Nick Hargrave: In an age of post-truth politics, moderate politicians must prepare to work across party lines

I have reluctantly concluded that there needs to be greater regulation of the veracity of claims made by registered participants in political campaigns.

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

It’s a common trope that we live in an age of post-truth politics. It increasingly appears that politicians have impunity to say things that are either demonstrably false or – more often in the UK at least – promise a future that is not supported by a rational reading of the evidence at hand.

The EU referendum and the subsequent process after serve as good exhibits for the prosecution. The Leave side of the fence is probably the more egregious with the £350 million red bus, the promises that a free trade deal with the EU would be the easiest such undertaking ever and – most pressingly now – denunciations of those who suggest that a ‘No Deal’ Brexit would come with a cost.

The Remain side of the divide is not without fault either though; lest we forget the ‘punishment budget’ that never happened, the pre-referendum modelling on the impact of the vote that ludicrously assumed no policy response from the Bank of England – not to mention every piece of bad economic news now being held up as a ‘told you so’ with no examination of whether the real cause is Brexit or not.

We should not of course  hark back to a mythical golden era where those with power dispassionately handed down truth to the people. From the hagiographical Anglo Saxon Chronicle in the ninth century to the 1945 General Election campaign, where our wartime hero, Winston Churchill, said that a British Gestapo would be needed to implement Labour’s policies – politicians of the day have always presented their interpretation of the truth to try and win support.

It is all a matter of degrees. But nonetheless it does feel like something has changed for the worse in politics in recent years. Certainly since the extension of the franchise in the nineteenth century, I do not think there has been a period in modern British history where politicians pay such scant regard to objective evidence and where the general public are willing to suspend disbelief in response.

The causes for this are well-rehearsed enough; the explosion of the internet in the past 20 years that has given the charlatan and the populist an unvetted voice and forced ‘moderate’ politicians to engage in an arms race to catch up; a declining trust in traditional sources of authority because of the profound economic effects of the financial crisis, globalisation and automation; the exponential growth of data, meaning that it’s easier to build a surface argument no matter how flimsy; a news cycle that moves so quickly that the best and speediest rebuttal in the world still comes too late; an increasing divide on values which means people shut out information that they don’t want to hear.

Less well tested is how we might rectify the situation.

There are two options. We can accept that, short of banning the internet and censoring political discourse, there is very little we can do. We are at the mercy of events and will have to accept a mid twenty-first century characterised by demagogues winning elections and referendums, chaotic policy making, a gradual erosion of the global rules-based order – with evidence only coming back into vogue after a series of shocks and recessions that lead us to see the error of our ways.

There is another school of thought though, which I much prefer – if only because the alternative is unlikely to be peaceful or economically stable. While there is no silver bullet, there are certainly things we can and should do to raise the standard of political debate in this country.
First, we need better politicians who the public are willing to trust in a face-off with the charlatans of the hour. Part of this is about getting people who have genuinely achieved things outside of Westminster into the Commons, and speak with gravitas and knowledge of what the real world is like. We could frankly do with more Andy Streets and Geoffrey Cox’s going into the frontline.

But there is more to it than that. We should also be honest that self-defined moderate politicians of this era stick to the line too much, and are obsessed with repeating back what they think people want to hear. As someone who spent several years in the bowels of Downing Street and Conservative Campaign HQ, raised on a diet of Clinton 1992 and Blair 1997 as model campaigns, this has been a humbling and gradual realisation. Most effective public policy is difficult and involves trade-offs; campaigning is very different to governing.

There is no better illustration of this than the current mess we have reached in the implementation of Brexit where our political leaders were not honest about the compromises needed to give practical effect to the referendum result. The temptation to boil political communications down to a form of cereal marketing will always be there. But I suspect that future leaders who level that there are no moral absolutes or easy answers will do better than is commonly supposed; the electorate are many things but they are not stupid.

