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Westlake Legal Group > Stanley Baldwin

Johnson bypasses the broadcasters to talk directly to voters

Yesterday’s announcement of a relaxation of the immigration rules for scientists from around the world was noteworthy for two reasons.

First, because it’s a good idea, long overdue and likely to be popular.

Second, because of how the message was delivered.

There was a press release, and an accompanying evening news package by the BBC, filmed on a Prime Ministerial visit to a fusion power research centre in Oxfordshire. But before either of those went out, the actual announcement took place online, in a Facebook Live broadcast by Boris Johnson.

The video itself was short, hitting key messages on police and NHS spending before trailing the headline news, leaving the detail for the official release shortly afterwards. The fairly simple set contained a few nods to his fans (and detractors) The flag, the ministerial red box (rapped pointedly when he spoke of getting to work) and, nestled away at the back, a red bus.

No, not that red bus. Nor the now-famous red buses built out of painted wine boxes. Rather a red, double-decker, London bus featuring the Back Boris 2008 logo – a memento of the mayoralty which influenced him so much, placed carefully where a TV had stood earlier in the day.

It’s the use of this video as the first point of announcement for an important policy that is particularly significant. It’s no secret that some political broadcasters have at times been a bit antagonistic, and that there are some tensions in the relationship already. More generally, what every politician really desires is an opportunity to communicate their message directly to voters without edit, limit or interpretation.

Breaking news through a social media broadcast, unfiltered, therefore makes sense. Between Facebook and Twitter this clip was seen by at least 450,000 people throughout the course of the evening, which isn’t bad given there was no pre-publicity to warn the audience in advance. My understanding is that this is a first experiment, and there will be more such broadcasts from the Prime Minister, the audience of which will be closely studied in Downing Street.

In an age which values authenticity, this is an approach with potential, particularly for this Prime Minister. Johnson opens with an invitation, the emphasis on the personal nature of the conversation and the privileged access being offered to viewers: “I’m speaking to you live from my desk in Downing Street”. He has built his career on being distinctive, engaging and entertaining; he’s the Government’s most notable media asset. It would be madness to lock that away behind bland scripts and anonymised official statements.

Previous examples of leaders seeking such direct communication with voters spring to mind, some more successful than others. Stanley Baldwin, the UK’s earliest adopter of broadcasting as a political tool; Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous ‘fireside chats’; Harold Wilson’s sometimes ill-advised penchant for television (complete with the affectation of a pipe); Ronald Reagan’s extraordinary run of over 1,000 daily radio commentaries on current affairs prior to becoming President. David Cameron, of course, had WebCameron – sometimes a bit stagey, but always more at ease than Gordon Brown’s rictus efforts at YouTube. There are lessons from each, and all underscore that no politician can afford to stand still while the media changes around him.

It’s encouraging to see the Prime Minister’s team exploring and trying out new ways to cut through to the electorate. Making sure they maintain message discipline while allowing his personality to show will be the key. Relax it too much and it loses its bite; structure it too closely and it risks looking like a hostage video, turning off fans who want to feel they are seeing their Prime Minister as he really is. Get it right, and these broadcasts could have a really big impact.

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

Alan Mak: Conservatism 4.0 – We must ensure that no-one is left behind by the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Alan Mak is MP for Havant and Founding Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Stanley Baldwin said the Conservative Party stood for “real England” – a Party defined by voluntary organisations and Christian patriotism, little platoons and big national causes.

His Conservative Party of the 1920s faced an upstart opposition in a Labour Party that had usurped the Liberals to become the second party of British politics. Outlining the growing threat from Labour, Baldwin described them as being for a nation of class divisions and over-mighty trade unions.

Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has come full circle and is once again challenging the success and legitimacy of our free-market economy.

A century on from Baldwin, and despite being the natural party of government, our Party has often struggled to break out from its vote base of shire counties and market towns. It’s over 30 years since we won a majority of over 21 at a general election.

But there are signs of change. Our electoral success in recent years has been driven by securing more votes in Labour’s industrial heartlands. Dudley, Mansfield, Copeland and Teesside have all elected Conservatives in recent years, whilst the West Midlands and Tees Valley have elected Conservative Mayors on a region-wide basis.

This Conservative momentum in areas once dominated by trade unions and the Old Left shows that our message of hope, personal freedom and low taxation can re-define our path to a majority.

