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Henry Hill: Westminster legislating for Northern Ireland sets a useful precedent for the DUP

DUP accepts Westminster changing abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

Sam McBride writes for the Independent that the Government’s parliamentary allies, the Democratic Unionist Party, show no sign of causing ministers much difficulty over the Commons legislating for the Province on social issues.

Although the socially-conservative party is formally opposed to extending same-sex marriage or legal abortion to Ulster, in truth many of its modernisers will be quietly pleased that these particular boils have been lanced without the Party having to risk alienating its core support by being directly involved.

Moreover, as I explained in last week’s column, the DUP will also be very pleased that MPs have blown such a large hole in the Government’s increasingly threadbare case for refusing to introduce wholesale direct rule. Just about the only remaining justification for the Northern Irish Office’s current non-solution of letting the civil service govern Northern Ireland without democratic oversight has been the relative consistency with which ministers have stuck to it.

Now that Parliament has acted directly to take important decisions in the absence of a devolved administration (and the passage of these amendments means that it is now certain not to return before their October 21 deadline, as doing so could block the reforms), it will be much harder to justify refusing to step in again. Noted unionist blogger Owen Polley has set out in a piece for the Article some areas which could do with ministerial attention.

However John Larkin, the Northern Irish Attorney General, has raised concerns about the drafting of the abortion amendment, drafted by Stella Creasy and overwhelmingly passed by MPs, according to the News Letter. He reportedly feels that it is “is unclear and inconsistent with important human rights texts”. Lord Duncan, an NIO minister, appears to share his concerns and has hinted that the Government may try to push back the deadline.

By contrast to their relative quiescence on these issues, the DUP have not been shy about naming their price in other areas. This week Nigel Dodds, the leader of the party’s Westminster group, indicated that they were rowing behind the Sun’s campaign on behalf of veterans and would make policies for ex-servicemen and women part of the next confidence and supply deal. Unionist concern at the handling of so-called ‘legacy investigations’ into soldiers remains high.

Hunt urges Johnson to rule out more powers for Holyrood…

The Herald reports that Jeremy Hunt has called on Boris Johnson to ‘draw a line under devolution’ and rule out any new tax powers for the Scottish Parliament, in the same week that he himself pledged not to approve a second referendum on Scottish independence even in the event of a separatist majority at the 2021 Holyrood elections.

Amidst reports that the underdog is hoping to run up a “big win” north of the border, where local Tories are reportedly deeply wary of what a Johnson premiership might been for their political recovery, a story resurfaced that Johnson once asked Nicola Sturgeon if full fiscal autonomy – a confederal arrangement wherein Scotland would have its own Treasury – would “buy off” the SNP.

This comes in the same week that Lord Forsyth, the former Secretary of State for Scotland and far-sighted opponent of devolution, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the real threat to the Union lay in constantly giving the nationalists and devocrats more powers. Stephen Daisley also penned a magisterial piece (for which I even got a little credit) for the Scottish Daily Mail on the same theme – it has been a good week for devosceptics.

…as First Minister of Wales picks new fight on ‘devolved powers’…

Meanwhile Mark Drakeford, the strongly-nationalist but technically-Labour First Minister of Wales, has attacked both candidates’ plans to replace EU funding with a UK-operated Shared Prosperity Fund.

Drakeford, who has stated that he views the UK as essentially a non-sovereign confederation, claims that Johnson’s intention for there to be a “strong Conservative influence” over the funding contradicts Labour’s motto of “Not a penny lost, not a power stolen” by suggesting a shift in power back towards London, the BBC reports.

This would, of course, be a very good thing, and entirely in line with the aims of Theresa May’s legacy-building devolution inquiry of finding ways to enhance the role of the British Government in the devolved territories. Neither Johnson nor Hunt should flinch from taking Drakeford – who has declared his party’s support for the UK to be ‘conditional’ – head-on.

…and Lidington and Mundell warn of danger to Union

On the other side of the argument, David Lidington warned this week that English ‘apathy’ about the United Kingdom risked breaking it up. According to the Times, he said:

“In England, I think that there is an indifference to the Union; a sense of taking it for granted. It is something that is there as part of the landscape rather than something that you’ve really got to make a conscious effort to work to sustain.”

David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, also warned that a no-deal exit might strengthen the hand of the separatists in Scotland and Northern Ireland – even as his son Oliver, an MSP, has endorsed Johnson on this site on the basis that he will “deliver Brexit and secure the Union”.

Johnson has pledged this week to prioritise keeping the UK together over Brexit, although we must stress again that on the available evidence that isn’t the choice.

News in Brief:

  • Barclay warns that no-deal exit will harm Ireland more than the UK – Daily Telegraph
  • Dublin admits it will impose border checks under a no-deal scenario – The Sun
  • Reality intrudes on the Irish Government’s Brexit game plan – Irish Times
  • Johnson pledges £160 million ‘back payments’ to Scottish farmers – Daily Telegraph
  • SNP MP has made citizens’ assembly ‘ten times harder’, says adviser – The Herald
  • Davidson lashes out at Labour for letting unions set its Brexit policy – Daily Express

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

Oliver Mundell: Johnson will deliver Brexit and secure the Union

Oliver Mundell is MSP for Dumfriesshire.

We are in a national political crisis. It’s clear that the Conservative and Unionist Party has a responsibility to deliver Brexit on 31st October and unite our country. That is the only way to stop Jeremy Corbyn, propped up by Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, getting into Downing Street and ease the strain on our communities here in Scotland which have been so deeply divided between Yes/No and Leave/Remain.

Boris Johnson is now the only candidate who will deliver Brexit on time on 31st October. In doing so, he will enact the instruction given to us by the voters in 2016 and will restore public trust in our democracy. As one of over a million Scots to vote for Brexit, I know just how important this is to people and I understand why many people wanted to make their voice heard at the recent EU Elections.

I am worried that Jeremy Hunt can’t and won’t commit to delivering Brexit quickly, risking no Brexit at all. In Scotland we are fatigued with the constitutional uncertainty, our constituents are tired of referendums and they don’t want any more. However, shortly after the EU referendum, Hunt called for a second referendum: ‘So before setting the clock ticking, we need to negotiate a deal and put it to the British people, either in a referendum or through the Conservative manifesto at a fresh general election.’

We Scottish Conservatives and Unionists don’t want any more referendums. Those arguing for and campaigning for a second EU referendum are simply giving aid and succour to those who would stage another independence vote in Scotland. By undermining the verdict of the EU referendum, they are undermining the decision of 2014, doing the work of the SNP and threatening the Union.

As Mayor of London, Johnson delivered a modern, compassionate, one nation Conservative agenda and he stuck to his promises. That’s how you know he will restore trust and deliver as Prime Minister.

