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Westlake Legal Group > State Spending

So we’ve had NHS, policing and immigration plans from Johnson. Stand ready for a schools spending pledge.

So Boris Johnson has pledged 10,000 new police officers, as well as a raft of tougher-sounding anti-crime policies, an Australian-style points-based immigration system (not to mention the relaxion of migration rules for scientists), and £1.8 billion for the NHS.  It isn’t hard to see where he will go next, and soon.

The remaining element of Dominic Cummings’s favourite set of policies – tax cuts for lower-paid workers – may have to wait for a publicity push, because these would need legislation, and the Government has no working majority.  Though the Prime Minister could try them on the Commons anyway, daring Labour to vote them down, as part of an Emergency Budget in October (if there is one).

What is likely to come sooner is a Government commitment to spend at least £5,000 on every secondary school pupil.  ConservativeHome understands that this announcement is written into this summer’s campaigning grid.  But we need no special briefing to work this out for ourselves in any event – and nor does anyone else.  For why peer into the crystal of Downing Street announcements when one can read the book: i.e: Johnson’s Daily Telegraph columns?

For it was in one of these, back during the Conservative leadership election, that he pledged “significantly to improve the level of per pupil funding so that thousands of schools get much more per pupil – and to protect that funding in real terms”.  The £5000 figure was briefed out separarely.  This promise was one of the two main big ticket spending items of his campaign, the other being that undertaking to raise police spending.

“It is simply not sustainable that funding per pupil should be £6800 in parts of London and £4200 in some other parts of the country,” the former Mayor of the capital wrote.  Just as the NHS spending announcement was framed by a visit to hospitals in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, expect any school spending news to be projected by a trip to schools in Leave-voting provincial England: all part of the push to squeeze the Brexit Party.

If that column is any guide, don’t be surprised to see a maths, science and IT element too – which would also be very Cummings – as well as a stress on “giving real parity of esteem to vocational training and apprenticeships”.  There is evidence that these are popular all-round, but especially among older voters.  Gavin Williamson is bound to have a supporting role, just as Priti Patel has had with the weekend’s law and order initiatives, but Johnson will lead.

Like his other spending promises, Johnson’s school pledge may not be deliverable in the event of a No Deal Brexit, and there are inevitably questions anyway about timescale anyway.  But if you want to know what more will be in his campaigning package, look no further.

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

“To literally feel terror”

Boris Johnson wants, specifically, to frighten Labour off a no confidence vote and, more broadly, to intimidate the anti-No Deal Brexit Commons coalition before the Commons returns in September.  That means demonstrating that voters are backing him.  That requires improving opinion poll ratings.  And that, in turn, means an August blizzard – yes, such a thing is possible – of policy announcements to prove that his new government “is on your side”.

So to Dominic Cummings’s trinity of an Australian-style points-based immigration system, more NHS spending and tax cuts for lower paid workers we must now add action on law and order.  The new Prime Minister promised 20,000 more police during his Conservative leadership election campaign.  To that we must now add 10,000 new prison places and greater use of stop and search powers – both of which are announced today.

Or rather we would do, if Johnson had a durable majority, and were the future more clear.  The money to fund those new prison places may not be available in the event of No Deal: it may be needed for other measures.  And sweeping changes to sentencing would require leglislation, which the Government is in position to present to Parliament.

None the less, the Downing Street bully pulpit has its uses, and if the Prime Minister want wider stop and search powers to be available, he is in a position to get his way – for as long as he’s in place, anyway.  Today’s push should help.  As Matt Singh writes, there has already been “a substantial Boris bounce”.  It has largely come off the back of Brexit Party supporters, and this latest initiative is aimed at them (as well as Labour working class voters).

So too was the appointment of Priti Patel as Home Secretary.  ConservativeHome is told that there was a collective intake of breath in Downing Street when she said recently that she wants criminals “to literally feel terror”.  Number Ten need not have worried about how that view would go down.  There is “overwhelming support” for it among the public, according to YouGov.

If Johnson somehow survives the autumn without a general election, or wins one with a majority, a further question will arises about all these spending plans – namely, whether or not they’re consistent with the traditional centre-right commitment to fiscal stability.  The Prime Minister could be forgiven for thinking, given the probability of an autumn poll and the uncertainty of any result, that this would be a nice problem to have.

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

John Penrose: The conventional wisdom about this leadership election is wrong. Hunt’s spending plans are neither unaffordable nor irresponsible.

John Penrose is MP for Weston-super-Mare and a Northern Ireland Office Minister.

If you listen to the sober-sided, serious economists at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, or to the Chancellor Philip Hammond himself, you’d think the Conservative leadership election is a horrible bidding war of doolally spending promises from Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson. Has the party of sound money lost its soul? Betrayed its heritage? Are Margaret Thatcher and Milton Friedman spinning in their graves as leadership contenders try to out-Corbyn each other with unaffordable spending promises?

