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James Cleverly: We need one last push, with your help, to deliver Brexit, stop Corbyn – and win

James Cleverly is Chairman of the Conservative Party, and is MP for Braintree.

On Thursday, voters will go to the polls in an election unlike any I have seen before. The stakes are high. The choice is stark. And we have just five days to secure the result we need.  Nine seats stand between us and the majority that would allow us to get things done. To deliver Brexit, bring the country back together and move forward.

All 635 Conservative candidates will back the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal – that’s the deal, by the way, that we were told he’d never get. We will re-introduce the Withdrawal Agreement by Christmas and leave the EU in January.

Just think what we could achieve then. We’d be able to refocus the efforts and energy of Government and Parliament on the ambitious agenda the Prime Minister presented in our manifesto. On levelling up education funding, helping families onto the housing ladder, supporting local businesses and boosting the number of nurses in our NHS.

A vote for any other party is a vote to put Jeremy Corbyn in Number Ten, leading a chaotic, Remain alliance propped up by the Liberal Democrats and the SNP. His promise to respect the referendum result in tatters. His flimsy commitment to the Union predictably abandoned at the first sniff of power. 2020 squandered to two divisive referendums.

Voting Conservative is the only way to end the paralysis that has characterised the last three and a half years and restore faith in the democratic system we all live by. Voters told us what they wanted in 2016. It’s a shocking indictment of contemporary politics that we are the only major party prepared to deliver it.

But the threat of Corbyn goes beyond the damage he would do to public faith in democracy. It goes beyond, even, the economic damage he would inflict on hardworking families and vital public services. Corbyn would fail in Government’s primary responsibility – which is to keep its people safe.

Whereas Labour’s post war Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, saw NATO as embodying the ‘spiritual union’ of the west, Corbyn has said the peacekeeping alliance should be scrapped. No matter that over the last 70 years it has halted Soviet aggression and helped to prevent a third world war.

He would undermine our armed forced, disempower the police and inflict irreversible damage on our closest security alliances. Under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour has turned its back on the party’s traditional support, mutating into something which an ever-rising number of former Labour MPs feel compelled to urge the British public to vote against. As Ivan Lewis put it last week, it’s not the Labour party of our parents or grandparents. And it’s led by a man entirely unfit to be Prime Minister.

Since becoming Party Chairman, I’ve visited candidates and spoken to constituents up and down the country. The fear people feel at the prospect of a Corbyn premiership is palpable. And we have five days to make sure that doesn’t happen.

We didn’t want this election, but we do need it. And we need to win it. We can’t do that without you.

General elections require a special kind of commitment from members and activists. General elections in deepest winter event more so. I’ve seen first-hand the dedication of our associations and supporters over the past five weeks, but as we enter the final five days we need one last push.

In 2017, 51 MPs were returned with majorities of less than a thousand. That’s 51 results potentially determined by an extra hour on the doorstep, an extra evening delivering or telephone canvassing. In a tight election, these ‘extras‘ makes all the difference. We need just nine more seats to get Brexit done and move our country forward.

So here’s my ask to you. I need you to find the time for just a couple more hours leafletting and on polling day to work with our candidates. Whatever you can give our candidates across the country. When we work together, the Conservative Party can deliver incredible results. Just look at the famous victories of 2015 or 1979.  Those victories were not just delivered by our Party’s leaders or manifestos.

They were delivered by you, our members. Taking the argument to the doorsteps of the UK and making the case for a Conservative majority government. I don’t want any of us on Friday thinking, ‘what more could I have done?’ as we look down the barrel of years more in-fighting, dithering and delay.

Like our candidates, I will be pounding the pavements. Like our councillors, I will be wearing my knuckles out knocking on doors. Like our association chairmen, I will be making sure that come December 13th we have the majority we need to take our country forward.  I hope you will join me.

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

Joe Baron: Farage is a political Titan – yet now he risks being Brexit’s executioner

The author is a teacher. Joe Baron is a pseudonym.

I’m a big fan of Nigel Farage. He’s a political Titan. Without him, we’d still have Theresa ‘the grey’ May in number 10. That fact alone makes him worthy of a knighthood, in my book. But he has really messed up during this general election, brutally demonstrated by the defection of four of his most prized candidates yesterday.

His excuse that Annunziata Rees-Mogg’s withdrawal was down to her loyalty to her brother Jacob was desperate, as was his conspiratorial claim that all the defectors had ties to the Tory Party. It’s been a precipitous, ugly and perhaps irrevocable fall from grace.

He’s unconvincingly attacked Boris’s deal, and, although agreeing to withdraw Brexit Party candidates from all 300-odd constituencies held by the Conservatives, he’s continued to attack Boris, our only hope of delivering anything close to what the people voted for back in 2016, and stubbornly refused to withdraw candidates from marginal seats currently held by Labour – an unfathomably vacuous decision that could see a Labour victory as the Brexit vote splits in these crucial marginals. Brexit could be put to death. And Farage, yes Farage, could be the executioner. Hard to believe, eh?

It could have been so different. He should have withdrawn his troops from all but a few seats in which the Tories had no chance of winning. Such a move would have been selfless, statesmanlike and, above all, rational. As things stand, he’s allowed his ego and visceral hatred of the Tory Party to cloud his better judgment. Yes, they may be arrogant, entitled, born-to-rule, sneering mediocrities who’ve gleefully attacked and disparaged Farage for 25 years. But they’re our only hope of Brexit.

Further, if Farage had played his cards right, appeared statesmanlike and above the fray of petty party politics, committed to the betterment of his country and uninterested in personal advancement and devoid of ambition, he’d have elevated himself to greatness among Brexiteers and, perhaps, constructed a powerful springboard for a resurgence.

The Tories are still the Tories, wet, dreary and perpetually bullied by our liberal-left media and institutions. Even after Brexit, immigration will continue unabated and loony leftist policies on transgenderism, crime and punishment and terrorism will continue to be implemented. There is a place for a modified Brexit Party, committed to finding sensible, thoughtful answers to the challenges of identity, the mass movement of peoples, democracy and statehood that we face.

I, for one, am only voting Conservative because I believe, tentatively, that he is our best chance of realising what 17.4 million people voted for back in 2016. And because the survival of our democracy will be determined by Brexit’s fate, for me, this is a single issue election. As far as their wider policies and ideological outlook are concerned, from what I’ve seen, the Tories do not offer an imaginative, radical programme that matches the grave magnitude of the challenges we face. And I’m not talking about the largely confected threat of anthropogenic global warming. I’m talking about Islamic terrorism, mass immigration, globalism and identity, as well as the unsustainability of the NHS in its current guise, crime, punishment and education. The Tories offer no credible answers to these challenges. It’s going to be the same old same old.

