Daniel Hannan: It’s time to recork the Gauke

18 Aug

Lord Hannan of Kingsclere is a Conservative peer, writer and columnist. He was a Conservative MEP from 1999 to 2020, and is now President of the Initiative for Free Trade.

I still do a double take whenever I remember that David Gauke is no longer in the Conservative Party. If you read his fortnightly column on ConHome, you’ll know that the former Justice Secretary is a Tory to his backbone.

I don’t just mean in the sense of being suspicious of big government, a supporter of open competition and so on. I mean that he has, for want of a better phrase, a conservative temperament. He is pragmatic, ironic, self-aware; clever but sceptical of intellectuals; a handy cricketer and a lifelong Ipswich Town supporter; an authentic champion of the quietly patriotic suburban communities he used to represent.

True, Gauke has a low opinion of the PM, and that prejudice sometimes leads him to put a needlessly negative construction on whatever the Government is doing. But what makes his column so readable is the tension between his dislike of our present leadership and his essential fair-mindedness.

I suppose I should declare an interest. Gauke and I were Conservative students together and, after we graduated, we both worked for Eurosceptic MPs – I for Michael Spicer, he for Barry Legg. We were later involved together in the European Research Group. Indeed, the Gawkster became our treasurer, a position to which he brought the same flinty fiscal conservatism that was to characterise his time as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I consider him a friend – though I should add that he has no idea I am writing this column. (Had I mentioned it, he’d have modestly told me not to bother and perhaps secretly hoped that I’d ignore him. He is, as I say, very English.)

That Gauke should now be outside the Conservative Party is a reminder that the fevered and phantasmagorical events of 2018 and 2019 really happened. Already, it takes an effort of will to recall those days: the court challenges; the pretence that a referendum that everyone had promised to respect was meaningless; the horrible sight of a Commons Speaker bending the rules with partisan intent; the demonstrations and counter-demonstrations; the Supreme Court’s glib dismissal of the 1689 Bill of Rights; the spectacle of a government being kept in office by MPs who would not let carry through its business but would not agree to fresh elections either; and, in the end, what looked like a breakdown of the party system.

A number of Labour and Conservative MPs left their parties, to the delirious excitement of the broadcast media. But it turned out that years of soft questioning on Newsnight and the Today Programme did not translate into electoral support. Chuka Umunna, Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, Luciana Berger, Sarah Wollaston, Dominic Grieve – all sank without trace.

Europhile MPs repeatedly sought to disable Brexit by ensuring that the pro-EU Commons majority would get to decide whether or not to accept the deal. The effect of their antics was to destroy the Government’s negotiating position and ensure that Britain got the worst possible terms. The punitive Northern Ireland Protocol was perhaps their supreme achievement.

In September 2019, 21 Conservative MPs lost the Whip after voting to switch control of the legislative process from the Government to the Commons. They had varying motives. Some were die-in-the-ditch Remainers; some didn’t like Boris Johnson; some (Anne Milton in Guildford, Steve Brine in Winchester) had peculiarly Europhile constituencies; some simply fell in with the wrong crowd.

When the election was called three months later, they scattered in all directions. Ten of the 21 had the Whip restored, of whom six stood down and four (Brine, Greg Clark, Stephen Hammond and Caroline Nokes) won their seats again as Conservatives. Of the 11 who remained outside the fold, six retired, two (Sam Gyimah and Antoinette Sandbach) stood unsuccessfully as Lib Dems and three (Milton, Dominic Grieve and Gauke himself) stood unsuccessfully as independents.

Johnson is temperamentally unable to bear grudges, and cheerfully put four of the 21 – Ken Clarke, Philip Hammond, Ed Vaizey and Richard Benyon – into the House of Lords. Indeed, I’m happy to say that Benyon, one of the most accomplished countrymen at Westminster, is back on the front bench as a DEFRA minister.