Well no, not really. I can’t speak for Boris Johnson but, as someone who’s been involved in a lot of Jeremy Hunt’s policy development work, that’s not what we’re doing at all.

Let’s start with the charge that, if it was right to introduce austerity in 2010, we should do the same for Brexit in 2019. Otherwise we aren’t being consistent.

But the problem in 2019 isn’t the same as 2010. Brexit isn’t the banking crisis, thank goodness. And if the problem is different, the answers should be too.

By 2010, Gordon Brown was trying to keep the economy going with huge increases in public spending, paid for with ballooning debt. Something like one pound in every four the Government spent had to be borrowed, to be repaid by taxpayers later. If we’d carried on like that, pretty soon the country’s credit card would have been snipped up and the bailiffs would have been knocking at the door. So we simply had to throttle back, to stop spending money we hadn’t got.

But today is different. Public spending isn’t ballooning and borrowing is under control. We’re living within our means, and there’s even headroom for a bit more spending if we’re careful. We’ve come a long way, and it hasn’t been easy. You can understand why Hammond doesn’t want the next Prime Minister to blow it.

What are today’s problems, if they’re different from 2010? The biggest is that some – although certainly not all – firms are putting off growth-creating investments until after the Brexit fog has cleared. And that no-one knows whether our trade with the EU will be easy or awful once we’ve left.

So it makes sense to spend a bit of money to promote economic growth. Post-Brexit Britain needs a stronger, more dynamic, more energetic, turbocharged economy, so we’re prepared for the challenges of life outside the EU. And Jeremy Hunt’s plans to cut corporation tax to 12 and a half per cent, increase investment allowances and exempt small high street firms from business rates would do exactly that. They would spark economic renewal and investment in UKplc, making us more resilient in economic shocks and recessions, and more productive and efficient so we can grow faster too.

In other words, it’s OK to use different answers in 2019 than in 2010. But what about the charge that we’re making the same mistake as Brown, by spending and borrowing unaffordably?

Hunt is on pretty firm ground here, because he agrees we’ve got to keep the national debt falling relative to the size of our economy. That means borrowing can’t balloon, and we’ll always be able to repay our debts. And his business career helps here too, because his plans to turbocharge post-Brexit Britain’s economy would mean we’d be investing to grow. They’re sensible investments in our economic future, not pale copies of unworkable, hard-left Corbynomic plans.

Nor is he expecting to do everything at once. We’d need to raise defence spending progressively over five years, for example, to allow time to plan. Otherwise you’d simply waste money on the wrong things.

The same goes for fixing illiteracy. That will take ten years, building on the huge progress over the last decade that has seen more pupils being taught in good or outstanding schools than ever before.

And some of the plans would only be temporary, too. The pledge to help farmers adjust to a post-Brexit world has to be a hard-headed, short term plan to help re-equip machinery, buildings and breeding for new global markets, for example. Not a woolly, open-ended subsidy.

The plans have got to be about changing things, so we’re ready for a new world. Not expensively preserving the way they were before we voted to leave. Transformation and preparation, not status quo. But, for Hunt’s proposals at least, they are sound, practical, affordable ideas. And, most important of all, they’re thoroughly Conservative too.

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

Johnson’s August 3) Delivering campaign pledges – in so far as he can without a durable majority

It is now overwhelmingly likely that Boris Johnson will be the next Conservative Party leader and become Prime Minister.

He may well face a no confidence vote in September, and the Brexit extension expires at the end of October in any event.

So he and his new team will have to hit the ground running in August. We continue our series on what he should do during that month and late July before the Commons is due to return on September 3.

– – – – – – – – – –

According to our weekly updated list, Boris Johnson has made some 25 policy pledges during the Conservative leadership election.  In the probable event of a general election in the autumn, he won’t be able to deliver on many of them.  And he will soon have a working majority of only three in any event.

Which surely rules out a Special Budget in September.  It would have to contain more provisions for No Deal, and wrapping them up in this way would only encourage MPs to vote them down.  He would do better to try any that he needs on the Commons piecemeal.

MPs would also vote down any tax cuts “for the rich” – a category who they would collectively argue includes those who pay the higher rate of income tax, the threshold of which Johnson has promised to raise.

It would be impossible in effect to cut income tax rates in time for a snap election anyway, though the Commons might nod through a rise in the national insurance threshold for lower paid workers, another of his pledges.

But just because Johnson can’t do everything – or even anything much that requires a Bill – doesn’t mean that he can only do nothing.

Governments have greater discretion on spending than tax.  So, for example, he could start to deliver on increasing funding per pupil in secondary schools and raising police numbers.  That would come in handy with an autumn election looming.

The latter move would go hand in hand with a battle with Chief Constables and others over the best use of new resources.  Voters want to see more police on the streets and more use of stop and search.  Johnson’s new Home Secretary should pile in.

And while he will have little legislative room for manoeuvre, he will be able to propose some relatively uncontentious Bills for September – settling the status, for example, of EU citizens.

Then there are measures that he could announce the new Government will not proceed with, as well as those that he wants to proceed with.  Theresa May is providing a growing list of the former.