Farage had a window of opportunity. He may have blown it, though, and unwittingly stumbled into obsolescence.

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

Chris Whiteside: A hung parliament with Labour and the SNP able to form a government is still a very real danger

Chris Whiteside MBE is Conservative health spokesman on Cumbria County Council and Deputy Chairman (Political & Campaigning) of North-West Region. He was Conservative parliamentary candidate for Copeland in 2005 and 2010.

As the election race heads into the final days, remember the curse of self-defeating expectations.

Like millions of people, I have already voted, putting my postal ballot into the box at the council HQ at the start of this week.

In the UK’s first December general election for nearly a hundred years, it is likely that postal votes will be even more important than usual – and since a lot of them will already have been cast, Labour would have to make a quite remarkable turnaround to win an outright majority in the last five days of the campaign.

That doesn’t mean the election is in the bag for the Conservatives.

Ironically, one of the things which could produce another hung parliament would be if everyone thought it was certain the Conservatives will win.

For 30 years an increasingly large cohort of the British public has been more and more disillusioned with politicians of all parties. This isn’t new, but those feelings of disillusionment and indeed betrayal have been boosted in the past three years. Although readers of Conservative Home might offer contrasting ideas about why the voters have good reason for this, it is unlikely that many people reading this will disagree with the view that voters have good reason to be distrustful of politicians.

Indeed, most of those who approve of Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn or Nigel Farage, or did so at the height or their respective popularity, saw them as anti-politicians.

My perspective on this election may be influenced by the fact that most of the campaigning I have been doing has been in Leave-voting areas of northern England, often areas which used to be solidly Labour. We are finding a certain proportion of the electorate has a positive view of Boris Johnson. What is much more striking, however, is the extent to which many former Labour voters are extremely hostile to Jeremy Corbyn.

This is likely to be an election in which many voters cast a ballot against what they don’t want rather than a positive vote for something they do. That is when the issue of self-defeating expectations comes into play.

If you are a voter who doesn’t like any of the main parties much, and are minded to vote for the party you think will be least disastrous, there may be a temptation not to cast a vote which would give them a huge majority. If there was an option on the ballot paper along the lines of “I want Boris Johnson to get a big enough majority that he can get Brexit done but not big enough to do absolutely anything he likes.” I suspect there would be an awful lot of votes in that box. But, of course, no such option is possible.

Some of the shock election results over the last few decades which have often been blamed on poor polling may have been at least partly due to voters having a late change of mind against the party they thought was going to win. From Neil Kinnock in 1992 to Theresa May in 2017, voters didn’t want the party they thought was heading for victory to get a big majority and voted to “clip their wings,” sometimes with the result that they didn’t win at all.

Marcus Roberts made a very good point on the ConHome Election Panel article, when he suggested that CCHQ might see the YouGov MRP survey as “the worst of both worlds” as it suggested a large enough Conservative majority to create the risk of complacency and make people think that there is no danger of a Corbyn government, yet that projected majority comprised a host of narrow and fragile projected leads in individual constituencies.

Perhaps the best argument we can use on the doorstep with any voter who doesn’t want any party to get a big majority is that the paralysed parliament Britain had from 2017 to 2019 and the last two and a half years of chaos is exactly what casting your vote against giving anyone a majority is most likely to produce.

I have been told that “senior figures” in the Conservative campaign think that a hung parliament is the most likely outcome of the election. There may be a degree of expectations management there, but I certainly think that a hung parliament with Labour and the SNP able to form a government is still a very real danger.

Meanwhile, the Labour party campaign seems to consist of an escalating series of ever more desperate and extremely expensive bribes which they are no longer even trying to pretend they have adequately costed or have any idea how to pay for. If this was coming from a normal political party we could assume they had lost any hope of forming a government and were making promises they didn’t expect to have to deliver. The Corbyn cult, however, is quite capable of believing their own fantasies. And, unfortunately, so is a proportion of the electorate.

But I want to end on a positive note. The nightmare of a hung parliament run by Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP is still a real possibility. But so is a Conservative majority. We have absolutely everything to play for.

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

ConHome’s election panel. “The Conservatives should be obsessing about contrast – not just on Brexit, but other wedge issues too.”

Each week on Friday, ConservativeHome’s panel of James Frayne, Marcus Roberts, Trevor Phillips, and Salma Shah will be analysing and assessing what’s happening in the general election.

James Frayne

Westlake Legal Group James-Frayne-289x300 ConHome’s election panel. “The Conservatives should be obsessing about contrast – not just on Brexit, but other wedge issues too.” YouGov Trevor Phillips Salma Shah Marcus Roberts Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn James Frayne Comment Boris Johnson 2019 General Election   “Above all, the Conservatives should be obsessing about contrast – not just on Brexit, but other wedge issues too: tax levels, crime and justice policies and free movement.”

Last Saturday, with Manchester University, my agency ran a massive research exercise of 24 focus groups for The Times with swing voters in marginals across England and Wales. The Times has been writing it all up this week.

Here are the reasons to be hopeful for Conservatives.

Brexit: Brexit wasn’t all people cared about but it was dominant. The prevailing mood was a weariness to “get Brexit done”. Gone were passionate divisions of previous focus groups; while differences were audible, most Remainers and Leavers were united in a desire to move the hell on with political life. This has changed in the last 3 months.

Jeremy Corbyn: A tiny minority of people liked Jeremy Corbyn, a significant minority really disliked him, but most thought he was useless and would make a bad PM. Labour will pick up votes, but in spite of him.

Working Class: The most hostile to Corbyn and indeed the Labour Party were traditional working class voters from the Midlands and North. There’s clearly a massive cultural clash going on – and many of these voters are preparing to shock parents and grandparents by voting Tory.

Change:Nobody talked about Labour in the context of change. Labour has a great slogan but nothing else. Arguably, the Conservatives have owned change by promising an end to the status quo by getting Brexit done.  

But there were reasons to be worried too:

Boris Johnson:There was no love for Corbyn, but little for Boris Johnson either. Forget his personal life, people worried he didn’t tell the truth on political issues that matter. Labour’s attacks on his previous journalistic comments were widely known and repeated (particularly by women, young people and those from minority backgrounds).

Attacks:Not just on Boris Johnson, Labour’s attack lines had cut through – on cuts to the NHS, the police and schools. On the other hand, Conservative attacks on tax, crime, free movement and economic stability were nowhere.

