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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "General Election"

Bullish Tory members: more than nine in ten think the next election will produce another Conservative majority

It’s a fact of any politician’s life that no sooner have they won an election than they must start preparing to contest the next one. So it is with our tracker of election expectations – when we ask our panel of Conservative Party member readers of this site each month what outcome they expect at the next General Election.

It might seem odd to ask this question immediately after an election, when we so recently know the views of the people. Or strange to ask it when the existence of sizeable majority means that the next election is anything up to five years away (itself a peculiar sensation, after the years we’ve just gone through in which snap or accidental elections seemed constantly to be imminent). But that’s the point of a tracker question – one snapshot, five years out, might provide limited insight on its own when new, but it provides a benchmark from which we can start to track Conservative confidence up or down as the Government gets on with the job.

So here it is, that first snapshot. As you’d expect, Tory members are feeling bullish. Almost 92 per cent of respondents to our survey expect the next election to produce another Conservative majority government. Fewer than 1.5 per cent of respondents expect a Labour government of any sort – majority, minority or coalition.

This could change swiftly due to the over- or under-performance of either side, of course. We shall see.

Westlake Legal Group December-2019-survey-next-election Bullish Tory members: more than nine in ten think the next election will produce another Conservative majority ToryDiary Party Members and Organisation Highlights General Election ConservativeHome Members' Panel Boris Johnson MP 2019 General Election  Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

What you may have missed about the Conservative Manifesto 2) Hunting. The end of the affair.

Manifestos are launched, key points are highlighted – and the media caravan moves on.  This series turns a spotlight on the Conservative Manifesto and returns to policy announcements that some will have missed.

Last time round, Theresa May promised a free vote on foxhunting, as David Cameron did in 2015.  She herself said during the campaign that she had “always supported” it.

This time, the manifesto baldly declares: “We will make no changes to the Hunting Act”.

This form of wording does not actually rule out providing a free vote, or the Government giving time to a Private Members’ Bill on the matter, but to do either would surely be a breach of the spirit, though not the letter, of this pledge.

It is the latest step in a Tory journey away from providing support for foxhunting by one means or another.

May herself dropped her promise after her view landed badly (though some disputed that claim).  Boris Johnson is clearly at pains to close down a potential attack line on him.

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What you may have missed about the Conservative Manifesto 1) No votes at 16

Manifestos are launched, key points are highlighted – and the media caravan moves on.  This series turns a spotlight on the Conservative Manifesto and returns to policy announcements that some will have missed.

This site knows a Cabinet Minister who privately supports votes at 16.  So will others of the new Conservative Parliamentary Party.  But the manifesto gnomically declares as follows: We will maintain the voting age at 18 – the age at which one gains full citizenship rights.”

Why? One might have thought that Downing Street and CCHQ, with their sensitivity to the Party’s electoral problems with younger voters, would frown on so uncompromising a stand.

There seems to be a reason both for the decision and for the Tory powers-that-be being tight-lipped about it.  In the event of a hung Parliament or one with a small Conservative majority, there could well be push for votes at 16 – which might then be rushed through into law just as an election approaches.

Our reading is that a decision was made to make any such move as difficult for Conservative MPs to endorse as possible by writing a clear commitment to keeping votes at 18.

Needless to say, there are reasons of principle as well as practice.  The Tory consensus remains that “the age at which one gains full citizenship rights” is the most natural point at which to maintain the voting age.

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Neil O’Brien: Corbyn’s long and infamous record of retreat, appeasement and support for terror

Neil O’Brien is Conservatived candidate for Harborough.

“The murders of Corporal Howes and Corporal Wood were particularly savage and vicious… They were stripped of most of their clothing and they lay in their own blood in the back of the taxi when you took them to the waste ground to be killed, and in that pitiable and defenceless state you brought about their murders as they lay on the ground.”
Sir Brian Hutton, sentencing IRA members to life imprisonment for the ‘Corporals Killings’ in 1988

“19 year old Lancashire soldier Gary Barlow became separated from his patrol in the lower falls and was surrounded by a crowd of locals. While he burst into tears with fright some women suggested they escorted him to the nearest army base. Other women, however, kept him waiting until a Provisional arrived. Then, while Barlow was crying for his mother, the gunman shot him through the head.”
Description of unsolved murder of Gary Barlow in 1973, from Dominic Sandbrook, State of Emergency.