Yet our progress in these Labour heartlands is not concrete and shouldn’t be taken for granted. A pro-Leave electorate that has trusted another party for so long will be looking to the Conservatives to not only deliver Brexit, but ensure they are not left behind by the next big technological revolution either. As I said in yesterday’s article, this commitment must be a central tenant of Conservatism 4.0 – Conservative ideology for the Fourth Industrial Revolution [4IR].

The last time our country went through a technological revolution we had a strong leader with a firm ideology. The computing revolution of the 1980s powered Britain to economic success – and political success for Thatcherism. Through deregulation and an unwavering belief in the free market, the City of London prospered from the Big Bang, and our economy was transformed into a services-based powerhouse. From the stuttering, strike-crippled, state-dominated closed market that Thatcher inherited, the foundations were laid for rapid economic growth and the business-friendly, pro-innovation environment we enjoy today.

Our next Leader will also find themselves at an inflection point. They will have to harness the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as artificial intelligence, big data and automation change our economy and society beyond recognition – and ensure that every community and region benefits from the wealth that it creates. Whilst Margaret Thatcher’s transformation of Britain’s economy for the better is undeniable, there are mining and industrial communities who felt they were left behind as other parts of the country raced ahead. To win a majority at future elections, today’s Conservatives need to attract working class and northern votes, so we cannot allow the positive impact of the 4IR to be absent from any region or for its benefits to be inaccessible to any social group.

The 4IR will radically change how we work, regardless of sector or industry. Instead of dockers and miners being at risk of automation, in the near future it will be call centre operators, lorry drivers and factory workers. With a path to electoral victory that increasingly runs through industrial towns, every factory closure or job lost to robots without alternatives emerging, will make a majority harder to achieve for our next leader.

That’s the reason why, whilst we still have an opportunity to shape the 4IR, our policies must be focussed on creating an Opportunity Society centred around social mobility powered by lifelong learning, high-quality education and skills training for everyone at every stage of their lives. Our Opportunity Society must be more than just a short-term policy objective. It has to be an integral part of the future of capitalism and a key part of Conservatism 4.0.

As robots slowly replace human workers, many on the radical-left are arguing for a Universal Basic Income (UBI), a minimum wage paid by the Government to every citizen regardless of their productive capacity. Every single country that has trialled UBI – from Kenya to Finland – has found it expensive and ineffective. Research by the International Labour Office has estimated that average costs would be equivalent to 20-30 per cent of GDP in most countries. In Britain, this would be more than double the annual budget of the NHS, yet John McDonell says a Corbyn-led Labour Govnement would trial it. These are just two of the reasons why we Conservatives should reject UBI as the solution to growing automation in the 4IR.

The truth is work has always paid, and work for humans will always exist. Work drives our economy, multiplies and makes the world richer. It takes people out of poverty and gives them purpose, and this will continue to be the case in the 4IR. In fact, many more new jobs are likely to be created than are lost to robots because the technology of the 4IR will drive economic growth, which in turn will create new and more interesting jobs, especially in new tech sectors such as advanced manufacturing, 3D printing, precision medicines and AI-powered creative industries.

Not enough is made of our job creation miracle since 2010, which has seen our economy put on three million new jobs. As we enjoy the lowest unemployment rates since the 1970s, we need to re-emphasise the value of work and the benefits to be derived from a good job. A UBI would be defeatist, signifying that humans had ceased to be useful in a world of machines, and be the antithesis of social mobility – there would be no need to work hard to move upwards on the income and living standards scale if we are all paid to stay at the same level. A UBI would also stall our economy through either crippling debt on the public purse or new taxes imposed on innovation. Similarly, Jeremy Corbyn’s proposed Robot Tax would simply mean a left behind country – a nation that fails to attract foreign investment and which becomes known for its anti-innovation approach to technology.

Instead, true devolution must be at the heart of delivering an Opportunity Society and making sure no community or individual is left behind. Our next Prime Minister must invest in the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine so regional economic growth is put in the hands of regional leaders. The benefits of the 4IR, from new start-ups to overseas investment, must be enjoyed beyond the “Golden Triangle” of London, Oxford and Cambridge. As Juergen Maier who led the Government’s Made Smarter Review, argued, it’s about creating an “innovation climate” in regions such as the North.