Johnson is the only candidate who can deliver Brexit. In doing so he will take away all the uncertainty that the SNP have exploited to stoke further division and they will have no choice but to defend their appalling record in Government as the public’s attention returns to schools, hospitals and policing. Having fought hard to win my seat in the 2016 Scottish Parliament, I don’t want to see our fortunes reversed because we failed to deliver on the task the British people set us.

As Prime Minister, Boris Johnson will deliver for our whole United Kingdom. The worst thing that could possibly happen to our Union is to allow Jeremy Corbyn, likely propped up by the SNP, into Number 10. The surest way for this to happen is to fail to deliver Brexit by 31st October. With Jeremy Corbyn signalling that he is willing to allow a second independence referendum, we just can’t take the risk.

Johnson successfully attracted the support of more than 50 per cent of MPs in the Parliamentary stage of the leadership election, attracting endorsements from those who argued to remain in the EU and others who campaigned to leave. He was able to unite these different opinions in the party to support him, and we are sure he will do the same in the country if he is chosen as our next Leader and Prime Minister.

To deliver Brexit, restore trust in our policies and unite the country we encourage members across Scotland to Back Boris.

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

Oliver Mundell: Johnson will deliver Brexit and secure the Union

Oliver Mundell is MSP for Dumfriesshire.

We are in a national political crisis. It’s clear that the Conservative and Unionist Party has a responsibility to deliver Brexit on 31st October and unite our country. That is the only way to stop Jeremy Corbyn, propped up by Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, getting into Downing Street and ease the strain on our communities here in Scotland which have been so deeply divided between Yes/No and Leave/Remain.

Boris Johnson is now the only candidate who will deliver Brexit on time on 31st October. In doing so, he will enact the instruction given to us by the voters in 2016 and will restore public trust in our democracy. As one of over a million Scots to vote for Brexit, I know just how important this is to people and I understand why many people wanted to make their voice heard at the recent EU Elections.

I am worried that Jeremy Hunt can’t and won’t commit to delivering Brexit quickly, risking no Brexit at all. In Scotland we are fatigued with the constitutional uncertainty, our constituents are tired of referendums and they don’t want any more. However, shortly after the EU referendum, Hunt called for a second referendum: ‘So before setting the clock ticking, we need to negotiate a deal and put it to the British people, either in a referendum or through the Conservative manifesto at a fresh general election.’

We Scottish Conservatives and Unionists don’t want any more referendums. Those arguing for and campaigning for a second EU referendum are simply giving aid and succour to those who would stage another independence vote in Scotland. By undermining the verdict of the EU referendum, they are undermining the decision of 2014, doing the work of the SNP and threatening the Union.

As Mayor of London, Johnson delivered a modern, compassionate, one nation Conservative agenda and he stuck to his promises. That’s how you know he will restore trust and deliver as Prime Minister.

Johnson is the only candidate who can deliver Brexit. In doing so he will take away all the uncertainty that the SNP have exploited to stoke further division and they will have no choice but to defend their appalling record in Government as the public’s attention returns to schools, hospitals and policing. Having fought hard to win my seat in the 2016 Scottish Parliament, I don’t want to see our fortunes reversed because we failed to deliver on the task the British people set us.

As Prime Minister, Boris Johnson will deliver for our whole United Kingdom. The worst thing that could possibly happen to our Union is to allow Jeremy Corbyn, likely propped up by the SNP, into Number 10. The surest way for this to happen is to fail to deliver Brexit by 31st October. With Jeremy Corbyn signalling that he is willing to allow a second independence referendum, we just can’t take the risk.

Johnson successfully attracted the support of more than 50 per cent of MPs in the Parliamentary stage of the leadership election, attracting endorsements from those who argued to remain in the EU and others who campaigned to leave. He was able to unite these different opinions in the party to support him, and we are sure he will do the same in the country if he is chosen as our next Leader and Prime Minister.

To deliver Brexit, restore trust in our policies and unite the country we encourage members across Scotland to Back Boris.

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

John Lamont: Contrary to the SNP’s expectations, the closer we get to Brexit, the more popular the Union becomes

John Lamont is MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, and is a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. This article is from the latest edition of Bright Blue’s magazine, Centre Write.

Like many people across the UK, it took me some time to digest the news that broke on the morning of 24th June 2016. Whatever side of the argument you were on, the result of the EU referendum was a surprise to most people.

However, one person in the UK wasted no time to jump on the vote, so sure was she of the implications. As soon as the result had been declared, Nicola Sturgeon hastily called a press conference at Bute House, her official Edinburgh residence. She stood in front of assembled media and declared that a second referendum on Scottish independence was now firmly back on the table, asserting that Scots were so outraged about leaving the EU they would now want to leave the UK. Her political calculation was that she would be able to exploit the fact that the majority of Scots voted to Remain to get her flagging campaign to break up Britain back up and running.

This press conference has set the tone for the political debate in Scotland since. The SNP have time and time again confidently asserted that Brexit makes Scottish independence much more likely. At every available opportunity they have sought to utilise Brexit to argue the only option is to leave the UK. It is almost a weekly occurrence for the First Minister or one of her senior Ministers to repeat that Brexit makes Scottish independence a sure thing.

After the EU referendum, a re-energised SNP embarked on a nationwide campaign to sell their new independence message. They commissioned a so-called ‘Growth Commission’, led by Andrew Wilson, the economist, to refresh the hugely discredited economic case for leaving the UK which Scots rejected in 2014.

Given the First Minister’s confidence, an outside observer might be led to conclude that Scottish independence is a likely outcome of Brexit. But three years on from that Bute House press conference, that is not how things have turned out.

Poll after poll shows that support for Scottish independence is actually falling, despite the SNP’s best efforts. One of the most recent, commissioned by Angus Robertson, a former SNP MP,  showed support for the Union is up to 62 per cent. At a time when the political establishment in the UK is consumed by Brexit and the nationalists are focused entirely on independence, support for the SNP’s cause is falling, not rising.

The SNP’s ‘Growth Commission’ came back with the conclusion that leaving the UK would result in an extra ten years of austerity, far beyond anything the UK Government has imposed, and it has now been quietly shelved by the SNP leadership.

And in 2017, the First Minister’s impulsive reaction to Brexit resulted in her losing a third of her MPs, including Alex Salmond and Robertson, both to Scottish Conservatives like myself campaigning against another independence referendum. The closer we get to Brexit, the more support for independence falls.

The SNP clearly miscalculated that Brexit would push people towards independence. So, why are Scots still backing the United Kingdom? There are, in my mind, two main reasons.

First, many independence supporters actually want to leave the EU. The SNP kept a tight lid on them during the EU referendum, but since then, senior figures such as Jim Sillars, the former deputy leader of the SNP, have vocally supported leaving the EU. A NatCen report found that over a third of SNP voters backed Brexit.

This makes sense; pro-Brexit Scottish nationalists are at least consistent. Why would you campaign for Holyrood to have more powers, only to want to hand large parts of them back to Brussels? The impact of the SNP’s posturing on Brexit has been that many of these voters have stopped supporting independence.

