Build Back Nothing

9 Nov

In news that will surprise absolutely no one, the Government appears to have backtracked further on its planning reforms. Yesterday, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said that he would be looking at how “housing need” is calculated, and suggested that some of the assumptions behind the numbers “are probably out of date.”

This has been taken as yet another sign of the Conservatives trying to distance themselves from their original plans for building homes. Only last month Boris Johnson tried to reassure voters at the Conservative Party Conference that “beautiful” ones should only be built “on brownfield sites in places where homes make sense”, in a pledge that will in no way help England meet its housing targets. It was a far cry from a Prime Minister who promised, in his first speech outside Downing Street, that the Tories would give “millions of young people the chance to own their own homes”.

As many know, the Tories are spooked by the Chesham & Amersham by-election result, where Liberal Democrats played on fears about planning reforms in order to win votes. The outcome has been seen as evidence that Conservatives have gone too far in upsetting the Blue Wall, hence they are now trying to make all the right noises about “beautiful” homes and protecting land around the UK. In addition to that, the party will struggle to get any decent reforms past its backbenchers, many of whom appear more upset about the green belt than millions of people needing homes.

Speaking of housing need, Gove warned that “We want to be in a position where people accept and welcome new development.” But the idea that homeowners at large (and backbenchers) will accept, let alone welcome, new developments, to the degree that the country needs them, is something of a pipe dream.

It goes without saying that there’s no easy answer to fixing the crisis – indeed, many articles on this site are devoted to the subject – albeit it is mainly an issue of supply. Yet, as a millennial watching on, the Government’s strategy at the moment seems to be hoping the problem will magically go away, buying time by debating the intricacies of reforms. In the meantime, it has thrown renters a bone by way of a 95 per cent mortgage scheme, an idea that will merely increase demand for homes.

To make any headway, the Government should apply the same energy it has towards achieving Net Zero on Getting Housing Done. It’s interesting that in going green, it has no qualms about upsetting the electorate – from talk of people having to replace their gas boilers, to the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations that the public give up meat. “This is an emergency”, it will say around its eco policies. Yet housing is not so far away – and also affecting many young people’s futures.

Though the Government is concerned about Chesham & Amersham – and the rest of the Blue Wall – its current approach risks another type of electoral disaster, as has been pointed out on several occasions, as those in their 30s and 40s remain infantilised by economic conditions. But Getting Housing Done is not merely a matter of political advances; it’s about a moral duty towards generations, whose hopes and dreams are being sacrificed to keep home-owning England happy. For renters, the Conservative vision cannot continue to be Build Back Nothing.

Graham Baldwin: Levelling up? Modern universities are leading the way

20 Oct

Dr Graham Baldwin is a MillionPlus Treasurer and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN). This is a sponsored post by MillionPlus.

Each year conference season gives us the chance to come together to discuss interesting ideas, debate controversial topics, and pick up trends considered throughout the fringe events taking place.

MillionPlus has been holding events at Conservative Party Conference for many years, and it was particularly pleasing to be back in person this time around, with the ability to meet colleagues from the sector, as well as interested observers from across the country.

It won’t have escaped the attention of anyone present at fringes or speeches that ‘levelling up’, and with it the importance of place and our local communities, was the dominant theme of the entire conference.

Many groups, ourselves included, framed our discussions with this notion squarely in the forefront of our minds, and even those that did not couldn’t escape addressing it.

Although you could be forgiven for thinking events might get repetitive due to this, what I witnessed was questions becoming more interesting as time went on, and answers that had greater depth, beginning to really hone in on what we, as a country, hope to gain from levelling up, and how we can begin to start working towards such an ambition.

What can we do to really meet regional need, and to allow local actors to develop the solutions that work for them? How do we ensure there is opportunity and access to the right education pathways for everyone, no matter where they live? How can we restore pride and a sense of community in places that have been too often overlooked?

Questions like these are incredibly important, but incredibly challenging too, and over conference I heard many answers that pointed directly at us within the university sector and challenged us to think about what we can do in this wider endeavour.

It is a challenge I take seriously, and to many who asked it I gave the same response – much of this work is already being done, you just have to know where to look. I invite commentators, journalists, MPs and Ministers alike to come and see what modern universities are already doing, and then perhaps start to realise the enormous engines already at work, as well as the immense potential that exists to do even more.

In addition to the main campus in Preston, my university, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) has two others in the UK, one in Burnley, the other between Workington and Whitehaven in West Cumbria. It would be fair to say these areas were slipping towards ‘left behind’ territory.

As a university, we developed these sites in order to fine-tune provision to meet the economic and skills demands for those areas. We worked closely with local authorities, NHS health trusts, and further education providers to create an offer of relevance and practical importance for the towns and wider regions they serve.

Students recruited in these areas could be just out of school or college, or mature learners looking to up-skill or re-skill. The presence of these institutions has made a seismic difference in preventing the loss of talented local people and their skills, or, worse still, the loss of hope and belief in education as a way to improve your life and the lives of those around you.

My institution is by no means alone in this, and at modern universities across the country we see local students and local industry benefitting massively from the partnerships that have developed in their areas. The University of Cumbria has developed a collaborative commercial relationship with Sellafield to provide specialist education, training and the qualifications necessary to deliver the projects for the vital nuclear industry there, transforming opportunity and working to meet the exact needs of that region.