Lib Dems:The Lib Dems and Jo Swinson only registered in London, but barely there. They seem unlikely to peel off many left-leaning voters.  

What does all this mean going into the final week? Things seem tighter than the polls suggest but that the Conservatives will get over the line. Above all, the Conservatives should be obsessing about contrast – not just on Brexit, but other wedge issues too: tax levels, crime and justice policies and free movement. On these issues, for the Conservatives, the more rows the better. Across earned media and paid media: we believe this, they believe that.

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

Salma Shah

Westlake Legal Group Salma-Shah ConHome’s election panel. “The Conservatives should be obsessing about contrast – not just on Brexit, but other wedge issues too.” YouGov Trevor Phillips Salma Shah Marcus Roberts Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn James Frayne Comment Boris Johnson 2019 General Election   “Trust has been the key theme of this election, mostly the lack of it. People are jaded by the wrangling of Brexit, they are angry at the tone of our political discourse, the promised sunny uplands are not visible from where they are standing.”

The first winter election since 1923 is coming to its close. There is one last staged hurrah for Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn tonight, with a TV debate that will probably make about as much difference to the electorate’s view as TV debates do… None.

Over the next week people up and down the country will be making a choice. They will decide who they believe more, as opposed to who they believe. It will be a question that weighs heavily on the conscious of the entire electorate; no photo op or successful rally is going to shift the dial, or make a critical difference now. The question before us is too fundamental, for that.

Trust has been the key theme of this election, mostly the lack of it. People are jaded by the wrangling of Brexit, they are angry at the tone of our political discourse, the promised sunny uplands are not visible from where they are standing. They have lost faith in the system.

Repairing this will take more than just delivering Brexit, though that would be a good start. What we need is resolution. “Denying Boris Johnson his majority” is a seductive message, indeed many Conservatives I have spoken to are holding their nose and voting blue with others confessing that they may quietly spoil their ballot papers or just not turn up. If this is true for large numbers of tory voters the hung Parliament it would precipitate would be a disaster.

I too, have wrestled with several issues I find difficult about today’s Tories. I worry about the unnecessary hard-line direction we sometimes go in on a multitude of issues. I’m concerned by the short-termism of some of our actions. I question what we represent as a whole and dislike lurching from issue to issue. But there is nowhere else for me to go and if I don’t like what I see then it’s reason to double down and make the alternative case from the inside.

A majority has always been necessary to break the impasse, even a small one will do. The process of Brexit will not end soon but arbitrary deadlines aside, seeing progress is just as important. My family, like many others, just want to get on with our lives. We want security and certainty, that’s why, on December 12th, I will be voting Conservative.

Salma Shah was a special adviser to Sajid Javid from 2014 to 2019.

Marcus Roberts

Westlake Legal Group 6F55B415-1D95-43DF-80B7-C94281F00F40-300x300 ConHome’s election panel. “The Conservatives should be obsessing about contrast – not just on Brexit, but other wedge issues too.” YouGov Trevor Phillips Salma Shah Marcus Roberts Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn James Frayne Comment Boris Johnson 2019 General Election   “For many voters the Conservative Party still has deeply negative connotations. Johnson hopes that the Brexit and Corbyn factors in this election can overcome these deeply-held, and often long-standing, worries.”

With just six days the polling appears to have narrowed a little but not enough to represent a 2017 repetition at this time. YouGov’s latest voting intention shows a Conservative lead of nine points (42/-33) – enough to deliver a working majority for the Prime Minister.

But should things change markedly in the final week what might we look back on to help explain a Conservative under-performance come Thursday? Let’s look at four such possible factors:

Swinson out: it could be that CCHQ have been *too* successful at sidelining the Liberal Democrats. This might help Corbyn squeeze the Yellows in Red marginals the Blues badly need. For if one half of the Tory strategy to win Northern marginals was to unite the Leave vote, the other half was to see Remainers divided and the Lib Dem’s failure to launch has allowed Labour a far easier time of uniting Remain voters than might have been expected.

Too long a campaign: the failure/inability of both the May and Johnson administrations to rid themselves of the Fixed-term Parliament Act meant that the general election ran on longer than the Tories must have wished. A shorter campaign may well have aided a bigger Tory win as the trajectory of their poll lead throughout the campaign has been down, not up!

Trump came to town: Fully 48 per cent of Conservative voters view a potential Trump endorsement as very or fairly unhelpful for British politicians. There was thus likely real relief when, in the firmest proof of ‘The Special Relationship’ between CCHQ and the Republican Party, Trump left town early, cancelling his final press conference. But it still allowed for several days of Johnson/Trump attacks from Labour.

Continued Conservative toxicity: From more recent events like Windrush and Grenfell to stubborn brand perceptions like ‘the party of the rich’ to legacy memories of the miner’s strike or the Poll Tax, for many voters the Conservative Party still has deeply negative connotations. This particularly hampers the Conservatives with working-class voters in the North of England and Wales, and ethnic minority and young voters in big cities.

May hoped to achieve detox with these voters in 2017 only to whither under ‘Nasty Party Redux’ voter worries. Johnson hopes that the Brexit and Corbyn factors in this election can overcome these deeply-held, and often long-standing, worries many voters have. Should he fall short, the need to improve the Conservative brand even more will be obvious.

Marcus Roberts is Director of International Projects at YouGov.

Trevor Phillips

Westlake Legal Group Trevor-Phillips-Panel-300x300 ConHome’s election panel. “The Conservatives should be obsessing about contrast – not just on Brexit, but other wedge issues too.” YouGov Trevor Phillips Salma Shah Marcus Roberts Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn James Frayne Comment Boris Johnson 2019 General Election   “Whilst the machines may be able to analyse the electorate’s demographics to the nth degree, unlike the country squires and the union bosses of yore there is no sense that today’s politicians really know their people.”

The silence feels ominous. Unless the second leaders’ debate catches fire, under all the media flim-flam, this campaign has been, in Hollywood terms, “Quiet. Too quiet” (first used, not by John Wayne, by the way, but in an account of the Battle of Balaclava in 1964).

Those words are normally followed by a massive shootout; but there’s no sign of that in this election – no Labour surge, no Lib Dem revival.

The only electoral event of note has been a slow escape of gas from the Brexit Party balloon, as four of its MEPs departed the fold. In spite of his protestations, it’s hard to see what Nigel Farage is cavilling about. Throwing hundreds of his own candidates under the Tory bus was as clear a signal as he could send that he wants a Johnson majority. All that his four departing MEPs are guilty of is taking him, not literally, but seriously.

As we approach Thursday’s high noon, the eerie quietus in town means either that no-one much cares who gets to be the next sheriff, or that the voters have already made up their minds. – but they just aren’t telling us what they want to do.