The second reason that support for independence is falling is that most Scots are, to use a good Scottish phrase, scunnered by the endless constitutional debate. The vast majority of my constituents, whether they voted Leave or Remain, just want Brexit to happen so we can talk about something else. And the last thing they want their politicians to be focusing on is another debate about breaking up the United Kingdom.

If Brexit has shown us anything it is that leaving a political union is challenging. And because the UK is a market worth four times more to Scottish businesses than the EU, Brexit would look like a walk in the park compared to leaving the UK. And unlike with the EU, Scotland is a significant net beneficiary from the UK, meaning independence would result in an instant hit to public finances, even if trade was miraculously left unaffected.

Time and time again I listen to speeches from SNP Members of Parliament outlining how damaging leaving the EU would be for Scotland. Yet, in the same breath, they argue in favour of leaving the United Kingdom. Unpicking more than 300 years’ worth of political, economic and fiscal union would be a huge undertaking, much more substantial than Brexit. So people look back on the SNP’s claim in 2014 that independence could be negotiated and delivered in 18 months and realise that this was complete nonsense. In many ways, Brexit makes the argument for leaving the UK much weaker and that is something the SNP leadership misjudged back in 2016.

Most Scots continue to support remaining part of the UK, but that could change. The SNP should not be underestimated. They have an army of highly motivated volunteers and everything their politicians do is designed to try to boost support for independence.

While we must continue to highlight the weaknesses of the SNP’s argument, the focus for politicians who want the UK to survive and thrive must be on showing Scots how they benefit from remaining part of the UK.

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

Henry Hill: Johnson and Hunt woo DUP as leadership roadshow hits Belfast

Leadership contenders woo DUP…

It is difficult to to think of the last time Northern Ireland – and more specifically, Northern Irish politicians – have been so central to the internal dynamics of the Conservative Party. Perhaps not since Bonar Law.

Although they didn’t get to vote in the early rounds of the contest, the ten Democratic Unionist MPs nonetheless have clout when it comes to the Tory leadership race. Whoever wins will need to be able to maintain, and ideally strengthen, the Government’s working relationship with its Ulster allies in order to maintain any sort of majority in the House of Commons.

So this week both candidates hit the stump in Northern Ireland, with pitches both to the Province’s small but loyal band of Tory members and the DUP.

At a gathering of 240 local activists, Johnson publicly disavowed suggestions that he had ‘toyed’ with the idea of resolving the backstop by reverting to the EU’s original plan and hiving off Northern Ireland’s economic arrangements from the rest of the UK, according to the FT.

It adds that both candidates met with representatives of the DUP: Johnson with Arlene Foster, the leader, on Tuesday and Hunt with Nigel Dodds, their Westminster leader, on Monday night.

The Daily Mail also reported Johnson’s enthusiasm for the construction of a road and rail bridge connecting Ulster with the mainland. Questioned on the subject by members, he highlighted plans by Alan Dunlop, a professor of architecture. He also wrote in the paper about his plans for the Union. The Daily Express writes, meanwhile, about his ruling out any reform to the Barnett Formula.

In other news, Ruth Davidson has rebuked Johnson over his priorities, telling him the Union must be his “do-or-die” issue, amidst fresh reports of Scottish Conservative unease about his premiership. Katy Balls suggests that these could keep the Tories out of power, whilst Jacob Rees-Mogg argues that Johnson will stop the EU ‘corroding’ the Union.

Party faces clashes with allies on same-sex marriage and abortion

In light of the above, both Hunt and Johnson will need to think carefully about how they handle two issues which, after months of can-kicking by Karen Bradley, threaten to come to ahead as the stalemate over restoring devolution drags on.

The first is same-sex marriage. Patrick Maguire sets out in the New Statesman how a cross-party group of MPs are almost certain to legislate for Westminster to extend it to the Province in the event that Stormont is not imminently restored (chances of that: slim to none). He writes that this could push the Government into a row with the DUP – not over the decision, to which even socially conservative Unionists appear resigned at this point, but because of its implications for Ulster’s governance.

For over a year, Bradley has resisted the DUP’s calls to introduce ‘full-fat’ direct rule. Legislating on marriage from Westminster would be an act of direct rule, and shred what remains of the Government’s case for not going further.

The other possible flashpoint is abortion, with Penny Mordaunt having made the papers yesterday with a call for reform to the Province’s “appalling” laws on the issue. Abortion is completely banned in Northern Ireland. Both Hunt and Johnson have ruled out change, but the same Commons coalition pushing same-sex marriage could do the same for abortion – especially once the precedent for such acts for direct rule has been set.

May calls for review of devolution as part of legacy pitch

The Prime Minister has charged Lord Dunlop, a former Scottish Office minister, with conducting a review into devolution, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Apparently the object of this would be to assess the extent to which the current constitutional order bolsters or damages the UK, and come up with proposals for how to strengthen the role of Westminster and other British institutions in the political lives of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Current ideas include the creation of a Government-controlled ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’ to replace EU grants post-Brexit, and replicating Brussels’ policy of heavily branding projects to make sure the public is aware of who paid for them.

Whether or not this review actually does the UK any good will depend in large part on the terms, which are apparently under dispute inside the Government as some push for a broad remit and others try to box Dunlop in. There is also a risk that it will end up hijacked by the devocracy and more-powers lobby and turned into just another set of demands – Nick Timothy, formerly one of May’s key advisers, was peddling this exhausted orthodoxy in today’s Telegraph.

Britain can’t afford a repeat of May’s fumbling u-turn on the devolution of repatriated EU powers. Unless Dunlop has the freedom, imagination, and courage to take the knife to devolution’s sacred cows, his review won’t help his country.

News in Brief:

  • Morgan and Hands’ panel delivers interim report on backstop – News Letter
  • Scottish Tories urge boycott of SNP’s ‘citizens’ assembly’ – The Scotsman
  • Hunt and Johnson support moves to protect Ulster veterans – The Times
  • Dugdale says Corbyn could offer Sturgeon referendum to win Commons support – The Scotsman
  • SNP beat retreat on ‘vote-killer’ gender laws – The Times
  • Scottish Government tells medical schools to admit fewer English pupils – The Scotsman

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

Interview. Johnson says that every member of his Cabinet must sign up to Britain leaving the EU on 31st October – deal or no deal

If Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister, he will expect every member of the Cabinet to agree with his policy of leaving the EU on 31st October, deal or no deal.

He argues in this interview that there is only a “very, very, very small possibility” of no deal actually happening, but he says that ministers “would have to be reconciled” to that possibility.

Johnson maintains that since the failure to leave on 29th March, “we’re in a different political world”, where the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats are “feeding like puffballs on the decay of trust in politics”.

This means “the parliamentary mood has changed” and the Commons will not vote for another extension. He considers the latter eventuality so improbable that he declines to say what he would do if it came to pass.

