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Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and Sheela Mackintosh-Stewart: How Conservative Friends of the Chinese are winning support

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP is Chairman of Conservative Friends of the Chinese, and Sheela Mackintosh-Stewart is a board member.

Having recently celebrated the Golden Year of the Pig, including the Prime Minister’s highly successful Chinese New Year reception in Downing Street, we wanted to share and highlight the successes, challenges, and aspirations of the Conservative Friends of the Chinese (‘CFOC’) group.

We set up CFOC in 2013 with the Party’s full support, as there was a need to revamp our visibility and engagement with the British Chinese communities (‘BCC’) and meet the Party’s objectives for a more representative, inclusive, and progressive national agenda.

The Party has much to offer the BCC, who are naturally conservative and largely identify with many of our shared values of hard work, entrepreneurship, strong family, good education, self-reliance, and aspiration. In fact, the BCC are in fact very much at the heart of every community – there is a Chinese restaurant in virtually every town.

The BCC were hugely under-represented in 2013, with with no MPs and Lord Wei (Conservative) being the only Parliamentarian in the Upper House (which he still is today). We tasked ourselves to address and tackle the challenges head-on including filling the diversity pipeline gap and achieving a fair and balanced representation from the BCC in both Houses. Today we have an additional Parliamentarian and our first-ever British Chinese MP in Alan Mak, who represents Havant.

However, we still have much work to do to redress this imbalanced under-representation, given the estimated one million British Chinese population in the UK today.

Demographic change through internal migration is happening rapidly and altering the make-up of cities, towns and suburb, making it more important than ever that engagement with communities is prioritised.  By 2051, the BME population is expected to be approximately 20-30 per cent of Britain’s population, a large jump from the current 14 per cent (ONS Ethnic and National Identity in E&W 2011’.) So, CFOC’s efforts to ensure the Party’s increased engagement, support, opportunities and representation from the BCC is very much a necessity.

Our current team has five Chinese board members and two volunteer Chinese co-Directors, Johnny Luk and Leona Leung. We are extremely proud of our successesm including introducing and nurturing a record-breaking five BCC parliamentary candidates in the 2015 general election, which resulted in our first British Chinese MP. The work of our previous director, Jackson Ng’s, to engage CCHQ with the BBC during the 2015 general election, resulted in YouGov and the Times reporting that ‘Tories have won over Britain’s Chinese community and the Party’s 22-point lead among Britons of Chinese origin’.

In the 2018 local elections, as a result of our pro-active presenteeism and identifying the candidates to come forward, we had a record-breaking 18 BCC standing as councillors UK wide, with four Councillors elected and more British Chinese representation on the Candidates List.

Regarded as a successful ‘Friends of’ group fully affiliated to the Party, we have worked closely with CCHQ’s Outreach Team on community engagement, including hosting a joint event with the Candidates Team, attracting 80 attendees, many now Party members and on the Parliamentary Candidates List or involved in local politics. We also held many local community engagement events in London, Birmingham, and Manchester to grow and maintain on-going relationships, listening to their concerns and addressing them with the right help from politicians.

We have successfully grown our members database to over 6,000. Through our continued sustained efforts, we maintain and grow our existing links to the BCC by working closely with local business and community leaders who are ‘plugged in’ and have intimate local knowledge, so that we are best placed to continue the Party’s engagement with the BCC.

Through our social activities, we have also successfully garnered proactive and mobilised campaign support from many young activists, and created an active and sociable team of campaigners who work tirelessly on foot country-wide and in call centres supporting local, mayoral, and national elections. Our many fundraising efforts have supported marginal seats across the country and we also regularly organise business breakfast seminars to keep Parliamentarians abreast of industry leaders views on China.

Our challenges have included managing the diversity of the BCC, which compromises four generation of global immigrants from places like Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong as well as Commonwealth countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius, and the Caribbean. Despite their common ancestry and culture, many British Chinese don’t necessarily identify with one another – partly because they often identify themselves with their countries of origin. These factors contribute to disparity and a lack of cohesion as a united community.

The British Chinese are also widely spread out and highly integrated compared to other BAME groups, with no real concentration in one area with the exception of London, Birmingham, and Manchester city centres, making them more difficult to reach. Widespread belief that political engagement will not make a difference or enhance their lives is also a factor and, being immigrants, they have traditionally been more focused on their ‘survival’, working hard to earn enough or do well professionally to look after their families, which also explains their perceived reluctance to come forward and engage in politics.

But undeterred, CFOC will continue to soldier on, recognising that we need to nudge many more able and talented people from the BCC and other diasporas to engage with the Party as members, leaders, local, and national politicians, volunteers, and voters. Working with CCHQ’s Outreach team, our two strategic priorities going forward, are:

Filling the local and national political Candidates pipeline

We need to do much more to proactively and consistently identify, approach, and encourage more members from the BCC to come forward and become involved in politics. Supporting them on their journey to become politicians and being ‘Party-confident’ is important too, as many are unaware of the process of getting involved with the Party. We aim to do this through awareness days, social networking events, and meet and greets with local, regional, and national politicians.

Working more closely with known Conservative community champions

These are principally third party endorsers, including doctors, teachers, and faith leaders. Our goal is maximising the impact of our engagement and visibility with BCC. Laying down vital preparatory groundwork for the next General Election in target seats with significant British Chinese populations is crucial. Pre-boundary changes proposals, some ten seats in the Greater London area fall into this category, and possibly seats in Manchester and Birmingham too.