I tend to feel that a quiet electorate is not, as one MP claimed on the BBC’s Question Time, suffused with anger; it seems far more likely to be utterly fed up with the whole thing . Voters are most likely to plump for the outcome that means that the politicians stop haranguing us.

All the same, CCHQ is betraying its nerves. You can tell that the Tories are anxious when they fall back on an atavistic appeal to fear: “lock them up, and throw away the key”; “are you thinking what I’m thinking?”. They should believe more in the appeal of their own leader, let him show a little of his natural sunniness, and focus the electorate on whom they’d prefer to share their whisky or sarsparilla: Boris or Jeremy.

Labour looks desperate. Even if the voters believed in the gold rush promised by John McDonnell – Six Thousand Smackeroos for Every Family, plus a free bottle of Snake Oil – they wonder who’s going to train the nurses, lay the bricks and find the teachers.

Next Thursday, the guns will eventually fall silent, and the undertaker will shuffle in to take away the corpses. It may be an uneasy peace, or back to business as usual. Either way, I’m left with two reflections about the political and media classes.

First, the bribery and scare tactics of are necessary because, whilst the machines may be able to analyse the electorate’s demographics to the nth degree, unlike the country squires and the union bosses of yore there is no sense that today’s politicians really know their people. These are political clever clogs, who have been too busy clawing their way to the top of their parties since they were students. They have given themselves no time to learn how to divine the hopes, fears and desires of the electorate.

Second, the media. Much praise due to Andrew Neil. I have already written in these pages that he is the best of us. But the fact that facing him has emerged as the single test of a leader’s courage is absurd.There are others who could be just as effective; but they are being asked to interview in a fashion that suits today’s stonewalling, media-schooled politicians. We need to revisit, not the formats of our TV debates, but the quality of the minds in our newsrooms, which too often appear to be obsessed with theatre rather than journalism.

What separates Neil from the rest is not just a formidable intellect, vast experience, and a lifetime obsession with the minutiae of governing. Unlike others, Neil never starts from the assumption that the person opposite him is a liar and a charlatan. He is never rude or aggressive. He takes their good intentions for granted, asks them what exactly they might do with the power we lend them, and then courteously allows them demonstrate their total shallowness and dishonesty.

His is the work of the elegant, black suited, lone gunslinger armed with a pearl handled revolver; next to him, the rest seem like a snarling posse, firing blunderbusses wildly into the night.

Trevor Phillips is Chairman of Green Park Executive Search and a Senior Fellow at Policy Exchange.

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Lord Ashcroft: “A craven opportunist”; “She’s a bit militant”; “I want it over and done with” – my final round of election focus groups

My final round of general election focus groups take us to three constituencies of the kind that will determine what happens next Thursday: Bishop Auckland, which the Conservatives are hoping to gain on the basis of a heavy Leave vote although it has never had a Tory MP; Warwick and Leamington, a middle England seat (literally and geographically) which Labour managed to capture in the 2017 upset; and Wimbledon, where the fate of re-instated Tory rebel Stephen Hammond is in the hands of the huge local Remain majority.

‘Or is it two billion?’

What has been going on in the campaign? “Fifty thousand more nurses, but it turns out 19,000 of them are employed already. That’s why nobody believes these people;” “A billion trees being planted by Corbyn. Or is it two billion?” “Corbyn wanting to put up taxes for the working man;” “Corbyn said he would cut train ticket prices, but that’s for people who commute in London, it’s nothing for us up here [in Co. Durham];” “Corbyn spending £83 billion and the Tories saying they’ll spend three. Three sounds believable, but eighty-three?” “The nuclear missiles. They’re going to borrow billions to renew it, but he’s not going to press the button. What’s the point?” “Free broadband. Great, but what about healthcare? At least you can look up what you’re dying of.”

Nobody had been greatly impressed by the political reaction to the London Bridge attacks. “The Tories were blaming Labour for the policy of releasing prisoners early, but they’ve done nothing to change it;” “Hadn’t Boris failed to grasp one of the nuances of the law? Which would be fairly typical of him;” “I don’t agree with Corbyn saying they shouldn’t do the full term. If you give someone 16 years, they should do 16 years. But I also think we need to have some sort of plan in place for what we’re going to do with these particular kind of people;” “Johnson said the right thing, that they should be locked up, but he made a mistake in blaming the previous government. That made him look like an arse.”

Despite the multitude of small campaign happenings, few could recall clarifying or mind-changing moments: “I get lots of contradictory messages. I see something that Corbyn’s released, and then I see something else like the Jewish scandal, and I think, ‘well, I was all for you up until I saw this;” “Jo Swinton – as soon as she said ‘we’re automatically going to stop Brexit’, that was her off the list. Then there was Corbyn with his £83 billion. Boris hasn’t really said a lot apart from ‘get Brexit done’.”


Labour’s claim to have uncovered a secret Tory plan to privatise the NHS had continued to gain traction. Even if the evidence was unclear – as was exactly what they meant by privatisation – many felt the signs were ominous. “There is a redacted document, so you couldn’t actually see, but the allegation is that the plan is to sell or do some kind of commerce with the US;” “Corbyn said he had evidence, but then it went over to Boris Johnson and he said there was no way on God’s earth. Who do you believe?”

Do you really think the Conservatives would do something that would be so obviously unpopular? “I think they would, yeah;” “They privatised all the other things, like the railways;” “I don’t think we’d wake up one day and it was privatised. It would happen over time and we wouldn’t realise it was happening;” “They’ve already started, haven’t they. They’ve had all these secret meetings and there’s no smoke without fire.”


For many of our Conservative Remain voters in Wimbledon and Warwick and Leamington, the question was whether to use their vote to stop Brexit, or to stop Corbyn. For most of them, the latter was more important. For some this was because they had simply had enough: “I’m passionate about staying in Europe, but I’m almost thinking I don’t really care what happens as long as we get back to running the country;” “I was, I still am, a Remainer, but I want it over and done with now. It’s not to get the 52 per cent’s votes through, it’s to draw a line under Brexit and focus on other stuff.”

Few of these 2017 Tories were particularly enamoured of the Prime Minister: “He doesn’t feel trustworthy. He says one thing and then does a U-turn, and if he can’t come out with a straight answer he starts fiddling with his hair;” “He has no conviction. He’s just a craven opportunist whose only real desire was to be PM so he could say to himself he was PM. I don’t think he’s got any real desire to do public service;” “He was paid something like £300k to write for the Telegraph and he was calling it chickenfeed. He’s just completely not in touch with anyone.”