Not to put too fine a point on it, he should take an axe to parts of her legacy programme – including, as Henry Hill has argued, the hostage to fortune that is the proposed Office for Tackling Injustices.

He will also want to show a direction of travel on some major policy issues.  We do not believe that refusing to commit to a reduction in immigration is sustainable.  As a starting-point to establishing control, he could do a lot worse than take up the Onward proposals floated on this site yesterday by Mark Harper.

There is a limited amount that the new Government will be able to do a in single month – not least when the new Prime Minister is bound to be out of London for parts of it, Parliament isn’t sitting, there is a new Brexit policy to get into shape, and the threat of a no confidence vote in September.

What Johnson can do is form a team, shape a Cabinet – of which more later – begin the Brexit negotiation’s new phase, and show what his priorities are: police, schools and infrastructure, with a particular stress when it comes to the latter on the Midlands and the North.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Mark Harper: If the Conservative Party is not the party of sound money, then what on earth are we for?

Mark Harper is a former Chief Whip, and is MP for the Forest of Dean.

Recently, I made my first ‘appearance’ on BBC Radio 4’s Dead Ringers, where they said that the only interesting thing about me was being a Chartered Accountant.  Now, this may not make me Box Office – but at least I know how to balance the books.

As the Conservative leadership race has gone on, both candidates have increased the amount of taxpayers’ money they have spent. Between them, adding up estimates by the independent and respected Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the two remaining candidates have already clocked up tax and spending promises of around £51 billion per year.

The recent BBC documentary series on Margaret Thatcher reminded me of a fundamental truth that she talked about at the 1983 Conservative Party Conference: ‘If the State wishes to spend more it can do so only by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more. It is no good thinking that someone else will pay—that “someone else” is you. There is no such thing as public money; there is only taxpayers’ money’.

And that truth is one of the reasons why I’m a Conservative. If the Conservative Party is not the Party of sound money, then what on earth are we for?

What do I mean by sound money?  There are two effective checks on state spending: it’s Government committing to live within its means, and ensuring people keep more of their own money.

In other words, reducing debt as a share of the economy, and reducing the tax burden.

Living within your means is clearly something that Labour doesn’t believe in – you only have to look at their policies. Take John McDonnell’s plan to nationalise the water industry in England for instance; according to the Social Market Foundation, that could cost as much as £90 billion and add five per cent to the national debt.  Lots of cost with no benefit to consumers or citizens.

When we came to power in 2010, taking over from Labour, the Government was borrowing £1 in every £4 we spent.  The budget deficit was just under ten per cent of the size of the economy, at £150 billion a year.  We had to make difficult decisions to get the public finances back under control and Labour opposed us every step of the way.

Despite Labour’s opposition, we have reduced the cash deficit to £42.9 billion—down by over 70 per cent —and the deficit as a proportion of the size of the economy is down by 75 per cent to 2.4 per cent.

We should remember, and stick to, our 2015 and 2017 Manifesto commitments to reduce national debt as a share of GDP.

The tax burden is at a 50 year high.  That’s not a comfortable place for a Conservative Government to be. As Conservatives, we want to reduce the tax burden over time to allow hard working people to keep more of their own money. Recent polling by the Onward think tank showed that the majority of people, both young and old, want to keep more of the money they earn.

We do not help people with the cost of living by putting their taxes up. Our focus should be on reducing taxes for lower and middle income earners. We should always remember that the purpose of taxes is only to raise what is necessary to pay for public services and things which only the state can do, such as defence and security.

As Conservatives, we should also recognise that there is a difference between rates of tax and how much revenue is raised from them.  Conservative chancellors from Nigel Lawson to George Osborne have recognised that cutting tax rates, reducing allowances and simplifying the tax system can lead to collecting more tax revenue. Lawson did this with income tax, Osborne with corporation tax.

There are always many pressures on public spending. We need to invest in social care, our schools and colleges, policing and the NHS.  One of the biggest challenges facing the new Prime Minister will be their approach to public spending and the need to set priorities.

A good policy to follow would be to go back to the pre-financial crash Conservative policy to share the proceeds of growth between tax cuts, spending increases and reducing debt. Each year we should look at the growth and tax forecasts made independently by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), and the pressures on public services to reach a balanced approach.

These decisions need to be taken in a careful, thoughtful way using methods which already exist like a Comprehensive Spending Review and the annual Budget. The Government has already announced a Comprehensive Spending Review which will set out spending plans for the next few years, until just beyond the next General Election. It’s going to require some very tough decisions, to be made by the new Prime Minister and Cabinet.

It is perfectly reasonable for leadership candidates to set out their preferred direction of travel in specific areas of tax and spending, but the scale of those commitments should be determined by the new Prime Minister and Cabinet in a proper, balanced process.