In a post-Brexit global Britain, we must look East for further trade and commercial opportunities. We clearly need many more Chinese representatives in both Houses, who can harness and leverage their language skills, cultural knowledge, and expertise to build important international friendships.

We still have some way to go but with consistency, focus, and hard work, we believe it is only a matter of time.

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

Ed Hall: Enough is enough. I cannot bring myself to vote Conservative this May.

Management consultant Ed Hall is a former award-winning BBC broadcaster and political campaigner, and long-time Conservative activist. 

I am going to have to go on a brief electoral holiday as a Tory voter, as I simply cannot see how in all good conscience I can put a cross in the Conservative box this May.

This isn’t an easy decision. Since being one of just a couple of Tory-supporting pupils at a very pro-CND school in the 1980s,I have supported the Conservatives in every way I could. As a young man, I worked for members of both Houses of Parliament, I’ve sat on committees in two constituencies, I have been part of selection committees for MPs and councillors, including such different political voices as Michael Portillo and Charles Tannock MEP.

My first election campaigning was against Kate Hoey in the 1989 Vauxhall by-election, and my most recent activity was working hard on the ground to see the successful election of the excellent Jamie Greene MSP in 2016: nearly three decades of activism.

I have spent my hours outside Tube stations with leaflets, I have knocked up doors in constituencies up and down the country, I canvassed hard in North London estates for Boris Johnson for his second term as Mayor, just as I wore out shoe leather for Richard Benyon in Newbury in 2005. In 2015, I spent hours in a grubby constituency office making call after call to try and elect Simon Marcus to replace Glenda Jackson in Hampstead and Kilburn: we came within a thousand votes.

I’ve written publicly and privately on policy matters, contributed where I can to Conservative thinking, and was the runner up to be our parliamentary candidate in both Exeter and Hammersmith in 2015.

I’ve donated thousands of pounds to the party, and I have (more than once) been the fool who overpays for Thatcher memorabilia at our auctions and dinners. When people say, ‘He’s a Tory!’, they mean me.

Of course, I don’t always agree with many of our MPs on lots of things, and I was an activist who strongly supported the libertarian and common-sense adoption of gay marriage as a sound Conservative policy. I don’t agree with my friend Charles Tannock on Europe, and I don’t agree with Peter Bone on equality and discrimination. Being a Conservative has always meant being part of a broad church, where we argue and debate and agree a common platform; I’ve accepted that, and I think my moderate, liberal, libertarian wing has won more battles than it’s lost over the years.

And so why do I need a break? It’s obvious really, but I think the party has lost control of itself, and is wrapped up in a bizarre Emperor’s New Clothes fantasy that anyone anywhere is taking it seriously. We have to stop this insanity, and we have to stop now. Since the catastrophic 2017 election led by a tiny group of Number 10 advisors who listened to nobody, we have changed from being the party of common sense and sound judgement, to a parliament of fools, led by a Prime Minister who is as sensitive to outside advice and opinion now as she was when she introduced the Dementia Tax in our 2017 manifesto. Am I the only person who cringes when she quotes that document as gospel in the Brexit debate, as I recall it was the same manifesto that persuaded a million Conservative voters to desert us or stay at home?

James Cleverly, whom I rate very highly, tweeting with pride and loyalty about his appointment to the Department for the Exiting the European Union, is probably the piece of tragi-comedy that pushes me off the edge. Has he lost his mind? His very job title is dotty 1984 Newspeak: he is the emergency last-gasp choice to enter revolving door of the Department for Not Exiting the European Union. A more failed, farcical joke department you would be pushed to make up: it doesn’t even have a proper office building. It’s a pretend department with a mish-mash of officials borrowed from elsewhere, using borrowed desks and borrowed meeting rooms all over Whitehall. Like the whole Brexit process, the department is a sham, with no executive powers, no authoritative voice, and not even a direct route to the so-called talks.

In 2016 we voted to leave the EU. I was on the fence for a while during the referendum campaign, but ultimately, I voted to leave. As far as I’m concerned, that’s that. Despite the obvious incompetence and poor preparation for the 2017 election, I supported May. I thought triggering Article 50 without a plan for what we wanted afterwards was a mistake, and I thought agreeing to the EU’s refusal to agree to twin-track talks was also a mistake, but I voted Conservative as I have done my whole life because I took our Brexit commitment, and May, at her word. I stuck with it.

What I see before me now is a government without a majority carrying out actions without a manifesto mandate, pitting executive power against a parliament that does not reflect the public mood, and a shattering series of broken promises. I see a party in full, free-flowing meltdown, with ministers actually voting against each other, and bitter arguments in local associations that are tearing apart lifelong friendships.

I can’t support that. Despite the practical issues and potential consequences, I don’t see how we can continue without a general election, or at the very least a new leader. When we didn’t leave on 29th March it was time for an election, for good or bad. That’s basic democratic stuff. May doesn’t represent me, and she doesn’t represent almost anyone I know. I can’t stand on the doorsteps in May and tell people to vote for her party, despite the excellent work our councillors do up and down the country. I’d like to because I know and respect many of them, but I can’t put leaflets through doors with May or this government on them.

So, I’m taking an electoral holiday.

I’m flirting with the Brexit Party, albeit worried about the influence of the dotty or dangerous far right, or I might go Green, or frankly even Raving Loony. Where is the Pirate Party when you need it? The simple reality is, that with Brexit as a single-issue subject, and with a lifetime of Tory voting and activism behind me, I simply cannot pretend any longer that I have any plans whatsoever to tick the Tory box.
I suspect I’m not alone.