But to many of them, Jeremy Corbyn represented a threat of a different order: “How long have we got? He’s a dangerous Marxist;” “I just don’t like what he stands for. Everything I’ve worked hard for…;” “There’s been a lot about his sympathetic nature, historically, to terrorism. That doesn’t sit well with me. He’s not going to be tough enough, he’s going to pander to certain groups.” On Brexit, “they would fart around and there would be further delays and it would just cripple business and growth and development;” “I can’t afford to pay another five or ten grand a year in tax. That would really screw me over.”

The point was clearer still when they imagined Britain five years hence. Under Boris and the Conservatives, things would be “not massively different. I don’t think Brexit is going to be as apocalyptic as we’ve been made to believe;” “We’ll see price inflation on our food because we ship it in from Europe, but that might be offset by not raising taxes, which Corbyn would do;” “There will be growth, things will have stabilised. We’ll be looking back and saying ‘backstop? What’s that?’” But if they were surveying five years of Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn, they imagined “1978. The economy is terrible, inefficient, uncompetitive;” “House prices would crash;” “The rich would go. There would be no investment in the country;” “Do you remember when we had rubbish in the streets?” Would anything be better? “You’d probably get more money if you were on benefits.”


Perhaps surprisingly, some of our 2017 Labour Leave voters had a higher opinion of Boris Johnson than their Conservative counterparts: “He’s actually stood up to people. He won’t be bullied;” “He’s quite ruthless and bloody-minded. If he says he’s going to do it he’ll do it, regardless of the consequences, which is what I think you need;” “For me, the election is about getting the Tories in. I believe Boris will get the deal through. At the end of the day, we’ve had a referendum and the result was the result.” Some still had their doubts, though: “You’d like to think he’d get it done, but you just don’t know, do you? He said we’d come out on 31st October, it would definitely happen.”

Many of those leaning towards the Tories were helped along by their view of the Labour leader: “I think he’s a fantasist. He comes out with things that are just not plausible, that you would never believe;” “We’ve all voted Labour before, but can you imagine him and Diane Abbott running the country?” “He won’t even say what they’re going to campaign for. How can you vote for a party that won’t give you their view of what they’re going to do in the future?” “At first I did like him, but over time I think he’s the same as everybody else.”

Had anyone thought of the Brexit Party as a way of leaving the EU without having to vote Tory? “I did think about it at the beginning, but I’ve gone right off it now. They’re not going to get enough votes. It’s the Conservatives who will make it go through;” “Over the course of the last six or eight months the position has changed massively, so probably not;” “It’s almost wasting your vote. If we get a Tory landslide, at least Brexit will be got through.”

Any reservations? “The amount of austerity. People are using food banks more than ever. The NHS is under pressure, social services are under pressure, the public sector is failing completely, and something needs to be done about that;” “My reservation is that it’s going to be very focused on the south of the country. When they talk about the north it’s Liverpool, Manchester, two and a half or three hours to the south of us.”

Two penny-worth

Several of our 2017 Labour Remain voters in Wimbledon felt that the Liberal Democrats were best placed to take the seat from the Conservatives, though impression this seemed more to do with the character of the area than with any electoral data: “All these marginal seats, like Richmond, they all have yellow bits.”

Though they often said they would be prepared in principle to vote tactically as the best way of dislodging the Tories and paving the way for a second referendum, many clearly had hesitations about putting their cross in the Lib Dem box: “I don’t think they’ve really got a lot to say. I know the Brexit thing is big, but I don’t think you can just say ‘we’re not Brexiting’ because an awful lot of people in the country would be seriously peed off;” “They were very flaky in coalition;” “I don’t trust them. I think they will just crumble under the Conservatives;” “I like what they’ve got to say, but I don’t think there’s enough oomph behind them.”

What should Jo Swinson do if she found herself holding the balance of power in a hung parliament? “She should go into coalition with Labour;” “Stand up to Corbyn’s plans to spend stupid amounts of money;” “Maybe get McDonnell out and have a more moderating Chancellor.” And what would she actually do? “She will not win a fight with Corbyn. She hasn’t got the backbone for it;” “I don’t think she would go into coalition with the Conservatives again;” “I don’t know – every time I’ve heard her speak she’s pretty anti-Labour;” “I don’t trust them. They’ve done it before, they’ll do it again.”

For some, particularly on the Conservative side, the thought of a Lib Dem vote leading to another hung parliament helped clarify the question: “I’m tempted but I don’t want a hung parliament. It would be further uncertainty and mess;” “It would be worse than now, if that’s even possible. You’ll have this coalition that’s not going to agree, a constant battle in parliament about getting things through, it’s going to be a nightmare. And then you’d have Sturgeon putting her two penny-worth in;” “It doesn’t bear thinking about. Can you imagine the morale of the country if that happened?”

Most of our Tory Remainers were also unconvinced by the Lib Dems generally, and by their Brexit stance in particular: “I think she’s too pushy. She’s really passionate but she’s a bit militant for me. She’s so set on revoking Article 50 it feels like she’s got tunnel vision;” “As much as I want to remain, it would make a mockery of the whole democracy.” And has some pointed out, tactical voting works both ways: “If you’re voting Tory as a Remainer you are voting tactically, because you don’t want Corbyn in.”

And finally

When they make Election 2019: The Movie, as they surely will, who will play Boris? “That old French dude. Gerard Depardieu;” “They’d fluff up James Corden’s hair;” “Matt Lucas;” “Jonah Hill;” “Adam Sandler;” “Jack Black;” “Arnold Schwarzenegger in a blond wig.”

Jeremy Corbyn? “Jeremy Irons;” “John Pertwee;” “Leonard Rossiter;” “Catweazle;” “Ian McKellen;” “Wilfred Bramble;” “I’m thinking Hugh Grant, for some strange reason.”

What about the Lib Dem leader? “Emma Thompson;” “Julia Roberts;” “The Queen of Genovia in The Princess Diaries;” “Miranda Hart;” “Patricia Routledge. She’s a bit like Mrs. Bucket, isn’t she?”

And how about Nigel Farage? “Sacha Baron Cohen;” “Stephen Fry;” “Nigel Havers;” “Zippy from Rainbow;” “Himself, probably.”

If, when it was all over, Boris Johnson came to your house for dinner, what would he be like? “Good value, I reckon. Give him a couple of glasses of wine and he’d be the life and soul of the party;” “Polite but aggressive in his opinions. It would be The Boris Show;” “He’d knock something over and spill the wine everywhere;” “He’d offend your dog;” “He’d be good company for about twenty minutes, but I think you’d get fed up with him.” Would he bring anything? “His damson jam;” “Some nice champagne and flowers;” “I think he’d have forgotten to bring anything.” What else? “He’d stay the night on the sofa;” “Yeah, with your daughter.”