At the University of Sunderland there is a knowledge exchange programme to support product development and technological advancement for SMEs in the North East, amounting to over 6,000 hours of support given to manufacturers all over that region.

In London, a city and region containing vast inequality, the University of East London is part of a ground-breaking collaboration with Amazon Web Services to integrate its work in artificial intelligence and cloud skills into the student curriculum to give students the ability to go into jobs in cloud computing at the very cutting edge of the industry. Projects like these are happening everywhere, with universities integrating teaching, research, and industry need to get on with the job of what we are now calling levelling up.

A key reflection I have from conference, and one that I believe does need to be repeated, is that too many people want precisely these things to be happening but don’t realise that, in fact, they already are. They may not be at the scale necessary to make change on a national level just yet, but these organic partnerships are delivering, and with greater recognition, support and investment there is every chance they could transform even more lives, and their local communities with them.

Modern universities are part of a diverse sector, and in truth no two institutions are truly alike. However, many moderns specialise in the technical and vocational work that, when allied to teaching and research excellence, delivers upon both widening access to a greater talent pool and offering real-world industry-facing courses that boost regional skills and meet business need.

In an era where we need to level up across the board, but with public finances hit hard by the pandemic, it is sensible, even critical, that as country we utilise institutions and networks that already exist and are already delivering. We do not need to reinvent the wheel when we have hundreds of them spinning out across the country already, getting on with the job and making the difference that the Government, and many at conference, are asking for.

What is stopping us then? If universities are so good at this, why haven’t we addressed the questions already and effectively levelled up? It is a fair question, and one that we need to answer honestly.

First, to some extent, I would point to the very many successes across the country where, in point of fact, we have done just that. As industry pulled out of some places, and areas started to fall behind, it has been modern universities that have revived towns and cities, spreading opportunity, reskilling the workforce, and restoring civic pride and economic success.

However, too often these achievements are overlooked while the focus remains on a select few institutions very often those attended by the majority of those involved in policy making. We tend to pay lip service to the importance of technical and vocational education but real value remains concentrated on the most academic subjects at the most “prestigious” institutions.

As a country, we cannot hope to level up, unless we also open up our minds and think differently. As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, but policy in skills and higher education has been guilty of this for too long.

Be it hyper-concentrating research funding at a handful of institutions or placing greater value on league table positions and salaries instead of what we add to students’ lives. Continuing with this mindset will do nothing to change how we think and operate, and it will lead us to keep asking the same questions I heard in Manchester at conferences way into the future.

Education remains the best gateway to success for a nation as much as it is for an individual. We need to make sure it stays accessible, we need to work collaboratively with a strong and secure school and further education sector, and we need to give all of our incredible and diverse universities the recognition, support and stability they need so that they can invest time and resource into their local communities that are the very essence of the levelling up agenda.

Charlotte Gill’s Podcasts Review 2) Camilla Tominey with Liz Truss, Jack Blanchard with Lee Cain, Katy Balls with Dehenna Davison

13 Oct

Every fortnight, ConservativeHome will compile a handful of podcast recommendations – content that has been published in the weeks preceding – for its readers. Although these will mainly focus on podcasts for conservative listeners, we will try to include other options – should they be particularly interesting. Sometimes this feature will contain other types of media.

Title: Chopper’s Politics
Host: Camilla Tominey (NB. the show’s regular host is Chris Hope)
Episode: Chopper’s Politics podcast from the Conservative party conference: Liz Truss

Duration: 45:27 minutes
Published: October 6 (recorded on October 3)

What’s it about?

It was a busy Conservative Party Conference for Liz Truss; indeed, readers of this site may have seen that ConservativeHome was lucky to have her as part of its fringe programme. The Telegraph, too, had her as part of its line up, in a lively conversation with Camilla Tominey, the paper’s Associate Editor.

During the course of the interview, Tominey probes Truss on a number of interesting subjects, from her reaction when Boris Johnson appointed her to Foreign Secretary, to the challenges of being a mother in politics, to what her strategy is in regards to getting Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe out of Iran. It’s well worth a listen.

Some teaser quotes:
  • “I was neither surprised or not surprised” – Truss on when she was appointed Foreign Secretary by Johnson.
  • “There’ll always be ups and downs in our relationship with the French”.
  • “People said that free movement of people wasn’t depressing wages and that clearly isn’t true, and we’ve seen the results.”
  • “I fundamentally don’t agree with identity politics. I don’t agree with the idea that you should have different policies for women and men… You should make sure that your policies are accessible to everybody.”
  • “I think we’ve taken the right approach with transgender people. We’ve made the process simpler, we’ve made the process kinder, I have full respect for transgender people. However, it wouldn’t be right to have self-identification with no checks and balances in the system”.

An entertaining discussion that demonstrates why Truss so often tops the ConHome Cabinet leaderboard.

Title: Politico Westminster Insider Podcast
Host: Jack Blanchard
Episode: Meet Lee Cain: Three Chaotic years as Boris Johnson’s closest aide

Link: Click here
Duration: 01:04:03 hours
Published: October 1

What’s it about?