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

Emma Little-Pengelly: The Government should protect free TV licences for over-75s

Emma Little-Pengelly is the Democratic Unionist MP for Belfast South.

I am proud to be a member of a party, the DUP, which has always stood shoulder to shoulder with our older population.

Our strong track record is reflected in our commitments at the last general election to support the continuation both of the ‘triple lock’ on pensions, and of universal benefits such as the Winter Fuel Allowance – when some others were calling them into question.

These benefits continue across the UK only through our intervention, and are enshrined in the confidence and supply agreement we have with the Conservative Party.

Today the future of another such benefit, concessionary TV licences for the over 75s, is in doubt. This is because during the BBC Charter Renewal negotiations in 2015 the BBC took on full responsibility for these concessionary licences from 2020. Government funding towards the estimated £745 million annual cost has been tapering away, and ends completely next year.

My party supports freezing and then cutting or ending the licence fee altogether, because it’s a highly regressive ‘tax’ that belongs to a world of communications that increasingly no longer exists. It is surely a matter of when, not if, the licence fee goes in favour of a different approach.

But the fact that the BBC licence fee is outmoded is no reason to take away free licences from the oldest now – before the discussion about what replaces it has even got properly underway. Indeed, removing the concession would punish many of the BBC’s most loyal viewers and listeners, particularly the poorest and oldest, many of whom would find it hard or impossible to pay.

For the over-75s, their television is often a great source of comfort and companionship, especially if widowed and living alone, disabled or unwell, as many are by this stage in life. I certainly see this among my own older constituents in South Belfast, most of all those on a low fixed income and budgeting carefully to pay their bills – which they tell me always seem to be going up.

They are usually not on the internet, let alone Netflix subscribers. Their media habits continue to centre on television – usually terrestrial – and AM and FM radio. Many of them have few other pleasures in life and I think politicians should think very carefully before taking any action that could make life worse for them, which abolishing their free TV licence certainly would.

In a fast-changing and uncertain world, my Party believes older people need our support more than ever, and that’s why we support the continuation of free TV licences for all over-75s.

Some people have however argued that we should use this as an opportunity to means-test the licence fee. In theory, this sounds like an ideal solution, but in reality it would be expensive to administer, would provide no help for those living just above the line, and many of the poorest would miss out – just as they do on pension credit – because of the complexities and stigma associated with claiming means-testing benefits.

It is also a sad reality that, despite interventions and protections put in place, the numbers of pensioners living in poverty have begun to rise again.  We also know that many older people are cash-poor, with their assets tied up such as in their house and home.

For the DUP, there are three consequences to the backroom arrangement made in 2015 between the Government and the BBC, that are all equally unacceptable:

1) Whether they keep it, scrap it, or amend the current funding formula, the BBC would be deciding and implementing social policy. This is not the BBC’s job, and what confidence would any of us have that they would perform it well? The BBC has no experience of this, nor are there the right levels of scrutiny or accountability for their decisions or reasoning.

2) I have considerable sympathy for those who are raising concern that older people are inappropriately stuck in the middle of a debate between the Corporation and policymakers about the BBC’s long-term funding future. This conversation definitely needs to happen, but surely we should keep vulnerable older people out of it.

3) This process puts other universal benefits for older people under threat because, like it or not, it sets a precedent. If this or any other government wishes to make changes to pensioner entitlements they are well within their rights to do so, but it should be done openly. It must be debated and scrutinised in the appropriate way, with clear democratic accountability.

They should also know that we in the DUP will continue to stand up for older people if this happens. But at least the process will be transparent. I believe we owe this to older people.

For all these reasons we believe action must be taken now to prevent the removal of this concession and we strongly urge the Government to step in and ensure this happens. It would mean so much to the older people in my constituency who have raised their worries and sadness with me, as I am sure it would also to hundreds of thousands of others across the UK.

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

Andrew Goodfellow: Conservative leadership candidates should not be compiling attack dossiers on their rivals

Andrew Goodfellow is Vice President of UK Policy Group, a research and political intelligence consultancy. He was the Conservative Party’s Director of Policy and Research from 2015 to 2017.

At the weekend, the Telegraph reported with barely concealed relish that the expected Conservative Party leadership contest would be ‘the dirtiest for a generation’. Christopher Hope’s impeccably sourced piece claimed:

‘And given the wide open nature of the field, it is hardly a surprise the teams are drawing up “war books” about one another according to one adviser, shining a light on controversial historic articles, details of alleged sexual peccadilloes and unsavoury claims about their partners.

One adviser said that “without a doubt” the campaigning in the upcoming Tory leadership campaign will be the dirtiest for decades. “The biggest feature in Westminster is people looking for dirt on other people. They are all at it [war books]. Everyone is going on about the war books, who has got what. It is already quite a nasty campaign.”’

Now, I love a good opposition research book more than anyone. A well-constructed dossier of votes, quotes, dodgy connections, questionable decisions and all the rest is, if done well, a thing of beauty.

I’ve been working in this field in one capacity or another for over six years, and opposition research is one of the most maligned and least appreciated elements of politics.

But I think any prospective Conservative leadership candidate commissioning this sort of work on their rivals is being badly advised, and making a tactical error.

Here are five reasons why:

You need to know your own weaknesses better than those of your opponents.

