David Gauke: Without a proper state aid regime, the UK is unlikely to make a deal with Brussels

1 Aug

David Gauke is a former Justice Secretary, and was an independent candidate in South-West Hertfordshire at the recent general election.

Within the next three months, Boris Johnson is going to have to make the decision that will define his premiership and determine the future of British politics – especially the Conservative Party – for a generation. And the subject matter of this momentous decision? The previously obscure issue of the regulatory regime constraining the ability of the Government to provide taxpayer support for private sector companies. In other words, state aid.

Before turning to the issue in hand, let me set out a little context. My last two columns (here and here) have made the case that there is an electoral logic that points towards the Conservative Party moving in a leftwards direction economically but in a rightwards direction when it comes to social issues or, to put it more precisely, issues of national identity. Politics appears to be realigning as the biggest dividing line ceases to be about economic class or ideology but in relation to cultural issues.

The consequences of such a dividing line – and the Conservative Party unambiguously placing itself on one side or the other – is an uncomfortable one for those Conservatives with a desire for intellectual consistency.

At least since Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, the Conservative orthodoxy has been in favour of sound money and free trade. That is not to say that the State had been banished from making any kind of intervention in the economy – no recent government could accurately be described as laissez faire – but that any such intervention would be made carefully, recognising that the market was, by and large, a rather good way of allocating resources.

As for cultural issues, the Conservative Party has been a broad church consisting of social conservatives and social liberals, tub-thumping patriots and committed internationalists. Generally, we rubbed along alright.

These Conservative traditions were abandoned in 2019, resulting in the Prime Minister’s electoral triumph in December when he won previously safe Labour seats. He did so by promising an economic policy that involved more spending and greater government intervention. He also promised to deliver Brexit at whatever cost. It was an uncompromisingly Leave prospectus that appealed to patriotic/English nationalist working class voters.

This brings us to the UK/EU negotiations over a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. Contrary to promises of an oven-ready deal, discussions have not yet made a lot of progress. There are two sticking points. The first is fish. This is a matter of economic irrelevance (our fishing industry contributes less to GDP than Harrods) but of disproportionate political importance. As one can make a similar point about the EU, it would be an extraordinary failure for this matter to prevent a wider deal being reached.

The more substantive issue relates to the level playing field provisions. These are the EU’s requirements that the UK will not engage in “unfair competition” by undercutting the EU’s social and environmental legislation, nor provide anti-competitive subsidies.

The UK Government’s response to these demands has been to argue that this is an outrageous attempt to fetter the actions of a newly-independent nation. Given that (1) free trade agreements inevitably involve accepting some restrictions on a country’s ability to determine its own rules and (2) the UK accepted the principle of level playing field provisions in October’s Political Declaration, the EU is less than impressed by the argument.

The particular focus of the dispute has been state aid. At one level, this is surprising. The UK has traditionally eschewed state aid spending, seeing it as market-distorting and a wasteful use of taxpayers’ money. We spend less of it than the French and Germans and, as EU members, consistently argued against its use.

Nor has it traditionally been a touchstone issue for Eurosceptics. From my days in the ERG, I recall plenty of conversations about how the EU imposed regulatory burdens on businesses, prevented trade deals with rising economies like China and resulted in too much power in the hands of the unelected (oh, happy innocent days). Restrictions on bailing out private sector companies were not so much of problem for us Thatcherites.

This issue could have easily been de-escalated if we had put in place our own, independent and robust state aid regime, perhaps enforced by the Competition and Markets Authority. Such a regime is probably necessary (albeit not sufficient) in order to reach a compromise with the EU on this topic.

Instead, we have refused to set out our own domestic regime and there is much talk of how we can use our new freedoms as ex-members of the EU to support our own companies, like the rather odd acquisition earlier this month of a £400 million shareholding in a failed satellite company.

According to the Financial Times, Dominic Cummings is digging in against anything other than a “minimal, light-touch” state aid regime, believing that once you have left the EU “you should just do whatever you want”.

This brings me back to the nature of the Conservative victory last year and, in particular, the new supporters. If the Government’s focus is appealing to nationalists who favour an interventionist state, it would want the ability to back national champions or other businesses in favoured locations.

And if you are temperamentally inclined to think that any constraint on your ability to “do whatever you want” (whether by the EU, Parliament or the legal system) is an affront to democracy, then you will be all the more the likely to resist a robust and independent regime.

There are, however, consequences. First, it is very hard to see how the EU will agree to a deal if the UK does not have a proper state aid regime. I wrote in February how there may be a political case for not getting a deal (any deal will be very thin in any event, some parts of the economy will suffer as a consequence of leaving the Single Market, better to collapse the talks and blame the EU for the consequences) and that argument still applies.

But, as a consequence of the handling of Covid-19, the Government is more vulnerable to the charge of incompetence. In addition, a no deal Brexit would be a gift to the SNP, thus weakening the Union yet further.

Second, even putting aside the EU dimension, there are very good arguments for having in place a robust state aid regime. The Treasury will be arguing the case. Both as a finance ministry (ensuring that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely) and as an economics ministry (wanting resources to be allocated productively in order to maximise economic growth), it institutionally hates state aid. Presumably, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, well-regarded by his officials, will have similar views and will be making the case forcefully. At least, he should be.

It will be for the Prime Minister to decide. Go for the purist view of Brexit (“you do whatever you want”), embrace the new political alignment and splash the cash in order to play to the Red Wall voters. Or keep open the possibility of a deal, look after the interests of taxpayers and maintain some kind of consistency with economic orthodoxy. Whichever way he goes, it will be a hugely consequential and revealing decision.

Kanwal Gill and Patrick O’Connor: Why we’re launching the Conservative Diversity Project

31 Jul

Kanwal Gill is founder and Chairman, and Patrick O’Conner a Director, of the Conservative Diversity Project.

This week, the Government announced the membership of its Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED). This was an important step in the process of shining a light on inequality in the UK.

The Commission will focus on areas including poverty, education, employment, health, and the criminal justice system.

It is timely that the Government is seeking to shed a light on ethnic disparities in our country. The expert membership for the CRED means they will make evidence-based recommendations to change lives for the better, and will be crucial in informing and improving the national conversation on race.

As Conservatives, notions of aspiration, opportunity and freedom are often discussed in the political arena. These are values which we inherently believe in. We as a Party understand that your success in life should not be defined by who you love, the colour of your skin, your gender, or whether you have a disability or not.