The new Conservative Leader and Prime Minister has three tasks – deliver Brexit, govern as a Conservative, and beat Labour at the next general election. Key to defeating the Labour Party will be to win the argument on the economy. And winning the argument on the economy means winning the argument for lower taxes, for sensible levels of public spending (which involves making tough choices) and for reducing the burden of national debt.

As this leadership race comes to an end, we should not lose sight of the real finishing line – the next general election. We need to ensure that we finish this leadership contest in a better position to win it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope our book will help light the way.

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

ConservativeHome’s leadership election panel. “The task next Tory leader’s task is to fashion a home for “decent populists”

Each week on Friday, ConservativeHome’s panel of John O’Sullivan, Rachel Wolf, Trevor Phillips, Tim Montgomerie and Marcus Roberts will be analysing and assessing what’s happening in the leadership election.

John O’Sullivan

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2018-07-27-at-08.30.25-298x300 ConservativeHome’s leadership election panel. “The task next Tory leader’s task is to fashion a home for “decent populists” YouGov Tax and Spending State Spending State Schools schools Sam Gyimah MP Sajid Javid MP Rory Stewart MP Race and multiculturalism Public Spending populism Policy Exchange One Nation Conservatism Multiculturalism Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Feminism Esther McVey MP environment Edward Heath Education donald trump Dominic Raab MP David Goodhart Conservatives Conservative leadership election 2019 Conservatism Comment Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP BNP Benjamin Disraeli Anna Soubry MP   “The appropriate response to these candidates is Ray Clooney’s: “Sergeant, arrest some of these vicars.”

My main impression of the Conservative leadership race so far is of a repertory theatre that has advertised the wrong play: a small audience has turned up for a serious drama but a very large cast of actors is performing a light farce.

The sheer number of candidates, most of whom have not held high office, suggests irrelevance and frivolity. Many of them seem to be auditioning for the leading role some years hence, but the crisis of the Tories is so grave that any such calculation looks today like a forlorn hope. So why are they cluttering up the stage, bumping into the furniture, and stepping on each other’s lines? And who on earth wrote those lines?

“Not on my watch, President Trump!” – Matt Hancock. “We are the party of deals rather than no deals” –  Rory Stewart. Neither sounds exactly convincing. These and other boasts have a tinny fake-heroic sound. To which the appropriate response is Ray Cooney’s classic Whitehall farce line: “Sergeant, arrest some of these vicars.”

Arrests have now been made. The men in grey suits have changed the rules so that a candidate now needs eight – eight! – supporting MPs to mount a challenge. Messrs Hancock and Stewart can probably manage that. Others – not necessarily the worst – have taken the hint and withdrawn gracefully. Some seriousness has been injected.

But the survivors still have trouble finding the words.

That’s understandable on Brexit where, as the guardian of this site has painfully explained, the Tory party has to untangle its own Rubiks Cube: the Tories cannot win a general election without delivering Brexit but they cannot deliver Brexit without winning an election.

I’m not sure that the first half of that conundrum is correct. Last summer, the Tory Whips managed to cobble together a majority against all others, including the ultra-Remain Tories, when it mattered. That’s why, among other consequences, Anna Soubry is now a party leader. And since all parties fear an election, why should we think that even ultra-Remainer Tories will happily lose their seats rather than tolerate a No Deal Brexit?

If Boris Johnson must explain how he will be able to deliver Brexit against a hostile Commons majority, therefore, surely Michael Gove must explain how he will unify the Conservative party on a program of delivering an amended version of the May deal that most Tory MPs and three-quarters of the Party’s activists have already resoundingly rejected.

Not to mention the third dilemma that facing all Tories, candidates or not. If the Tories don’t deliver Brexit soon – and Michael Gove’s pragmatic postponement reeks of indefinite Micawberism – do they really believe that their former voters now streaming to the Brexit party will simply shrug and conclude “Oh well, it seemed like a good idea at the time”? Or will their hatred grow with every passing excuse?

Think of these different dilemmas as Rubik’s Cubed.

Brexit is not the only important issue, of course. When I hear Messrs Hancock and Stewart display their ideological wares, I think kindly: “These may well be the winning issues in the 2035 election.” To be fair, however, none of the candidates seem to be asking: “Are we doing anything for our people now? The self-employed? Home-owners? Small landlords? Small businessmen? The elderly?”

I fear that when we approach them today, they look at us apprehensively as their patients might have looked at Doctors Harold Shipman and Bodkins Adams as they bore down on them smiling a bedside smile and wielding a calming syringe.

John O’Sullivan is a former head of Margaret Thatcher’s Number 10 Policy Unit, and is New Republic’s Editor at Large

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Rachel Wolf

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-03-08-at-18.02.41-300x278 ConservativeHome’s leadership election panel. “The task next Tory leader’s task is to fashion a home for “decent populists” YouGov Tax and Spending State Spending State Schools schools Sam Gyimah MP Sajid Javid MP Rory Stewart MP Race and multiculturalism Public Spending populism Policy Exchange One Nation Conservatism Multiculturalism Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Feminism Esther McVey MP environment Edward Heath Education donald trump Dominic Raab MP David Goodhart Conservatives Conservative leadership election 2019 Conservatism Comment Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP BNP Benjamin Disraeli Anna Soubry MP   “Pledging more money for education isn’t enough. What do the candidates want to do with it?”