The last Conservative leadership contest ended with Andrea Leadsom giving an ill-advised interview, but even before that she was dogged by questions about inconsistencies on her CV. If her campaign had conducted proper due diligence and self-vetting work, they would have been prepared for the inevitable challenges that appeared in the press.

The level of scrutiny potential leaders or Prime Ministers face is huge – from the press and from political opponents. Concentrate your limited time and resources on ensuring that you are prepared to respond to anticipated attacks and shut them down comprehensively.

Avoid rows about process and tactics.

If your team get caught briefing against rivals, pitching opposition research stories to journalists, or starting whispering campaigns in the tea room, it will get out. There’s only a limited amount of space available to get your message out there- don’t let your campaign get embroiled in a row about who-said-what-about-whom.

Party management. These are your future Cabinet colleagues.

British political history is littered with examples of internal rows in the government sabotaging Prime Ministers. As a point of good politics, why would you deliberately antagonise your rival leadership candidates, when it’s highly likely that you’ll be sitting across the Cabinet table from them if you win?

Conservative MPs and members are crying out for some positivity.

The last three years of British politics have been thoroughly miserable. Doom, gloom, dire warnings, online abuse and fury, from all sides of politics.

Regardless of where they stand on Brexit, Conservative members want to know what a potential leader has to say about how they’ll bring the country together, and give us a vision of some sunlit uplands.

At the next General Election – whenever it comes – Labour will present an expensive package of spending pledges, cash handouts, and carefully targeted taxes.

The next Conservative leader would be wise to pitch to MPs and members with a set of policy proposals that will prove more appealing to the country than the Labour alternative.

Focus on the real enemy, don’t do Labour’s work for them.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party – now there’s a group of people who know a thing or two about internal disputes. They’re not going to sit on their hands and watch a Conservative leadership election unfold without making the most of the opportunity to inflict further damage.

Bright researchers at Labour HQ will be paging through microfilm of student newspapers, scouring YouTube for barely watched videos of obscure think-tank events, and assembling comprehensive documents of embarrassing quotes and controversial donations.

If you’re a Conservative, why on earth would you want to assist this process? Adding more opposition research into the political bloodstream will only give Labour and their allies more ammunition to aim at our party.

In his early days as leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron urged members to “let sunshine win the day’” as he called for “optimism to beat pessimism”. The Grand National sized field of prospective Conservative leaders could do well to revisit that speech from the 2006 Party conference.

They need to make the most compelling possible pitch for why they are the best person to lead the party, not simply the ‘least worst’ option.

So rather than building opposition research dossiers on opponents, candidates should spend that time getting to know their own vulnerabilities, and mitigating against them.

Then they should put together the positive case for why they should lead our party and our country.

At the end of the day, the only winner from a messy Conservative leadership election would be Jeremy Corbyn.

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

James Brokenshire: Why we have decided to abolish no fault evictions

James Brokenshire is Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and is MP for Old Bexley & Sidcup.

Supporting one group can sometimes mean disenfranchising another. But not in the housing market. We all collectively benefit from a society which can provide safe and secure homes for everyone.

The fastest growing housing tenure in our country is private rental. And yet for a long time our politics didn’t understand what this shift meant. Privately renting your own home has been a struggle for too many; paying unjust fees up front for services that don’t benefit you, living with the threat of eviction at the whim of a landlord or not even knowing what your rights are as a tenant.

And this should bother us as Conservatives. We should want all people to feel like they have a stake in their community, and that all the great things that flow from someone committing to a place and putting down roots shouldn’t be denied based on your housing tenure. The Conservatives should be the party of security and belonging, and nowhere is this more important than in the private rental sector.

That is why we have already legislated to ban unjust letting fees and strengthened the rights to redress for tenants. We’ve worked with campaign groups to get more information to renters and put pressure on the market to improve behaviours and ensure tenants get a fair deal. But I know this isn’t enough.

With more people choosing to rent privately, and for longer, we need to make sure the market works for them. Putting their interests on a par with landlords. The vast majority of landlords do a great job and also want to see their tenants treated with the respect they deserve. I know that we need to strike a better balance in the private rental sector. If a landlord has a legitimate reason to get their property back quickly they absolutely should.

And yet, the 11 million people living in the private rental sector need a little more support, because the balance of power as it stands isn’t fair. And that is why I’ve taken the decision to go far beyond the scope of the Government’s current efforts to reform the private rental sector, and abolish ‘no fault’ evictions. Because these ‘Section 21’ notices mean a landlord can evict a tenant without reason. Giving someone two months to move out of their home without just cause is simply wrong.

Landlords quite rightly should be able to evict problem tenants and we are strengthening their rights to do so. Yet, for the family renting privately, I know this reform will mean they can sleep easier at night, knowing that the housing market they rely on has become fairer as a result.

If you work hard, you should feel like your job will be safe. If you pay your rent you want to be confident your home will remain your own. If you pay your taxes you will want to know the services you rely on will be there for you. This question of security is a critical battleground for the future of our politics.

And the Conservatives need to become the party of security. I want every citizen to know that a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a better future for them and their families. Today the housing market has become a lot fairer, and this is something we can celebrate.


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Julian Brazier: Yes, the Conservatives must engage with young people – but challenge their worldview, not concede it

Sir Julian Brazier is a former Defence Minister, and was MP for Canterbury from 1987-2017.

James Kanagasooriam’s interesting recent ConservativeHome article summarised polling and analysis by Onward which should alarm all Conservatives. His thesis is powerful: we have lost young people’s support, and even that of those in mid-life, to an extraordinary extent.