Yet, for too many people in this country, this is not their reality.  When Theresa May first stood on the steps of Downing Street in July 2016 as Prime Minister, she recognised this. The burning injustices she acknowledged remain today. We have seen it in the disproportionate impact that COVID has had on BAME communities.

One of the ways in which we ensure that the challenges facing ethnic minorities and diverse communities in this country is through the formation of a politics that is truly accessible for all.

The Conservative Party has already done much to do this. The only two female Prime Ministers which this country has had have been Conservatives. Three members of the current Cabinet are from ethnic minority backgrounds, holding two of the great offices of state. We have had the first British Asian to hold the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer.

These are undoubtedly indicative of the progress we have seen in regards to diversity and inclusion – but we can do so much more.  Only six percent of Conservative MPs are BAME, and less than one per cent have a visible disability. Moreover, the House of Commons contains just 65 MPs from non-White ethnic backgrounds. This is the highest number in its history, but if the House truly reflected the ethnic make-up of the population, there would be around 90.

We as a party should be championing diversity. We should be encouraging more diverse initiatives. We must constantly be asking ourselves: who is not in the room? The emphasis and value that is now placed on diversity and inclusion did not come quickly or easily. It is now our responsibility to ensure that these values are practised and upheld.

Labour have for too long believed that they have a monopoly on compassion and diversity. It’s time we tackled this head on. To say with confidence that this Conservative Party has, and will continue to, stand up for our diverse communities, to champion their voices, and welcome them.

Our Party is at its best when it is a broad church, not only on the political spectrum but when we have voices from all walks of life. As a party we should reach out and embrace the rich tapestry which is the diversity within our society. To champion the diverse voices around us, learn from their experiences and grow together.

It will signal to people of different genders, from the LGBTQ community, BAME communities, or the disabled that this party is here for them, that it welcomes them, and will champion them.

The challenges we have faced as a country and a global community over the course of the last twenty years has done much to change the face of our politics. The next twenty will undoubtedly change our society. Our party should be at the vanguard of these changes; embracing further diverse representation and tackling the issues which face our communities in this country, and abroad.

Our party has always stood up in the face of adversity, and led our country to new beginnings. As we re-emerge from COVID, and recalibrate our country for the future, let diversity and inclusion be the new frontier of progress. If we can do this, we can realise the vision of a country which works for everyone, built on the values of compassionate conservatism, with freedom and opportunity for all.

There is a clear appetite for change. The question now is how we foster greater diversity and inclusion in our party, and how can we translate this into greater representation at both local, and national levels? It will require a bottom-up approach, and the Conservative Diversity Project has been founded with this in mind.

The CDP will seek to understand the issues which are affecting our diverse members. By sharing the experiences and knowledge of diverse candidates who have stood before, we aim to break the barriers to such candidates standing for election. This is our attempt at building politics that is truly accessible for all.

Johnson benefits from the scorn of critics such as Parris, for it suggests the PM is still an outsider

28 Jul

“There seems no pressing need to embark on the second volume, provisionally entitled The Statesmanship of Boris Johnson, which I hope one day to offer the world.”

So I wrote in 2007, for the paperback edition of my account of his early life, published in hardback the previous year.

Distinguished commentators of the Right and Left, including Alexander Chancellor, Stephen Glover and Paul Routledge, were among those who had greeted with incredulity my suggestion that Johnson might yet become Prime Minister.

David Cameron was firmly in the driving seat as Conservative leader, and in the reshuffle of the Shadow Cabinet which he conducted in the summer of 2007 – necessitated by Gordon Brown’s Cabinet reshuffle on becoming Prime Minister a few days earlier – had kept Johnson at arm’s length, as Shadow Spokesman on Higher Education.

Both men had been to Eton and Oxford, but as I attempted in a subsequent update of the book to explain, their temperaments were incompatible:

“There is something about Boris which is an affront to serious-minded people’s idea of how politics should be conducted. By refusing to adopt their solemn tone, he implies that they are ridiculous, and the dreadful thing, from their point of view, is that a large part of the British public agrees with Boris. So it is not just lefties, but people from every part of the political class, who cannot bear his unwillingness to take them as seriously as they take themselves. It was after all a Tory leader, Michael Howard, who had sacked Boris [in 2004], and Howard’s chosen successor, Cameron, has similar instincts about what does and does not constitute reliable behaviour…

“For while Cameron is a favoured son of the Establishment, and takes the Establishment’s view that there are certain things which are just not done, Boris is an outsider, a loner, a man who likes to be on genial terms with everyone but who has no circle of political intimates. Cameron is a man of astonishing gifts, including cool judgement under pressure, but his instinct is to work within the existing framework of rules. Boris frets under such restraint and is always ready to drive a coach and horses through it. Cameron believes in order: Boris believes in being free. Cameron is bound to regard Boris as a bit disreputable, while Boris is bound to regard Cameron as a bit limited.”

This divide had a decisive influence in 2016, when Brexit was the issue. Cameron sought to uphold the status quo, but Johnson drove a coach and horses through it.

So now we have an outsider as Prime Minister, a situation less unusual or paradoxical than one might suppose, for an essential features of our tradition, and a reason why it has survived, is that the Conservative Party has often been led by outsiders.

Margaret Thatcher, Harold Macmillan, Winston Churchill and Benjamin Disraeli are four obvious examples: all on occasion could not, as a matter of temperament more than ideology, stomach the Establishment line taken by the then party leader.

All at one time or another – though not of course in perpetuity – were able as a result to appeal to parts of the nation which were far removed from the Establishment, and which regarded the Establishment’s moralising with disgust.

This is the line in which Johnson belongs. He has a particular affinity with Disraeli, a scandalously disreputable figure in his youth, this early history obscured by his ability to charm Queen Victoria, and by posthumous adulation.

Like Disraeli, Johnson has dismayed his liberal opponents by winning support from patriotic working-class voters who believe in the greatness of Britain, symbolised today by Queen Elizabeth II and our armed forces.

The present Queen would never dream of being partisan in the manner of her great great grandmother, but Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of enthusiasm for her or the armed forces, and sympathy with various terrorist movements, cost Labour dear in December 2019 among its traditional supporters.

