Meanwhile, the two main parties in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, performed poorly.  As David Shiels noted recently on this site, the province saw an anti-Brexit, anti-absentionist vote.

Leaving the EU will see new opportunities and challenges for the United Kingdom as a whole.

In Scotland, the new Government says No to a second independence referendum.  Good.  That argument will be harder to sustain if the SNP sweep the board in next year’s Scottish Parliament elections.

In Wales, the new Secretary of State, Simon Hart, and the Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly have new opportunities in a country whose electoral flavour is now more like, say, the Midlands than Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, there will be a settlement that leaves the province in much of the Single Market and with new east-west regulatory provision,

The new Government needs to think and act across the three territorial departments.

It also needs to harmonise whatever it does with continuing reform in England, which now hosts a sprawling patchwork of councils, mayors, police and crime commissioners.

Downing Street is mulling Lords reform to to give the UK’s constituent nations a greater stake at Westminster.  Reform will be part of the remit of the Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission announced in the manifesto.

Who will be in charge of shaping the Government’s response?  There is a Minister for the Constitution – Chloe Smith, now re-elected with an increased majority in Norwich North.

She is part of the Cabinet Office team, at the head of which sits Michael Gove who, as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has been in charge of No Deal preparations.

He will require a new role after January 31.

So the obvious move is to make him Secretary of State for the Constitution, leading the media fightback against the SNP, forming policy for the UK as a whole and perhaps continuing working out of the Cabinet Office.

We have published 15 ways to Strengthen the Union and Jack Airey of Policy Exchange has written on this site about the Union and infrastucture.

There is interest in Downing Street in some of these ideas, such as promoting the Union more proactively, and one move it might make it is to appoint Lord Caine to the Northern Ireland Office. Or to this new department.

We must resist the urge to recommend Gove as the solution to every presentational and policy problem.

But it is hard to think of another senior politician at Cabinet level with the necessary policy and presentational oomph, and who can work with the Welsh Conservatives, plus Jackson Carlaw and the Scottish Tories.

There may also be new post-Brexit opportunities for the Party in Northern Ireland.  For example, it is clear that there is a potential opening for a non-DUP pro-Union party in North Down.

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

How Vox Pub foresaw the Tory victory in England, but failed to predict defeat in Scotland

In vino veritas? Vox Pub spoke to drinkers in five constituencies during the general election campaign, to see which way opinion was moving. Did these drinkers offer a truthful indication of the final result?

The first visit, to West Bromwich, just over five weeks before polling day, was the most illuminating, for it showed that at this early stage Labour was already in desperate trouble. A woman in her forties who had “never been for the Conservatives” and always been “for the people” told Vox Pub:

“I will definitely vote for Boris, liar, cheat and fool! And for Brexit! I want to get out.”

A man, a bus driver, declared:

“Mr Boris Johnson, I like him. OK, he’s had a bit of argy-bargy with his other half, but that’s water under the bridge.

“Boris is having my vote without a shadow of a doubt. Round here, they’re all swinging to the Conservatives.

“It needs someone to kick Mr Watson [the local MP] off his pedestal.”

Tom Watson, who in 2017 held West Bromwich East for Labour with a majority of 7,713, did not wait to be kicked off his pedestal, but announced a day or two later he would not be standing again.

On 12th December, West Bromwich East was won by Nicola Richards for the Conservatives with a majority of 1,593, while in West Bromwich West a Labour majority of 4,460 became a Tory majority of 3,799. Vox Pub had noted on 6th November the passions which led to these results:

“Opinion polls tell us that Johnson is more popular than Corbyn. But what the polls cannot convey is the way people talk about Johnson, or the strength of their feeling about him and about the cause which for them he represents.

“These voters do not regard the Prime Minister as a saint. But they do regard him as the strongest champion for Brexit, a cause dear to them, and one which they are enraged to see other politicians deserting.”

The second visit, to Penzance, a month before polling day, revealed the desperate perplexity of Liberal Democrat voters in Cornwall who support Brexit.

Penzance is the largest town in St Ives, a constituency held by Derek Thomas for the Conservatives in 2017 with a majority of 312 over the Liberal Democrat candidate, Andrew George, who had himself been the MP from 1997-2015.