In my recent column on this site putting 20 questions to the potential leaders, I listed common spending demands and asked which, if any, candidates would prioritise.

We have at least one answer – schools. Candidates have been falling over each other to pledge more money. Credit for this should go to the NUT, who have run an extremely effective campaign in the last few years.

What does their choice tell us? First, the incentive to appear fiscally prudent is largely gone. Candidates are increasing public spending, cutting taxes or both. (Although Esther McVey did say she’d pay for it with the aid budget: an intelligent dividing line!)

Second, that while candidates must win among MPs and Conservative members, they recognise they must persuade both groups that they can win with the public. School spending is welcomed to both former Brexit-supporting Tories and defectors to the Liberal Democrats. It allows candidates to say something positive without choosing the electoral coalition they are pursuing (at least for a little longer).

What does it not tell us? Anything about their approach to education or government.

Money is an input, not an outcome. It is easy to spend – doing something useful with it is much harder. And to achieve the latter, you need clear aims. After all real terms, schools spending has gone up enormously in the last few decades. Do we believe that quality has gone up at the same speed?

The vast majority of school spending goes into wages. Giving more money to teachers can help recruit and keep staff (and maybe increase the chances they’ll vote for you) but it doesn’t necessarily translate to children learning more in a classroom.

This, then, is a policy that conceals as much as it reveals. There are some questions that would say much more about what the candidates really believe. How about grammar schools (and, connected, are we most concerned with finding the brightest and doing the best by them, or reducing the gap between all rich and poor?) Do you think extra money in the education system should go into early years, the main school system, or to technical and higher education? If we want to listen to the teaching unions – which Esther McVey suggested – are we also going to listen to them on academies and move back towards council control?

In other words – what do you think should be done with the money and to what end?

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

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Trevor Phillips

Westlake Legal Group Trevor-Phillips-Panel-300x300 ConservativeHome’s leadership election panel. “The task next Tory leader’s task is to fashion a home for “decent populists” YouGov Tax and Spending State Spending State Schools schools Sam Gyimah MP Sajid Javid MP Rory Stewart MP Race and multiculturalism Public Spending populism Policy Exchange One Nation Conservatism Multiculturalism Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Feminism Esther McVey MP environment Edward Heath Education donald trump Dominic Raab MP David Goodhart Conservatives Conservative leadership election 2019 Conservatism Comment Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP BNP Benjamin Disraeli Anna Soubry MP   “The task for the next Conservative leader is to fashion a party that provides a home for “decent populists”

If you are a Conservative MP, the questions that you might ask yourself about the contenders for the leadership of your party are: “do they have a vision, the skill to bring us together – and can they beat Jeremy Corbyn?”. Given that almost anyone should be able to accomplish the latter, Tories should be focusing on the first two. On this week’s evidence, they seem oddly preoccupied by the third and least important qualification. That’s perhaps why the only proven vote-winner, Boris Johnson, has emerged as the early front-runner.

By contrast, Dominic Raab, perhaps the man with the clearest “vision” – Britain as a sort of Singapore-on-Thames – ends the week looking like a busted flush. The safe pairs of hands, Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid, are puffing in Johnson’s wake. We have yet to see if the remodelled Michael Gove, now studiously hiding the light of his his megawatt brain under a bushel, can locate the charm button every leader needs.

As a longtime Labour party member, I’d prefer us to face a stone-cold loser – since we need the Tories to be led by people even less competent and, if this can be imagined, more dislikeable, than the group around Corbyn.

However, given that most of the British people are unlikely to want an anti-semite and his apologists in Downing Street, there must be a case for patriots of every political stamp wanting the winner of this contest to be capable of responding to the extraordinary political times. And that will require levels of political imagination unseen since Thatcher or Blair.

It is increasingly clear that the most significant social divisions in most Western societies today run along identity faultlines. I do not mean by this that the contest should be reduced to some absurd virtue-signalling “Be-Kind-To-Blacks-Women-and-LGBT” competition. The new politics of identity are more subtle. Research shows that our new divisions are more accurately gauged by attitudes to social liberalism – multiculturalism, feminism, for example – than voters’ stance on economic issues. A typical test of tribal affinity might be whether you want to tackle environmental change through muscular state action or through a combination of market incentives and subtle behavioural nudges.

In Donald Trump, the populists have found one template. He has refashioned the Republicans to be an unashamedly white nationalist outfit; to be precise, this is not the same as saying that the party is “racist”, merely that it consciously represents an ethnic interest. Other populists are steadily building tribes that overlap with elements of both the traditional Right and Left families. On the European continent, the absolutists in politics – Marxists, ultra nationalists, eco-warriors and separatists – thrive outside the framework of traditional heterodox national parties. In some they even find a place as junior partners in government – a fantasy entertained, for example, by the SNP.