Matthew Goodwin suggested, in a piece yesterday for Unherd entitled “Why Boris Johnson keeps on winning”, that the Prime Minister has so far retained the support of these patriotic working-class voters because like them, he rejects the view of many on the Left that Britain is in decline:

“Ever since the vote for Brexit, Left-wing and liberal writers have been consumed by ‘declinism’: the belief that Britain’s best days are in the past. Declinists are united by the assumption that, because of decisions that went against their own politics, Britain has become a diminished world power, is falling behind other states and is led by incompetent, amateurish elites who either lack the required expertise or ‘correct’ ideology to reverse this decline or, worse, are actively perpetuating it…

“One reason why declinists are so vicious is that they have found themselves written out of the national story — election defeats or referendum outcomes have left them on the sidelines, with little power or influence. One reason why Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Dominic Cummings and Munira Mirza have been so strongly attacked is not only because they committed the double sin of being Conservatives and Brexiteers, but because they are essentially the first group to have gone up against the ‘liberal establishment’ and won.”

Johnson benefits from the disdain of his critics, for it shows his supporters that he is still, in some respects, an outsider, one who is despised rather in the way they were despised when they voted for Brexit. Here is dear old Matthew Parris in a recent column for The Times:

“his colleagues always knew his shamelessness from his personal history. That he isn’t even clever, however, they are only now discovering. If competence shone through then I think the shamelessness would remain an embarrassment that his colleagues would be prepared to suppress. But he’s losing, and the combination of incapacity and shamelessness is beginning to curdle.”

A dozen other commentators might be quoted, all as determined as Parris to take the lowest possible view of the Prime Minister.

One day they will almost certainly be right. Johnson will fall: he will take the blame for something he has done, or even, it may be, for something he has not done, or something many of us thought at the time was a good idea. The role of Prime Minister is essentially sacrificial: ask Lord North, Neville Chamberlain, Anthony Eden or Tony Blair.

But until the culminating debacle, whatever it turns out to be, Parris and the rest render Johnson incomprehensible. How can a man who “isn’t even clever” have won two London mayoral elections, the EU referendum, the leadership of the Conservative Party and a general election?

A second volume is required to plumb this mystery. Is Parris clever enough to see through Johnson, or Johnson clever enough to incur the enmity of Parris? I shall endeavour, while writing it, to provide evidence for both schools of thought.

The people in whose name liberals act are absent from Applebaum’s defence of liberalism

25 Jul

Twilight of Democracy: The Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends by Anne Applebaum

Anyone wondering what has gone wrong with democracy over the last 20 years should buy this book. It opens with a New Year’s Eve party thrown on 31st December 1999 by Anne Applebaum and her husband Radek Sikorski at Chobielin, their not yet fully restored manor house in an “obscure piece of Polish countryside”.

It ends with a summer party which they gave there in August 2019:

“Nearly two decades later, I would now cross the street to avoid some of the people who were at my New Year’s Eve party. They, in turn, would not only refuse to enter my house, they would be embarrassed to admit they had ever been there. In fact, about half the people who were at that party would no longer speak to the other half. The estrangements are political, not personal. Poland is now one of the most polarised societies in Europe, and we have found ourselves on opposite sides of a profound divide, one that runs through not only what used to be the Polish right but also the old Hungarian right, the Spanish right, the French right, the Italian right, and with some differences, the British right and the American right, too.”

The guests in 1999 are an eclectic mixture of journalists – Applebaum is an American journalist and historian who has by now already worked for The Economist in Warsaw and The Spectator in London – junior diplomats and politicians – Sikorski is at this point Poland’s deputy foreign minister – along with local friends, “a large group of cousins” and “a handful of Polish journalists…none then particularly famous”.

The party lasted all night,

“and was infused with the optimism I remember from that time. We had rebuilt our ruined house. Our friends were rebuilding the country… Poland was on the cusp of joining the West, it felt as if we were all on the same team. We agreed about democracy, about the road to prosperity, about the way things were going.”

Why are they no longer on the same team? Why has a part of the right – including the Law and Justice party in Poland – yielded to “a different set of ideas, not just xenophobic and paranoid but openly authoritarian”?

For Applebaum, this is a treason of the clerks, or of the educated class: she refers to Julien Benda’s work of 1927, La trahison des clercs, in which he described how intellectuals of both the Left and the Right betrayed their essential task, the search for truth, and became propagandists for Soviet Marxism, or else for “national passion” in the form of fascism.

With admirable brevity – the book is under 200 pages long – Applebaum touches on a wide range of countries, including Poland, Hungary, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, and on an even wider range of writers, some of whom have abandoned liberalism and become apologists for authoritarianism.

She recognises the temptation which an authoritarian regime presents to the disappointed, second-rate writer, who by placing his pen at its service obtains the material rewards and significance which have hitherto eluded him.

The poverty of his talents is made up for by his loyalty to the regime, demonstrated by his willingness to acclaim its lies as truth.

Applebaum is acute on the way a one-party state, a form of political organisation invented by Lenin, can be regarded as more just than a democracy which has competing parties:

“If you believe, as many of my old friends now believe, that Poland will be better off if it is ruled by people who loudly proclaim a certain kind of patriotism, people who are loyal to the party leader, people who are…a ‘better sort of Pole’ – then a one-party state is actually more fair than a competitive democracy. Why should different parties be allowed to compete on an even playing field if only one of them deserves to rule? Why should businesses be allowed to compete in a free market if only some of them are loyal to the party and therefore truly deserving of wealth?”

She has the humility not to pretend fully to understand what is happening:

“There is no single explanation, and I will not offer either a grand theory or a universal solution. But there is a theme: Given the right conditions, any society can turn against democracy. Indeed, if history is anything to go by, all of our societies eventually will.”

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. We can never rest on our laurels and suppose that the end of history has arrived. Even the highest forms of civilisation contain within them the seeds of decay.

All that is true, and yet I think Applebaum’s pessimism is overdone. Or to put it another way: this lament for the failure of liberals to live up to their liberalism could have been written at almost any time since 1789.

There is a void in this book. The people in whose name the liberals act are absent. They have occasional walk-on parts: Sikorski knew almost everyone “including the flight attendants” on the plane which crashed at Smolensk in 2010 with the loss of all on board, including the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, and dozens of senior military figures and politicians: an event since exploited by the Polish right to peddle disgraceful conspiracy theories.

At Applebaum and Sikorski’s parties, unimportant people are of course made welcome. As she writes of last year’s summer party:

“At one point, I noticed the local forest ranger engaged in heated discussion with the former Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, with whom my husband created the Eastern Partnership between the EU and Ukraine several years earlier.”