What about Jeremy Corbyn? “He’d probably take his shoes off at the door, which Boris wouldn’t.” What would he bring? “Tofu;” “A book, something meaningful;” “He wouldn’t bring anything, he’d take something. He’d go to your fridge and take a bottle of wine out.” What would he talk about? “His allotment;” “It wouldn’t be very light-hearted;” “Actually, if he didn’t talk about politics, I think he could be quite interesting. If you had something to say he would listen to you.”

Nigel Farage? “He’s one of the few politicians who don’t look down their nose. I don’t think he’s as bad a human being as people allege;” “He’d have lots of stories;” “He’d probably get horrendously drunk. It might be fun to watch.”

And Jo Swinson? “She wouldn’t. She’d say, ‘if you want to have dinner with me, you come here’.”

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Steve Baker: Five tips for new Conservative MPs

Steve Baker is the Conservative candidate for Wycombe, which he was first elected to represent in 2010.

In 2010, the estimable Eric Pickles gave new MPs a few tips. Always try to wake up in your own bed. Never accept anything in a long, brown envelope. And whatever you do, come what may, never, ever get involved in a local planning application.

Today, I’m grateful to ConservativeHome for the opportunity to share my five top tips for new Conservative MPs.

1. Slow down: you won. It’s going to take a while for becoming an MP to sink in. Your opponents will keep fighting. Don’t be goaded into an early error, on Twitter, in your local paper or wherever. You can afford to take your time and ask, “What would the MP do?” Don’t be the new MP who triggers a storm and remember, no one can keep sprinting forever. Pace yourself.

2. Hire great staff, as a priority. It’s going to feel like everyone is writing. You are going to be high-pressure hosed with correspondence every day. Prioritise your voters’ correspondence but every organisation outside the constituency can wait while you find experienced staff. And start with your office manager or senior Parliamentary assistant.

3. Keep your campaign going, as a non-partisan incumbent. You never get to serve your first year again. Attend everything locally. Seek meetings with all the important local institutions, who should now welcome you, free of party politics: schools, hospitals, CCGs, police, fire, ambulance, postal workers. Get going and don’t be bogged down by your opponents: you have five years and you can control the pace. You are the MP. And you now have almost five years in the spotlight.

4. Don’t rush to make your maiden speech. Better to make a good maiden speech with no time limit than make it in a packed debate, with a shortening limit and a full if polite House. After a few months, Michael Gove asked me how it was going. I said I felt I had worked it out. He replied it had taken him three years. He was right. Act deliberately. Parliament punishes precipitate action severely.

5. Join the European Research Group. This is going to be a busy and important Parliament. You’ll need supportive, friendly colleagues who rely on one another. We will be supporting Boris to get a great deal and secure our future. Please contact me and we will include you.

Above all, try to enjoy yourself. We are making history and it is our privilege to serve.

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Anne Fennell: Why are the Conservatives, like the other main parties, against choice for families?

Anne Fennell is Chair of Mothers at Home Matter.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all mothers in possession of young children must be in want of childcare. However little known the feelings or views of such a mother may be on her first entering motherhood, this truth is so well established that every manifesto pledge on care of young children and every family policy enacted by previous governments and the Treasury is directed to liberating the mother from the burden of caring for her child.

‘High quality affordable childcare’: all parties are promising it in various degrees. The Conservatives wish to extend wrap-around childcare at school and holidays for working parents. Labour promises an extension to 30hrs a week for two to four year olds and to extend provision for one year olds and the Lib Dems promise to deliver the best start in life for children by extending childcare provision at 9 months.

All these so called ‘family friendly policies’ are offered to mothers only if they agree to hand over care of their children to external settings and get out of the home. Care, which was once done for love and supported through family tax allowances, is now only recognised and supported if it is a traded commodity and measured as growth.

High quality long-term committed stable child care is a mother at home or a father or a grandmother – even a childminder in a home setting, but none of these qualify for any support. Economic pressures aside, spending more time with their children is what the vast majority of mothers want, and I daresay if one year olds could speak (some scream at the nursery door at being wrenched from their mother) is what they would prefer too.

But their voices are ignored at best or at worst misrepresented in political debate and policy circles. One freedom the ordinary mother no longer has is to choose to care for her own children: Mothers say choice is ‘virtually eradicated’ (Netmums: Great Work Debate) . 88 per cent of mothers with very young children said the main reason for returning to work was financial pressure’, according to the Centre for Social Justice.

And yet there is a clamour for childcare and a desperate need to help families struggling with debt, rising rents and living costs. Families are drowning and asking for a helping hand. They are not asking how they got into the river: they are too busy swimming to survive, and ‘affordable childcare’ appears to be a way to enable the mother to work to plug the income gap.

But is ‘affordable childcare’ the answer to relief from poverty? It is not – and unfortunately families will find out all too late that both parents are working very hard for very little extra disposable income. What they will have lost is family time; time with their children, which they cannot recover.

Nearly half of all families with children are caught in a tax trap. For these families, there is very little they can do about their finances. Even if a man could double or treble his gross income it would not significantly improve the family’s net income. This is because his income is subsidised by tax credits and benefits (now Universal Credit) but, for every extra £1 he earns, he loses 20p to tax, 12p to NI, 44p to Universal credit leaving him with just 24p.

So, for example, if the family needed a new car and it cost £3000, he would have to earn £12,500 to bring home the £3000. It is not surprising that it falls to the mother to give up her caring role and plug the income gap, and that there is a demand for affordable childcare.

But even if the childcare were fully subsidised, the mother would still be caught in the same trap. She cannot bring home the £3000 by earning £3000. She loses 65p in every £1 she earns, and would need to earn £8.5000 to bring home the £3000. She will have to work near to capacity away from her children for a rate of reward for effort amounting to exploitation as bad as anywhere in the world and passing largely unnoticed.

The problems families face today stem from the introduction of independent taxation in 1990, which shifted tax policy from treating the family as a household unit with allowances for a dependent spouse and children to taxing it as individuals disregarding whether they have family responsibilities or not. The tax burden for many single income families has more than doubled, while for many single taxpayers without dependents the proportion of income paid in tax has barely increased. The UK is one of the only countries in the world that does not recognise the family in its taxation system. Tax credits were introduced to compensate the family for the loss of family allowances, which were stripped away in the 1990s.