His conclusion however – that we should poll young people and, based on the findings, move policy towards their wishes – is less convincing. Clearly engaging with youth and, indeed, those in their twenties and thirties, is crucial. But simply analysing what young people want and offering as much of it as we can afford would lead, I believe, nowhere, for three reasons:

We have allowed the Left to dominate schools and universities to the point where traditional Conservative voices on everything, from free market economics to the dangers of transgender therapy for children, are being excluded. As a tweet quoting Roger Scruton recently put it: “Once identified as right-wing you are beyond the pale of argument; your views are irrelevant, your character discredited, your presence in the world a mistake. You are not an opponent to be argued with, but a disease to be shunned. This has been my experience”

Ironically, just days later, an unscrupulous New Statesman journalist stitched him up in an interview, which resulted in the government sacking him from his (unpaid) post chairing an advisory group on housing design. His response is worth reading .

The gay former chairman of Kent University Conservative Association reflected after the 2017 general election that it was harder to come out as a Conservative than as a gay man. Some Conservative students complain of biased marking in subjects like history, economics and politics by Marxist professors. A Canterbury A level student activist tells me that he does not dare let staff at his (academically strong) school know he is a Conservative. Across the country ‘safe spaces’ and ‘no-platforming’ of those with conservative views by student unions are widely reported. Last year, Nigel Biggar, an Oxford academic was vilified by a string of his colleagues for teaching that the British Empire had benefits as well as drawbacks, while Cambridge has recently banned the distinguished polymath, Jordan Petersen, from a visiting lectureship because he was once photographed with a student wearing an offensive tee-shirt.

Rather than swallowing the world-view of young people today, we need to challenge their ideas. More of us need to follow Jacob Rees-Mogg’s programme of speaking regularly in universities, and we need to introduce scrutiny of the syllabus and teaching materials in schools, using such levers as the new Office for Students and Ofsted. If those bodies prove supine, we could empower students to apply to a tribunal to have taxpayer funds cut off when their unions are promoting political safe spaces, no platforming or showing political bias in the allocation of funds.

Students are justifiably angry about a system of fees and loans which plunges them into levels of debt that the majority are likely never to fully repay. Yet, if we make comparisons with abroad, we see that the systemic problem is deeper than students – and the wider public – understand. In most countries, including other European countries, most students go to their local universities from home. In America, public sector tuition fees are usually lower than the UK and the private sector has built endowment funds to support the talented less-well-off. In Britain, almost uniquely, the vast majority of students go away to university, and rack up huge debts to cover both crippling accommodation costs and heavy tuition fees.

This is compounded by many universities packing their benches with people whose study is unlikely to benefit their careers. In November, the Education Select Committee published a report denouncing many universities as poor value and inflexible. While stressing the quality of our best institutions, the report highlighted that fact that almost half of recent graduates work in non-graduate roles.  Indeed, more widely far too many people are studying degrees in subjects for which they are clearly not qualified. What point is there in reading engineering, if you cannot pass a Maths A Level, for example?

Too many of our weaker universities are treating students as cash cows, who rack up debt without improving their prospects. This is producing an angry graduate underclass with shattered expectations, who are consigned to jobs they see as beneath them – and with no prospect of paying off their debts. Not surprising that the Onward study shows that those who qualify as apprentices are much more likely to vote Conservative than recent graduates.

The rise in interest rates has provided the final twist in the garrotte. That can and must – be reversed, but doing so will be expensive for the taxpayer. More important is that any serious (and affordable) reform must start from recognising that the design of our university sector is unaffordable: the traditional British residential model, which delivers some of the world’s best universities at the top end, is unsuitable for delivering affordable, job-enhancing teaching and training for those with lower attainment levels.

The second quartile of each cohort, broadly the bottom half of today’s university sector, needs a shift towards local availability of HE (or FE), avoiding crippling accommodation costs, as its counterpart in most of Europe does. Equally, we need to move towards a much higher proportion of vocational degrees, as in the USA and the Far East – and as the recent Select Committee report recommends. Loading the cost of the current behemoth onto young people whose earnings will never justify it – and ending up with the state paying because they cannot repay – is the worst of all worlds.

The third issue is the most difficult of all. The report shows attitudes on three critical and related subjects whose handling needs to involve explanation as well as listening. First, a high proportion of young people see us as racist – or at least as anti-diversity – which helps to explain why members of ethnic minorities are disproportionately unlikely to support us (they are also disproportionately young).

Furthemore, a bare majority of the young are in favour of controlling immigration, but by a much smaller proportion than in older age groups. Anecdotally, this reflects a widespread view among students and young graduates that immigration controls are racist, on the one hand, set against angry opposition to immigration among the less-educated, on the other.

Finally, access to accommodation – unaffordable housing to buy and rent – is a major concern, among the young and older groups right up into their forties.

This last point is hardly surprising given the cost and shortage of housing, but Conservatives have failed to explain the linkage between unaffordable housing and spiralling population, largely driven by heavy net migration. Last week, the ONS reported, according to the Daily Telegraph, that they are revising their population estimate for 2026 up by a further 700,000 over and above the three million increase over the next seven years they had earlier projected. These numbers, combined with ‘domestic’ growth (heavily increased by replacing emigrating pensioners with incoming young people) could absorb most or all of our new housebuilding, leaving little for the disappointed aspirants.

It will require a major effort to explain that the mathematics of supply and demand in our housing market is at the heart of the need to tackle net migration, not, crucially, racism.