We do not, unfortunately, discover what point the local forest ranger was trying to impress on Bildt. The ranger is, as it were, a charming decoration, like one of the small, rustic figures which adorn a classical landscape, whose point is to show the imposing scale of the ruins in which the artist and viewer are really interested.

And here is Applebaum on the difficulty which far-right movements often have in forming alliances with each other:

“Relations between the Italian far right and the Austrian far right, for example, once came unstuck after they started arguing, amusingly, over the national identity of South Tyrol, a German-speaking province in northern Italy that has sometimes been Austrian.”

What a wealth of meaning the word “amusingly” carries here. We find ourselves at a dinner party where the foibles of the natives are dismissed as merely ridiculous.

For those who care about it, South Tyrol is not “amusing”: it speaks to deep emotions and loyalties, and carries a weight of history.

If one wants to prevent demagogues from exploiting those emotions, one shouldn’t start by ignoring or downplaying or declaring illegitimate or laughing at the very existence of such feelings and loyalties, while instructing people to forget any inconvenient bits of history.

Liberals have to show they offer a better way, which quite possibly they do: the abolition of borders. But that project can only work if instead of handing it down from on high, as if to their vassals, the liberals first listen with respect to what the people may be attempting, however inconveniently, to say.

Applebaum knows Boris Johnson: her husband was with him in the Bullingdon Club. In her view,

“Both were playing with the old forms of the English class system, acting out some of the rules because it amused them. They enjoyed the Bullingdon not despite [Evelyn] Waugh’s vicious parody, but because of it.”

That sounds right: the Bullingdon was a joke. But part of the joke was at the expense of the priggish middle class, the Puritans shocked by the club’s hooliganism – a hooliganism which, one cannot help thinking, may have put its members more in touch with the hooliganism found in other classes of society, though not, of course, in the middle-class prigs.

Applebaum one day bumps into Johnson in the City of London:

“He was then mayor; he was riding his bike. I waved at him, he stopped, exclaimed over the amazing coincidence, and suggested that we go into a pub for a quick drink.”

Once inside the pub he is mobbed by people demanding selfies. But then they have a chat. She does not tell us what they said, but here we see a man anxious to mend fences, or if possible not to fall out in the first place.

The Conservative Party has endured because it has avoided, at least with greater success than the Liberals or Labour, “the parting of friends”. Let’s have a quick drink.

And let’s find a leader who can connect with the wider public, however much the liberal intelligentsia may despise him – or her, in the case of Margaret Thatcher.

Applebaum at length takes us to Washington DC, where she was an early and outspoken opponent of Donald Trump. She recognises that he represents “another America”:

“This America has no special democratic spirit of the kind Jefferson described. The unity of this America is created by white skin, a certain idea of Christianity, and an attachment to land that will be surrounded and defended by a wall. This America’s ethnic nationalism resembles the old-fashioned ethnic nationalism of older European nations. This America’s cultural despair resembles their cultural despair.”

All this may be true, but does not do much to penetrate with imagination or sympathy into the hearts and minds of Americans who voted for Trump, many of whom regard themselves as followers of Jefferson, president 1801-09, and of Andrew Jackson, president 1829-37.

Morality gets in the way of understanding. These people are deplorable. As I suggested at the end of a recent piece, “American liberals…will do everything they can for the American people short of spending any time with them.”

Andrew Bridgen: It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to expose the scandal of Leicester’s sweatshops

16 Jul

Andrew Bridgen is Member of Parliament for North West Leicestershire.

With its Mayor, three MPs, Police and Crime Commissioner and 96 per cent representation on the city council all from the same political party, the city is called ‘Red Leicester’ for a reason. However, like a cheese that has been around for too long, something smells very bad about what is going on in this great city, which is Leicestershire’s County Town.

On a superficial basis, things look ok: its football team beat the odds to win the Premier League in 2016, it has a famous if faltering rugby team in the Leicester Tigers and an economy that has performed reasonably well in recent years – in part due to the advent of fast fashion and a resurgence of the garment industry in the city.

Dig a bit deeper, though, and the fundamentals don’t quite look as rosy. Indeed, they look extremely sinister. It has now become increasingly apparent that the growth in this industry is on the back of thousands of exploited workers earning between £3-4 per hour – something I warned was happening in Parliament during Business questions back in January.

While I have highlighted this to the Government for a considerable amount of time, the local lockdown of the city and some surrounding suburbs has created national media interest in it, and questions about the reasons behind the surge in Covid-19 cases. People are asking “why Leicester?”

All the evidence that I have seen points to workers who are effectively modern slaves being put into a position where they have to choose to either work or starve during the lockdown.

The internet retailers (who make up over 90 per cent of the factories) and customers have had a bonanza during the lockdown period, as Government policy has forced non-essential retailers to remain closed. This has effectively removed their traditional “physical competition”, and forced anyone who needed or wanted to buy clothes onto the internet.

It’s also a fact that on poverty wages the housing that these modern slaves could afford would be substandard and very overcrowded. I have been told multiple reports of 15 to 20 people forced to “live” in a traditional terraced house, which is usually deemed suitable accommodation for four people.

Leicester’s captive workforce has had to increase production by 50 per cent throughout the lockdown for their internet retailer masters, work even longer hours than normal (while often showing symptoms of the virus – as they don’t get sick pay), in factories without PPE, ventilation or any measures to reduce transmission, only to return home to chronically overcrowded accommodation. It’s a recipe for the spread of the virus and the tragedy we have seen engulf the city.

Representatives of the city council stubbornly maintain that the two issues which propelled Leicester into the media spotlight, namely the Covid-19 outbreak and the existence of illegal sweatshops, are not linked.

However, as said, I don’t think that their claims survive analysis. The hotspot of the virus outbreak in Leicester is in its North East corner, which is in the parliamentary constituency of Leicester East and all the hundreds of illegally-operating factories are also in this part of the city, the former fiefdom of the “Rt Hon” Keith Vaz.

The more I look at Leicester, the more it appears that although the Labour Party is notionally in charge, they are in fact only presiding over a city where the criminals are ruling the roost through a combination of intimidation and cultural blackmail in the knowledge that the authorities are so scared of the potential accusations of racism, that they dare not challenge the Dickensian conditions and the racketeering that exist in “their part“ of city.

When you hear Labour complain about equality, remember the fact that they appear to be happy to allow sweatshop owners driving around in Lamborghinis to threaten journalists trying to expose slave labour conditions in a city that they politically control.