But he certainly does not wish to call a general election.

Johnson insists he has “a very good relationship with Ruth Davidson”, and that getting Brexit through on 31st October will strengthen the Union, as the SNP will find it very difficult to campaign for Scotland to rejoin the EU.

Asked whether he had agreed to Sajid Javid’s call for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, Johnson said he had discussed this with Javid and “what we’ve committed to is a general investigation into all types of prejudice and discrimination including anti-semitism”.

When reminded that he used to refer to Iain Duncan Smith, who has just become chairman of his leadership campaign, as “Iain Dunkin’ Donuts”, Johnson replied:

“Did I? I think I can say that to his face and I think he would be all right. Iain is a friend. The thing I admire about Iain is he has done a fantastic amount to take the Tories on to the agenda of social justice.”

Johnson denied his campaign team is a Boys’ Club, dominated by men, and pointed to the number of women who worked for him at City Hall.

He added that “one of the things I learned from City Hall is the vital necessity of arriving with a well thought through plan, having things ready to go”.

And he said that as PM he would be “the hireling of the people” and would have no time to complete his book on Shakespeare.

ConHome: “Brexit and all that, do or die. It must be the case, must it not, that every member of your Cabinet, when you appoint them, must be committed to leaving on 31st October, deal or no deal.”

Johnson: “Yes, that will be the policy of the Government.”

ConHome: “This means an awful lot of people will be automatically excluded – Greg Clark or David Gauke or Amber Rudd – all these people who abstained rather than have no deal, they can’t sit in your Cabinet if you’re committed to leaving on 31st October.”

Johnson: “Well, I don’t believe we will get a no deal outcome. I think that people who are determined like me to leave on terms other than no deal, which I am…”

ConHome: “But they’ve got to be committed to do it if you can’t…”

Johnson: “I want obviously to have a broad range of talent in my Government, the Government that I will lead, but clearly people must be reconciled to the very, very, very small possibility, and I stress it will be a very, very small possibility, that we would have to leave on those terms.

“I don’t think it will happen but they would have to be reconciled to it.”

ConHome: “One of the reasons why we are where we are now is that you can’t have an extension if the Prime Minister doesn’t sign up to it.

“So Theresa May has twice requested an extension because she thought correctly that the Commons would vote for one.

“What are you going to do if the Commons votes for another extension?”

Johnson: “Well, um, obviously I just think we’re in a different political world to 29th March and I think the Prime Minister’s decision to seek two extensions has done a great deal of damage to the Conservative Party and also to trust in politics.

“I think that people expected us to leave. The fact that we missed two deadlines has led to the growth, the puffball-like growth both of the Brexit Party, but also of the Liberal Democrats.

“And they are feeding saprophytically, like puffballs, on the decay in trust in politics. That’s where they’re getting their strength from.

“And they will continue to thrive until we get it done. And if we fail again, if we kick the can down the road on 31st October, if we continue to delay, if we treat this as a fake deadline, just yet another rigmarole, then I think the voters will be very frustrated indeed.

“And I think that our party, the Conservative Party, which I fought for for a very long time across this country, I think that we will not easily recover.

“So getting back to your point about Cabinet colleagues and the spirit of the party, where we all are, actually I think people understand that.

“And I think they also understand, intellectually, that you have to keep no deal on the table. Not only keep no deal on the table but you have to prepare for it actively and with confidence.

“And it’s very striking in the last couple of week, perhaps even the last couple of days, to hear some outbreaks of common sense.”

ConHome: “I think what you’re saying is if they vote for extension you will not go and seek an extension, because we must leave on 31st October.”

Johnson: “I’m not quite saying that. What I’m saying is that the parliamentary mood has changed and continues to change, and I think that actually, listening carefully to colleagues, and I will, and I’ll try to understand exactly where everybody is, and you know I will make myself totally available and try to work very, very hard to get this thing through – that’s been why I’ve been so pleased to get the numbers I did [in the parliamentary phase of the leadership election] – I think people can see the existential threat that we face.

“Here’s the choice that colleagues face. It’s a sensible Brexit deal that protracts the existing arrangements, that allows us to get on and deliver on the mandate of the people, that allows us to build a new partnership with our friends across the Channel, that allows us as Tories once again to build strong bilateral relationships with France, with Germany, to be pro-European, that allows us to get on and defeat Jeremy Corbyn when the election comes, that allows us to put out a fantastic agenda of modern conservatism.

“On the other hand, there’s voting it down, and then enraging the electorate.”

ConHome: “You’re basically saying the context has changed.”

Johnson: “Yes.”

ConHome: “And MPs won’t ask for an extension. I’m asking what you’ll do if they do.”

Johnson: “That is exactly what I’m saying. I think it has changed and continues to change. Several important things have changed in addition to the context.”

ConHome: “But if the Commons do ask for an extension, you are committed to leaving on 31st October. That’s an absolute.”

Johnson: “Well I am certainly committed to leaving on the 31st. I absolutely am. But I think it very, very unlikely that Parliament will want to kick the can down the road again.

“And my objective in this contest is to make it absolutely clear that kicking the can means kicking the bucket.

“When I hear from other candidates, actually there is only one other candidate left, when I hear from the other side that somehow 31st October has become again, you know, it’s turning into a mirage, we’re going to arrive at the oasis and find it’s not there, and that suddenly it’s been put off till the Greek Kalends, to next year.

“I really think there is no objective reason at all why we should not leave on 31st October.”

ConHome: “But are you ready if the Commons doesn’t do that, and does vote for an extension, and you don’t leave on 31st October, are you ready to face a general election?”

Johnson: “Well, it will be certainly not my intention or desire to have a general election, and in fact I want the exact opposite. Nor do I think is it the desire of MPs on either side of the House to have a general election.

“The public has been consulted in 2015, in 2016, in 2017. They don’t want to be pushed out to the polls again. They don’t want to be asked to vote again.

“And they’re quite right. What they want is for us to get it done and what they expect is for us to get it done on 31st October.

“And what they don’t want is more pointless can-kicking. They want a decision, and they want action.

“And that’s the only way, I’m afraid, to spike the guns of both the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats who are prospering mightily as a result of the indecision of the main parties, particularly our party.”

ConHome: “Do you accept that your candidacy is a problem for the Conservatives in Scotland, and therefore for the Union of Scotland and England?”

Johnson: “Well I’m delighted to have strong support from excellent Scottish MPs. I have a very good relationship with Ruth Davidson indeed…”

ConHome: “She was against you some months ago.”

Johnson: “Well, actually we have a very good relationship.”

ConHome: “I think you had Ross Thomson at the start.”

Johnson: “We have several Scottish colleagues now who are openly backing me. I’m very proud of that.

“And I would just make one point about the Union. I think the Union will be greatly strengthened by getting Brexit done in a sensible way.