“It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table… Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands, we now have a peace process.”
John McDonnell, speaking in 2003.

– – –

Some people say that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell and Diane Abbott are naïve. That’s absolutely untrue. Corbyn, McDonnell and Diane Abbott are people who have quite deliberately, knowingly, eyes-wide-openly, spent their whole careers providing succour and political cover for anti-British and anti-Western terrorist groups all over the world.

They have spent their lives trying to weaken our laws, and attacking the people who risk their lives trying to protect us from evil and dangerous people.

And they lie as they try to cover their tracks.

Today, the Labour leader presents his decades of support for the most violent Irish republican terrorist groups as a far sighted move to bring about a peace process.

But at the time, Corbyn supported the extremists against those who wanted a peace process. Corbyn voted against the Anglo-Irish agreement which initiated the peace process. In Parliament, he said: “We believe that the agreement strengthens rather than weakens the border between the six and the 26 counties, and those of us who wish to see a United Ireland oppose the agreement for that reason.”

None of this is ancient history.  As I write, Corbyn has committed Labour to oppose the Prime Minister’s plan for automatic life sentences for terrorists.

And look at his record. Corbyn said ISIS bride Shamima Begum should be allowed back into Britain and ‘given our support’.  He opposes measures to remove passports from individuals who travel to Syria.  He is against the security forces using lethal force to stop terrorists.

In 2015, he said: ‘I’m not happy with the shoot-to-kill policy in general – I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often can be counterproductive.” McDonnell takes the same line: he signed a letter saying Britain should “Disband MI5 and special police squads, [and] disarm the police.”

Abbott has criticised putting terrorists under house arrest.  In 2005, she said, “To have individuals interned in their own homes in the middle of our cities is, if anything, even more incendiary than imprisoning them.”

She in particular rarely misses a chance to attack the police or security forces.  In 2018, she even criticised London police for using their cars to ram moped thieves off the road, saying, “Knocking people off bikes is potentially very dangerous. It shouldn’t be legal for anyone. Police are not above the law.” She seems to have overlooked the fact that violent moped gangs are also quite ‘dangerous’.

Corbyn, McDonnell and Abbott voted against legislation in 2001 which designated Al Qa’ida, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad as terrorists and banned them from the UK. Corbyn said it was to “encourage peace process”. Just months later Al Qa’ida launched their 9/11 attacks.

Charles Clarke, then Labour’s Home Secretary, said: “It must have given comfort to the proscribed organisations that people like Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell were giving them tacit support.”

While at home, the Corbynistas would weaken our defences, abroad they would fundamentally change Britain’s role in the world. They would not support action overseas to keep us safe..In a 2017 interview with Andrew Marr, Corbyn spent a minute refusing to answer if he would authorise a drone strike on Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL.

Instead of terrorists, Corbyn has always blamed terrorism on the west. Discussing the attacks in Washington and New York less than a month after 9/11, he told Parliament that “what goes around comes around.” Three days after al Qaeda’s suicide bombings in London in July 2005, he spoke at a Stop the War Coalition rally and said the attacks were “because of the way we inflict an insecurity on so many other people around the world.”

In a 2009 speech in London, where he was addressing the Stop the War Coalition, Corbyn famously described Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends.” Asked later if he regretted saying this, he said: “No. It was inclusive language I used which with hindsight I would rather not have used.”

He famously laid a wreath at an event honouring terrorists involved in the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.  It’s worth recalling that some of Israeli athletes killed that day were castrated and tortured before being murdered.

Corbyn famously invited two convicted IRA terrorists to Parliament just days after the IRA murdered five people in the Brighton bombings.  It wasn’t a one off though. In 1989, the Labour campaign for Peace in Ireland demanded that he be expelled from the party, after Sinn Fein / IRA representatives were invited to the Labour conference days after murdering 11 Marines at their barracks.

Corbyn was again threatened with expulsion for inviting Sinn Fein to parliament during the IRA’s 1996 bombing campaign. His response to the Salisbury poisonings was to question the evidence of our own security services that the attack could only have come from Russia. “I want to see incontrovertible evidence of it. If we are going to make a very, very clear assertion like that we have got to have the absolute evidence to do it.”