Happily in the UK, the notion of an ethnic party is unthinkable; I am happy to have played a part in extinguishing the only such organisation of any significance, the BNP. Moreover our electoral system provides just one path to political power: through big major parties which are themselves coalitions.

So the task for the next Conservative leader is to fashion a party that provides a home for what my Policy Exchange colleague David Goodhart calls the “decent populists” – a coalition of people who, when faced by globalisation are more likely to see loss than opportunity. They include those who still see virtue in longstanding traditions and institutions, those who long to live lives anchored in places they recognise from their childhoods, and those who aspire to steady, unflashy professiona or craft occupations with decent rewards for hard work.

In Brexit terms, this looks to me like a coalition of reasoned leavers and lukewarm remainers who understand that other Conservatives may perfectly reasonably have made a different judgement from them about the EU. From where I stand just two candidates seem to be equipped to craft such a coalition: Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. As often happens in such situations one has the intellect and imagination, the other the guile and charisma. I am just grateful the Conservatives have not yet found a candidate with both sets of qualities.

Trevor Phillips is a writer, broadcaster and businessman. He is the Chair of Green Park Executive Recruitment and of Index On Censorship, and a Senior Fellow at Policy Exchange. He was President of the John Lewis Partnership Council between 2015-18.

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Tim Montgomerie

Westlake Legal Group Tim-Montgomerie-Panel-300x300 ConservativeHome’s leadership election panel. “The task next Tory leader’s task is to fashion a home for “decent populists” YouGov Tax and Spending State Spending State Schools schools Sam Gyimah MP Sajid Javid MP Rory Stewart MP Race and multiculturalism Public Spending populism Policy Exchange One Nation Conservatism Multiculturalism Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Feminism Esther McVey MP environment Edward Heath Education donald trump Dominic Raab MP David Goodhart Conservatives Conservative leadership election 2019 Conservatism Comment Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP BNP Benjamin Disraeli Anna Soubry MP   “This race won’t be all ‘Brexit, Brexit, Brexit’ – and mustn’t be.”

“Boris Johnson couldn’t get past MPs’” was the prevailing wisdom in the Westminster village for a long time. It doesn’t look that wise or likely to prevail anymore. Johnspn now has more support than any other contender for Theresa May’s job. With the backing of 48 MPs, he has more parliamentary backing than Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart combined. Betfair reports that more than half of the money received from punters on the Conservative leadership race has been staked on The Blond One wearing the Tory crown rather than his trademark bicycle helmet by the July 22nd.

I predict that at least one other piece of conventional wisdom will also be overturned in the weeks ahead. This race won’t be all ‘Brexit, Brexit, Brexit’ – and mustn’t be. I predict we’ll also see fierce but healthy competition to be the One Nation candidate.

And I mean the Benjamin Disraeli unifying One Nationism rather than Ted Heath’s Made in Brussels version. The duty of the party to reach out to northern, working class and ethnic minority Britons – and all those other communities who have felt alienated from ‘the party of the south and the better off’ is true big tent conservatism.

Ideas of the kind launched this week – such as Rory Stewart’s housebuilding programme or Sajid Javid’s great infrastructure fund – aren’t just morally right but politically essential too. Donald Trump’s 2016 victories in American rust belt states and, much more recently, Scott Morrison’s triumph in less affluent corners of Queensland are proof that a great switcheroo is underway. Richer voters are moving left and poorer voters are moving right. Which candidate can build upon the inroads into once infertile northern, industrial and coastland territories that the EU referendum has begun to feed and water for a Conservative Party that delivers Brexit?

This question will be particularly relevant in the final round, when grassroots members will be in the decision seat. Unlike incumbent Tory MPs, I reckon that the party rank-and-file will be more open to the necessity of policy changes that may risk some Remain-dominated Tory-held seats being replaced by a much bigger number of Leave-majority Labour held seats entering the blue column.

It’s not, after all, just ideology or not wanting an IRA sympathiser for leader that differentiates Tory from Labour members. It’s a hunger for power. The same desire to win that led party members choose David Cameron over David Davis in 2005 will favour the candidate who can most successfully combine big Brexit and big tent Conservatism.

Tim Montgomerie is the founder of ConservativeHome

Marcus Roberts

Westlake Legal Group Marcus-Roberts-Panel-300x300 ConservativeHome’s leadership election panel. “The task next Tory leader’s task is to fashion a home for “decent populists” YouGov Tax and Spending State Spending State Schools schools Sam Gyimah MP Sajid Javid MP Rory Stewart MP Race and multiculturalism Public Spending populism Policy Exchange One Nation Conservatism Multiculturalism Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Hunt MP Highlights Feminism Esther McVey MP environment Edward Heath Education donald trump Dominic Raab MP David Goodhart Conservatives Conservative leadership election 2019 Conservatism Comment Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP BNP Benjamin Disraeli Anna Soubry MP   “Voters also consider Johnson the most electable Conservative candidate with Javid trailing a full twenty points behind.”