“And if I were thinking in Scotland about who I want to govern the country, my country, Scotland, and if I were looking at the Government of the United Kingdom, and it totally failed to deliver on this essential request from the British people, and it couldn’t even do that, I would think well why am I being governed from London.

“On the other hand, once we get Brexit done, there’ll be lots of things we can do to cement and strengthen the Union, to champion the Union between England and Scotland, and the Union between Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Union with Wales.

“There are all sorts of ways in which we can show the value of the awesome foursome and take it forward.

“And interestingly, there are things we will have to do legally to underpin the internal market of the UK as we come out of the EU.

“And final point, do you really think that the Scots Nats, once we leave, are going to have a song to sing about leaving the UK and joining the EU?

“And joining the euro, joining the Schengen area, submitting Scotland to EU rules, losing control of fish in Scotland to the EU? Really? Absolutely not.

“This thing, far from damaging the Union, Brexit is going to make life very, very difficult for the SNP indeed. I think it will take away a lot of their arguments, and it will greatly cement and strengthen the Union.”

ConHome: “The Boris Johnson tax cuts programme. Just to clear up the business about the 40 per cent threshold. Is that the first thing you want to do, or are there other things you want to do with it?”

Johnson: “There will be a package of fiscal measures, most of which will be directed at helping people on low incomes, including lifting thresholds for National Insurance and so on.”

ConHome: “Are you waving farewell to what’s known as ‘austerity’? You’ve got this spending programme, education, infrastructure, broadband, and you’ve got this tax cuts programme.

“What’s going to happen to spending control?”

Johnson: “Don’t forget the Chancellor’s revenues exceeded his expenditure in February alone by 14.5 billion. There is money there. Of course we’ll spend it sensibly.

“I never like the word ‘austerity’, but I think both George and Phil Hammond have done great work in exercising restraint, in reducing both the deficit and debt, very, very important.

“But I think most people you talk to today think there is room for some spending, particularly on education, where I want to level up.”

ConHome: “Will you be able to carry on writing books? Harold Macmillan claimed to read novels in the garden at Number Ten.”

Johnson: “He took a Trollope to bed, didn’t he?”

ConHome: “When are you going to bring this playwright, Shakespeare, before a wider public?”

Johnson: “This unjustly neglected author.”

ConHome: “What proportion of that book have you actually written?”

Johnson: “The truth is I’ve written a terrifyingly large quantity of stuff, but it’s one of those projects that continues to grow in ambition as it goes on.

“But I want to stress that if I succeed in this job I will be the hireling of the people, and I will be working flat-out on their behalf.”

ConHome: “Why has Iain Duncan Smith been brought in as campaign chairman now?”

Johnson: “Iain is a long-standing friend and supporter. I’m a fan of Iain.”

Paul Goodman for ConHome: “This is the man who you and I used to refer to in our light-hearted way when we were Members of Parliament together as Iain Dunkin’ Donuts.”

Johnson: “Did we? [laughter]

“I don’t think that showed particular disrespect for the great man. I think I can say that to his face and I think he would be all right.

“Iain is a friend. The thing I admire about Iain is he has done a fantastic amount to take the Tories on to the agenda of social justice, and campaigning for the interests of the poor and the needy in society.

“He gets all that. His heart is very much in the right place. He has a great understanding of the Conservative Party grassroots, and he enacted some pretty difficult reforms of welfare when he was in charge of that area, and he also is a guy who understands the intricacies of the EU issue.

“So he’s well-placed to chair the second phase of the campaign as we go out now to the members.”

ConHome: “Have you deliberately gone up a gear? There was all the stuff over the weekend and before that, Boris Johnson won’t do any debates.

“You’re doing the hustings, you’re doing this interview, you did Laura Kuenssberg.”

Johnson: “I love campaigning.”

ConHome: “You won’t do the Sky debate.”

Johnson: “I had to do the Conservative Friends of Israel dinner apart from anything else, which was a long-standing engagement, which I wasn’t going to blow out.”

ConHome: “The cry is that Boris will go out and debate, but he’s not going to go out and debate until after about 8th July, when most of the members have voted.”

Johnson: “We’re doing all sorts of debates and hustings, and I’m very, very keen to use whatever contacts I have with the media, whatever debates I’m doing, to get across what I want to do, which is come out on 31st October, get the thing done, unite the country and beat Corbyn.

“Every opportunity I have to say that is good.”

ConHome: “Given that you’re quite likely to win, how much planning for Downing Street are you doing?”

Johnson: “Obviously it’s very, very important at this stage not to appear in any way to be taking things for granted. But one of the things I learned from City Hall is the vital necessity of arriving with a well thought through plan, having things ready to go.”

ConHome: “Have you canvassed the present Prime Minister for her support?”

Johnson: “I haven’t. I did talk to her today and yesterday about another matter. She didn’t volunteer it.”

ConHome: “You were too shy. You missed a trick.”

Johnson: “There was a slight pause in the conversation where perhaps she could have said.”

ConHome: “Had she wished.”

Johnson: “You never know. You never know. I don’t rule it out.”

ConHome: “Is your campaign team open to the criticism that it’s a Boys’ Club? And that Downing Street also, were you to get there, would be a Boys’ Club?”

Johnson: “Not at all. On the contrary. Look at my administration in City Hall, which you may recall, which was basically a feminocracy of one kind or another. We had about half and half.”

ConHome: “The claim is that at your morning meetings it’s all men.”

Johnson: “There are lots of female MPs supporting my campaign. I don’t go to these morning meetings myself, but we have lots of women working, look at the campaign team, go downstairs and you’ll see Charlotte and Ellie, and virtually everybody is a woman on the campaign team.”

ConHome: “In that BBC debate, when Sajid Javid called for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, everyone said yes. Did you agree?”

Johnson: “Well I took it up with Saj afterwards, and he said that actually, if I understand it correctly, what we’ve committed to is a general investigation into all types of prejudice and discrimination including anti-semitism.”

ConHome: “An independent one?”

Johnson: “Yup. Thanks so much, Ellie. Thank you very much. [She has brought him a mug of tea.] So yes, we’ll have to study exactly what Saj has in mind, but it sounded like a sensible idea when he mentioned it.”

ConHome: “In 1998, you wrote a tremendously trenchant piece defending Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky business, making the argument that all politicians are entitled to a private life and it’s none of the voters’ business. Is this still your line?”

Johnson: “Yes, yes. The reason I give for it happens to be true, which is that it is quite difficult to say things without dragging people in who are not political figures.

“All it does is divert people’s attention. It frustrates voters actually. They genuinely want to hear how I’m going to take the UK out of the EU.”

ConHome: “Have you found it hurtful to lose some of the popularity you had before the EU referendum? People who used to smile indulgently at the thought of you, some of them started to hate you.”

Johnson: “Well the great lesson of politics is that when you’re unpopular, it’s not something you should take personally, because what they’re taking against is what they think you stand for.