In his first big interview, Lee Cain sits down with Jack Blanchard, the UK Political Editor of POLITICO Europe, to discuss his time as Boris Johnson’s right-hand man. The podcast covers everything from how Cain got to becoming Downing Street Director of Communications, to what happened behind the scenes when Johnson resigned over May’s Chequers deal, as well as how Cain developed a communication strategy for the Coronavirus crisis.

Some teaser quotes:
  • “You don’t know crisis comms until you’ve worked for Boris. It certainly set me up for the rest of my career”.
  • “Boris gets into all sorts of scrapes, but it’s good fun… We just clicked with a lot of that kind of thing. It allowed me to forge a really good bond with him.”
  • “I did the classic SpAd trick of, if you’ve got a difficult issue, just don’t answer your phone, which is – for those who don’t know – code for “whatever you’re thinking’s happening probably is happening”.
  • “The day he resigned over Chequers was really the day he became Prime Minister.”

A frank discussion, which leaves you under no illusions about the numerous challenges Downing Street has faced over the last few years. Though, when it comes to Boris Johnson, don’t expect the “Cummings’ treatment” from Cain, who shows real warmth towards the PM.

Title: Women With Balls
Host: Katy Balls
Episode: The Dehenna Davison Edition

Link: Click here
Duration: 30:35 minutes
Published: October 8

What’s it about?

In another interview recorded at Conference, Katy Balls, Deputy Editor of The Spectator, sits down with Dehenna Davison, the MP for Bishop Auckland, to chat about her parliamentary career so far. Although the interview is only 30 minutes long, it covers a huge amount of ground, from Davison’s appearance on the Channel 4 show Bride and Prejudice, to how Jacob Rees-Mogg got her into politics, to the tragic death of her father, when she was 13, from a single-punch assault. Davison has since launched the All-Parliamentary Group for One Punch Assault, which looks at justice and sentencing reform around this crime; she explains more about its work in the discussion.

Some teaser quotes:

  •  On handing out “Tory Scum” badges at the Conservative Party Conference – “Quite a few ministers did take them. At one point Oliver Dowden wore one on a panel event he was doing, which was fantastic to see. And I did give one to the Prime Minister as well”.
  • “So many members of my family used to call me Hermione, because I was that little swot in school.”
  • “You have to marry up loyalty to the party, what’s right for your constituents and your own conscience; sometimes the three can be incredibly conflicted”.

An engaging and touching insight into one of parliament’s rising stars.

Andrew Gimson’s Conference sketch: Johnson brings Merry England politics to the big stage

6 Oct

Boris Johnson brought Merry England politics to the big stage. Not for him the ascent into the higher platitudes, the infliction on his followers of willed pieties.

The Prime Minister can hardly bear to let ten seconds go by without telling a joke. Within a few words he was saying that when the Government decided to reopen the theatres and night clubs,

“we knew that some people would still be anxious, so we sent top government representatives to our sweatiest boites de nuit to show that anyone could dance perfectly safely.”

The cameras found Michael Gove, looking pink with pleasure as the Prime Minister pointed in his direction and said “Let’s hear it for Jon Bon Govi”.

At party conferences in the olden days, Johnson made Conservatives feel good about being Conservative at the ConHome rally, and for an hour or two stole the party leader’s thunder by some outrageous though essentially minor departure from the party line.

Now Johnson is party leader, and no one has yet worked out how to steal his thunder. There have been very few moments at this conference when he was not in action, not supplying broadcast clips.

With his energy, emotion and comic brio, he has dominated the show, while remaining watchful for any rival who might start to build up an independent following.

Flashes of seriousness were needed during his speech in order to guard against the charge that he is an unworthy successor to the great figures who have led the party in the past. So he told the conference:

“Margaret Thatcher would not have ignored this meteorite that has just crashed through the public finances, she would have wagged her finger and said more borrowing now is just higher interest rates and even higher taxes later.

And he insisted that “this reforming government” is going, “after decades of drift and dither”, to “get social care done”.

Entertainment is placed in the service of worthy aims. Johnson’s style distracts from his substance. He has a gift amounting to genius for making humdrum projects sound adventurous, enjoyable, even poetic.

Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written In a Country Churchyard was pressed into service to illustrate a point about the wasted potential – the flowers “born to blush unseen”, the “mute inglorious Miltons” – which will be liberated by levelling the country up.

And he gave us moments which were pure P.G.Wodehouse: “If you can steal a dog or cat there is frankly no limit to your depravity.”

At the end there was no milking of the applause; no lingering on stage with his wife, Carrie Johnson. Off they went at top speed, hand in hand but only giving the photographers a few moments to snap them.

This was, in its way, one of the most brilliant performances I can remember from a British politician. Nobody in modern times has used humour so effectively to raise his followers’ morale, assert his personal primacy and ridicule his rivals.

But what is left? What will be remembered? Not much, perhaps.

Our revels now are ended, and as I write these last words, the conference centre is being dismantled around me. The four-day Manchester show is over, and tomorrow the Prime Minister will be playing on some other stage.