Second, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that there needs to be greater regulation of the veracity of claims made by registered participants in political campaigns. There are important free speech considerations here and unregistered mendacious participants will still slip through the cracks online. But a more developed regulatory regime would nonetheless remind mainstream politicians that they should not stoop to this level.   One could, for example, trial a role for the Advertising Standards Authority – who currently cannot adjudicate complaints and impose sanctions on electoral material – in an upcoming campaign in the UK.

Finally, and perhaps a little uncomfortably, we have to get better at working on difficult issues across traditional party lines. If we are constantly saying the other side have nothing good to impart then there are consequences. The electorate do not know who to believe. They think everyone is as bad as each other. The door is opened to those who take the easy way out and propose mythical ‘unicorns’ rather than evidence-based solutions. Cross-party coalitions on issues such as fixing social care, an honest conversation about the right balance of tax and spend to fund twenty-first century public services – or dare I say it implementing a version of Brexit that respects the narrow mandate of the referendum – would lend credibility to viewpoints because they don’t look politically driven.

Some will of course cry ‘establishment stitch-up’ and ‘Westminster cartel at its best’. It will be the responsibility of the moderate politicians of the future to demonstrate that evidence, and developed understanding of the issues at hand, remain the most reliable route to improved living standards and a better tomorrow.

Lee Rowley: Brexit is big. But our politics is bigger – and I say that as a committed Leaver. Here are some ideas to boost it.

Remainers and Brexiteers alike must recognise the politicians are stuck in an ever-decreasing circle of fervour, hyperbole and hysteria.

Lee Rowley is MP for North East Derbyshire, and Co-Chair of FREER.

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.  Has there ever been a time when one subject so overwhelmed the political debate in our country?  Where one political Death Star loomed over every facet of public policy to the point where, at least for the political class, nothing else appears to matter?

The last few months have felt as though we’ve entered some shadow realm where our relationship with Europe has obliterated UK politics.  Brexit gnaws away at the most reasonable people, engulfs even the most tangential subjects and saps the life out of even the most joyful of conversations – and I say this as a committed Brexiteer.  Even Christmas was not immune.  MPs were told to use the festive period to reconsider the Prime Minister’s deal as if an over-indulgence of mince pies and sherry would result in a sudden epiphany that it was, somehow, acceptable after all.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I have as strong a view on Brexit as the next person (perhaps even more so than many!).  Yet Remainers and Brexiteers alike must recognise the politicians are stuck in an ever-decreasing circle of fervour, hyperbole and hysteria.  And all the while, those outside the bubble tire of the indulgence of the political class.  The people made a decision two and a half years ago.  And they are bored of politicians trying to frustrate it.

The people are completely right – and for two reasons.  First, because we’ve got to honour the referendum result.  Second, and just as importantly, they are right because we’ve got to move on.  As a Party, there is so much that we have to do and, relatively, so little time to do it.  Not just the day-to-day responsibility of government, which needs continuous attention, but also because we’ve also got properly to wrestle with the underlying bigger issues which are going to determine whether we continue in government, whether we have the right answers to future challenges and whether, crucially, we can defeat the resurrected zombie of 1980s socialism.

So as the meaningful vote debate gets underway again, here is an article that doesn’t primarily focus on the EU for a change.  And here are six big issues that need our urgent attention when we, finally, move on from Brexit.

First, we’ve got to accept that there is a massive change coming in the way we live, work and play through technology – and that needs better thought and consideration than we’ve managed to date.  Mark Wallace was absolutely right a few days ago when he talked about the need to embrace technology and the good that it can bring for society.  Yet, more importantly, that change is coming anyway – and it is an abdication of responsibility if we don’t engage properly.  A recent report suggested that in the next 20 years, seven million jobs will be lost – one in every five in the country.  If the UK gets its act together, a similar number (or even more) could be created.  But we need to think it through.  And most people in Westminster still don’t even know what machine learning is.