James Kanagasooriam is right. We must address young people, or the Conservative Party will wither. Post-Brexit, it should be our highest domestic priority, but – like Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms on welfare – our response must seek to make the weather, not just respond to it.

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Social care. Let’s halve the disability employment gap.

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

The Government has accepted that our social care system is under pressure and requires significant change to ensure we have a secure and sustainable system for the long term. The Prime Minister herself has acknowledged this on a number of occasions over the last two years, and has promised a full and open consultation on ideas and proposals which will be contained in a Green Paper. That Green Paper is now significantly overdue, having originally been promised in the autumn of 2017. The Government should get on and publish it straight away, to kick off the urgently-needed political debate.

When social care is discussed in the media or in Parliament, the conversation almost always focuses on the needs of older people. What is not widely known is that just over half of the adult social care budget in England is actually spent, not on older people, but on working age adults with some form of disability. This article is going to focus on them.

Britain has a proud record of being a leading country on enabling disabled people to be more independent and get into work. I am familiar with this policy area because I was the Shadow Minister for Disabled People for almost three years, between 2007 and 2010, and the Minister for Disabled People between 2014 and 2015. Over that period, under Governments of both main parties, the direction of travel was clear. We all want to ensure disabled people have more control, more independence and, where they are able to work, the opportunity to get into the workplace and contribute – just like everybody else.

In our 2017 general election manifesto, we set out an ambition to get a million more disabled people into employment over ten years. That is the right direction of travel, but I would like to see us be more ambitious about both the destination and the speed with which we intend to reach it.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has also said that she wants to review the commitment that we made in 2017 to see if we can make it even more ambitious. I have a suggestion for her” perhaps we should re-adopt the commitment we made in our 2015 Manifesto that ‘we will aim to halve the disability employment gap’. The Social Market Foundation has said that the 2015 commitment would see between 200,000 to 500,000 extra disabled people in work compared to our 2017 promise. In the interests of transparency, I should explain that, as the Minister for Disabled People in the run up to the 2015 election, I may have had a hand in drafting the said Manifesto commitment myself!

The Social Care Green Paper is not an end, it is a means to an end. It offers an opportunity to set out some of the Government’s thinking and some of the options it has for action. Publishing it would kick off the necessary debate about the right solutions. The Government would have an opportunity to listen to valuable feedback from disabled people, expert organisations involved in this field and the wider public. It would then be able to set out specific actions it is going to take, legislating where necessary. The sooner we begin, the sooner we can see real change taking place and the sooner disabled people will feel the benefit.

I chair the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Learning Disability, and recently chaired a joint meeting with eight other relevant APPGs to talk about what we wanted to see in the Green Paper. This meeting was held in Parliament and attended by a number of disabled people and campaigners for change. A summary of the meeting will be sent to the Health and Social Care Secretary to inform the Government’s thinking.

One clear theme that emerged was to see better joined-up working between the social care, health, and welfare systems. There is quite a lot of support available already, but it does not always work well together as a package. For example, if someone acquires a disability, the rest of their life (their work, their family) keeps going at the same pace but things can go wrong because the support they need, like social care, home adaptations, and financial help, do not get going quickly enough.

The other area where we have seen some progress, but we could do more, is to ensure that family carers feel better supported. They provide enormous amounts of care for their loved ones, not done for financial reward, but extra support would mean that this care was much more sustainable without taking a toll on the carers’ own health and wellbeing.

A lot of the discussion on social care for older people is about how it is paid for, that is to say how you split the cost between the individual and the taxpayer. That is because many older people will have accumulated significant assets by the time they need social care, and it is reasonable that the cost is shared between them and the taxpayer, the debate is about the balance between the two.

For working age adults, it is a very different situation as they often have few, if any, assets. Any kind of means testing for social care support for them runs the risk of creating further barriers to getting into work.

Looking at the system overall, there may be areas where an increase in spending is required but that may lead to savings elsewhere. For example, more resources available to enable somebody to work is likely to lead to better health outcomes as well as that person making a financial contribution to the public finances.

Conservatives want to enable disabled people to live their lives as independently as possible to reach their full potential. We should be ambitious about our commitments, so I would like to see us improve our goal for getting more disabled people into work, reverting to the better target we had in our 2015 general election manifesto. We need to see more effective joined up working between the social care, health, and welfare systems. To that end, publishing the Social Care Green Paper now would kick off the necessary debate. There are millions of disabled people in our country who will welcome us gripping this issue and making rapid progress to deliver real improvements to their lives.

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Rami Ranger: A hundred years on, the Amritsar massacre is a wound that has healed but will never be forgotten

Dr Rami Ranger CBE is a founder and Chairman of Sun Mark Ltd, and Sea, Air & Land Forwarding Ltd. He is the Co-Chairman of the Conservative Friends of India.

This week, our Prime Minister described the 1919 Amritsar massacre as a ‘shameful scar’ on Britain’s history with India – and it is just that. A scar, a past wound that has healed but will never be forgotten. The 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre will be marked by Sikh communities not only in this country but across the world on Saturday. On that day, 100 years ago, British Indian Army soldiers under the command of Brigadier-General Dyer fired into an unarmed crowd, killing hundreds of protestors in just 10 minutes, the majority of whom were Sikh.