“Levelling up works for the whole country” – the Prime Minister’s conference speech in full

6 Oct

Isn’t it amazing to be here in person? The first time we have met since you defied the sceptics by winning councils and communities that Conservatives have never won in before – such as Hartlepool. In fact it’s the first time since the General Election of 2019 when we finally sent the corduroyed communist cosmonaut into orbit where he belongs? And why are we back today for a traditional Tory cheek by jowler?

It is because for months we have had one of the most open economies and societies and on July 19th we decided to open every single theatre and every concert hall and night club in England and we knew that some people would still be anxious so we sent top government representatives to our sweatiest boites de nuit to show that anyone could dance perfectly safely and wasn’t he brilliant my friends?

Let’s hear it for Jon Bon Govi. Living proof that we, you all represent the most jiving hip happening and generally funkapolitan party in the world and how have we managed to open up ahead of so many of our friends?

You know the answer, its because of the roll-out of that vaccine a UK phenomenon the magic potion invented in Oxford University and bottled in Wales distributed at incredible speed to vaccination centres everywhere

I saw the army in action in Glasgow firing staple guns like carbines as they set up a huge vaccination centre and in Fermanagh I saw the needles go in like a collective sewing machine and they vaccinated so rapidly that we were able to do those crucial groups one to four – the oldest and most vulnerable faster than any other major economy in the world. And though the disease has sadly not gone away the impact on death rates has been astonishing and I urge you all to get your jabs because every day our vaccine defences are getting stronger and stronger and you, all of you, and everybody watching made this roll-out possible you each made each other safer.

So perhaps we should all thank each other? Go on – try a cautious fist bump because it’s OK now and we in turn thank the volunteers, the public health workers, the council workers the pharmacists but above all our untiring unbeatable unbelievable NHS. And as a responsible Conservative Government we must recognise the sheer scale of their achievement but recognise also the scale of the challenge ahead. 


When I was lying in St Thomas’s hospital last year l looked blearily out of my window at a hole in the ground between my ICU and another much older Victorian section and amid the rubble of brick they seemed to be digging a hole for something or indeed someone – possibly me. But the NHS saved me and our wonderful nurses pulled my chestnuts out of Tartarean pit. The other day I went back on a visit and I saw that the hole had been filled in with three or four gleaming storeys of a new paediatrics unit and there you have the metaphor my friends for how to build back better now.

We have a huge hole in the public finances. We spent £407 billion on covid support and our debt now stands at over two trillion pounds and waiting lists will almost certainly go up before they come down covid pushed out a great bow wave of cases people did not or could not seek help and that wave is now coming back.

A tide of anxiety washing into every A and E and every GP. Your hip replacement. Your mother’s surgery and this is the priority of the British people. Does anyone seriously imagine that we should not now be raising the funding to sort this out? Is that really the view of responsible Conservatives?

I can tell you something. Margaret Thatcher would not have ignored this meteorite that has just crashed through the public finances. She would have wagged her finger and said more borrowing now is just higher interest rates and even higher taxes later when this country was sick our NHS was the nurse frontline health care workers, battled against a new disease. Selflessly risking their lives sacrificing their lives and it is right that this Party that has looked after the NHS for most of its history should be the one to rise to the challenge.

48 new hospitals

50,000 more nurses

50 million more GP appointments

40 new diagnostic centres

And fixing those backlogs with real change because the pandemic not only put colossal pressure on the NHS. It was a lightning flash illumination of a problem we have failed to address for decades

Fixing Social Care

In 1948 this country created the National Health Service but kept social care local and though that made sense in many ways generations of older people have found themselves lost in the gap when covid broke there were 100,000 beds in the NHS – and 30,000 occupied by people who could have been cared for elsewhere whether at home or in residential care. And we all know that this problem of delayed discharge is one of the major reasons why. It takes too long to get the hospital treatment that your family desperately need and people worry that they will be the one in ten to suffer from the potentially catastrophic cost of dementia wiping out everything they have and preventing them from passing on anything to their families.

We Conservatives stand by those who have shared our values thrift and hard work and who face total destitution in this brutal lottery of old age in which treatment for cancer is funded by the state and care for alzheimers is not – or only partly – and to fix these twin problems of the NHS and social care we aren’t just going to siphon billions of new taxes into crucial services without improving performance. We will use new technology so that there is a single set of electronic records as patients pass between health and social care improving care and ensuring that cash goes to the frontline and not on needless bureaucracy.

When I stood on the steps of Downing Street I promised to fix this crisis and after decades of drift and dither. This reforming government. This can do government. This government that got Brexit done. That is getting the vaccine rollout done. Is going to get social care done

And we are dealing with the biggest underlying issues of our economy and society the problems that no government has had the guts to tackle before and I mean the long term structural weaknesses in the UK economy

It is thanks to that vaccine roll-out that we now have the most open economy and the fastest growth in the G7 we have unemployment two million lower than forecast

We have demand surging and I am pleased to say that after years of stagnation – more than a decade – wages are going up faster than before the pandemic began and that matters deeply because we are embarking now on a change of direction that has been long overdue in the UK economy.

We are not going back to the same old broken model with low wages, low growth, low skills and low productivity – all of it enabled and assisted by uncontrolled immigration. 