Second, we’ve got to stop banning things.  As Conservatives, we have a guilty pleasure for paternalism; our inner restraints occasionally loosen as we believe people need to be saved from themselves.  We know we shouldn’t, but we do.  Yet, that isn’t what our mission is about.  Freedom is what sets us apart from the socialism – and that includes the freedom to make mistakes as well as take opportunities.  If, as a party, we really believe in this principle then we have to have the hard conversations with the country about why government can’t do everything, not just bask in a warm glow of where it can.  If we don’t make a clearer case about our belief in people, then we become a pale pastiche of Labour.  And, for those who believe that people over-indulge too much on sugary treats already, why would people choose the Diet Coke version of nannying government when they can have the full fat one from Jeremy Corbyn?

Third, we’ve got to stop the money arms race with Labour on public services.  As a Conservative, I believe in strong public services which help people up, support them when they need and make our country safer and secure.  You need money to do that.  But it isn’t an end in itself.  Spending an arbitrary number on education or increasing the health budget by a similarly arbitrary figure focusing on the wrong thing.  Corbyn is the one fixated on inputs and processes.  We should care only about the transformation money can bring and the outcomes it delivers.  Stop talking in billions.  Start talking about what we want to do and what we want to achieve by when.  How to raise the number of children getting world class education.  How to improve cancer outcomes.  How to connect people in the north by rail.  Focus the debate on outcomes or we will lose.

Fourth, we are going to have to have a proper discussion about what we want government to do in the future.  Demographic change, increasing demand and increasing complexity in health and social care are all going to strain public budgets in the coming decades.  Some assessments suggest the NHS is going to need another £50 billion.  The ONS thinks that there will be another eight million people over 65 in the UK in 50 years’ time.  It’s fantastic news that we are living longer but it also requires us to seriously reform our public services to avoid us becoming a national care home with a country attached to it.  People have a right to expect their government to come up with solutions and to be able to pay for it.  We need a clearer conversation with the public and a strong reforming mission as we renew in Government in the run-up to 2022.

Fifth, we are going to have to work out how we restore democracy.  Quite simply, the way in which we approach decision-making is stuck in the 1990s.  Political manifestoes declare lofty ambitions once every five years and then politicians disappear off to squabble about them.  We are awash in national and local consultations perpetuating a thin veneer of public involvement, followed usually by politicians doing whatever they want anyway.  A hundred years ago, politics was the practice of educated people taking decisions for the uneducated.  Absolutely rightly, no longer.  Today, politics should be a continuous process of discussion, debate and interaction with everyone – where that interaction matters.  And it will need to be a more local conversation than before which, by default, means accepting that services will be delivered differently in different places.  Democracy is fragile.  And we need to renew it.

Finally, we are going to have to learn how to “deliver” in government.  Another little commented national scandal is the continuing inability, across all parties, of government to function.  Carillion showed the limits of poorly structured services – not because private enterprise doesn’t work (far from it) but because it wasn’t set up properly.  Sitting on the Public Accounts Committee every week, I hear horror stories of billions lost through poor Government administration and projects, both public and private.  And the Civil Service leadership glides effortlessly through whatever screw-ups occur, no matter what.  Real reform of government requires proper leadership, a proper understanding of change management and deliverers who are actually held to account.  We aren’t even trying at the moment.

So, yes, Brexit is big.  But other things are bigger.  Taken together, these are the issues which will transcend individual portfolios and departments; the quiet problems which will monster us if we start thinking about them too late.  So, this week, as Brexit again sucks all the oxygen out of the room, remember this: we are essentially fighting over a foreign policy pivot and a future trading relationship.  Vast and existential they certainly are.  Yet at some point the Brexit fog will lift.  And, if we haven’t started to consider the underlying bigger challenges we face, then our party will be caught wanting.  More importantly, our country will be poorer.  And that’s a much bigger problem than whether flights will take off on 30th March (spoiler alert: they will).  Time to broaden our conversation.

There’s a serious discussion to have about data and electoral law, but it is yet to take place.

Our democracy is poorly served by widespread ignorance about campaign technology, and the fact glamorous alarmism wins more headlines than grubby reality.