He is influenced by his chief of Communications Seumas Milne, who has attended cosy conferences paid for by the Kremlin. Milne described Russia’s invasion of the Crimea as “defensive” and blamed, “the West’s attempt to pull Ukraine decisively into its orbit” (i.e: Ukrainians dared to vote for a pro-western government).

I could go on and on, and for readers who want to know more, I would recommend the twitter archivist, “Mr Corbyn in the Times”. @TimesCorbyn. But I must stop and get out there on the campaign trail again.

As a Conservative you are constantly subject to holier-than-thou, criticisms from the Labour side.

But even lifelong Labour supporters must feel their stomach churn when they think about the record of the cabal now running the Labour party.  I can’t put it any better than the former Labour MP Ian Austin, and if you haven’t seen his speech below, I recommend it to you.

We’ve got to stop Corbyn.

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The London Bridge horror. Now is the time to deliver on the other half of Taking Back Control.

Rage, exasperation, contempt: the London Bridge attack will provoke all three, sometimes at the same time, among the mass of voters.  Why was an Islamist terrorist invited as a guest to a Cambridge University conference at Fishmongers Hall – apparently to describe “his experiences as a prisoner”?  How did it come about that this criminal, jailed for plotting to blow up the London Stock Exchange, was released after only eight years in the first place?

Who decided that a tag was sufficient to restrain him?  And while it is good that James Ford, a day release prisoner sentenced for murdering a disabled girl, helped to restrain Usman Khan, the terrorist in question, why was he also attending the conference – especially since the girl’s family had not been notified?   (The conference was titled “Learning Together”.  Its Twitter account is @JustisTogether and is subtitled: “bringing students in Higher Education & Criminal Justice institutions together in transformative learning communities”.)

Business as usual, even down to the general election timing and London Bridge location, for the political class.  Boris Johnson sits uneasily at its apex, because of the office he holds.  He can protest that he has been Prime Minister for less than six months.  That unlike his predecessor, Theresa May, he hasn’t served as Home Secretary, let alone for six years.  That his Conservative Manifesto, released prior to Khan’s murders last Friday, pledges “to end automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes”.

All this is true – and unlikely to cut any ice with the electorate.  Nor will the Prime Minister’s pledge of 20,000 new police officers necessarily convince.  On Brexit, he is broadly seen as commited to the cause.  But on funding public services, he has his work cut out: the struggle in those marginal midlands and northern seats is precisely over whether voter trust in his new leadership trumps atavistic fears of “the Tory brand”.

Furthermore, the timing of Khan’s attack was ominous.  He may have been a “lone wolf” and he may not: further attacks could come.  Even if they don’t, the questions with which this article opens – and others – open up a entire spaghetti junction of media enquiries.  Who else has been released and where are they now?

Before Johnson knows it, his campaign could be lost amidst this bewildering tangle of roadway.  He is not simply up against the press’s instinct, even among bits of it neutral about it, to scythe down a tall poppy.  Nor even against an isolated Jeremy Corbyn, as in the case of anti-semitism.  In his pursuit of the Prime Minister over police funding and adminstrative blunder, the Labour leader will have his entire party with him: Yvette Cooper, Sadiq Khan and all.

This is the moment for it and for all Johnson’s foes to turn this election round.  He tried to hold them at bay yesterday by stressing that his “takeaway” is that criminals should “serve the term of their sentence”.  But he needs to do much more than that, starting on The Andrew Marr Show this morning.  That doesn’t mean generalist ranting against human rights, which are a way of understanding justice.  Most voters seek both rights and security.  Perhaps that is wanting to have one’s cake and eat it.  If so, they have come to the right shop.  No-one is better at having his cake and eating it than the Prime Minister.  But to do more than that, he needs to get to the root of the problem.

The symptoms of Khan’s story eventually take one to it.  In 2013, Khan appealed successfully against an Imprisonment for Public Protection Sentence.  These IPPs were introduced by Labour, allowed for indeterminate sentences and were abandoned by the Coalition amidst “complaints they had been misused to keep some individuals incarcerated without a proper timetable to be considered for release”.