We cannot expect the heavy industries of the past to return, but instead our focus should be on ensuring the new technologies of the future are exploited in every area of the country to create new jobs and rising skills levels in every community. The Liverpool City Region understand this, and have already taken the initiative. They have launched LCR 4.0, an ambitious plan to support manufacturing and advanced engineering organisations in the region by funding practical support to transform businesses through digital innovation. By helping traditional manufacturers upgrade their technology, they enable firms to stay in business and keep their workers employed by becoming more productive. Conservatism 4.0 should support more initiatives like this.

Moving towards a system of local business rates retention will also encourage further investment in skills and business support from local authorities as they reap the rewards of encouraging local growth. There should also be more scope for local taxation and decentralisation as a central tenet of Conservatism 4.0 to empower local areas to evaluate their workforces and set-up true long-term strategies for delivering local economic growth, building on the work of existing Local Enterprise Partnerships and new Local Industrial Strategies.

Conservatism has always evolved and must do so again as we enter a new technological age by putting social mobility and reginal devolution centre stage. They are the two key building blocks to ensuring that every community and region can benefit from technology-driven economic growth. While Thatcherism delivered for the Third Industrial Revolution, we need a new brand of Conservatism to build an Opportunity Society for the Fourth. My final article in this series, published tomorrow, will set out the four principles that should guide us as we re-calibrate Conservatism in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This article is the second in a three-part series explaining why adapting to a society and economy shaped by technology is key.

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

The Establishment hated Beaverbrook, Churchill needed him

Max Beaverbrook: Not Quite a Gentleman by Charles Williams

Max Beaverbrook is one of the most entertaining figures ever to have sat in a British Cabinet. He did so twice, during both the First and the Second World Wars, despite being detested and distrusted by a large part of the Establishment.

And yet the Beaver, as he was known, has slipped almost into oblivion, a name but not much more to most people under the age of 70. This book performs the valuable task of bringing a strange and gifted figure once more before the public.

Charles Williams provides, at the start of this biography, a useful list of some of the people who loathed Beaverbrook. They included Kings George V and VI, Stanley Baldwin, Clement Attlee, Lords Alanbrooke and Curzon, Hugh Dalton, Ernest Bevin and “a large segment of the Canadian political and industrial establishments”.

But Winston Churchill decided he was just the man to put in charge of aircraft production in May 1940, and David Lloyd George entrusted propaganda to him in early 1918, when the Germans were gathering themselves for a last attempt at a knockout blow in the west.

Beaverbrook was an adventurer who spotted opportunities where others could only see problems; a businessman of genius whose early fortune was founded on attaining, by devious manoeuvres to which this author devotes too much attention, a near monopoly in Canadian cement.

He was born Max Aitken in 1879, the third son of the Reverend William Aitken, a Scottish Presbyterian minister who had emigrated to New Brunswick, in Canada, as there were no jobs going in Scotland. Max was a rebel who started out with nothing except a knowledge of the Bible, but who soon displayed astonishing gifts as a financier.

Having made large sums and a reputation for sharp practice in Canada, he moved to Britain, where in December 1910 he was elected Conservative MP for Ashton-under-Lyne. At the same time he made friends with Bonar Law, like him the son of a minister in New Brunswick, who the following year became Conservative Party leader.

Aitken was at the heart of the manoeuvres which at the end of 1916 saw Asquith supplanted as Prime Minister by Lloyd George, after which Aitken was raised to the peerage as the first Lord Beaverbrook.

The King was not pleased, nor were the upper reaches of the aristocracy. But Beaverbrook had taken control of The Daily Express, and was turning it into an enormous success, the greatest mid-market newspaper of its time, smart and popular and a source for its proprietor of great influence, for there could be no doubt who decided the editorial line.

Beaverbrook sent jolts of electricity through any outfit where he took control. He was a malicious bully who was also capable of great generosity, and who stood by friends when they got into trouble. He had a brilliant eye for talented subordinates.

He despised Stanley Baldwin, who dominated the Conservative Party for the 14 years after Bonar Law’s death in 1923. Baldwin tempted Beaverbrook into overplaying his hand, and gave him and his fellow press baron Lord Rothermere a bloody nose by accusing them of exercising “power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”.