Back in March, I warned that a failure by politicians and commentators to understand what data does and does not do for political campaigns is obscuring debate on crucial issues relating to our democracy. Widespread ignorance of the true practicalities of new approaches – or the application of new technology to old approaches – has left the field open for a combination of wild alarmists and opportunist snake-oil merchants to further muddy an already little-understood topic.

Make no mistake: there are very real questions about how to update and strengthen our electoral law. I laid out several such questions in August.

Failing to answer them will leave us reliant on laws and institutions that are already ill-suited to the digital age, and which are becoming more obsolete with every passing year. Alternatively, answering them wrongly, particularly on the basis of partial or flawed information, will equip us with defences which might be shiny and new but aren’t up to the task or able to adapt to future challenges. In addition, viewing technology only as a threat to democracy would represent a serious missed opportunity to improve engagement, debate and understanding.

In other words, we need to get this right. But achieving the necessary clarity to produce the necessary good answers is made harder by the existence of plenty of charlatans who are keen to take advantage of the fact that most people don’t know much about the topic, still less about the technicalities. And such people have a shared interest in distorting the discussion.

For every person with a conspiracy theory about a magical black box which they would like to believe is the real reason for their defeat at the ballot box, there is a salesman to confirm that yes, that box really does contain a wonder-weapon capable of controlling people’s minds, and yes we do accept cheques for the eye-watering sums required to recruit it to your team. Add in the natural media preference for attention-grabbing alarm over rather more dull reality, and the environment is not ideal for producing sensible, practical solutions.

This week’s report on data in the EU referendum campaign by the Information Commissioner’s Office tends to bear out what I argued in the spring. The report provides further basis for very real and serious concerns about how data was misused and data rights breached, by a variety of actors on various sides of the referendum, while finding apparently no sign of the grandiose theories that were touted in some quarters about Vote Leave. And yet the latter has garnered the lion’s share of publicity, while the former has been relegated to the status of a mere backdrop.

That does a dis-service to our democracy. The grubby business of harvesting contact and demographic data against people’s wishes, and exploiting a populace who are under-aware of the reasons to value and defend their data, before flogging it for a quick buck or using it for marketing spam, is not as glamorous or titillating as fantastical ideas of dark arts, hi-tech psychological manipulation, and shadowy conspiracies, but the evidence keeps suggesting that it is the former problem which really exists, and which requires close scrutiny. And yet the incentives appear to be mismatched – those who want to make a name for themselves do better hyping up what is flimsy but glitzy, while neglecting issues that are real but less exciting.

The ICO report shows that there are real, important and pressing problems to inform the public about, and on which to begin to base reforms to the law. Allowing that real need to be obscured by flights of fancy has done our democracy no good whatsoever.

Eamonn Ives: No, Brexit will not threaten all creatures great and small

In certain respects, the UK’s leaving of the EU could reap animal welfare benefits on a scale hitherto unimaginable.

Eamonn Ives is a researcher at Bright Blue.

In case you hadn’t yet noticed, the United Kingdom is currently negotiating its leaving of the European Union. Whilst we do not know exactly where the country will end up after the 29th March next year, it is almost certain that Westminster will have the opportunity to legislate on policy issues which for decades it has offshored to Brussels. Nowhere is this more apparent than with respect to environmental law – of which roughly four-fifths stem from the EU.

This has, reasonably enough, put the proverbial cat amongst the metaphorical pigeons of the environmental lobby. Notwithstanding the fact that just about all of them lament Brexit, it is unsurprising that they regard the country’s vote to leave as a threat to existing standards. When anything could happen, expecting the worst might be an instinctive response. One area in particular which has attracted a considerable amount of attention is that of animal welfare regulation.

Such anxieties are, at the very least, understandable. One cannot deny that there exists a contingent of Brexit supporters – some of whom wield significant political clout – who would happily see current welfare standards watered down. However, I also believe that those fears are somewhat misplaced and overblown, and that in certain respects, the UK’s leaving of the EU could reap animal welfare benefits on a scale hitherto unimaginable.