The Government has to take control of this situation – clear out all that’s rotten in this borough. These appalling conditions are stifling legitimate enterprise in this city with the responsible factory owners and employers tarnished while being unable to compete on a level-playing field against those who operate illegally.

All this together with financial cost of loss of revenue to the Treasury through potential tax and benefit fraud and most importantly, the human cost of a slave workforce unable to live a life worth living.

The modern slaves in Leicester are trapped because most of them cannot speak English, and so are disadvantaged in accessing employment and opportunities outside their own closed community. This has to stop and it’s just a shame that it’s taken a pandemic to get people to sit up and take notice.

Priti Patel has given a personal commitment to stamp out these illegal and inhuman employment practices. I and others will be holding her to this pledge.

Andrew Bridgen: It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to expose the scandal of Leicester’s sweatshops

16 Jul

Andrew Bridgen is Member of Parliament for North West Leicestershire.

With its Mayor, three MPs, Police and Crime Commissioner and 96 per cent representation on the city council all from the same political party, the city is called ‘Red Leicester’ for a reason. However, like a cheese that has been around for too long, something smells very bad about what is going on in this great city, which is Leicestershire’s County Town.

On a superficial basis, things look ok: its football team beat the odds to win the Premier League in 2016, it has a famous if faltering rugby team in the Leicester Tigers and an economy that has performed reasonably well in recent years – in part due to the advent of fast fashion and a resurgence of the garment industry in the city.

Dig a bit deeper, though, and the fundamentals don’t quite look as rosy. Indeed, they look extremely sinister. It has now become increasingly apparent that the growth in this industry is on the back of thousands of exploited workers earning between £3-4 per hour – something I warned was happening in Parliament during Business questions back in January.

While I have highlighted this to the Government for a considerable amount of time, the local lockdown of the city and some surrounding suburbs has created national media interest in it, and questions about the reasons behind the surge in Covid-19 cases. People are asking “why Leicester?”

All the evidence that I have seen points to workers who are effectively modern slaves being put into a position where they have to choose to either work or starve during the lockdown.

The internet retailers (who make up over 90 per cent of the factories) and customers have had a bonanza during the lockdown period, as Government policy has forced non-essential retailers to remain closed. This has effectively removed their traditional “physical competition”, and forced anyone who needed or wanted to buy clothes onto the internet.

It’s also a fact that on poverty wages the housing that these modern slaves could afford would be substandard and very overcrowded. I have been told multiple reports of 15 to 20 people forced to “live” in a traditional terraced house, which is usually deemed suitable accommodation for four people.

Leicester’s captive workforce has had to increase production by 50 per cent throughout the lockdown for their internet retailer masters, work even longer hours than normal (while often showing symptoms of the virus – as they don’t get sick pay), in factories without PPE, ventilation or any measures to reduce transmission, only to return home to chronically overcrowded accommodation. It’s a recipe for the spread of the virus and the tragedy we have seen engulf the city.

Representatives of the city council stubbornly maintain that the two issues which propelled Leicester into the media spotlight, namely the Covid-19 outbreak and the existence of illegal sweatshops, are not linked.

However, as said, I don’t think that their claims survive analysis. The hotspot of the virus outbreak in Leicester is in its North East corner, which is in the parliamentary constituency of Leicester East and all the hundreds of illegally-operating factories are also in this part of the city, the former fiefdom of the “Rt Hon” Keith Vaz.

The more I look at Leicester, the more it appears that although the Labour Party is notionally in charge, they are in fact only presiding over a city where the criminals are ruling the roost through a combination of intimidation and cultural blackmail in the knowledge that the authorities are so scared of the potential accusations of racism, that they dare not challenge the Dickensian conditions and the racketeering that exist in “their part“ of city.

When you hear Labour complain about equality, remember the fact that they appear to be happy to allow sweatshop owners driving around in Lamborghinis to threaten journalists trying to expose slave labour conditions in a city that they politically control.

The Government has to take control of this situation – clear out all that’s rotten in this borough. These appalling conditions are stifling legitimate enterprise in this city with the responsible factory owners and employers tarnished while being unable to compete on a level-playing field against those who operate illegally.

All this together with financial cost of loss of revenue to the Treasury through potential tax and benefit fraud and most importantly, the human cost of a slave workforce unable to live a life worth living.

The modern slaves in Leicester are trapped because most of them cannot speak English, and so are disadvantaged in accessing employment and opportunities outside their own closed community. This has to stop and it’s just a shame that it’s taken a pandemic to get people to sit up and take notice.

Priti Patel has given a personal commitment to stamp out these illegal and inhuman employment practices. I and others will be holding her to this pledge.

Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: There is a place not just for smiles but for Samuel Smiles in the Chancellor’s vision

8 Jul

Rishi Sunak belongs in a Spy cartoon. He should be drawn in profile, thin, alert, dark-haired, immaculate in a sombre suit and white shirt, leaning forward slightly at the Dispatch Box, like a batsman about to play an elegant cover drive.

Behind the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the end of the Treasury Bench, sat his captain, Boris Johnson, round, rumpled, genial, his own knockabout innings at PMQs just over, now content to watch his star player make some runs.

The Speaker, or umpire, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, decreed a three-minute pause between the end of PMQs and the start of Sunak’s statement, so the House could rearrange itself while obeying the laws of social distancing.

The Prime Minister held good-natured exchanges with passing backbenchers, a smile put on the face of each of his fielders, a smile on his face too. One felt one was watching a team who enjoy doing things together: an impression the media would consider it unprofessional to convey, for there the talk is always of splits, and Sunak is seldom mentioned without the suggestion that he will soon take Johnson’s job.

The Chancellor began by announcing that the Government is “unencumbered by dogma”, and motivated by “the simple desire to do what is right”.

The Prime Minister looked on with approval. He has a dog, but will never allow himself to become encumbered by dogma.

Sunak said that to extend the furlough scheme indefinitely would be “irresponsible”, for it would “give people false hope”. He instead announced “the kickstart scheme”, which will provide traineeships for “kickstarters”, defined as 16 to 24-year-olds at risk of long-term unemployment.

One can kick start a motorcycle, but whether the same applies to 16 to 24-year-olds at risk of long-term unemployment is not yet clear.

The Chancellor observed that the longer one is out of work, the harder it is to return to work, so he hopes to see “hundreds of thousands of new kickstarters”.