The independent taxation system with no transferable allowance heavily penalises the single income family, whilst childcare policies introduced by the Coalition further discriminated against mothers at home. In 2008, 38 per cent of families with children in which someone worked full time and their partner did not work were struggling to get by; by 2015 this figure had risen to 51 per cent. (Joseph Rowntree Foundation)

Treating the family as a unit should be the first principle of taxation of families. Some injustices arising from not doing so include: households on £30,000 where a parent stays at home are taxed double the amount as those where parents work; some families are financially better off apart than together by £12,000; some families caught in recent Child Benefit tax changes will be in the poorer 50 per cent of the population while some of the richest families continue to receive it.

What we need is a party to champion choice. The answer to families’ problems do not lie solely in one size fits all ‘affordable childcare’. There are alternatives. Mothers at Home Matter campaigns for an economic level playing field for parents who stay at home; for taxation which falls fairly on those who stay home and those who work; for childcare subsidies to follow the child, with parents able to choose whether they use it to stay home, or give it to a grandparent, childminder or external care setting and for child benefit to be distributed fairly.

We need a taxation system that gives families the option of being taxed as a household and preferably with a transferable allowance to recognise the cost of raising children. But at the very least we need to recognise that an individual’s income is not a measure of how well off the family is. Net household income is a better measure.

The Conservative Party, traditionally recognised as the party of the family, is in a position to give choice back to mothers quietly grieving to be missing their child’s first steps and discoveries and to give mummy back to the child who quietly grieves “where is my mummy?”

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Neil Shastri-Hurst: NATO’s problems today include three Presidents…and a prospective Prime Minister

Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst is a former British Army Officer, doctor, lawyer, and Conservative activist in the West Midlands.

Today, on a cold winter morning, the 29 Western leaders will meet at the former home of the Earls of Clarendon. The Grove Hotel will, of course, be the venue for the 70th Anniversary Summit of the most successful alliance in history; NATO.

For most of its 70 year existence, the fundamental tenets of the alliance have been resolutely agreed to with unquestioning support. However, in recent times that has shifted. In an increasingly unstable geopolitical climate, rather than being united behind shared priorities, there are dissenting voices, both at home and abroad, who seek to undermine the alliance and its accomplishments.

There are a number of issues facing the alliance when they meet this week. High amongst them are The Three Presidential Problems, if you will.

President Trump has been a vocal critic of the collective failure of 20 out of the 29 NATO members to meet their commitment of two per cent of GDP on defence. Whilst some progress has been made on defence spending, there is much more to be done. The President has been, and continues to be, on the right side of the argument in battling for this investment.

However, whilst this may be so with regard to funding, his ruinous policy of deserting our Kurdish allies in Syria has resulted in the United States’ commitment to its other allies being brought into question.

President Erdogan has created a schism within the alliance as a result of the proximity of his relationship with Putin’s Russia through the procurement of Russian S-400 air defence systems. Furthermore, he is holding NATO to ransom by refusing to sign off their defence plans unless the remaining members accede to consigning the YPG to the category of a terrorist organisation.

Then we arrive at President Macron, who cast doubt on the ongoing validity of the principle of collective defence, which at Article 5 is at the very heart of NATO’s founding treaty. By describing the “brain death of Nato”, Mr Macron undermined the alliance in the most undiplomatic and dangerous terms. Putin must have been rubbing his hands with glee as the Russians described the French President’s assessment as “truthful words”.

And yet, at this tumultuous time the moderating voice of Britain is muffled. Distracted by domestic political unrest, at a time we should have stepped up, we have stepped back. It is crucial to NATO’s future that we reassert our influence and presence on this most vital of organisations.

It is notable that the issue of global security and Britain’s role in it has not played a prominent role in the current general election campaign. The Conservatives commitment to our national security priorities cannot be questioned. Until recent years, the same could have been said of Labour. Indeed, every Labour Prime Minister from Atlee onwards has been unswervingly committed to NATO and its pivotal role in protecting the interests of the allied nations. But now the country is faced with a very different prospect. Should Jeremy Corbyn take power, Britain and NATO will be facing a diametrically opposite reality.

I have not, and never will, buy into the concept that Corbyn is either naïve or a peacemaker. He is, quite simply, a security risk. A man who has said that he “couldn’t think of a circumstance in which Britain would use its Armed Forces”. A man who has consistently, and unwaveringly, opposed every one of Britain’s military interventions whilst in Parliament. And yet a man who will happily support the actions of hostile nations against our national interests.

We have seen his kowtowing to Russia on repeated occasions. Firstly, after the novichok attack on our own soil in Salisbury and, before that, in 2014 when he defended and supported Russia when NATO intervened following the former’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 70th Anniversary Summit has arisen at a time of uncertainty for NATO. However, the unwitting danger of a Corbyn led government to Britain’s global leadership role and the continuing security of the West cannot and must not be overlooked. By Corbyn power, we would surely be handing over our national security.

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Annabel Denham: Don’t take the business vote for granted

Annabel Denham is Associate Director at The Entrepreneurs Network.

In the face of prolonged political uncertainty, UK business has proven remarkably resilient. Since 2010, the number of people engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by a third from its previous long-run rate. Over the last four years we have seen a 35 per cent rise in the number of high-growth companies. Pro-enterprise policies, from business rates relief to corporation tax cuts, have played an important role in signalling that Britain is open for business.

But no company is an island. Founders need to have confidence in the general economic outlook, so policies matter. Concerns have been voiced, not least by the business community, that Labour’s radical manifesto pledges if implemented would stunt innovation and harm the economy. By its own calculations it would push up day-to-day spending by £80 billion in 2023-24, and that excludes the extraordinary £58 billion vow subsequently made to WASPI women.

Nonetheless, the Conservatives cannot take entrepreneurs for granted. Their own manifesto featured a welcome focus on skills, infrastructure and research. Further, their comparatively modest spending pledges were viewed as “a pro-enterprise vision” by business owners. But vague plans to “review” business rates, “clamp down” on late payments, or “reform” Entrepreneurs’ Relief will do little to inspire. Some founders will be troubled by the Tory promise that “overall [migrant] numbers will come down,” given access to talent remains a persistent barrier to business growth.

And there is a third way: after all, Jo Swinson claims that the Liberal Democrats are the “natural party of business”. The Lib Dem leader also claimed last month that she was Britain’s next Prime Minister and three weeks later her Party is polling at around 14 per cent, so perhaps such bold statements shouldn’t be taken at face value.