One of the most exciting aspects of Brexit is the fact that it allows the UK to do away with divisive and much bemoaned Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This byzantine framework for awarding public money to farmers and land-owners based largely upon nothing more than the amount of land they manage has a whole host of drawbacks – none less so than the consequences many, Eurosceptics and Europhiles alike, believe it has had for British biodiversity.

Mercifully, the Government has committed to replacing the CAP. In a move inspired by a report published by Bright Blue last year, future payments look set to be made to recipients for the public goods they deliver. Importantly, things which increase animal welfare (such as measures which reduce antimicrobial resistance – a threat to animals and humans alike) were singled out by the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, as a possible public good which could be rewarded under the CAP’s successor. Thus, the policy rethink which Brexit fundamentally symbolises, played out in this instance as the re-evaluation of funding priorities, could easily lead to improved animal welfare in Britain.

But potential animal welfare gains triggered by changes to agricultural policy do not stop there. If one considers where the majority of animal welfare abuse occurs, an obvious starting point would be with animals which are reared for their meat. Whilst this is not to tar every livestock farmer with the same brush, examples of animal abuse in the industry are undeniable, and are now frequently appearing in the national media as reporting improves.

And yet, society is today closer than ever before to being in a position where it could virtually eliminate all such suffering. Cultured meat, more commonly known as lab-grown meat, has, of late, made great leaps forward in terms of its commercial viability. The costs associated with producing it have fallen exponentially: one start-up which was producing cultured meat at $325,000 per burger in 2013, had it down to a mere $11 just two years later. Venture capitalists and philanthropists are flocking to invest in cultured meat, with industry figures believing it can become cost competitive in just a couple of years’ time.

So where does Brexit play into this? Unfortunately, the EU gives me little reason to think that it will embrace this potentially game-changing technology with the open arms anyone who is interested in animal welfare (and indeed climate change, biodiversity, and much more else besides) might wish it would. The EU’s long-standing opposition to genetic modification, and more recent hostility towards the much less controversial ‘gene editing’, means that one can be forgiven for being pessimistic about the EU forgoing the hyper-precautionary mindset which it has displayed in the past.

Furthermore, given that we know how successful the farming lobby has been in capturing the EU (at its peak, 71 per cent of the EU’s total budget funded the CAP), there is again good reason to believe it could act as a formidable stumbling block to the EU affording cultured meat a favourable regulatory regime. Already, the European farming lobby has mobilised the European Court of Justice to ban plant-based alternatives from using ‘dairy style’ naming words for cheese and milk substitutes: what’s not to say they won’t do the same for cultured meat?

For the arguments expressed above, I believe that the UK’s leaving of the EU does not jeopardise animal welfare – far from it. Brexit gives the UK a golden opportunity to rethink the frameworks which underpin agricultural and countryside management, to the betterment of animal welfare. It also permits the Government to prevent some of the most flagrant examples animal abuse.

Finally, whilst admittedly unclear at present, if we do indeed witness the same proclivity from the EU to regulate against the innovation of cultured meat as demonstrated with respect to gene editing and genetic modification, being outside of that regime can only be positive for animal welfare.

Howard Flight: The best part of a week on, we can see that last week’s Budget was a popular one

The Chancellor has been fortunate that the public finances have improved substantially at a particularly convenient time.

Lord Flight is Chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund, and is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Philip Hammond has been fortunate that the public finances have improved substantially at a particularly convenient time. Economic growth has been revised up next year to 1.6 per cent; employment has been revised up, with 800,000 more jobs than forecast in 2023; wages will rise above inflation for the next five years.

The borrowing target has been met three years early, with the deficit now down to 1.9 per cent of GDP. The debt target has also been met three years early at a peak of 85 per cent of GDP. Borrowing is £11.6 billion lower than forecast at 1.2 per cent of GDP. This has improved significantly the scope of what the Budget can seek to address.

Overall public spending will increase by 1.2 per cent per annum, between 0.2 per cent and 0.4 per cent less than forecast growth. The improved tax yields have enabled the Prime Minister’s NHS commitment to be fully funded.