George was regarded as an admirable local representative, and was standing again this time. His problem was that the Liberal Democrats at national level had promised to revoke Brexit without even holding a referendum.

So many drinkers expressed their esteem for George that it was clear he might still win. But there was also a yearning in West Cornwall for a government that would actually get Brexit done. In the words of a fisherman who had stayed up all night with the skipper of his boat, the Ajax, watching the referendum result in 2016:

“All I want is can we please have a government that has some backbone. This whole Brexit has been an embarrassment. We look weak on the world stage.”

In the end, the desire for a strong Brexit government outweighed the respect felt for George, who lost by 4,284 votes. How infuriated he and other defeated West Country Lib Dems must feel with the national party.

The third visit, to Stirling, gave a completely misleading impression of how things would unfold there. In 2017 Stephen Kerr, for the Conservatives, won Stirling by 148 votes from the SNP.

Vox Pub reported, on the basis of conversations in two pubs at either end of the Raploch council housing estate, that the SNP “is losing support to both Labour and the Conservatives”.

This was wrong. The SNP won Stirling by 9,254 votes, with Conservative support down by only 650 votes, but Labour (which held Stirling from 1997-2015) falling from nearly 11,000 votes to only just over 4,000.

Vox Pub failed to pick this up. Instead of the Conservatives winning by entrenching themselves as the main Unionist party, the SNP won by entrenching themselves as the main anti-Conservative party.

The fourth report, from Bolton, just over a fortnight before polling day, provided an accurate account of how the election would play out there. In 2013, this site called for “a Conservatism for Bolton West”, a seat then held by Labour with a majority of 92.

In 2015, Chris Green won Bolton West for the Conservatives by 801 votes, which he increased to the still slender majority of 936 votes in 2017.

How much happier Green looked when ConHome met him during the 2019 campaign, for as he himself said:

“In 2017, the feedback was very positive, there were a significant number of Labour switchers, but then when things went wrong with the manifesto, the switchers were pushed away, we almost told those voters, ‘We don’t want your support.’

“Whereas this time so far we’ve been able to hold onto them.”

It became clear, after a number of conversations, not just that Green would hold Bolton West, but that the Conservatives were on course to gain another of the three Bolton seats:

“In Bolton, the Conservative vote is holding firm and the Labour vote is soft. If these trends continue until polling day, the Tories have good chances of taking Bolton North East.”

In the event, Green’s majority in Bolton West increased to 8,855, while Labour’s majority of 3,797 in Bolton North East was turned into a Conservative majority of 378.

The fifth and final outing, just over a week before polling day, was to Pimlico, in Cities of London and Westminster, where Chuka Umunna, a prominent Labour defector, was standing for the Liberal Democrats, and the Conservatives were defending a majority from 2017 of only 3,148.

Vox Pub found no evidence either that Umunna was breaking through, or that Labour was mounting a credible challenge. A voter who had arrived in London from Longford, in the Irish Republic, at the age of 17 said:

“I came over for a wedding and I got married myself.

“I worked in the gas all my life, saving lives. There were no f—ing foreigners around then. The Paddies had to do everything. I worked all my life, I worked my bollocks off, I never got time to get f—ing sick, not when you had to put the rent on the table.”

ConHome: “Who will you vote for in the election?”

The Irishman: “I’ve always voted Labour but the moment I saw Jeremy Corbyn I said no.

“I stopped voting for Labour when they sold off all the gold. The next thing you know they’ll be selling us down the river. They nearly bankrupted the country. You’ve got to vote for the Conservative.”

Labour had no economic credibility, and Nickie Aiken proceeded to win Cities of London and Westminster for the Conservatives by 3,943 votes, with Umunna in second place and Labour 1,472 votes behind him. But for that almost even split in the Opposition vote, the Conservatives would have been in trouble.

Vox Pub saw how four of these five contests could be expected to play out. Only in Scotland did we miss what was happening.

There is a warning here for English Conservatives, repeated a few days ago on ConHome by Andy Maciver. It is all too easy for a visitor from London to Scotland to fail to see what is going on, and to take an unduly optimistic view of Conservative prospects.