“The flip side of it of course is that when you’re loved, and when you’re popular, that is equally transitory and I’m afraid probably equally superficial.

“These are slight illusions, popularity and unpopularity.”

ConHome: “What’s your reaction to being called a coward by Jeremy Hunt?”

Johnson: “The eleventh commandment of Ronald Reagan, thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow conservative.”

ConHome: “And that’s the end of that? You don’t feel compelled to challenge him to a nude mud-wrestling contest? To have it out mano a mano?”

Johnson: “I would defeat anybody in such a contest, were I obliged to do so, but that’s not how I propose to win this. This is about coming out of the EU on 31st October. It’s about uniting our country. It’s about re-energising Conservatives with an exciting vision for our party and our country.”

ConHome: “Would you serve under Jeremy Hunt if he won?”

Johnson: “It’s always a great honour to serve in a government of any kind. I only resigned on principle over Chequers with a huge sense of regret.”

ConHome: “And you’d offer him a job?”

Johnson: “One thing I’m not doing is promising jobs to anybody at the moment, and I think that would be wrong. But I would stress that Jeremy is one of many, many talented colleagues that we have at the moment.

“I don’t think the Conservative Party in my memory has had quite so many brilliant people in Parliament. There really are a lot now.”

ConHome: “As you set out to reunite the country, what are you going to do on this question of Heathrow? Can we take it you won’t be lying down under the bulldozers?”

Johnson: “Well I think the bulldozers are a long way off. I will follow with great interest the current court cases, because it is still the case that the promoters of the third runway have a long way to go before they can satisfy the legal requirements they must meet both on noise pollution and air quality. And there are many people in west London who would say the same.”

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Alexander Temerko: Without a softer Brexit, the Conservatives will be destroyed. Who can best deliver it – Hunt or Johnson?

Alexander Temerko is an industrialist and a Conservative Party donor and activist.

As Jeremy Hunt has rightly said, Britain is facing a constitutional crisis. A No Deal Brexit does not command Parliamentary support and will trigger an election – risking a Labour government coming to power that will not deliver Brexit.

Sadly, the current radicalisation of attitudes within the Conservative Party is making this scenario likely.  Last week’s You Gov poll showed how the party membership sees the major threat not from Labour, but from the Brexit Party: a two to one majority is in favour of pursuing Brexit, even it if leads to Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the Union and causes significant economic damage. A majority favours going ahead with Brexit, even if it leads to the destruction of the Tories.

Understandably, it has been impossible for the leadership candidates to ignore this determination to deliver Brexit at all costs. Their campaigns have reflected the belief that the Conservatives’ salvation lies in outflanking Nigel Farage.

In this frenzy, there is no room for compromise.  For understandable generational reasons, many party members holds strong views on Brexit. They remember the ‘good old days’ before Britain joined the European project, when the world was a different place. Most of us remember our youth with nostalgia.

Yet a much larger part of the Conservative electorate has grown up in different times. For many younger people who instinctively vote Conservative, the Brexit issue does not have the same potency. The same applies to business voters and those who seek ‘safety first’ leadership.

Unless it can quickly find internal compromise, the Conservative Party risks committing electoral suicide. In 2016, the electorate voted narrowly in favour of leaving the EU. It did not vote for either a hard Brexit or for a no-deal Brexit. Three years later, there is no evidence that attitudes have fundamentally changed.

The Brexit Party’s strong showing in the European elections was a protest by against the failure of the Government to deliver Brexit as it had promised. However, another significant part of the Tory vote went to the Liberal Democrats.

The fixation on ‘delivering’ Brexit is blinding the Conservative Party to the consequences of forcing the country to leave the EU without a deal. There is no time for a re-negotiation of the exit terms before October 31st, even were the EU 27 were to agree to such a change. This will automatically put Britain on the path to a No Deal Brexit.

If the country leaves without a deal, some Tories may congratulate themselves on killing off the Brexit Party.  But this will be a pyrrhic victory. Large-scale economic disruption will inevitably follow, and deliver a fatal blow to the Conservative Party’s reputation for economic competence. It will make Labour’s neo-Marxist agenda appear the lesser evil.

The only solution for Tories is to look beyond the Brexit issue, and see the real enemy. Jeremy Corbyn will only come to power if Conservatives allow him to.

My friends are wrong in thinking that victory over Farage will automatically translate into defeat of Labour since voters do not want Corbyn. In reality, voters do not want radicals. For them, Corbyn is a left-wing radical – and we are becoming radicals of the Right demanding that our leader takes extreme positions that we call the defence of democracy.

Making the commitment to leaving the EU by October 31st the main leadership requirement for the next Prime Minister will bring in a Labour government. In a snap election, a radical position on Brexit will drive voters away from the Tories to Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.

This extraordinary situation demands that Conservatives recognise that their internal divisions are empowering Labour and threatening to bring it to power. If this happens, Brexit, the British economy and the Conservative Party will be buried in a common grave for the next ten years under a heavy tombstone of socialism.

The Tories must now move to the centre ground and advocate a softer Brexit – one based on the acceptance that leaving the EU is far more complicated than originally conceived and that the terms of exit need broad public support.

The electorate is crying out for responsible leadership that safeguards the economy and the broader national interest. Only a de-radicalised Conservative Party can provide it.

This requires a Prime Minister who is pragmatic and has the experience, the grasp of policy and the personal qualities to reach across the divisions in both the Conservative Party and its electorate. Speaking to many donors at the Birmingham hustings on Saturday, I found that that Jeremy Hunt’s quiet assurances were more attractive to them than Boris Johnson’s rhetorical flourishes. Yet both have the task of bringing back donors who have moved over to Farage.

The choice is simple. There is Boris: colourful, full of unpredictable talents, the nemesis of Farage and annihilator of the Brexit Party – but leading the country to the total uncertainty of October 31st.

Or Jeremy – an experienced politician with authority, attractive to business and young people, capable of delivering Brexit and maintaining friendly relations with Europe, including trade, and at the same time able to consolidate the Party and mobilise the country to face the threat of Corbyn’s communism, Putin’s Russia and international terrorism.

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Henry Hill: Davidson endorses Javid as Johnson and Hunt polish unionist credentials

Davidson endorses Javid…

Undoubtedly the biggest item of the week, from the perspective of this temporarily leadership-focused column, was Ruth Davidson’s decision to endorse Sajid Javid’s bid to succeed Theresa May.

In an interview for the BBC, she explains that she thinks he has the most credible and deliverable strategy for Brexit whilst highlighting why the Scottish Tories might be wary of competitors such as Boris Johnson and Andrea Leadsom.

Whilst this might strike some as a surprising choice, since Davidson has established herself as firmly on the left of the UK-wide party and there are certainly options less dry than abolish-the-top-rate-of-income-tax Javid, it fits with her position in the last leadership contest. In 2016 she backed Stephen Crabb, with whom she had forged a sort of liberal-unionist alliance, and (although it is hard to credit now) in that race Javid was Crabb’s ‘running mate’.