The answer to the present stresses and strains – which are mainly a function of growth and economic revival – is not to reach for that same old lever of uncontrolled immigration to keep wages low.

The answer is to control immigration. To allow people of talent to come to this country but not to use immigration as an excuse for failure to invest in people, in skills and in the equipment the facilities the machinery they need to do their jobs.

The truckstops – to pick an example entirely at random – with basic facilities where you don’t have to urinate in the bushes and that is the direction in which this country is going now. Towards a high wage, high skill, high productivity and yes, thereby low tax economy. That is what the people of this country need and deserve in which everyone can take pride in their work and in the quality of their work and yes it will take time. Yes it will sometimes be difficult. But that was the change that people voted for in 2016 and that was the change they voted for again powerfully in 2019. To deliver that change we will get on with our job of uniting and levelling up across the UK the greatest project that any government can embark on

We have one of the most imbalanced societies and lop-sided economies of all the richer countries it is not just that there is a gap between London and the South east and the rest of the country. There are aching gaps within the regions themselves. What monkey glands are they applying in Ribble Valley what royal jelly are they eating that they live seven years longer than the people of Blackpool only 33 miles away?

Why does half of York’s population boast a degree and only a quarter of Doncaster’s?

This is not just a question of social justice. It is an appalling waste of potential and it is holding this country back because there is no reason why the inhabitants of one part of the country should be geographically fated to be poorer than others or why people should feel they have to move away from their loved ones, or communities to reach their potential

When Thomas Gray stood in that country churchyard in 1750 and wrote his famous elegy as the curfew tolled the knell of parting day. He lamented the wasted talents of those buried around him. The flowers born to blush unseen. The mute inglorious miltons who never wrote a poem because they never got to read. The simple folk who died illiterate and innumerate and he knew that it was an injustice.

Let me ask you, maybe you know, where was he standing when he chewed his pensive quill ? Anybody know? Correct, thank you, he was standing in Stoke Poges.

My friends there may be underprivileged parts of this country but Stoke Poges is not now among them.

In fact it was only recently determined by the Daily Telegraph and if you can’t believe that, what can you believe my friends, to be the 8th richest village in England.

Since Gray elegised, Buckinghamshire has levelled up to be among the most productive regions in the whole of Europe.

Stoke Poges may still of course have its problems. But they are the overwhelmingly caused the sheer lust of other people to live in or near Stoke Poges.

Overcrowded trains. Endless commutes. Too little time with the kids. The constant anxiety that your immemorial view of chalk downland is going to be desecrated by ugly new homes.

And that is why levelling up works for the whole country and is the right and responsible policy, because it helps to take the pressure off parts of the overheating South East while simultaneously offering hope and opportunity to those areas that have felt left behind.

Let us be clear that there is a huge philosophical difference between us and Labour because in their souls they don’t like levelling up. They like levelling down. They do. They like decapitating the tall poppies and taxing the rich till the pips squeak. They dislike academic competition – Latin I hear. And in Islington – I kid you not I have seen it with my own eyes – they like kids to run races where nobody actually wins and I have to tell you I don’t believe that is a good preparation for life. Let alone for the Olympic Games.

And if you insist on the economic theory behind levelling up. It is contained in the insight of Wilfredo Pareto, a 19th century Italian figre who floated from the cobwebbed attic of my memories that there are all kinds of improvements. You can make to people’s lives he said without diminishing anyone else

Rishi, will I am sure confirm this and we call these pareto improvements and they are the means of levelling up and the idea in a nutshell it is that you will find talent genius flair imagination enthusiasm everywhere in this country all of them evenly distributed. But opportunity is not and it is our mission as conservatives to promote opportunity with every tool we have and it is still a grim fact that in this country that some kids will grow up in neighbourhoods that are safer than others and some will be, as Priti was saying, some will be sucked into gangs and some will be at risk of stabbing and shooting and some will get themselves caught in the one way ratchet of the criminal justice system and many others will not. That’s why levelling up means fighting crime. Putting more police out on the beat as we are and toughening sentences and rolling up the county lines drugs networks as we are – 1100 gone already –  and giving the police the powers they need to fight these dealers in death and misery that’s what we want to do. What is Labour’s answer, by the way – to decriminalise hard drugs apparently. To let the gangsters off with a caution. An answer that is straight from the powder rooms of the North London dinner parties and nothing to do with the real needs of this country.

Crime has been falling and not just by the way because we took the precaution of locking up the public for much of the last 18 months. But because you have a Conservative Government that understands the broken windows theory of crime

I read a learned article by some lawyer saying we should not bother about pet theft. Well I say to Cruella de Vil QC – if you can steal a dog or a cat then there is frankly no limit to your depravity.