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

How Vox Pub foresaw the Tory victory in England, but failed to predict defeat in Scotland

In vino veritas? Vox Pub spoke to drinkers in five constituencies during the general election campaign, to see which way opinion was moving. Did these drinkers offer a truthful indication of the final result?

The first visit, to West Bromwich, just over five weeks before polling day, was the most illuminating, for it showed that at this early stage Labour was already in desperate trouble. A woman in her forties who had “never been for the Conservatives” and always been “for the people” told Vox Pub:

“I will definitely vote for Boris, liar, cheat and fool! And for Brexit! I want to get out.”

A man, a bus driver, declared:

“Mr Boris Johnson, I like him. OK, he’s had a bit of argy-bargy with his other half, but that’s water under the bridge.

“Boris is having my vote without a shadow of a doubt. Round here, they’re all swinging to the Conservatives.

“It needs someone to kick Mr Watson [the local MP] off his pedestal.”

Tom Watson, who in 2017 held West Bromwich East for Labour with a majority of 7,713, did not wait to be kicked off his pedestal, but announced a day or two later he would not be standing again.

On 12th December, West Bromwich East was won by Nicola Richards for the Conservatives with a majority of 1,593, while in West Bromwich West a Labour majority of 4,460 became a Tory majority of 3,799. Vox Pub had noted on 6th November the passions which led to these results:

“Opinion polls tell us that Johnson is more popular than Corbyn. But what the polls cannot convey is the way people talk about Johnson, or the strength of their feeling about him and about the cause which for them he represents.

“These voters do not regard the Prime Minister as a saint. But they do regard him as the strongest champion for Brexit, a cause dear to them, and one which they are enraged to see other politicians deserting.”

The second visit, to Penzance, a month before polling day, revealed the desperate perplexity of Liberal Democrat voters in Cornwall who support Brexit.

Penzance is the largest town in St Ives, a constituency held by Derek Thomas for the Conservatives in 2017 with a majority of 312 over the Liberal Democrat candidate, Andrew George, who had himself been the MP from 1997-2015.

George was regarded as an admirable local representative, and was standing again this time. His problem was that the Liberal Democrats at national level had promised to revoke Brexit without even holding a referendum.

So many drinkers expressed their esteem for George that it was clear he might still win. But there was also a yearning in West Cornwall for a government that would actually get Brexit done. In the words of a fisherman who had stayed up all night with the skipper of his boat, the Ajax, watching the referendum result in 2016:

“All I want is can we please have a government that has some backbone. This whole Brexit has been an embarrassment. We look weak on the world stage.”

In the end, the desire for a strong Brexit government outweighed the respect felt for George, who lost by 4,284 votes. How infuriated he and other defeated West Country Lib Dems must feel with the national party.

The third visit, to Stirling, gave a completely misleading impression of how things would unfold there. In 2017 Stephen Kerr, for the Conservatives, won Stirling by 148 votes from the SNP.

Vox Pub reported, on the basis of conversations in two pubs at either end of the Raploch council housing estate, that the SNP “is losing support to both Labour and the Conservatives”.

This was wrong. The SNP won Stirling by 9,254 votes, with Conservative support down by only 650 votes, but Labour (which held Stirling from 1997-2015) falling from nearly 11,000 votes to only just over 4,000.

Vox Pub failed to pick this up. Instead of the Conservatives winning by entrenching themselves as the main Unionist party, the SNP won by entrenching themselves as the main anti-Conservative party.

The fourth report, from Bolton, just over a fortnight before polling day, provided an accurate account of how the election would play out there. In 2013, this site called for “a Conservatism for Bolton West”, a seat then held by Labour with a majority of 92.

In 2015, Chris Green won Bolton West for the Conservatives by 801 votes, which he increased to the still slender majority of 936 votes in 2017.

How much happier Green looked when ConHome met him during the 2019 campaign, for as he himself said:

“In 2017, the feedback was very positive, there were a significant number of Labour switchers, but then when things went wrong with the manifesto, the switchers were pushed away, we almost told those voters, ‘We don’t want your support.’