Javid also fits with Davidson’s style of rejuvenating Conservatism by tearing up the playbook. In her case it meant a) visibly embodying a new generation of Toryism and b) abandoning the “sackcloth and ashes” apologetics for being Conservatives. As potentially the first BME Prime Minister Javid certainly offers a visible refresh, and Stephen Bush has written an excellent piece in the New Statesman about how the Home Secretary is also ditching the script for how ethnic minority Tories talk about race.

Not coincidentally, Davidson had a piece in the Times Red Box this week on the need for ‘new thinking’ to turn the Party’s fortunes around.

…as Stewart picks up more fans (in Holyrood)…

Although Davidson has warm words for him, Rory Stewart will surely be sorely missing her endorsement. But he isn’t without his fans amongst the Scottish Conservatives.

Last week I noted that ‘quasi-federalist’ Murdo Fraser had come out for him, and this week he was joined by Adam Tomkins, the Scottish Tories’ constitution spokesman, and at least one other MSP. This will likely do little to ease the concerns of those worried about Stewart’s concede-to-the-devocrats approach to unionism, which we covered last week, as Tomkins was the one sent out to bat for the Scottish Tories’ screeching u-turn on special status for Ulster.

Despite this show of support from the MSPs, however, I have not yet seen a single Scottish MP endorse Stewart, despite his wholehearted endorsement of their joint letter to the Times setting out a list of demands entitled ‘Our next leader must spend to save the Union’.

…and Johnson too (in Westminster)

Even Boris Johnson, who was within recent memory the target of a concerted campaign by the Scottish Conservatives to block his path to Downing Street, has managed to get two, with both Colin Clark and Ross Thomson declaring for him this week.

The former mayor also picked up some more pan-UK support in the form of Alun Cairns, the Welsh Secretary, who penned a piece for the Times in which he argued that, with the Union more in urgent need to defence than ever, Johnson was “the person best equipped to drive a bold, ambitious plan that will unite party and country and deliver for our nation”.

Meanwhile Davidson has urged Johnson to “do things differently” if he becomes Prime Minister, compared to his spell as Foreign Secretary, and his team have been engaged in what the FT calls “intense talks” with the Democratic Unionists about how to repair the two parties’ working agreement in the Commons.

Hunt gets tough on devocrats

A nice side-effect of the eminent position enjoyed by the Union in this leadership contest is that every candidate has to pay mind to it, and this week we saw the Foreign Secretary burnish his credentials by taking a tough attitude on attempts by devocrats to exceed their briefs and woo Europe.

Hunt withheld British diplomatic support for a mission by Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, in which she tried to butter up Brussels figures and set out her case for another vote on breaking up the UK. He also refused an official car to Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, for his own Brussels visit unless he stuck to the Government’s line on Brexit.

Whilst this is obviously baby steps, it is a welcome sign that Westminster is starting to realise that it can and should assert its prerogatives within the constitutional settlement. The devocracies in Cardiff and Edinburgh spit tacks whenever London is viewed to be impinging on devolved matters – it’s only right that London take the same approach to reserved issues. We should not be subsidising separate foreign policies for Wales and Scotland.

Leadsom rows back on referendum gaffe

But the prominence of the issue is a sword that cuts both ways, as Andrea Leadsom discovered this week when she appeared to suggest that she might grant Sturgeon the power to hold another plebiscite on Scottish independence.

Although she said that she herself would fight hard against another vote, the former Leader of the House said she wouldn’t rule one out entirely as it would be ‘disrespectful’. This provoked a backlash not only from Tory unionists but also from Ian Murray, Labour’s MP for Edinburgh South, who got to claim that her comments show “that the Tories can’t be trusted to protect Scotland’s place in the Union.”

News in Brief:

  • Scottish Conservatives savage SNP over delayed broadband pledge – Daily Telegraph
  • Disgraced ex-SNP MP jailed for 18 months – The Sun

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Robert Buckland and Justin Tomlinson: Why Johnson is the best choice for the Party. For our town, Swindon. And for the country.

Robert Buckland is a Minister of State at the Justice Department, and is MP for South Swindon.  Justin Tomlinson is a Minister of State at the Department of Work and Pensions, and is MP for North Swindon.

They say that politics can’t get weirder, but events since 2016 have proved almost impossible to navigate. Seasoned commentators and hardened politicians have struggled even to keep abreast of the rapidly-unfolding chain of events. The issue of Europe has claimed the scalp of yet another Prime Minister.

The task is now on to choose the best person to lead our country and our party through these unprecedented circumstances, delivering Brexit so that people can once again begin to see the excitement and progress the Conservative Party can deliver. We believe that person is Boris Johnson.

We are both MPs who won our seats after years of hard work and grassroots campaigning.

This included building a strong council base and a track record of local action. Crucially, we spend a great deal of our time in our communities, bursting the Westminster bubble. Swindon Conservatives have worked relentlessly to earn support and the results speak for themselves.

Swindon is a growing town that has reinvented itself over the generations. Today, we are facing a new challenge as some of our motor manufacturing industry plans to withdraw from our town, with a loss of thousands of jobs and the need to replace them with high skilled, high wage employment.

The values of our town are true and solid. As a growing and diverse community, we welcome people from all over the country and indeed the world who want to make a contribution to our business, professional, civic and cultural life. We are proud that Swindon continues to represent the best of Britain, with strong community ties and an ethic of hard work and mutual respect for each other. We don’t pretend to be what we are not, but what we are is special. Swindon is a wealth generator, not just for the region, but for the nation.

It is a barometer town in two key ways. In 2008, we were the economic barometer that bore the brunt of Labour’s great recession, as hundreds of private sector jobs were lost and our community took a big hit. Since those dark days, we have bounced back, with over 11,000 jobs created since 2010. Since the 1980s, we have also been a key political barometer for the nation, returning Conservative MPs until 1997 and Labour MPs until 2010. In the last few elections, Swindon has been amongst the first seats to declare, giving an instant indication as to national trends. As goes Swindon, so goes the nation.

When we both started our work in Swindon, it was a Labour town, with two Labour MPs with solid majorities and a council that had recently been Labour since the days of Clem Attlee. With hard work and relentless campaigning, we continue to confound the pundits and this year delivered an increased Conservative majority on the council.

We are MPs who supported Remain and Leave respectively, but who continue to work closely together to carry out the referendum result. As Ministers of State, we are striving every day to improve the working of our vital public services. We are looking for a Prime Minister who will seek to reach agreement with the EU, who will be realistic and honest in that process and who will be able to unite the nation behind any deal that is done.