And you know those people gluing themselves to roads. I don’t call them legitimate protestors like some Labour councillors do. Some Labour councillors actually glue themselves to roads.  I say they are a confounded nuisance who are blocking ambulances, stopping people go about their daily lives and I am glad Priti is taking new powers to insulate them snugly in prison where they belong what I found most incredible of all was the decision by labour now led by lefty Islington lawyers to vote against tougher sentences for serious sexual and violent offenders and on behalf of the entire government I tell you:

We will not rest until we have increased the successful prosecutions for rape because too many lying bullying cowardly men are using the law’s delay to get away with violence against women and we cannot and we will not stand for it and I know that there are some who now tell us that we are ungenerous and unfeeling in our attempts to control our borders and I say – don’t give me that

This is the government that stood up to China and announced that we would provide a haven for British overseas nationals in Hong Kong 30,000 have already applied and I am really proud to be part of a Conservative government that will welcome 20,000 Afghans people who risked their lives to guide us and translate for us. We are doing the right and responsible thing and speaking as the great grandson of a Turk who fled in fear of his life I know that this country is a beacon of light and hope for people around the world. Provided they come here legally. Provided we understand who they are and what they want to contribute and that is why we took back control of our borders and will pass the Borders Bill. Because we believe there must be a distinction between someone who comes here legally and someone who doesn’t and though I have every sympathy with people genuinely in fear of their lives.

I have no sympathy whatever with the people traffickers who take thousands of pounds to send children to sea in frail and dangerous craft and we must end this lethal trade. We must break the gangsters’ business model.

And is it not a sublime irony that even in French politics there is now a leading centre right politician calling for a referendum on the EU. Who is now calling for France to reprendre le controle?? It’s good old Michel Barnier.

That’s what happens if you spend a year trying to argue with Lord Frost. The greatest frost since the great frost of 1709 and we will fight these gangs at home and abroad. Because their victims are invariably the poorest and the neediest and I will tell you what levelling up is.

A few years ago they started a school not far from the Olympic park a new school that anyone could send their kids to in an area that has for decades been one of the most disadvantaged in London. That school is Brampton Manor academy and it now sends more kids to Oxbridge than Eton and if you want proof of what I mean by unleashing potential and by levelling up look at Brampton Manor and we can do it.

There is absolutely no reason why the kids of this country should lag behind or why so many should be unable to read and write or do basic mathematics at the age of 11 and to level up – on top of the extra 14 bn we’re putting into education and on top of the increase that means every teacher starts with a salary of £30,000.

We are announcing a levelling up premium of up to £3000 to send the best maths and science teachers to the places that need them most and above all we are investing in our skills. Skills folks. Our universities are world beating, I owe everything to my tutors and they are one of the great glories of our economy. But we all know that some of the most brilliant and imaginative and creative people in Britain and some of the best paid people in Britain did not go to university and to level up you need to give people the options. The skills that are right for them and to make the most of those skills and knowledge. And to level up you need urgently to plug all the other the gaps in our infrastructure that are still holding people and communities back.

As I’ve been saying over this wonderful conference to you when I became leader of this party, there were only, can you remember, what percentage of households had gigabit broadband when you were so kind as to make me leader? 7 percent, only 7 percent and by the new year that will be up to 68 per cent.

Thanks to Rishi’s superdeduction the pace is now accelerating massively as companies thrust the fibre-optic vermicelli in the most hard to reach places.

Its wonderful, for years SNP leader Ian Blackford has been telling the Commons that he is nothing but a humble crofter on the isle of Skye. Well now we have fibre optic broadband of very high quality that we can inspect the library or is it perhaps the billiard room of Ian Blackford’s croft and that is levelling up in action and my friends it is not good enough just to rely on zoom.

After decades of ducked decisions our national infrastructure is way behind some of our key competitors

It is a disgrace that you still can’t swiftly cross the pennines by rail a disgrace that leeds is the largest city in Europe with no proper metro system a waste of human potential that so many places are not served by decent bus routes transport is one of the supreme leveller-uppers and we are making the big generational changes shirked by previous governments

we will do Northern Powerhouse rail. We will link up the cities of the midlands and the north. We will restore those sinews of the union that have been allowed to atrophy the A1 north of Berwick and on into Scotland. The A 75 in Scotland that is so vital for the links with northern Ireland and the rest of the country. The north Wales corridor.

And we will invest in our roads. Unblocking those coagulated roundabouts and steering-wheel-bending traffic lights putting on 4,000 more clean green buses made in this country – some of them running on hydrogen.

As we come out of covid our towns and cities are again going to be buzzing with life because we know that a productive workforce needs that spur that only comes with face to face meetings and water cooler gossip.

If young people are to learn on the job in the way that they always have and must we will and must see people back in the office and that is why we are building back better with a once in an a century £640 billion programme of investment and by making neighbourhoods safer by putting in the gigabit broadband

By putting in the roads and the schools and the healthcare we will enable more and more young people everywhere to share the dream of home ownership the great ambition of the human race – that the left always privately share but publicly disparage and we can do it

Look at this country from the air

Go on google maps. You see how our landscape has been plotted and pieced and jigsawed together by centuries of bequests and litigation. A vast testament to security of title trust in the law. A confidence that is responsible for so much international investment. You see how rich this country is growing. The billions of loving and incremental improvements to homes and gardens. You can see how beautiful it is. Vast untouched moorland and hills.  Broadleaf forests. We are going to re-wild parts of the country and consecrate a total of 30 per cent to nature.