It seemed as though Beaverbrook’s career, except as a newspaper proprietor and a writer of vivid and perceptive books about Lloyd George and other men of power he had known, might well be over. Then the nation turned to Churchill, an outsider in Conservative Party terms, and Churchill needed to recruit other outsiders who could help him to grip and dynamise Whitehall.

This is the most exciting part of Williams’s account. The pace quickens as Beaverbrook seeks to ensure that the RAF gets the planes it needs. He picks tremendous battles within the bureaucracy, threatens at frequent intervals to resign, but is told by the Prime Minister that he is indispensable.

For Churchill, Beaverbrook is a boon companion, a friend with whom in the darkest days of the war he can find relief from the almost intolerable burden of leadership, an ally who can be sent to negotiate with Stalin and Roosevelt, and who charms them too. Clementine Churchill, by contrast, regarded him with “lifelong distrust”.

The first sentence of this book reads:

“Lady Diana Cooper, in her day one of London’s leading society lionesses, described Max Beaverbrook as ‘this strange attractive gnome with an odour of genius about him’.”

The word “lionesses” will not do as a category in which to place Lady Diana. Nor is there any need for “in her day”. But the quotation which follows is wonderful.

This mixture runs through the book. Williams can be cloth-eared, but has a keen eye for good material. The dust jacket notes that he is 86. His industry puts many younger biographers to shame.

At times, however, it is excessive. He sketches more of the background to various early transactions than we really need, and this thoroughness is accompanied by a sense of responsibility which sometimes gets in the way of conveying his subject’s utter irresponsibility.

He is not unscrupulous enough to revel in Beaverbrook’s exploits. The author remarks that his own wife, Jane Portal, who got to know Beaverbrook in her capacity as Churchill’s secretary, “still describes him as ‘somebody you would instinctively walk away from’.”

Her instinctive reaction was right. Beaverbrook usually treated the women in his life, who were numerous, with cruel neglect once his eye had been attracted by new conquests.

To get an idea of how intolerable but also invigorating Beaverbrook was, the short sketch of him in old age by his great-nephew, Jonathan Aitken, published as the first essay in Heroes and Contemporaries (2006), is in some ways a better place to start.

Williams quotes an admirable description of Beaverbrook by Peter Masefield, who worked for him during the war:

“He was unlike any other man I ever knew. For all his foibles and tough exterior, he was at heart deeply sensitive and often lonely. Critical, thrusting, demanding, self-centred and intolerant, he could be kind and even generous, just as he could be hasty and vindictive. He could reverse passionate feelings within hours. He perpetually maintained a hard front, even when the man inside had softened. I often thought of the frightened little boy in Canada, whose Presbyterian father had drunk away the family’s slender funds.”

The religion mattered. Beaverbrook was steeped in it, and said it was better to be an evangelist than a cabinet minister or a millionaire. As a lapsed Calvinist, he suffered from deep feelings of guilt, and was profoundly hurt by the scathing reviews given to one of his last books, The Divine Propagandist, which attempted “to present the life of Jesus as it appears to worldly men of my generation”.

Williams touches on the religion, but does not convey how important it was. Perhaps that is an impossible task. Beaverbrook was good at covering his tracks, and in 1964, shortly before his death, had a lot of his personal papers burned.

He liked buying up other men’s papers, and controlling access to them during his lifetime, but there were strict limits to how mischievous the great mischief maker wanted anyone else to be at his own expense.

It is a pity he is not better known today, for among many other qualities, he was a remarkable journalist, who for over 60 years cultivated at his various houses a range of contacts of which most people could only dream, and was ruthless and vulgar enough to publish what they told him, except when he was covering up Churchill’s stroke or Tom Driberg’s trial for indecent assault.

Beaverbrook’s  refusal to treat the Establishment with the respect it believed it deserved was attractive to men of the Left such as Driberg, Michael Foot and A.J.P.Taylor.

But it was not attractive to Attlee. When Churchill said during the 1945 general election that a Labour government “would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo” – an accusation against his wartime coalition partner which was generally reckoned to have gone much too far – Attlee was quick to counter-attack, while at the same time exculpating Churchill, whom he liked and admired:

“The voice we heard last night was that of Mr Churchill, but the mind was that of Lord Beaverbrook.”

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