At a time when we face this unprecedented peacetime challenge, and the party system is coming under strain as never before, the situation calls for charismatic, uplifting and positive leadership. We believe that now is the time for Boris Johnson. In the aftermath of the EU referendum in 2016, we both felt then that he was the best choice as Prime Minister. That option did not come to pass, but now it can happen.

Why Boris Johnson? He recognises that the greatest threat our country faces is a hard left, extremist Corbyn-led Government that will destroy the means by which we raise the revenue to support our valued public services and that will lead our nation into economic collapse, supported by the SNP, risking the destruction of everything that we in Swindon have been working for.

As Mayor of London, he won and governed with a strong team, delivering more housing, better transport, lower knife crime and green initiatives. His re-election in 2012 proved that he has the necessary staying power. Having both served as local councillors ourselves, we know and value his work in City Hall.

Having campaigned with him, we have seen at close quarters his ability to speak warmly and directly to the public and to reach people to whom politics is remote and often irrelevant. At a time when we seem to be hearing more from the extremes of politics than ever before, Boris Johnson will provide the antidote to this. Our politics needs a reboot.

Let’s do this with Boris.

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Thomas Kerr: The SNP is relying on a culture of secrecy to hide their failings in Glasgow

Cllr Thomas Kerr represents Shettleston Ward on Glasgow City Council.

On May 2017, the Shettleston Ward of Glasgow voted for change. They wanted a fresh face who would bring them hope and deliver on promises made. A local champion who knows, cares, and loves the community, and for the first time in over 100 years, the candidate offering that was myself, as the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party candidate. Shettleston took a chance on me, and from the feedback I get on a daily basis, it isn’t a choice they regret.

Last month, another group of people took a chance on me, and I hope that, like my constituents, they’ll look back to see that it was the right choice. I speak, of course, of the Glasgow Conservative Group. Cllr David Meikle, Glasgow’s previous group leader, announced last month that he would be stepping down after 12 years at the helm of Glasgow Conservative politics. His dedication to our party when times were tough was outstanding, and his contribution to our group as our leader was amazing. However, family (the birth of his first child) and other work commitments meant that David had to take a step back. This led to a chance that I couldn’t give up, and thanks to the support of my council colleagues, I became Scotland’s (and I believe the UK’s) youngest Council Group Leader at age 22. This is an exciting time, and I want to share with you all my ideas and vision, not just for our group, but for my city.

Every leader can only do their job successfully with a team behind them, and before I set out my vision, let me thank the excellent team of Glasgow Conservative councillors I have who will help me in developing policies for the city in the run-up to our next election. From Cllr Tony Curtis, who will lead our fight against obesity, to Bailie Kyle Thornton, my business manager, but also environment spokesperson, who is leading the fight against the SNPs anti-car agenda in Glasgow. With a team as dedicated as mine behind me, the possibilities for the Conservative movement in Glasgow are endless.

However, while the Glasgow Conservatives see an opening for us, our city sees the door of opportunities close because of our out of touch SNP ‘City Government’. The administration in Glasgow is crumbling before our very eyes, and it is a sorry state of affairs for our city. Just 2 years into a promise of change, they’ve let down their supporters, the city, and their own councillors. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen two SNP councillors resign the whip over claims of bullying and harassment from the leader’s office, and leaked Facebook posts have shown that the council leader, Cllr Susan Aitken, says one thing in private and another in public. All this while they still continue to strangle investment and drive business away from our city.

The SNP’s cry in Glasgow was to be an administration which was “open”, “transparent”, and “for Glasgow”. But just two years in, these principles have been swept aside, and decisions are made behind closed doors with no consultation with any elected members. Despite their status as a minority administration, the SNP has unilaterally decided to scrap Glasgow’s airport rail link in the face of over a decade of promises to the people of this city. Their culture of secrecy means that legitimate freedom of information requests from members of the public, including those that wanted to know the full truth regarding the administration’s handling of the Ibrox fan-zone scandal amid allegations of bias, cannot tell the full story, because discussions regarding council policy are taking place on private SNP Facebook pages.

The SNP applauded a budget settlement from the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, which saw Glasgow’s money get cut again, but pretended this was a fair deal for our city. The SNP in Glasgow should be our city’s champion within the SNP, yet all Aitken and her team are showing are that they are the SNP’s voice in the City Chambers – blinded by party loyalty and selling out our great city for hopes of a future career in Holyrood. I know the City Treasurer, Cllr Allan Gow, has said he reads my blogs on here so my message to you Allan is that it’s time you put our city first and the only way that can happen is by your leader resigning because not only does the opposition no longer have confidence in her but I believe your group doesn’t either.

Yet despite the backdrop of negativity coming from the leader’s office, the Conservative Group is hopeful. We have big ideas for our city and let me lay just a few of them here for you today. One of the issues very close to my heart is offering people from all backgrounds opportunities in life – the sort of opportunities that saw the son of recovering drug addicts become the Leader of the Glasgow Conservatives. That is why I took a motion to our full council meeting calling on Glasgow to become Scotland’s first local authority to sign up to Justine Greening’s Social Mobility Pledge and while we didn’t get to it on that occasion it is my intention to bring it again and get it passed because social mobility is exactly the sort thing the Glasgow Conservatives need to be standing up for.

While I am Group Leader I also have another title and that is our Group’s spokesperson on business and the economy something which, despite the possibilities Glasgow has, we are way lagging behind on. That is why as Group Leader I have called on the SNP Government to reduce business rates to give our small business owners a break. Times are tough for the retail industry and only by listening can we get it right. Over the summer recess, while other councillors will be relaxing, I will be using the time to tour our city and meet with the people on the ground from business and development backgrounds to hear first-hand the issues they face in our city and why Glasgow is lagging behind on investment compared to other large cities within the UK.

One of the major issues our city has is our planning department, which is out of touch and out of date. That’s why my two members on our city’s planning committee Cllr Robert Connelly and Cllr Tony Curtis are looking at ways of changing the structure of that committee to make it work better. But governance is not the only issues we face. Let me give you an example of where our city has got it just plain wrong. Like many other cities, Glasgow zones off pieces of land for certain types of development and whilst this approach has some merits it is clear that for some locations the policy is having the unintended consequence of strangling investment. I have spoken directly with another elected member who had a businessman want to invest and develop a hotel in our city down by the River Clyde yet the planning authorities said no because the piece of land has been zoned off for office space despite this land lying empty for nearly 20 years. Here we are in 2019 with a developer ready to go and we are saying no because of our out of date zoning policy. It is time Glasgow had another look at this and I hope my group will be a part of it.

In times like ours, business needs a champion and in Glasgow they simply don’t have it. Instead they have an administration too busy fighting amongst themselves to engage with the business community and a main opposition party which lacks the leadership to stand up to them. That’s why my group stands ready to do that job for Glasgow. Above I have outlined just two policy areas on which my Group will be leading from the front. Glasgow needs change, it deserves change and my pledge to the city is this my group will offer you that change.

 

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