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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Teesside"

Richard Holden: A call to CCHQ. Spare no effort to help us consolidate our breakthrough in the North East during next year’s elections.

Richard Holden is MP for North West Durham.

“You’ve got two eyes, two ears, and one mouth – use them in that proportion”: a piece of advice doled out for generations from sensible people to their wayward young across the ages.

As an MP, that’s sometimes a strange balance to strike. There is a constant pressure to make your views known – and it’s always important to get your point across before political opponents inevitably attempt to define you – but if you don’t look and listen, you’ll never get the full picture.

Throughout the pandemic, I’ve continued my surgeries, as well as meetings with local people and groups across North West Durham. Of course our political opponents will try spin the Government’s response to the crisis for their own ends, but the word on the street (or more precisely on the video call apps with which we’re now all becoming over-familiar) is that, with obvious frustrations and fears, the Government has stepped up, and is doing the right thing.

Obviously, some wily opposition operators will try and set unachievable goals, and attack the Government in ‘gotcha’ moments. But whether it comes to hospitals starting elective surgery, schools slowly re-opening or broader regulations on the lockdown, the Government will naturally be following the best scientific advice in order to manage the situation as well as possible and save as many lives as it can by preventing our NHS being overwhelmed.

But back to my meetings and surgeries as a local North East MP. To the outside observer sitting back, one point would strike them about these interactions, and how they start and end, and this is the sense of constantly being sized up by those with whom you are sitting. This is especially true with people in the local ‘establishment’ – the people who both consider themselves and are usually considered by others to be prominent within the local community.

All new Members of Parliament will get it to some degree – you learn to live under constant appraisal and become both fully accepting and immune to it.

What I’ve noticed in my constituency is that, to parts of the community, I am a disruption to the local natural order. For some, a disruption to their sense of themselves and their place in it. For while the people made their decision in December 2019, the local power and social structures are still adjusting to accommodate the seismic change.

In terms of that change, the constituents I talk to that aren’t ensconced in local politics seem to find it much more obvious – indeed, inevitable. Labour had become increasingly irrelevant to the needs, concerns and aspirations of the people it had been elected to represent – just as it had in the red core of the Scottish central belt.

But there is still surprise, and even clear hostility, in parts of the local establishment. Those people understand the rituals and rivalries within Labour politics, but the new Conservative force is something quite different and new.

By looking and listening a lot I’ve understood it a little. and it’s started to answer a question for me and others. That question was why, when large parts of the rest of the North and the Midlands had moved away from Labour decades ago, did Labour still hang on in the North East more strongly – practically across the board – until 2019?

The answer lies on the other side of the coin. Labour’s representatives and local MPs had become increasingly poor, expecting to be elected, yet unwilling to put in the hard yards to fight for people. For years, Conservatives hadn’t been present on the other side. Poor organisation and a lack of effort by the Tories had left the North East to Labour – even when on the ground people were increasingly ready for change.

We’d not fought for it hard enough. Our engagement had been sporadic and inconsistent. We pulled our best people out of the region: Lord Callanan, Lord Bates, Lord Parkinson – you can see the theme – sent them to Westminster and to the Lords, rather than backing them on the ground in the North East.

With a Labour Party still riven with divisions between the far-left, the hard-left, the moderate left, Blairites, Brownites, Corbynites and every other iteration of the people’s front of Judea, the Conservative Party more broadly has an opportunity not just to hold its position but to advance. The strongest opportunity will be in next year’s local Government elections.

We got the benefit of the doubt and Conservative MPs, like myself, are fighting fight tooth and nail for the communities who have elected us and will continue to do so. But the Conservative Party also needs to show that it is taking the region ever more seriously. Yes, that means the levelling up agenda from Government, investment in infrastructure and in the people so that they’re able to achieve their potential, but it also means political investment and long-term planning.

Ben Houchen has shown what you can do from (just) getting over the line in 2017. He won by looking at the community he served, listening to their concerns and then speaking to ram those issues and solutions home at a regional and national level. The way he has raised the profile of Teesside in the national conversation would not have happened with another identikit local Labour lackey. In doing the role well he has shown the power and pull that first-class local government representatives can have.

We need someone of Ben’s energy and enthusiasm fighting for every council seat (and we will be standing for every council seat) in Durham – and I hope across the North East. Ben achieved this by looking and listening to local people. It’s not purely a question of resources and spending, but of understanding what local people want and ensuring that their priorities are your priotities.

By doing so we will deliver further shocks to the complacent and out of touch Labour establishment and its hangers-on locally. People don’t want local politics which constantly is dominated by the ever-widening divide within the Labour Party. They don’t want councils spending time and money building new totems to themselves while ignoring the people they serve.

We Conservatives will have an opportunity at the local elections next year that we’ve not had for literally generations. My call to CCHQ is to support us with the resources we need to win on the ground and we will find the candidates who will deliver in spades. We will be the ones arguing for us to do better, go further, create more. Labour can’t help continuing the years of arguing about who gets what slice while the cake gets ever more stale. It’s like some horrendous never-ending re-run of Our Friends in the North.

With a bit of nous and by listening to our local communities, we Conservatives can show what can be done. We’ve got some of the pieces in place. Now let’s work to re-enforce the Blue Wall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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