The long and short of it is that Conservative Ministers will have believed themselves vulnerable to legal action – to “lawfare” – by pro-Islamist lobby groups seeking to exploit human rights legislation, including the European Convention on Human Rights.

Khan’s tale appears to have been caught up in of the wider one of the cat-and-mouse game between those lobbies and the Government – in which Ministers scramble to head off activist judicial rulings, as they see it, or find themselves forced to respond to them. Hence the replacement of IPPs by extended sentences with a fixed tariff.  One of these was given to Khan on appeal.  This takes us all, including Johnson, to the heart of the matter.

Margaret Thatcher once said that “we have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them reimposed at European level”.  Have we rolled back the frontiers of European integration, taking back control from the European Union, only to see them reimposed by the European Court of Human Rights?

To answer with a resounding No does not imply tearing up Britain’s membership of the convention.  The Court is entitled to declare whether or not the Government is in breach of it.  But as David Davis writes on this site today, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Ministers should simply bow to the court’s ruling.

In 2011, the Commons voted by a majority of 212 against an ECHR ruling on prisoner votes.  Davis and Jack Straw, working together, drove the result.  The former said that “it’s for Parliament to stand up and say ‘no, this is our decision, not yours’ and then for the Government to go back and seek a solution.”  In other words, elected MPs, not ECHR judges, should have the last word.  The story of Khan is different, but the moral is the same.

As we say, Johnson’s response to Friday’s murders may not satisfy voters, if only because nothing any politician says could do so: the sense of impotence and abandonment runs deep.  But Corbyn is irredeemably weak on terror.  And by standing back from the details of Khan’s case to see the big picture, and responding authentically, the Prime Minister could do what is right as well as what is now electorally necessary.

Ensuring that sentences mean what they say – now Johnson’s law and order priority – will be impossible to effect without wider reform.  Which means: reforming the Human Rights Act, curbing the abuse of judicial review, and getting the balance right between the ECHR and Parliament. The Conservative Manifesto leaves the door open to all three (see page 48).  For Johnson, there must also be a sense in pursuing them of unfinished business.  Asserting the rights of Parliament over the EU is half the European mission.  Asserting it over the ECHR is the other half of – how shall we put it? – taking back control.

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A sign of the times. The remarkable quiet that follows Labour’s commitment to decriminalise abortion up until birth

The Labour Party was clearly disturbed by the Catholic Herald‘s recent account of its election abortion policy.  It wants to stress that “abortion procedures and those performing them must be properly regulated” and that there would be  “wide public consultation on the detail of new laws and regulations”.

And the party’s manifesto does not say in terms what the Herald reports – that “the Labour Party would decriminalise abortion in Britain, making it legal to have an abortion for any reason up to the birth of a child”.

However, the Herald‘s reading of the manifesto is undoubtedly correct.  It says that “we will uphold women’s reproductive rights and decriminalise abortions”.  Some will find it deeply disturbing to see it proposed that state healthcare provision could thus simultaneously provide for the delivery of some babies and the abortion of others up to birth under the same roof as a matter of usual course – this site included.

But what is striking is the lack of comment and debate about Labour’s proposed policy, whatever one’s view of it.  After all, it is not only pro-lifers who might jib at the United Kingdom acquiring one of the most permissive abortion laws in the world.  (The most common time limit among EU member states is twelve weeks.) Some of those who back the current legal settlement would do so.

One might expect the Catholic Church to object vociferously.  But this is not the way of the bishops of England and Wales who tend for a series of reasons to keep their heads down.  An election statement released yesterday by the church in effect asks election candidates to commit themselves to “the innate dignity of every human being; defending both the child in the womb, the good of the mother and an understanding of the immeasurable good of a child not yet born”.

This is the first of nine such requirements, and the church is unlikely either to prioritise it above the others or to single out Labour’s policy.  The Archbishop of Westminster did not join the Archbishop of Canterbury in displaying public solidarity earlier this week with the Chief Rabbi over anti-semitism.  The Church of England does not take quite the same view of abortion as the Catholic Church, but it is likely to be unhappy about Labour’s policy.