“Whereas this time so far we’ve been able to hold onto them.”

It became clear, after a number of conversations, not just that Green would hold Bolton West, but that the Conservatives were on course to gain another of the three Bolton seats:

“In Bolton, the Conservative vote is holding firm and the Labour vote is soft. If these trends continue until polling day, the Tories have good chances of taking Bolton North East.”

In the event, Green’s majority in Bolton West increased to 8,855, while Labour’s majority of 3,797 in Bolton North East was turned into a Conservative majority of 378.

The fifth and final outing, just over a week before polling day, was to Pimlico, in Cities of London and Westminster, where Chuka Umunna, a prominent Labour defector, was standing for the Liberal Democrats, and the Conservatives were defending a majority from 2017 of only 3,148.

Vox Pub found no evidence either that Umunna was breaking through, or that Labour was mounting a credible challenge. A voter who had arrived in London from Longford, in the Irish Republic, at the age of 17 said:

“I came over for a wedding and I got married myself.

“I worked in the gas all my life, saving lives. There were no f—ing foreigners around then. The Paddies had to do everything. I worked all my life, I worked my bollocks off, I never got time to get f—ing sick, not when you had to put the rent on the table.”

ConHome: “Who will you vote for in the election?”

The Irishman: “I’ve always voted Labour but the moment I saw Jeremy Corbyn I said no.

“I stopped voting for Labour when they sold off all the gold. The next thing you know they’ll be selling us down the river. They nearly bankrupted the country. You’ve got to vote for the Conservative.”

Labour had no economic credibility, and Nickie Aiken proceeded to win Cities of London and Westminster for the Conservatives by 3,943 votes, with Umunna in second place and Labour 1,472 votes behind him. But for that almost even split in the Opposition vote, the Conservatives would have been in trouble.

Vox Pub saw how four of these five contests could be expected to play out. Only in Scotland did we miss what was happening.

There is a warning here for English Conservatives, repeated a few days ago on ConHome by Andy Maciver. It is all too easy for a visitor from London to Scotland to fail to see what is going on, and to take an unduly optimistic view of Conservative prospects.

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

Andy Maciver: Johnson must change the Scottish Conservatives’ policy on a second independence referendum

Andy Maciver is Director of Message Matters and a former Head of Communications for the Scottish Conservatives.

Westlake Legal Group Maggie-Simpson-300x158 Andy Maciver: Johnson must change the Scottish Conservatives’ policy on a second independence referendum Unionism The Union SNP Scottish referendum Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Nicola Sturgeon MSP nationalism Highlights Devolution Conservative strategy Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   A new movie hit theatres late on Thursday. Landslide 2: The return of Maggie Simpson, follows on from the 2015 original, when Britain’s electoral map first bore a striking resemblance to the cartoon character. Having abandoned their plans for a sequel in 2017, the nationalist directors of the franchise, although not quite perfecting the shade of yellow on Maggie’s face, have benefited from stronger performances from the blue actors in the south to create the starkest difference we have yet seen.

Away from the movies, we hear cries of ‘constitutional crisis’. I tend to find this slightly exaggerated, but what is certainly true is that we are at a constitutional crossroads once again.

A decade ago, the protagonists were Alex Salmond and David Cameron. Readers of this website may not like to admit it, but the truth is that Salmond came out on top of that contest. Scotland may have voted No in 2014, but it did so narrowly and after a calamitous campaign, led by Downing Street on the advice of past-it peers and people who only went to Scotland on day-trips, which through its unthinking adherence to the constitutional status quo pushed people into the waiting arms of the nationalists. They have never come back.

Boris Johnson does not have the luxury that Cameron enjoyed; he won’t get a second chance to get Scotland right. If there is another referendum, it’ll be the last one, and it will happen on Johnson’s watch. He will now, almost certainly, be the Prime Minister who will either lose Scotland, or kill nationalism.

How does he ensure that he achieves the latter outcome?

He must understand and accept three fundamentals.

The first is that he can’t be a fair-weather democrat. He should be able to relate to this, easily, through his experience of Brexit. His victory last Thursday means he will now implement the democratic will of the people, by leaving the EU. The winners will win, and the losers will lose – that’s democracy.