The Chancellor presented a pragmatic “micro” Budget, seeking to address virtually all of the issues which came up as needing attention. Yet perhaps its most important ingredient was a significant cut in taxation for the majority next April – increasing the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate to £50,000 a year.

Local Authorities are getting an extra £1 billion of funding and business rates for retailers with rateable values below £51,000, will be cut by a third for two years. A further £1.7 billion each year will be provided to benefit working families on Universal Credit with the work allowance – the amount families can earn before losing credits – being increased by £1000 per annum.

A new two per cent digital services tax to insure that large digital firms pay a “fair share” of tax, is expected to raise £400 million per annum. Schools will get a further 400 million this year and defence will get a further £1 billion this year and next. There is also £160 million for counter-terror police. The national living wage will increase by nearly five per cent to £8.21. The national productivity investment fund will be increased to £37 billion and will be extended to 2024. Large roads will get £28.8 billion for 2020-25, and even potholes will get £420 million! PFI will be abolished, leaving a bill for £200 billion to be honoured.

There was a range of extra funding largely for small business – extending the annual investment allowance to £1 million; extending the start-up loans programme for 10,000 entrepreneurs; delivering the lowest corporation tax rate in the G20; keeping three million small businesses out of VAT; reducing the cost of taking on apprentices by halving the co-investment rate for non-levy payers; £121 million to support cutting-edge digital manufacturing; £78 million to fund electric motor innovations; £315 million in quantum technologies and £50 million for new Turing Fellowships.

Measures to help more people into home ownership include abolishing stamp duty retrospectively for first time buyers of all shared ownership properties of up to £500,000; an additional £500 million for the housing infrastructure fund; committing over £7.2 billion to a new help to buy equity loan scheme to support 110,000 new home buyers and the abolition of the housing revenue account cap controlling local authority borrowing for house building.

There are measures for those keen on the environment and more money for the Transforming Cities fund. Remarkably, the Chancellor has addressed virtually all the issues of concern to citizens and, as a result, I think, the best part of a week on, that this has proved to be a very popular Budget. The one important reform it has not addressed is the confiscatory rates of stamp duty on larger properties in London and the South East. This had led to a freezing up of the market – bad for revenues and for economic mobility.

George Freeman: There was much to cheer in the Budget. But now we need an inspiring programme for growth.

At the moment, we are treading water and appear to be relying on popular support for Brexit, and the threat of Corbyn, to keep us in office.

George Freeman MP is Chair of the Conservative Policy Forum and The Big Tent Ideas Festival, and is MP for Mid-Norfolk.

On Monday, the Chancellor announced that “austerity is coming to an end”. Politically, there was a lot to cheer in this Budget – some good news and headlines for struggling high streets, our crucial Universal Credit reform, NHS workers and the vast majority of constituents who rely on public services. Furthermore, there were many helpful retail pledges for colleagues in marginal seats. Given the Brexit divisions and infighting, we badly needed some good news.

But if we are going to end the biggest squeeze on disposable incomes since the war, the central question for our future is this: how can we get back to the 2.5-3 per cent growth that we enjoyed pre-Brexit? Before the EU Referendum, we were one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe and the G7. Now we’re one of the slowest-growing.

The Budget invites the public to judge us on different metrics – no longer on our commitment to balance the books (abandoned) or reduce the debt (still growing), but on our ability to “end austerity”. People will now need to feel tangible improvements and see how Brexit can be a catalyst for much higher growth and prosperity.

Because this Budget won’t be decided on the comment pages of broadsheets. It will be decided on the ground.  By parents chatting at the school gates. Families looking after their ageing relatives in care homes. Commuters stuck in traffic jams because the housing has come, but the infrastructure hasn’t. Or the millions standing on trains every morning who’ve shelled out £2,000 for a season ticket and feel ripped off.

I no longer advise the Prime Minister, but here’s what I’d say if I still did. We need to remind people that every public sector pound has to be earned before it is spent, and that we need a more inspiring programme of business-led growth to drive prosperity and opportunity.  This means some big changes.