After this, his statement sagged a bit. Versions of the Green Homes Grant have been announced every year for decades.

As if recognising this, Sunak promised that his final measure has never been tried before. Members of the public who go out to eat at a restaurant, cafe or pub in August will be entitled to a discount of 50 per cent off, up to a maximum of £10 per head, including children.

The Prime Minister flushed with pleasure, patted his hand on the back of the Treasury Bench, jigged his knee up and down and nodded enthusiastically.

The Chancellor had put a smile on his captain’s face. Here was a Merry England gimmick, cheering everyone up.

Not that Sunak wanted to get carried away. “I believe in the nobility of work,” he added. There is a place not just for smiles but for Samuel Smiles in the modern Conservative Party.

The Shadow Chancellor, Annaliese Dodds, is a vast improvement on her tricksy, self-satisfied predecessor, John McDonnell. During her reply, she communicated complete honesty of intention as she reproached the Government for failing to overcome fear of the pandemic, which is what most damages the economy.

According to Dodds, Johnson has claimed the mantle of Franklin D. Roosevelt because he wants to avoid being compared to FDR’s successor, Harry Truman, whose desk bore the famous sign, “The buck stops here”.

She claimed Johnson’s motto is “The buck stops anywhere but here”.

Here is Labour’s attack on the Prime Minister: that he wriggles out of responsibility for the grievous mistakes made in the official response to the pandemic.

Incidentally, Truman’s desk carried another, less well-known sign, quoting some words of Mark Twain: “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Rainer Zitelmann: Wealth taxes would not be popular, or Conservative. Sunak must remember this tomorrow.

7 Jul

Dr. Rainer Zitelmann is a historian and sociologist. The data cited in this article is analysed in detail in his recently published book The Rich in Public Opinion

Over the past couple of weeks, UK Treasury officials have been contacting private bankers to sound them out on how the country’s richest citizens might help pay for the huge cost of Coronavirus relief packages. Ahead of Rishi Sunak’s big speech tomorrow, this should be worrying for many.

Austerity might be off the menu for the state, but it’s definitely the dish that is being prepared by civil servants to be served to everyone else.

Labour are getting in on the act too with Annalise Dodds, the Shadow Chancellor, stepping onto the Sunday shows to explain with zero detail that the burden of higher taxation ought to fall on those with the “broadest shoulders” and that taxes needed to reflect the “increase in income and wealth inequality over recent years.” She’d called for wealth taxes in the preceding week during a speech at the IFS, again with scant information on what this would actually look like.

Now, leaving aside the fact that a lot of income and wealth inequality is mostly a proxy for geographic inequality and restrictions on growth of jobs and homes outside of major centres of population, we should question what brings together the Shadow Chancellor and Civil Service. Especially when it looks a lot like trying to confiscate wealth and punish those that have worked hard to get on in life.

This isn’t Conservative. The Civil Service should be reminded of that fact, and the party should remember the benefit of providing some clear blue water between the reds in Labour and the Tories in power. Rishi Sunak on Wednesday should signal he’s going in quite the different direction to keep Conservatives and the country on side.

In fact the party of a low-tax dynamic free market that in December ruled out an increase in the rates of income tax, National Insurance or VAT – should also remember voters aren’t keen on the state coming for wealth either.

In a poll conducted in 2018 by Ipsos Mori across the UK, France and Germany, voters were asked their attitudes to the rich and to tax asks of them. They were presented with two statements:

The first was: The taxes on the rich should be high but not excessively high because they have generally worked hard to earn their wealth, and the state should not take too much away from them.

Over the UK as a whole, 29 per cent agreed. Of Labour voters, 20 per cent agreed. Of Conservative voters, 46 per cent agreed.

The second: The rich should not only pay high taxes, but they should pay very high taxes. In this way, the state can ensure that the gap between the rich and the poor does not become too great.

Of the UK population as a whole, 38 per cent agree. Of Labour voters, 53 per cent agreed. Of Conservative voters, 21 per cent agreed.

What the survey was designed to reveal is the proportion of the population in a given country that envies the rich (“social enviers”) and compared this with the proportion who do not (“non-enviers”).

While there is a section of the population in Great Britain that envies the rich, the number of enviers in Great Britain is much smaller than in the other countries. Much lower in fact.

The survey data was used to calculate a Social Envy Coefficient – the higher the coefficient, the higher the proportion of social envy.

The coefficient for France is 1.21, which means there are considerably more social enviers in France than non-enviers. Germany’s coefficient is 0.97, which means there is an even balance between social enviers and non-enviers. In the United States, the coefficient is significantly lower at 0.42. But the lowest coefficient is for the UK, at 0.37.

In other words, a clear majority of the British population are not envious of the rich.

There are significant differences between what Conservative voters and Labour voters think about the rich. Conservative voters say that society as a whole benefits from the existence of rich people (e.g. as entrepreneurs who create new products) but just a fifth of Labour voters think the same.

Despite a platform of envy and higher taxes on offer from the most far-left Labour leader in history, the British people decided to plump for the man opposed to them. Instead of thinking of the rich as a cash cow, when asked to describe the rich Conservative voters plucked for the following terms: industrious, imaginative, visionary, bold, intelligent, and ruthless.

Five out of six being positive traits ain’t bad. Labour voters under Corbyn plucked for the alternative, rich people to them were: materialistic, industrious too, ruthless, bold, self-centred, and greedy.

Starmer has done a good job of modernising his party, but he needs to win over Tory voters that thought of the rich as imaginative industrialists, not just pander to a coalition that thinks of them as ruthless greedy materialists that has failed twice to put the party into power.

Like throughout the pandemic, the UK is not the first to encounter the issues at play. When a few years ago the then socialist president François Hollande introduced a supertax on France’s highest earners, many wealthy people left France.

The tax was subsequently abolished. And France’s neighbour Germany found that the bureaucracy associated with levying a wealth tax is simply not worth it. As a result, Germany has waived its wealth tax since 1997.

Treasury officials and Tory strategists should realise: Britain is a low-envy country; a pro-growth country, and one that knows that imposing more envy taxes on wealthier people simply will not work.

Leave this idea to the Labour left and start pushing for growth by removing, rather than adding to, the burden of the state on businesses and families.

Profile: Ben Elliot, Co-Chairman of the Party, under fire for the seating plan which put Jenrick next to Desmond

3 Jul

Ben Elliot is a more significant figure than his title, Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, might suggest. Just as Andrew Feldman was David Cameron’s man in CCHQ, so Elliot controls the party organisation for Johnson.