We recently launched our Startup Manifesto in partnership with Coadec, outlining the 21 policies the next government – majority, minority or coalition – should implement to boost British business. What entrepreneurs need to build scale-ups is simple: world-class talent from here and abroad; the right kind of incentives to support the creation of early-stage businesses and then access to the capital needed to grow; and a clear set of rules and regulations flexible enough to encourage new and innovative startup business models.

This means visa reform, because while 14 per cent of UK residents are immigrants, 49 per cent of the UK’s fastest-growing businesses, and 11 out of the UK’s 16 “unicorns” (pre-IPO startups with a valuation of over $1bn) have at least one foreign-born co-founder. In our knowledge economy, prosperity is closely linked to our ability to produce and attract highly-skilled talent.

The last government was right to replace the Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Graduate Entrepreneur visas with the new Innovator and Start Up visas giving incubators, accelerators and VC firms a key role as external endorsing bodies. As the Tory Manifesto states, “Our start-up visa…will ensure that we can attract the entrepreneurs of the future who want to start great businesses here in the UK”. But flaws in implementation risk making it even harder for foreign entrepreneurs to create jobs in the UK. The process is overly bureaucratic and needs to be simplified.

It means unlocking more investment into startups – by streamlining the application process for advance assurance for EIS and SEIS tax relief, for instance. Or by unleashing pension fund capital to invest in early-stage businesses through VC funds by adjusting the pension charge cap. For many founders, seeking investment from abroad is not a strategic decision, it happens because the funds are not available in this country. VCs completed £63.7 billion of deals in the US but just £5.8 billion in the UK in 2017. While the steady flow of investment from overseas can be seen as a vote of confidence in the UK, it does mean that the fruits of our own startups’ rapid growth will be enjoyed abroad.

It means working with startups to ensure tech regulation does not create new barriers to entry. The FCA’s regulatory sandbox has helped small companies concentrate on innovation as well as compliance and should be extended to other tech sectors in the guise of five-year provisional licences to innovative companies with business models that conflict with existing regulations.

Don’t just take our word for it: our Startup Manifesto has the backing of over 250 UK entrepreneurs. Some have built household names – like Justine Roberts of Mumsnet or Taavet Hinrikus of TransferWise. Others are just getting started. All are asking that the next government prioritise the needs of Britain’s startups and scale-ups.

In recent years the Conservatives have pursued policies that Thatcher would hardly recognise and, in doing so, have thrown into doubt their claim to be the “Party of Business”. Though Labour have tacked to the left, the Tories cannot grow complacent. Since the EU Referendum many entrepreneurs feel they are without a political home: by implementing the 21 policy recommendations in our Startup Manifesto, the next government could help them feel anchored.

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Andrew Green: The vagueness of Conservative immigration policy poses a serious risk to the Party long-term

Lord Green is Chairman of MigrationWatch UK and a cross-bench peer.

Labour are said to be switching their focus back to their traditional seats to shore them up against assaults by the Brexiteers. If so, they have a problem. Their immigration policy rides roughshod over the views of many of their working class voters. Furthermore, their long-term strategy is to change our society in ways deeply unwelcome to these same voters as I outlined in my article of 25th November.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives need a serious policy if they are to win the battle for these crucial seats where immigration is a very important issue. The time for comic campaigning is well and truly over.

The comedy opened with a Home Office minister unwilling to tell the Today programme whether or not it was Conservative policy to reduce immigration. The same morning the Home Secretary confirmed that reduction was, indeed, the policy – only to row back that afternoon to a neutral position. This was, frankly, ridiculous given that 30 million UK adults wish to see a reduction in immigration, 18 million of them “by a lot”. This includes 84 per cent of Conservative voters.

The publication of the manifesto sought to draw a line under that confusion. The Conservatives can now say that they have a policy, but it is weak and could easily fail in execution. Most of the measures outlined were sensible enough but minor in their effect. The key passage was the following:

‘There will be fewer low-skilled migrants, and overall numbers will come down. And we will ensure that the British people are always in control.’

This wording is nothing if not ingenious. “There will be fewer low-skilled migrants”. The only low-skilled migrants admitted to the UK have been from the EU. So the first question is: will the Government proceed with its proposal to allow low-skilled EU migrants to come to the UK after Brexit for 11 months before returning home for what they describe as a “cooling off period” before they are allowed to return to work here? Obviously, it will be impossible to control the numbers. This scheme would simply be an underhand device to keep such workers out of the official long term immigration statistics. In practice it would completely undermine their key statement (notice: not a “pledge”) that there will be fewer low-skilled migrants.

In any case, the latest immigration statistics show that net migration from the EU is down to about 50,000 a year out of an overall net figure of 212,000. Clearly, there is not much scope for further reduction by eliminating low-skilled EU workers even if they abandon their dodgy 11-month visas.

Much will depend, therefore, on their so-called “Australian-style” points-based system which is outlined in the manifesto. However, the problem with such systems is that they are both complex and heavily dependent on the salary and qualifications required. Currently, the earnings requirement is £30,000 a year except for occupations deemed to be in shortage, such as medical staff. The skill requirement has long been set at degree level. However, both these criteria are under siege by a range of industries which have profited from the low salaries paid to EU migrants, especially from poorer member states, and the training costs that they have saved.

The Government is ducking the key issues for the time being by asking the Migration Advisory Committee to conduct research on some technical points. Meanwhile, the Home Office is separately consulting over 130 different organisations for their views on future immigration. The overwhelming majority represent employers (who want more workers from abroad), the higher education sector (who want more overseas students) as well as migrant welfare bodies. Extraordinarily, the voice of the public will hardly be heard. Indeed, Migration Watch is one of the very few organisations to have spoken up for the many who want a reduction in immigration together with a serious focus on training the domestic workforce and investing in the technology that will help raise our productivity which has been virtually flat for ten years – despite massive levels of immigration, which according to the immigration industry is supposed to raise productivity.

In addition to pressures from employers for more low-skilled workers, there could be a very large number of applications from the third world where even highly-skilled people may not be highly paid. They will, of course, be encouraged to apply by family members already in the UK. It follows that it will be vital to retain the current level of skills and salary if the numbers are to be kept to a reasonable level. We estimate that, if industry’s demands are met and the skill level is reduced from degree to A-level, and the salary requirement from £30,000 to £21,000 a year, about nine million UK jobs will be opened to new or increased international competition.

This points to the most serious risk of all – the clear possibility that the new regime will lead to a massive increase of immigration that will be extremely difficult to bring back under control. We saw it under Blair when net migration quadrupled in a few years. We saw it again when, alone except for Sweden, we opened our labour market to the EU without a transition period. If this should happen yet again public confidence in our governing class, already extremely low, would take yet another severe battering.

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