So too will be members of other faiths and of none. It will be said that Labour isn’t going to win the election, so why bother getting worked up about this policy?  But the same principle applies to, say, the party’s tax approach – and many of us spend a lot of time poring over that.  It’s worth noting that the one like the other would presumably be whipped.  And there would be a big push within Labour to legislate for the abortion policy.

This site is not repeat not advising the Conservaties to weigh in.  The party has traditionally taken the view that abortion is a conscience issue and therefore should not be whipped.  But it should get across the details of abortion policy – including the polling on it which, when this site last looked, found that women have a more restrictive attitude to it than men.

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Nick Hargrave: Meet Megan and David – who, with others like them, may determine this election result

Nick Hargrave is a former Downing Street special adviser, where he worked under both David Cameron and Theresa May. He now works at Portland, the communications consultancy.

Millions of predictive words have been written about the result of the UK general election. In reality it comes down to just two: win expectations.

Political strategists are not deep sleepers by nature. But win expectations are the thing that keep them up at night more than anything else. Win expectations can really screw you in political campaigns if they get out of hand.

Consider David from Don Valley. He’s 55, has three children, four grandchildren and drives lorries for a cement company. He voted Leave and wants the politicians to just bloody get on with it. He knows that Boris Johnson has got a lot of baggage – but thinks that he at least has something about him and can break the deadlock in Westminster. He’s deeply sceptical about Jeremy Corbyn, who he sees as incompetent and most certainly not patriotic working-class Labour.

David has a lot of time for Caroline Flint though, the local Labour MP of twenty plus years. He has grudging admiration for her commitment to implement the result of the referendum, despite backing Remain in 2016. What’s more, he doesn’t think much of the Tory Party as a whole and he remembers the 1980s and what deindustrialisation did to parts of South Yorkshire. When he sees Jacob Rees-Mogg on the television he feels uneasy and tastes the animus of years gone by.

Megan from Battersea meanwhile has competing emotions but in a different way. Megan is in her early thirties. She’s a graphic designer who is killing it at work and has had two promotions in three years. She earns £58,000 per annum and is hungry to continue progressing. She does not like Johnson and the Conservative Party because of what they’ve said and done on Brexit. Many of her friends are more visceral and outspoken. She is instinctively leaning towards the Liberal Democrats this time round.]

That said, Megan is saving to buy a flat – and London is expensive even on double the national average salary. She is trying to put at least £100 into her savings every month but this involves a level of discipline well beyond what it should. She hears Jeremy Corbyn talking about plans to squeeze more tax out of those earning £80,000 per annum, sees his high spending promises flash up on the news – and questions whether that threshold might inch itself down if he ever got into Government. What’s more, she would like to be earning £80,000 herself one day.

On election morning, as they wake up, David and Megan’s conception of the closeness of this race will be critical. If they think the national result is in doubt, then they will believe their vote has more weight in determining the national outcome. They are more likely to use their vote to choose who they want in Number 10; Johnson or Corbyn. If you have to squeeze both to choose, it is more likely to be Boris Johnson as they cross the threshold into the polling station. Both will end up voting Conservative and a decent Tory majority is on the cards.

But if David and Megan think the result is a foregone conclusion, then they are more likely to use their vote in different ways. David could use it to reward his long serving, hard battling local Labour MP – believing he will still get Johnson as Prime Minister. Megan would feel safer voting on Brexit lines; Johnson is going to win anyway so why shouldn’t she send a message by voting for the cosmopolitan Remain party she identifies with the most? Both might simply not go out and vote at all given that it’s the run up to Christmas, it’s cold – and frankly they’re not sure any of the politicians in this election have covered themselves in glory.

This is how you get a hung parliament and perhaps even Labour inching towards a realistic governing unit.

David and Megan are obviously fictional characters but the situations are real enough. And the imperative is hopefully clear for the final ten days of this election campaign – when many voters are only beginning to focus in on the choice.

The Conservative Party must fight tooth and nail to narrate to all of its potential coalition that this election is volatile and that their vote matters. This time it also has the benefit of being true; the margins are small and everyone is a participant.