The Conservative Party Board is chaired by Elliot, not by his Co-Chairman, Amanda Milling. The new Chief Executive, Darren Mott, a long-term servant of the party, reports to Elliot, not Milling, and Elliot is regularly in Number Ten, conferring with Johnson.

Elliot’s success as a fundraiser for the party is generally recognised. He not only raised the money for last December’s election, but ensured there was a surplus to carry the party through the leaner period after the election – a particularly welcome precaution once the pandemic struck.

The question troubling some Tories is whether, while charming the donors, he is sufficiently careful to avoid unfortunate juxtapositions.

He would not have arranged the seating plan for the now notorious dinner last November at which Robert Jenrick found himself sitting next to Richard Desmond. Nor can he be held to answer for Jenrick’s subsequent conduct, which included sending a friendly text message to Desmond and then ruling in his favour on a major planning application.

The seating plan would have been in the hands of the Treasurer’s Department, which appears to have tried to inform Jenrick’s special advisers about it by way of departmental emails which could not be opened because the general election campaign was already under way.

But because Elliot is in overall charge of CCHQ, he still incurs criticism when things go wrong. The buck stops with him.

“He clearly hasn’t understood the politics,” a senior Tory backbencher complained. “It smells wrong.”

“I’ve never met him,” a second senior Tory backbencher said. “He’s invisible. Maybe that’s a good thing.”

“There are mutterings that he’s a disaster waiting to happen,” an activist who knows the party well comments.

But none of those three knows Elliot. Zac Goldsmith – now as Lord Goldsmith Minister of State for the Pacific, International Environment, Climate and Forests, and Animal Welfare (is there a longer title in the Government?) – has known Elliot “pretty much all my life”, has the highest opinion of him, and calls him “without doubt the most effective person I know in terms of getting things done – he is the go-to person, he has an amazing ability to get people onside, to get people together”.

Goldsmith says it is Elliot’s job “to make sure the party can operate”, by raising the necessary funds: “How politicians behave around party donors is for politicians to figure out.”

This is right: the responsibility for behaving with complete propriety rests with the politicians. On the other hand, they ought not to be placed in situations which might lead to unnecessary embarrassment.

And the donors themselves can be tricky. “Donors put up stuff on Instagram – you despair,” one Conservative remarks. “Desmond is a particularly difficult man,” another observes.

Elliot himself possesses such a tremendous, gung-ho ability to carry off awkward social situations that he may underestimate the difficulties these could pose for less self-assured figures.

His insouciant manner suggests to those around him a refusal to contemplate the danger of scandal.

The élan with which his grandfather, Major Bruce Shand, commanded a squadron of armoured cars in the Western Desert during the Second World War, is displayed by Elliot in the less heroic roles offered by peacetime.

One of Shand’s daughters is now Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, while the other, Annabel, married Simon Elliot, a landowner in Dorset.

Ben Elliot, born in 1975, is almost invariably described, in articles about him, as Camilla’s nephew rather than Annabel’s son.

He does not appear to repine at this branding. After a conventional education at Eton and at Bristol University, where he read politics and economics, he set out to make his way as an entrepreneur.

When he was 24, he and two partners set up a firm called Quintessentially, a “lifestyle management” service for people with more money than sense. It from time to time attracts adverse comment in the press, but Elliot has also shown a flair for promoting it by giving interviews about his own lifestyle.

Here is a piece from The Daily Telegraph in 2011 about his perfect weekend:

“In my heart and soul I am a West Country man and ideally my weekends are spent there. I was born and bred in Dorset and I missed it massively when I was setting up Quintessentially, my lifestyle company, in New York during my twenties and early thirties. On my bedroom wall I had a photograph of Hod Hill, the Iron Age fort behind my parents’ home near Blandford Forum. But these days I also spend weekends in Northleach in Gloucestershire, where my wife Mary-Clare’s family live and where we own a home. I was nervous about emigrating north to Gloucestershire but you’ve got to compromise sometimes…

“We met at an Eric Clapton concert in Madison Square Gardens in New York about three and a half years ago. Her father, Steve Winwood, is a songwriter and musician who formed Blind Faith with Eric Clapton in 1969, and he was also performing in the concert. The Winwoods are half British and half American; they have a second home in Nashville, Tennessee, where Mary-Clare and I spent some time last summer.”

At the end of the interview he was asked, “What are you most ashamed about?” and replied with characteristic boldness: “I don’t have much shame. I don’t really regret anything.”

He also said: “I’d love to represent a West Country seat in the House of Commons.” It would be surprising if he did not still harbour a desire to become an MP, conceivably for The Cotswolds, the seat where Northleach lies.

Politics has been an interest from his earliest years. Goldsmith can remember Elliot at the age of nine or ten at Hawtreys, their preparatory school, getting people to sign petitions.

Recent years have seen an accumulation of offices: in 2015 he was appointed to the development board of the Royal Albert Hall, in 2016 he was deeply involved on the fundraising side of Goldsmith’s unsuccessful campaign for Mayor of London and became a trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum, in 2017 he joined the board of the Centre for Policy Studies, and in December 2018 Michael Gove made him the Government’s Food Surplus and Waste Champion.

Publicity for the last role offered scope, in an interview with The Times, for one of the self-deprecating anecdotes of which Elliot is a master, used as the intro to the piece by its author, Damian Whitworth:

“Ben Elliot arrives for our breakfast meeting having already been into battle. ‘I had a row with my youngest son today because he wouldn’t eat all his porridge. It’s bloody difficult. Negotiating with him on anything is a nightmare.’

“When Britain’s new food waste tsar was growing up he was not allowed to leave the table until he had finished everything on his plate. His father once made him sit, picking away at the last scrap of lunch, until 5 p.m. Modern parenting trends are less hardcore. Caught between an intransigent 21st-century four-year-old and the horror of throwing food away, what did he do? ‘I ended up eating most of it.'”

Here is a rhetoric which creates a feeling of complicity between Elliot and anyone who has ever had trouble getting a child to eat.

But behind the genuine charm lies something else. Someone who has worked for Elliot said he has two modes, charming and angry.

One day he will walk in smiling, the next day like a storm cloud. He is no mere boulevardier, a tall, relaxed, handsome man who networks for his own amusement, content to look good in his grandfather’s old suits as he moves among fashionable and well-connected people.