As a proud Sikh and Chair of the British Sikh Associations it is an anniversary that I observe each year to remember all those who suffered and died as a result of this tragedy. Yet I also share the view of Foreign Office minister, Mark Field, who has said he believes what while we must always remember the past and learn lessons from it, the best way of all to honour the memory of all those who suffered and died at Jallianwala Bagh is to celebrate and build upon the partnership that Britain and India enjoy today.

While the UK is one of the world’s oldest democracies, India is the world’s largest which is why our continued collaboration is a force for global good. As Chairman of Conservative Friends of India, I am committed to continuing to build on UK-India relations and I am honoured to have received awards for my work promoting and enhancing our established business links. The strength of the Anglo-Indian partnership reflects India’s emerging stature and standing in the world as a positive economic, social and political force. Our partnership is based on shared values and a commitment to continued mutual prosperity and security.

As the owner of a global distribution business, I can attest to the close collaboration and business links we enjoy with India. In fact, trade and investment are growing rapidly and we are each among the top investors in the other’s economy. Not only that but UK exports to India last year amounted to around £7.6 billion and imports to the UK were over £12 billion. Indian-owned businesses like mine have created 110,000 jobs in the UK and in turn, talented Indian workers have come to Britain. In fact, this country has issued more skilled work visas to India that all other countries combined. What is more, the Indian contribution to the UK economy continues to grow with the numbers of Indian people working, studying and visiting the UK steadily increasing. In 2018, there was a 35 per cent increase in student visas, a six per cent increase in working visas and a ten per cent increase in visit visas. The Grant Thornton India meets Britain tracker for 2018 noted that there are 800 Indian companies operating in this country with their diverse range of investments demonstrating their long-term commitment to the UK.

However, despite this close economic partnership, our enduring connection to India is through people and the migrant communities which I am immensely proud to be part of. As a British Indian, I am part of the UK’s largest diaspora community. There 1.5 million Indians living in the UK from across the country’s Sikh, Hindu and Muslim communities. My generation and the generation before us successfully integrated into this country and have prospered. But we have sustained our cultural and familial links to our ancestral home. That is why it is incredibly important that we remember and acknowledge the scars in our Anglo-Indian history such as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. But I am determined that, while we mark the tragedies in our past, we focus on celebrating our current partnership and enduring friendship with India so we are able to continue to capitalise on our diaspora link to one of the world’s largest economies and most vibrant and diverse countries.


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Tom Hulme: Conservative support is growing for a second referendum. It’s time to commit to one.

Tom Hulme is the Political Secretary of Lincoln University Conservative Association.

Something is happening inside the Conservative Party.

Last week, Phillip Hammond told Robert Peston that a confirmatory referendum on Brexit is “a perfectly credible proposition”. Peter Oborne, Chief Political Commentator for the Daily Mail and a renowned Brexiter, wrote a searingly honest piece in which he admitted Brexit was a “disaster” and backed another referendum on the deal.

Shortly after, Huw Merriman, the Chancellor’s PPS – who has voted for the Prime Minister’s deal and keeping no-deal on the table, each and every time they have been brought before the Commons – spoke at a People’s Vote rally in Westminster.  He told the audience that whilst he still believes Theresa May’s plan is the best option for the country, he accepts that the UK is in a political mess, and that seeing  at first hand Parliament’s mishandling of our departure from the EU has brought him to the conclusion that the public couldn’t do a worse job.Even the Chair of the ‘Brexit Delivery Group’, Simon Hart, has told the BBC that another referendum may be “the last game in town”.

The significance of these interventions, as well as the growing number of Tories supporting People’s Vote amendments in the various rounds of indicative votes in the Commons, has not been properly understood.

To a certain extent, that is understandable. Since the People’s Vote campaign began last year, the fight to give the UK a public vote on Brexit has mainly been focused on getting the Labour Party on board. Campaigning social media is full to the brim of videos of young people directly addressing individual Labour MPs about stopping a ‘Tory Brexit’.

With no Labour support, there was no People’s Vote campaign, and these efforts have borne fruit – partially. After months of intense lobbying to the Leader’s Office, the Labour Party now has policy in favour supporting a public vote, in certain circumstances, and has whipped in favour of non-binding motions to this effect in the Commons.

But the lack of consequence for frontbenchers who don’t follow the whip, and deliberately misrepresent party policy in the media, means there is little incentive for the unconverted to change their tune. Like Brexit itself, support for a People’s Vote transcends party allegiances. That means the next stage has to see more moderate Conservative voices emerge, crucially including those who see a confirmatory vote as the best way to deliver Brexit.

Since Theresa May more or less confirmed her resignation as Prime Minister by the end of the year at the very latest, most minds on the Government benches have turned to the upcoming Conservative leadership election.

There will be a correct and inevitable focus during the next leadership contest – whenever that may be – on the existential problem facing the Conservative Party: how to gain younger voters.

Minds were sharpened at the launch of a report last week by Onward which showed that the average age at which voters are more likely to vote for the Conservatives than for anyone else is now 51. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, correctly said that “voting Conservative used to be something people started to think about doing when they got their first paycheck and now it’s something people start to do when they get their first winter fuel allowance.”

So two of the major problems for my party – Brexit deadlock and lack of youth support, can be solved in one fell swoop, by backing a confirmatory vote on the Government’s Brexit Deal.

But this is about more than just the future of the Conservative Party. It’s about the future of the country. The values which voters and people across the world used to prize about the United Kingdom are Conservative values. Our stable economy, the breeding ground for successful businesses, and our reputation for grown-up stewardship of the country, have both been taken apart bit-by-bit over the last three years.