If the above feels unedifying and low minded, then I take your point. But this is what elections are fundamentally about. They are dynamic behavioural exercises. Your job is to motivate millions of people, with differing perspectives and values, to do the same thing on the same day. If you have a strong lead on the preferred candidate to be PM, then you need to force the choice.

Governing in the long-term interests of the country – and holding onto that fragile coalition you’ve assembled – is another matter altogether. It becomes significantly easier to do that though if you are able to win a working majority. Win the election first. Then you can win the peace.

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The campaign, week four. Johnson pushes upwards but so does Corbyn.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-11-29-at-06.23.28 The campaign, week four. Johnson pushes upwards but so does Corbyn. YouGov ToryDiary Thatcherism SYRIZA Podemos Marcus Roberts Labour Jo Swinson MP Jim Callaghan Jeremy Corbyn MP General Election Ed Miliband MP Dominic Cummings Brexit Boris Johnson MP Andrew Neil

Source: Politico

It’s not so long since it seemed that Britain’s two party system might collapse.  In the 2010 general election, the two main parties gained 55 per cent of the vote between them.  In 2015, that rose to 67 per cent.  Two years ago, it reached 82 per cent.

What seems to have happened is that the UK has bucked the post-crash trend that has savaged traditional parties of the left and right elsewhere.  First past the post has helped to ensure that populist change has takes place within the two main parties rather than gathering pace outside them.

The Conservatives have moved left economically since 2015, and Brexit is in part a populist cause.  Labour has moved in the same direction in almost every sense since that year: the replacement of Ed Miliband by Jeremy Corbyn was the irruption of a Syriza or Podemos-style force into British politics.

It makes sense to see what is happening in this general election campaign against that background.  More media coverage, however dire, plus the imminence of the poll (postal votes have gone out) appear to be doing to Labour’s support this time round what they did in 2017.  Labour’s poll share has been steadily rising since campaigning got serious at the end of last month.

At the same time, the Liberal Democrat share has declined.  Ironically, the one policy area in which division now counts for less is Brexit: the effect of Boris Johnson agreeing a new Withdrawal Agreement with the EU has made the LibDem revoke policy look outdated.

The party seems to have no fallback offer to pitch to voters, which has helped to ensure that the gamble of presenting Jo Swinson as an alternative Prime Minister hasn’t come off.  Labour squeezing the LibDems in consequence.  A hard left socialist party versus a One Nation Brexit one is leaving little room for anything else.

These long-term social trends provide a surer guide to this election than this week’s shorter-term events.  The Conservatives continue to run an effective campaign – it survived last weekend’s manifesto launch without difficulty – while Labour continues to run an ineffective one (see Jeremy Corbyn’s excrutiating interview with Andrew Neil).

None of this has stopped a steady uptick in Labour’s poll ratings.  Remember: there are a mass of voters out there willing to believe that the Conservatives really do want to privatise the NHS, or who believe that Corbyn’s economic prospectus would succeed this time round as it did not during the run-up to Jim Callaghan and then Thatcherism.  What is different this time round is that the Tory ratings have not fallen simultaneously.

Corbyn has two weeks to prove that his poll-of-polls total of 31 per cent isn’t a ceiling.  To up it substantially, he must either take votes off the Conservatives, squeeze the LibDems further, get tactical voting to work for him or triumph on differential turnout.  All that looks a tall order.

None the less, the YouGov MRP poll, which at first glance represents unalloyed good news for the Conservatives, apparently records a smaller Tory majority now (68) than it did last weekend (when it was finding one of over 100).  No wonder Dominic Cummings has revived his blog to warn of the Conservatives falling short.

YouGov’s Marcus Roberts will have more to say about all that when he writes again for our panel later today.  But for all Labour’s push upwards, Boris Johnson is pushing upwards too.  His twelve point poll of polls lead last week is an eleven point one this week.  He remains on course to return to Number Ten.

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By Ted Christie-Miller and Richard Howard: How to deliver net zero emissions by 2050 without damaging the economy

Ted Christie-Miller is a researcher at Onward. Richard is currently the Research Director at Aurora Energy Research. He was formerly the Director of Development and Head of the Energy and Environment Unit at Policy Exchange, prior to which he was the Chief Economist at the Crown Estate.