First, accelerating our transition from a service economy to an innovation nation.  Innovation is key to our driving up productivity, prosperity, inward investment and exports. We won’t escape debt with growth at 1.5 per cent and low productivity.  We need a renaissance of enterprise and innovation.  Such buccaneers as James Dyson and Richard Branson have done more to transform this country’s prospects than any government department ever will.  We need to stop the business-bashing and promote entrepreneurship and innovation. While the UK is still a crucible of start-up entrepreneurship, the engine is not yet humming: we have too many start-ups that are never scaled up, too little of our innovation funded by the City and too little that is taken global by British companies. We need a new national mission. We must be the innovation nation.

Second, tangible access to new markets for our innovation.We can’t just do research.  We need to innovate, manufacture and trade.  If Brexit means anything, it surely means an opportunity to go global. But that can’t mean importing cheap food and cheap clothes from sweatshops. We need to be exporting our innovation. The UK should be using every tool possible to unlock access to the fastest emerging markets in Africa and Asia.

For 40 years our whole economy has been geared to our being a European services economy. Why don’t we make Brexit the moment to embrace a new global strategy for higher growth through exporting technology and innovation into emerging markets? If the opportunity is properly seized, we could use our Industrial Strategy and public sector innovation to make Britain a crucible of new technology scale up and financing through the City.

We could then use our aid budget and global soft power in emerging markets to grow our exports and trade links with the fastest growing economies. Why don’t we offer some of the fastest emerging countries where we have a strong historic links a deeper Aid, Trade and Security Development Partnership?

Third, harnessing the public sector as a test bed of innovation. We’ll never export our innovation if we’re not using it ourselves. Innovation can’t be just about making a lucky few in the City rich beyond their wildest dreams. In order for us to be a test bed for new technology, we need to put enterprise and innovation at the heart of the public sector.  If we want to lead the world in digital health, we won’t do it unless the NHS is already a pioneer. You can have as many digital health clusters in Shoreditch as you like. But if the NHS isn’t testing and buying it, we will never become the innovation nation we need to be. Building, financing and growing these little start-ups into serious businesses of scale. The problem of the austerity era was thinking that our problems could be solved by cutting things. Actually, the only way our problems can be solved is by growing things.

Fourth, empowering local leaders to innovate more. Innovation can’t be ordered from on high. It comes from people having the power to make decisions themselves. That’s why we need to embrace bolder economic localism. Let’s remember that our national economic performance is made up of hundreds of local economies, all of which need to be growing faster. Another five years of ever-tighter spending controls from the Treasury risks undermining local growth and innovation.  Instead of delaying essential local infrastructure holding our growth hubs back, why not let them raise infrastructure bonds in the international capital markets and embrace bold ideas like integrated track and train mutuals which invests users money into better services?

Fifth, a new model of Treasury incentives. Too often, Whitehall’s funding orthodoxy rewards failure.  If you deliver more for less in the public sector we give you…less!   And give more to those failing.  If you ran a business like that it would be bust.  And depressing to work in. It’s no wonder that public sector leaders are so dispirited.  Many are leaving.  We need them to stay.  So why don’t we send a signal to encourage them, be bold and embrace a new model of incentives-based funding which rewards successful local service leaders for delivering efficiency and productivity? We need a new approach based on a radical idea: if an area reduces the deficit quicker than Whitehall’s average we should let them keep 50 per cent of the savings to re-invest.  Why not the same on growth? If councils grow their tax base, why not let them keep 50 per cent for local services?

Our choice as a nation is clear. Do we timidly manage our decline? Or do we set out a bold plan a brighter future? At the moment we are treading water and appear to be relying on popular support for Brexit, and the threat of Jeremy Corbyn, to keep us in office.

For a majority of voters, keeping Corbyn out and delivering Brexit are not good enough answers.  We need to show voters that this is the path to something more inspiring.  We need to start setting out a bold vision for Conservatism in the twenty-first century.