Britain should be a place which people aspire to be a part of because they know that if they work hard and play by the rules, they can get on in life. If you are a Conservative – whether a Brexiter or not – we can all unite around this ideal.

So my message to Conservative MPs, as a member for nearly ten years, and as someone who pounds the streets at election time and who has served on the committee of local associations and university societies is that there is a way forward.

In order for our party to be trusted by voters at the next election, we need to show them that we trust them here and now. We may have given people the opportunity to vote Leave, but we never trusted them to say clearly what Brexit means to them, and what meets the threshold for a ‘proper Brexit’.

A People’s Vote is a way of providing clarity on this issue, something which is desperately needed. Joining together those who support Remain, as well as supporters of the Prime Minister’s Deal, appears to be the main way to get a secure parliamentary majority. It would give proper clarity to both our political leaders and the country. If the public vote for a Brexit Deal, the campaign of those who want to stay in the European Union will dissolve like a sandcastle in the tide. But if instead we vote to Remain, the public will have done so, despite a clear Brexit alternative.

Millions of people across the country have put their faith in us time and time again. It’s time for us to show them how much their voices matter to us.

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Nabil Najjar and Luke Springthorpe: How Conservative Progress aims to revive the Tory grassroots

Nabil Najjar and Luke Springthorpe are the founders and directors of Conservative Progress.

If the Conservative Party is going to win the next election, it desperately needs to re-energise its grassroots.

Part of this is, of course, about numbers. It’s no secret that Labour now outnumber the Conservatives heavily in terms of paid up members by about 4 to 1 (c. 540,000 vs c. 124,000).

But it’s also about the existing membership feeling empowered and a part of a vibrant movement that listens to them, provides them with a platform for debate, and actually values them enough to invest in developing their skills through training.

If members don’t feel like they are an active part of the Conservative movement by having a chance to actively participate in the debate, it stands to reason that their enthusiasm to go out and campaign to help the party win will wane. What’s more, if we don’t continually train our activists and share best practice from our best campaigners, how are we going to stay one step ahead of our opponents?

Some of this can be done centrally, but it’s also clear that a lot of this needs a certain degree of freedom and absence of a filter that only a third-party organisation can bring. It’s also true that a smaller third-party organisation can be nimble and react to demand for training, as well as current affairs, in a quick and timely fashion.

Which is why we set up Conservative Progress.

It all started with a simple idea back towards the end of 2016: bridge the gap between the grassroots and the Parliamentary party and provide an open platform for Conservative grassroots to hear from the brightest and the best, as well as sharing their own ideas. We recognised an underlying urge to bring some vibrancy back to the Conservative movement and to build capacity within the grassroots through providing training in the areas where we were being left behind – specifically, digital campaigning.

But more than that, in order for Conservatism to progress as a movement, we need to have a vibrancy that facilitates an open debate of meaningful policy ideas – the big ideas that will shape the direction of the country as well as the party. There also needs to be a platform for members to step forward and get noticed, as well as to gain the skills they need to be successful if they want to go on to bigger things.

It was from this basic concept from which Conservative Progress was born. As the name suggests, we believe that Conservatism has the true claim to ‘progress’, and we believe that Conservatives should shout about our achievements from the rooftops rather than conceding that space to left-wing self proclaimed ‘progressives’, who actually leave the country in ruins whenever they get anywhere near the levers of power.

True to our mantra, the organisation has been led and guided by the grassroots. The concept of our first major events were discussed and organised in a pub with no major financial backing from a wealthy benefactor, bankrolled entirely from our own pockets and (thankfully!) recouped by the generosity of attendees and the goodwill of speakers who took a chance that our new organisation would deliver something that was worthwhile.

Two years ago, we hosted our first conference. We unpacked over a tonne of food and wine ourselves from a delivery truck as we prepared to host over two hundred guests to hear from the likes of Lord Michael Howard, Peter Lilley, Andrew Mitchell, James Cleverly, Scott Mann and Dr Ruth Lea, who presented a positive post-Brexit vision.

But we knew that what the conservative movement needed wasn’t just another event with a parade of speakers and members sitting back as passive attendees. We didn’t just want members to sit and be lectured at – there was enough of that already. Every speaker agreed to take questions from the audience, and a lively but good-hearted debate ensued after each speech. We also hosted a members debate where attendees took to the stage and presented their own thoughts, actively shaping the debate of the day.

Two years on, and our annual conference has grown spectacularly. This June we will be hosting Jeremy Hunt (our keynote speaker), Andrea Leadsom, Sajid Javid, Brandon Lewis, Priti Patel, Damian Hinds, and James Cleverly, with over 400 guests expected.

But despite the growth, we’re staying true to our original objective. Members will still get their chance to put their questions to the speakers, and we will have a Members Motion that will be specifically selected by members and chaired by Chris Philp MP, the Vice Chair for Policy.

We’ve also delivered on our promise to help train and upskill our activists. Since 2016, we have trained over 800 Conservative activists, not just in London, but also in Exeter, Plymouth and Birmingham. The Friday before our annual conference, we will be holding an activist training day, where we hope to reach even more activists.

Our Party is on the cusp of a major change, but some facts will always remain. We need to beat Labour at the next general election, and to do that, we need a team of passionate, well-trained activists who can carry our message, and we need a platform of positive policies we can campaign on.

At Conservative Progress, we are doing our part to make that happen.

The 2019 Conservative Progress Conference will be held in London on June 21-22. Tickets available here.

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