We are planting tens of millions of trees. Oters are returning to rivers from which they have been absent for decades. Beavers that have not been seen on some rivers since tudor times massacred for their pelts and now back and if that isn’t conservatism, my friends I don’t know what is. Build back beaver. Though the beavers may sometimes build without local authority permission you can also see how much room there is to build the homes that young families need in this country not on green fields.

Not just jammed in the south east but beautiful homes on brownfield sites in places where homes make sense.

Home ownership

This government is helping young people to afford a home. It has been a scandal – a rebuke to all we stand for that over the last 20 years the dream of home ownership has receded and yet under this government we are turning the tide.

We have not only built more homes than at any time in the last 30 years. We are helping young people on to the property ladder with our 95 per cent mortgages and there is no happiness like taking a set of keys and knowing that the place is yours and you can paint the front door any colour you like. As it happens I am not allowed to paint my own front door, it has to be black. But I certainly don’t have far to go to work. And if you don’t have too far to go to work and the commute is not too dreadful and if the job suits your skills and your wifi is fast and reliable then I tell you something else:

That housing in the right place at an affordable price will add massively not just to your general joie de vivre but to your productivity and that is how we solve the national productivity puzzle: By fixing the broken housing market, by plugging in the gigabit, by putting in decent safe bus routes and all other transport infrastructure and by investing in skills skills skills and that by the way is how we help to cut the cost of living for everyone because housing, energy, transport are now huge parts of our monthly bills. It is by fixing our broken housing market, by sorting out our energy supply – more wind, more nuclear, becoming less dependent on hydrocarbons from abroad – by putting in those transport links we will hold costs down and save you money.

We will make this country an even more attractive destination for foreign direct investment

We are already the number one – look at the Nissan investment in Sunderland or the Pfizer vaccine manufacturing centre that’s coming to Swindon and with these productivity gains we will turbo charge that advantage and help businesses to start and grow everywhere so let me come now to the punchline of my sermon on the vaccine

It was not the government that made the wonder drug it wasn’t brewed in the alembicks of the department of health.

It was, of course it was Oxford University, but it was the private sector that made it possible behind those vaccines are companies and shareholders and, yes, bankers. You need deep pools of liquidity that are to be found in the City of London.

It was capitalism that ensured that we had a vaccine in less than a year and the answer therefore is not to attack the wealth creators. It is to encourage them because they are responsible for the aggregate increase in the country’s wealth that enables us to make those pareto improvements and to level up everywhere.

To rub home my point it is not just that vaccination has saved more than 120,000 lives. Vaccination has allowed us to meet like this and blessed us with such rapid growth with wages rising fastest for those on lowest incomes and that levelling up in action.

The vaccines have ensured that by a simple vowel mutation jabs jabs jabs become jobs jobs jobs. The world’s most effective vaccines have saved our open society and free market economy and it is our open society and free market economy that have produced the world’s most effective vaccines and that is the symmetry in the lesson of the covid vaccines – science, innovation, capitalism – is vital now for the challenge we face.

The challenge the whole humanity faces is even more existential for our way of life in just a few weeks time this country will host the summit of our generation in Glasgow when the resolve of the world is put to the test can we keep alive the ambition of Paris – to stop the planet heating by more than 1.5 degrees government can’t do it alone and taxpayers certainly can’t do it alone.

The other day I took a boat out into the Moray Firth to see an aquatic forest of white turbines towering over the water like the redwoods of California and you have no idea of their size until you see them up close.

The deceptive speed of their wings. Twice the diameter of the London Eye. Their tips slicing the air at more than 100 miles per hour and I met the young men and women apprentices who had moved straight across from the world of oil and gas and they had the same excitement at working amid winds and wave and being able to see whales and dolphins from the office window.

But they had the extra satisfaction that goes with knowing you are doing something to save the planet and get Britain to Net Zero by 2050 and that is the symmetry represented by these giant windmills.

Massive and innovative private sector investment and a government taking the tough decisions to make it possible.

That’s the difference between this radical and optimistic Conservatism and a tired old Labour.

Did you see them last week, did you watch them last week in Brighton hopelessly divided I thought they looked.

Their leader like a seriously rattled bus conductor – pushed this way and that by, not that they have bus conductors any more unfortunately, like a seriously rattled bus conductor pushed this way and that by a Corbynista mob of sellotape-spectacled sans-culottes. Or the skipper of a cruise liner that has been captured by Somali pirates desperately trying to negotiate a change of course and then changing his mind.

Remember Labour’s performance during the pandemic. Flapping with all the conviction of a damp tea towel. They refused to say that schools were safe. They would have kept us in the European medicines agency and slammed the brakes on the vaccine roll out. The Labour leader attacked the vaccine task force for spending money on outreach to vaccine hesitant minority groups when it is hard to think of any better use of public money and let us try to forgive him on the basis that he probably didn’t know what he was talking about.

In previous national crises labour leaders have opted to minimise public anxiety and confusion by not trying to score cheap party political points one thinks of Attlee or even Michael Foot in the falklands crisis – sadly that was not the approach taken by Captain Hindsight.

Attacking one week – then rowing in behind when it seemed to be working. The human weathervane, the starmer chameleon. In his final act of absurd opportunism he decided to oppose step four of the roadmap in July. That’s right folks. If we had listened to captain hindsight we would still be in lockdown we wouldn’t have the fastest growth in the G7.