Should the self-described “most sophisticated electorate in the world” wish to use data to help inform their decision – and what might they learn from it?

Boris Johnson is the clear member’s favourite on the key performance indicators of strong leader, likability and electability.

Johnson leads all comers on leadership (69 per cent say he would be a strong leader), likability (77 per cent say he is likeable) and electablity (70 per cent say he most likely to win a general election).

Furthermore, Conservative Party members say that Johnson shares their political outlook (69 per cent) and is up to the job (67 per cent).

By comparison, Dominic Raab is the member’s second choice on strong leader (47 per cent) and electability (42 per cent) whilst Sajid Javid is the runner up for likeability (53 per cent).

But amongst the general public, Johnson proves himself a marmite candidate – since, of the main Tory leadership hopefuls, he gets both the highest rating for good prime minister (26 per cent) and the highest rating for bad Prime Minister (55 per cent).

General election voters also consider Johnson the most electable Conservative candidate (37 per cent) with Javid trailing a full twenty points behind (17 per cent). Amongst Conservative 2017 voters this rises still higher, with 56 per cent viewing Johnson as the most electable with Michael Gove in second place on 22 per cent.

On handling Brexit, Johnson again polarises the public at large. If we discount the low name recognition candidates, Johnson is considered to likely do both the best and worst job handling Brexit with 23% thinking he would do a good job and 43% thinking he would do a bad job. Amongst Conservative 2017 voters there is no such doubt however with 44% thinking he would do a good job and 29% saying he would do a bad job.

On likability, the general public has a pretty negative view of the whole of the Conservative field with 58 per cent of voters saying Michael Gove does not have a likeable personality, with 46 per cent for Jeremy Hunt and 40 per cent for Boris Johnson.

Finally, in terms of who could unite or divide the country, Johnson once again achieves both. Eighteen per cent say Johnson could unite Britain whilst 48 per cent of the general public say he would divide Britain. Both these numbers are greater than any other candidate.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov’s –

Marcus Roberts is Director of International Projects at YouGov.

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Scott Mann: Why I am voting for Harper

Scott Mann is MP for North Cornwall.

We cannot afford to make the wrong decision in this leadership election.  We cannot shuffle around a few chairs at the top table and hope that everything will be ok.

We need new thinking and fresh ideas if we are to stand any chance of restoring credibility with our members and the voters at large. There have been many broken promises over the past three years and we need someone who can be trusted to lead.  Mark Harper is the candidate who can offer this.

The first and most vital thing our new leader will have to do is knuckle down and deliver Brexit.  Mark’s clear preference is to get a new deal.  However, both he and I agree that No Deal must not be ruled out, should we be faced with a choice between No Deal and No Brexit.

Mark’s plan to deliver Brexit is the most credible and realistic on offer.  It comes without the baggage of having sat around the Cabinet table during the past three years, going along with the decisions which have left us in the dire situation we face today.  He is also being straight with you – saying that his experience as Chief Whip tells him that those who say it is possible to leave the EU with a new deal by October 31st are setting out ideas which are simply not credible.

The first stage in his plan is to do something that Theresa May and her Cabinet have never actually managed to do – agree a unified negotiating position, and be disciplined enough to stick to collective responsibility afterwards.

Mark’s experience as a respected and effective Chief Whip also demonstrates how he would be able to properly consult the Parliamentary Party and listen to colleagues, not lecture them.  Yes, that will mean getting colleagues who have differing views about Europe into the same room to agree a collective position but, if anyone is up to that task, it’s Mark.

Instead of sanctioning the strategically disastrous talks with Jeremy Corbyn as those in the Cabinet have done, Mark has always been clear that the only way we are going to get a Brexit deal through is on Conservative and DUP votes with, maybe, just a handful of Labour votes on top.

What’s more, Mark’s plan involves doing something that it’s never clear that the current top team ever did – going back to Brussels to open real and transparent discussions to change the backstop.

The next part of his plan involves rebuilding strong relationships with both the Government and opposition in the Republic of Ireland, as well as both communities and all Parties in Northern Ireland.  As Mark saw firsthand when he was Immigration Minister, UK and Irish officials work incredibly closely to combat illegality at the present border, so by getting Stormont up and running, and having a better relationship with Dublin, we can make progress in a way that hasn’t been possible under our current leadership.

The third element of Mark’s Brexit plan would be to establish better relationships with our European partners – I believe Mark has the communication and diplomatic skills required for this task.

Only through this plan can we both change the backstop and protect the UK’s constitutional integrity.  That’s why I, as someone who campaigned for Brexit, and as someone who represents a part of the country that voted for Brexit, trust Mark to get us out of the EU.

However, our next leader doesn’t just have to deliver Brexit: he or she has to put us in a position where we can win the next general election and defeat Jeremy Corbyn, or whoever is leading the Labour Party at that point.