We can hold a mirror up to respecting Brexit and see in it respecting Indyref 2. To do this we must ignore the hysterical wailing from some in the Scottish Tory Party who have perfected contortionism in their attempt to claim that perpetually denying another referendum is the democratic outcome.

The SNP’s current mandate is vague, and the strongest iteration of it, in my view, comes from June 2016, when the UK’s Brexit vote fulfilled the SNP’s winning manifesto criteria from the month before (Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will). Last Thursday’s mandate is far weaker for a variety of reasons, primarily that some now-MPs pulled ‘loaned’ votes by making clear that it was not a vote for Indyref 2, and because the SNP’s primary platform was to stop Brexit.

But none of these arguments will pass muster if the SNP wins the 2021 Scottish Parliament election – the most important there has ever been – with a clear and unqualified manifesto commitment for a second independence referendum.

You can’t demand to get Brexit done because voters asked for it whilst demanding that Indyref 2 be continually rejected despite voters asking for it.

The second way to ensure a better outcome is to understand that the current Scottish Tory position – vote for us and we will stop Indyref 2 – is a vote-losing, party-killing, Union-ending continuation of the same Scottish strategy the Party has had for 40 years.

The Conservative Party has never, ever, been ahead of the curve on Scotland. It has been in permanent reactive mode: oppose devolution and then support it after it’s already happened; create the Calman Commission to appease the nationalists after they win in 2011; create the Smith Commission to appease them after they almost win in 2014.

Since then, its ‘no to Indyref 2’ strategy – designed to expand its support by encouraging Labour unionists to lend their vote to the Tories – has ridden the crest of the wave and at times propelled them to almost 30 per cent in the polls. But those in the bubble need to understand that on Thursday night the bubble burst. The strategy failed; it now amounts to a core-vote strategy because the ultra-Unionist vote has probably been maximised.

The Scottish Tories now need to change their position to one which is more credible, more democratic, and has a better chance of success in 2021, and if up here they can’t see the wood for the trees, Johnson should change it for them.

Their position has been ‘vote for us and we will stop Indyref 2’. They should alter it ahead of 2021 to ‘vote for us or we will not be able to stop Indyref 2’. In other words, the Party should acknowledge that a mandate in 2021 will have to be respected, and there will have to be another independence referendum, so if you don’t want one then you had better vote Tory.

This is just as compelling for the core vote, but the respect it would show for Scottish democracy would also extract the maximum number of Labour and Lib Dem voters who would be prepared to coalesce around the strongest unionist voice.

Johnson would likely find common ground with Nicola Sturgeon on this. It is often misunderstood by the London media that Sturgeon is currently calling for something she doesn’t want (a referendum in 2020) and getting in response something she does want (a grievance-stoking ‘No’). It is an open secret up here that she and her advisers are worried that, despite Boris and Brexit being their perfect storm, the pro-independence numbers are too weak to be confident of success in 2020. They want more time. They need more time. Johnson could give them more time by setting them the test of winning in 2021, whilst also damaging the grievance agenda.

This is where the third fundamental becomes relevant. The Tory Party has now spent so many years obsessing about Indyref 2 that it seems to have lost all confidence that it can actually win the damn thing. With that, the message it is sending is that it has lost all confidence in the Union as a winning force.

There is no question that there are some strong fundamentals in place for nationalists – demographics being the most obvious one.

But unionists need to stop being so negative and paranoid about their own upsides. There are three significant ones. First, Scotland is constitutionally fatigued, and by the time Brexit has settled will be both weary and wary of more change.

Second, the SNP’s position on rejoining the EU could easily become toxic when we start discussing a customs border at Gretna.

Finally, if Johnson’s government avoids the mistakes of Cameron’s, and runs a campaign based on a strategic vision of what devolution will look like in the much longer-term, he will give Scottish people what they have always wanted but have never been offered – the ‘something in the middle’ option.

Boris Johnson will go down as the Prime Minister who lost Scotland. Or he will go down as the Prime Minister who ‘won big’ on the two biggest constitutional conundrums of the century. There’s nothing in between, anymore.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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