If Columbus had listened to captain hindsight he’d be famous for having discovered Tenerife and how utterly astonishing that in the last few weeks labour should actually have voted against new funding we’re putting frward for the NHS

We need to remember why and how we have been able to back people through this pandemic at all.

It was because we Conservatives fixed the economy. We repaired the damage Labour left behind. Every Labour Government has left office with unemployment higher than when it came in – every single one – ever since the party was invented. And today we are going to fix this economy and build back better than ever before and just as we used our new freedoms to accelerate the vaccine rollout.

We are going to use our Brexit freedoms to. To do things differently. We are doing the Borders Bill. We have seen off the European superleague and protected grassroots football.

We are doing at least eight freeports, superfertilised loam in which business will plant new jobs across the UK.

And now we are going further. Not only jettisoning the EU rules we don’t need any more. But using new freedoms to improve the way we regulate in the great growth areas of the 21st century as we fulfil our ambition of becoming a science superpower, gene editing, data management, AI, Cyber quantum.

We are going to be ever more global in our outlook. We have done 68 free trade deals including that great free trade deal with our friends in the EU that they all said was impossible and after decades of bewildering refusal we have persuaded the Americans to import prime British beef – a market already worth £66 m

Build back burger I say.

And you ask yourself how have the Americans been able to survive without British beef for so long? And if you want a supreme example of global Britain in action of something daring and brilliant that would simply not have happened if we had remained in the EU I give you AUKUS – an idea so transparently right that Labour conference voted overwhelmingly against it

And I know that there has been a certain raucus squaukus from the anti-aukus caucus. But Aukus is simply a recognition of the reality that the world is tilting on its economic axis and our trade and relations with the Indo Pacfific region are becoming ever more vital than ever before.That is why we have sent the amazing carrier strike group to the far east been performing manoeuvres with 40 friendly countries.

HMS Queen Elizabeth – as long as the entire palace of Westminster and rather more compelling as an argument than many speeches made in the House of Commons. It has dozens of F35s on board and 66 thousand sausages aboard. Not because want to threaten or be adversarial to anyone either with the F35s or indeed the sausages. But because we want to stick up for the rule of law that is so vital for freedom of navigation and free trade and that is what brings AUKUS together Australia, UK, US – shared values.

A shared belief in democracy and human rights and a shared belief in the equal dignity and worth of every human being. Very few countries could have pulled off the Kabul airlift – an astonishing feat by our brave armed forces. Even fewer have the same moral priorities

No other government brokered a deal such as this government did with Astra Zeneca so that the Oxford vaccine has been distributed at cost around the world. More than a billion low cost vaccines invented in Britain, saving millions of lives

We are led by our values. By the things we stand for

We should never forget that people around the world admire this country for its history and its traditions.

They love the groovy new architecture and the fashion and the music and the chance of meeting Michael in the disco.

But they like the way it emerges organically from a vast inherited conglomerate of culture and tradition and we conservatives understand the need for both and how each nourishes the other and we attack and deny our history at our peril.

When they began to attack Churchill as a racist I was minded to ignore them. It is only 20 years ago since BBC audiences overwhelmingly voted him the greatest Briton of all time because he helped defeat a regime after all that was defined by one of the most vicious racisms the world has ever seen.

But as time has gone by it has become clear to me that this isn’t just a joke. They really do want to re-write our national story starting with Hereward the woke.

We really are at risk of a kind of know nothing cancel culture know nothing iconoclasm and so we Conservatives will defend our history and cultural inheritance. Not because we are proud of everything but because trying to edit it now is as dishonest as a celebrity trying furtively to change his entry in Wikipedia and its a betrayal of our children’s education.

Churchill’s last words to his Cabinet, actually his whole ministers but his Cabinet were there, were: “Never be separated from the Americans.”

Pretty good advice I’m sure you’ll agree and ended with the observation man is spirit

He was right there. I believe that through history and accident this country has a unique spirit the spirit of the NHS nurses AND the entrepreneurs whose innovative flair means that there are three countries in the world that have produced more than 100 unicorns not a mythical beast tech companies worth more than a billion dollars each

They are the US and China and the UK and those unicorns they are now dispersed around the United Kingdom in a way that is new to our country, that is the spirit of levelling up and we need the spirit of the NHS nurses and the entrepreneurs because each enables the other.

I mean the spirit of the footballers who took England into the final of a major knock out tournament for the first time in the lives of the vast majority of the people of this country probably, looking around at all you young thrusters, the majority of you in this room the indomitable spirit of Emma Raducanu her grace and her mental resilience when the game was going against her because that is what counts.

The spirit of our Olympians it is an incredible thing to come yet again in the top four a formidable effort for a country that has only 0.8 per cent of the world’s population in spite of the best efforts of some us jacob but when we come second in the Paralympics as well.

That shows our values not only the achievement of those elite athletes but a country that is proud to be a trailblazer to judge people not by where they come from but by their spirit and by what is inside them.

That is the spirit that is the same across this country in every town and village and city that can be found that can be found in the hearts and minds of kids growing up everywhere and that is the spirit we are going to unleash.