The first order of business would be to re-establish a proper, functioning Government.  All too often, we have seen Cabinet meetings leaking, members of the Government getting away with saying whatever they want and a back bench Parliamentary Party and the wider membership horrified at both a lack of discipline and lack of grip.

Having not been involved in this Government and being a former Chief Whip respected by colleagues across the Party, Mark is a candidate who is capable of transforming the Cabinet back into a serious, decision-making body.

Mark also agrees that our leader needs to be more accountable to the Parliamentary Party (as set out in Greg Hands’ excellent article here) and that colleagues of all shades of blue must be treated with the respect they deserve. We must remember that we are all one team.

On domestic policy, Mark is right when he distils the values of the Conservative Party down into two elements – freedom and opportunity.

Mark believes that people should be in control over their own lives and that their hard work should be rewarded – and that includes keeping their taxes low. You don’t help people with the cost of living by putting their taxes up, and Mark will reduce the tax burden as we tackle the difficult policy questions that we face.

In the same vein, unlike other candidates, Mark will not be spending this leadership contest making lots of eye-catching but unfunded tax and spending commitments. The Conservative Party needs to retain the fiscal credibility it has spent the last nine years regaining and show it believes in sound money and living within your means. Taxpayers work hard to earn their money and politicians have a duty to spend it wisely.

When it comes to opportunity, Mark and I both believe in social mobility and are keen to see more people from our working class, state-schooled backgrounds have the chance to get the best possible start in life and fulfil their potential.

This not only means prioritising the needs of our schools, but also committing to further education and apprenticeships ahead of putting more taxpayers’ money into our already well-funded and successful university sector.

Finally, to touch on a dimension that is important to most colleagues, Mark is the only candidate in this contest who had to win their seat off another Party.  As someone who has done the same in North Cornwall and has seen what an effective election campaigner Mark is in my patch, I trust him to have our back, and make sure we can all keep our seats (and gain some more too).

Mark may be the underdog in this race, but it’s always the underdog that has the best fighting spirit. That spirit is what our Party and our country needs right now.

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Nicky Morgan: This contest must be about much more than Brexit

Nicky Morgan is Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, a former Education Secretary, and MP for Loughborough.

And then there were 13. With more candidates now than a football team, there is no doubt that the choice of Conservative Party leadership candidates before MPs is a broad one. With the entry of Sam Gyimah into the contest, the Brexit position of those who would like to be our next Prime Minister ranges from holding a second referendum to leaving on 31 October without a deal – and without even holding new discussions with the EU.  And all the shades in between.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should be clear with ConservativeHome readers this morning that I have declared my backing for Michael Gove. Since he led the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, has a track record of delivery in Government and understands the complexities of leaving the EU, I believe he is ready to lead the county, to unite our Party and to deliver Brexit.

But he also recognises that this Government isn’t working for everyone and that putting this right will require a re-thinking and re-energising of our domestic agenda too. Yesterday, he pledged to restore real terms per pupil school funding to 2015 levels.

While some candidates might want to talk only about Brexit I believe this would be a huge mistake and I disagree with those who argue that the only policy that matters in this leadership campaign is each candidate’s position on Brexit.

Of course that is important –  but to accept it is the only thing that matters is to accept that the EU obsession of some of my MP colleagues over so many years has been right. It hasn’t. And it was only when we stopped ‘banging on about Europe’ that we began to re-connect with the electorate. We need our aspiring Prime Ministers to show they can do the same. And the One Nation Caucus will want to hear more from candidates about their domestic programme when we hold our hustings interviews with them this week.

There will be many pressing issues in a new Prime Minister’s in-tray at the end of July. But there is one fundamental issue which is not getting nearly enough attention. And that is our economy.

As Conservatives, we have always jealously guarded our reputation for economic competence. Whatever our views on the EU I believe every Conservative can agree with the maxim that ‘eventually socialists run out of other people’s money’. We know how hard people work to pay their taxes, and we know how devastating losing our reputation for economic competence can be, as demonstrated by Black Wednesday in 1992.

The Government is due to start the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) about now. The Commons’ Treasury Select Committee which I chair has already been asking questions to the Chancellor, Treasury officials and thinktanks about the plans for the CSR. This is the first spending review for a long time which is not being held in the shadow of an election.

It thus provides a golden opportunity for governments when they happen to use the CSR to set their priorities for public spending, capital spending and how things are to be done differently. For example, we’ve waited so long for the Green Paper on funding of social care that it can probably now become part of the CSR process.

There is always a demand for better cross-departmental working on policy and spending bids, nowhere more so than social care funding, so the CSR can set a strategic aim of getting departments to reflect how our voters really live their lives rather than in the silos that Government can often dictate to them.

Any Conservative leadership candidate who focuses solely on Brexit will hit a brick wall with the Parliamentary Party, – because what these candidates want to do with the rest of Government will offer an important insight into how they want to resolve Brexit.

Because, as we know, fine speeches on the steps of Downing Street or in hustings won’t be enough. A real and detailed vision for the country they lead, over and above delivering Brexit, is what will set the winning candidate apart.

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