If Extinction Rebellion have anything to do with it, the final fortnight of this general election will be dominated by a single issue: climate change. From Sunday, activists will embark on twelve days of Christmas disruption to highlight the climate emergency before polling day – but they will be silent about what is required and how much it will cost.

This is because their central demand, to reach net zero emissions by 2025, sounds much better as protest than it does in practice. Research by the think tank Onward published this week reveals it would cost an absolute minimum of £200 billion a year to decarbonise the UK economy by 2025 – one and a half times the cost of the NHS – and £100 billion a year to get there by 2030.

Even if people were willing to pay higher taxes and prices, a 2025 target would be practically impossible to achieve. We would have to hire 270,000 extra plumbers, for example, to replace 22.8 million boilers in five years, and the global manufacturing capacity of electric vehicles would need to increase three-fold just to replace all the petrol and diesel cars on British roads (let alone those in other countries).

This is the uncomfortable truth facing the party leaders as they prepare for the Leaders’ Climate Debate on Channel 4 this evening. Parliament has rightly legislated to decarbonise the UK by 2050, but no political party has yet set out a practical plan to get there. Without it, the climate catastrophes that have punctuated this election- the flooding in venice, bushfires in Australia and floods in Yorkshire closer to home – will continue.

Thankfully, there are steps that we can take right now that will deliver net zero by 2050 without sacrificing the UK’s competitiveness, our fiscal balance or the budgets of low-income households in the process.

First, ministers should use market and behavioural incentives to drive lasting change. By abolishing VAT on domestic electricity and increasing it to 20 per cent on highly-emitting gas, whilst also removing the cost of renewable subsidies from consumer bills altogether, ministers could create market based incentives for people to switch to low carbon heating options such as electric heat pumps.

The £2 billion a year that taxpayers currently spend on Winter Fuel Payments is targeted at the age group now least likely to be in fuel poverty, the over-65s. Why not turn it into a capital grant of up to £4,400 per household, to upgrade the insulation and boilers of fuel poor households?

Second, we should be much more ambitious in our plans for the natural environment, to offset carbon emissions whilst boosting health and wellbeing. The Conservative manifesto pledged 30 million trees a year over a five year term, which although welcome, falls short of setting long term target. The Conservative pledged 30 million trees a year over a five year term, which although welcome, falls well short of what could be achieved. We should plant 1.4 billion trees by 2050, 20 times the current rate, by redirecting agricultural subsidies and encouraging low-cost forms of planting like wild-seeding.

Third, for too long the UK has lagged behind its competitors in Research and Development investment. It is such a vital tool for spurring innovation in the energy tech sector and we must therefore align our R&D spending to at least with the OECD average. This will allow technologies that are crucial to the UK’s zero-carbon mission such as hydrogen and carbon capture (usage) and storage to accelerate at the fast pace that we need.

Fourth, the UK has often struggled with competing government priorities, meaning the chips do not always fall in favour of decarbonisation. Often other departments win the battle, as we saw with the scrapping of zero carbon homes policy in 2015 after effective lobbying by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. We need a Net Zero Secretariat, set up like the National Security Secretariat, which would support the newly announced Climate Change cabinet committee in research, coordination and implementation. This would align departmental objectives around the core goal of decarbonisation, factoring it in to all decision making.

Fifth, because the UK is responsible for just two per cent of global emissions we need to drive serious international action – as Britain has done in the past. Next year’s COP26 summit, hosted in the UK, should agree a global commitment on the phase-out of coal, as well as an agreement to introduce Border Carbon Adjustments to ensure decarbonisation does not damage competition in international markets.

That said, the UK is not blameless. Between 2013-2018, 96 per cent – £2.5 billion – of UK Export Finance’s energy budget was spent on fossil fuel projects. There is no point keeping the house tidy if you are making the world a mess, so we should once and for all end taxpayers money being used for fossil fuel projects abroad.

The UK has always blazed an international trail on decarbonisation, cutting emissions faster than any other developed country (by 44 per cent between 1990 and 2018) and brokering international agreements at the Gleneagles Summit and the Kyoto Treaty. It can do so again, but we must stick to a sensible target and devise a practical plan, so we set the best possible example on the world stage of how to go about decarbonisation our economy.

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