He is a serious person who for most the time conceals his seriousness, as Englishmen of a certain type do, behind a screen of affability, but who gets immensely frustrated when he cannot achieve what he has set out to achieve.

In this he is like the Prime Minister, another man often written off as not serious, because his manner seems to indicate  incorrigible frivolity.

The two of them are more ambitious, incisive and energetic than their critics are willing to admit. Both of them want to make dramatic changes to the organisations they are running, not conduct themselves as caretakers.

Last summer, when Johnson became Prime Minister and put Elliot into CCHQ, preparations began for an early general election campaign, to be run by Isaac Levido, protégé of Lynton Crosby, who himself got Johnson elected as Mayor of London in 2008, and ran David Cameron’s successful general campaign in 2015.

Most of the recommendations of the Pickles Review, set up to work out what went wrong in Theresa May’s disastrous campaign in 2017, had already been implemented.

Elliot raised the money for the 2019 campaign, frightening donors with the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn government. He also ensured that Levido had the space to get on with running the show. No turf wars disrupted what was a highly successful operation.

Johnson since his Oxford days, when the workers, peasants and intellectuals of Balliol were given no glimpse of his upper-class friends, has had a talent for belonging to several different circles which are for most of the time unaware of each other’s existence. Elliot, close to Gove, great friends with the Goldsmith brothers, and a member at 5 Hertford Street, a club owned by Robin Birley, belongs to one such circle.

The press has striven, quite rightly, to find out all it can about Jenrick and Desmond, and to investigate Elliot’s other enterprises, including the Government work obtained some years ago by Quintessentially, and the lobbying firm, Hawthorn Advisors, which he and others founded in 2013.

That sort of journalism is an indispensable check on the abuse of power. But it may also lead, paradoxically, to an underestimate of the abilities of those against whom it is directed; a cutting down to size which misses significant aspects of someone’s character.

Elliot is described, by one who has seen him at close quarters, as an invigorating boss, a genuine believer in entrepreneurship who sees the good in people, and takes it personally when people criticise Johnson, in whose leadership campaign he played a important role.

If Elliot lacked self-confidence, he would be useless as a fundraiser. To ask people for large sums of money in return for the opportunity to eat an over-priced dinner with Jenrick, and bid for an absurdly expensive game of tennis against Johnson and Elliot, requires a degree of impudence.

Robert Tyler: We need a Margaret Thatcher Foundation for Democracy

26 Jun

Robert Tyler is a Project Manager for the Alliance of Conservatives & Reformists in Europe.

With Brexit negotiations set to end in December we will once again be out in the world. Already, throughout this current crisis, the Government has shown global leadership – in particular when it comes to the ongoing crisis in Hong Kong.

However, to be a truly ‘Global Britain’ we must be much more ambitious.

In order to establish ourselves we need to make our foreign policy aims clearer. Since the end of the Cold War, British foreign policy has been confusing and almost aimless. Whilst we have won many major international successes in the field of human rights and international development, we have lacked a coherent foreign policy.

The announcement recently that the Department for International Development is set to return to the Foreign Office is a step in the right direction. However, we as Conservatives must also first establish what it is that we believe we should be doing on the world stage. The debate on foreign policy needs to start at hom,e and with us working out what we as a Party have to offer.

The obvious answer is that as conservatives we should be promoting our beliefs, free markets, representative democracy, the rule of law, robust institutions, strong defence, and the rights of individuals – especially in the developing world where we are likely to need allies in the future.

It’s with that in mind the next question is; how best to spread our values? The answer is right in front of us. We need to reform and build on existing structures.

Every year, UK political parties receive a grant from a little-known quango – the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD). The WFD was founded in 1992, is directly accountable to Parliament, and has a dedicated budget of around £11 million for political parties.

The Conservatives, Labour, SNP, and a ‘mixed group’ of the rest, all receive money for supporting the promotion of democracy around the world. This can range from encouraging more women to participate in elections to offering training for political parties. In 2018 the ‘International Department of the Conservative Party’ was involved in projects building infrastructure for centre-right political parties and supporting work to end violence against women. All great work to be commended.

However, this is only a start. Because of the way the Conservative Party is currently structured it isn’t able to do more.

The way round this is to copy the Americans and Europeans. Instead of directly funding the political parties, we should instead finance new ‘foundations’ affiliated and accountable to the parties. That is to say, instead of directly funding the Conservative Party, we should use the money for a ‘Churchill Foundation for Peace’ or ‘Thatcher Foundation for Democracy’.

This model already has a proven track record abroad. The Republicans have the ‘International Republic Institute’ (IRI), which was founded by Ronald Reagan in 1983 and is directly funded by the ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ (NED). IRI has a proven track record of delivering in the field of democracy-building and supporting centre-right political movements. Towards the end of the Cold War, IRI was engaged in Eastern Europe helping to build new centre-right political parties and movements that have consigned Communism to history. Many are still in power today.

Equally in Germany, Angela Merkle’s Christian Democrat Union (CDU) have the ‘Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’, a political foundation that receives funding from the German Bundestag based on the number of MPs. It’s purpose has been the spread of Christian Democracy. The success of KDS has coincided with the success of Germany in being at the heart of the EU. Every capitol in Central and Eastern Europe has a branch of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, working behind the scenes to support centre-right governments and spread pro-European values.

The Conservative Party needs to compete: we are wasting an opportunity to help shape global politics in our image. And whilst we share similar values with both the Republicans and the CDU, we have an older and prouder conservative tradition that we should be sharing.

Some may ask, ‘what’s the point of this exercise? Is this not just a waste of taxpayer money?’. And whilst that may on the surface seem like a fair criticism, the reality is that the return is great on a relatively small investment. Our generosity in supporting burgeoning democratic movements won’t soon be forgotten.

China, Russia, and Iran are all spreading their influence where they can, and using soft power as a means of winning over support in places such as the UN, OSCE and WTO. Because of China’s aggressive public relations and investment campaigns, they have been able to create a smoke screen for themselves that has prevented us from challenging them at the UN over human rights abuses.

Offering substantial support to conservative and democratic movements around the world could go a long way to loosening the grip of our enemies.

Having spent the last four years working on the European level of politics, I have seen first-hand the influence wielded by the German establishment through the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Europe. We need to seize the opportunity to present our alternative abroad.

The political foundations of other centre-right governments around the world wield significant influence and are powerful tools for foreign policy. The Conservative Party should not miss out on such an opportunity.