But not Gauke. If we can liken the événements of 2019 to a tectonic upheaval – and I think we can – then the Gawkster is a volcanic rock that has been hurled miles away by the blast. There he sits, a geological anomaly, reminding us that violent forces once altered the landscape.

At least, I hope he is an anomaly. Gawkie himself likes to write about the big-government turn that the Conservatives had taken even before the epidemic struck. A general realignment, he thinks, has left the party speaking to and for relatively protectionist, interventionist and dirigiste communities.

Such a party, runs the subtext, has less space for people like him: fiscal conservatives who are mildly Europhile. (I say “mildly” because Gauke never voted to block Brexit. He quit the party because he was convinced – quite wrongly, as it turned out – that the PM was planning to leave the EU without any trade deal.)

Such liberal-minded MPs dominated the pre-2015 party. We hear a lot less from them these days. Perhaps they have changed their minds. Perhaps they are keeping quiet, sensing that public opinion is going through an authoritarian spasm. Perhaps there has simply been a turnover in personnel.

Whatever the explanation, we need to remember that our party contains multitudes. We have had space, down the centuries, for protectionists and free-traders, for interventionists and privatisers, for Heathites and Thatcherites, for Europhiles and Eurosceptics (though this last division is, I hope, now as redundant as the arguments over Catholic emancipation or Rhodesian independence).

We are slipping in Gauke’s former constituency – and, indeed, across my old Home Counties patch. Yet our former voters – self-reliant, affluent, sceptical of state capacity and with little time for populism – are an indispensable part of our coalition. We need, not just their faute-de-mieux support, but their active enthusiasm. Finding a way to recork the Gauke might be a good start

Alberto Costa: My constituents are dismayed by the proposal to free a man who raped and murdered two schoolgirls

25 Jun

Alberto Costa is the MP for South Leicestershire.

The announcement just a couple of weeks ago, that the Parole Board for England and Wales had cleared the convicted double child rapist and murderer, Colin Pitchfork, for release rightly caused national outrage. There was scarcely a newspaper headline, social media story, or rolling news bulletin, that did not lead with the black and white mugshot of the man who was convicted of the brutal rapes and murders of two innocent teenage girls in 1983 and 1986, respectively.

As the Member of Parliament who represents the villages of Narborough and Enderby in South Leicestershire where these horrific crimes took place, the impact of Pitchfork’s barbaric crimes is still very real and raw for so many. Almost every week, a constituent will mention that they were school friends or acquaintances of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth, the two girls whose lives were tragically ended in the most egregious and unthinkable circumstances. They will plead that I do everything in my ability to ensure that Pitchfork is never released from prison because of the nature of his gruesome crimes.

The name of Pitchfork will also be notable to many ConservativeHome readers, not only for his brutal crimes, but also for being the first case in English criminal law where DNA profiling evidence, pioneered by Sir Alec Jeffreys at the University of Leicester, ironically only a few miles from the scenes of Lynda and Dawn’s murders, helped catch and convict the killer. Obtaining DNA evidence for the, then new, technique involved the ‘blooding’ of many thousands of local men who provided blood samples, and the ingenuity of forensic science and the persistence of Leicestershire Police that finally caught the devious killer.

As an example of his deceitfulness, Pitchfork attempted to evade capture through having a co-worker provide a DNA sample in his place; were it not for this colleague being overheard talking about it, Pitchfork may never have been caught and, it was later claimed in court, that more young women would have been in grave danger had he been able to avoid capture.

When Pitchfork’s parole was announced a few weeks ago, my thoughts immediately went to the families of Lynda and Dawn who have lived with unimaginable grief for several decades. In recent days, my inbox has been full with correspondence of concern, shock, and upset, from my constituents and people across our country; aghast at the decision to release this man who, according to the Parole Board, is now apparently reformed and allegedly presents less of a danger to society.

Since first being elected as an MP in 2015, I have campaigned to oppose Pitchfork’s release in countless meetings with successive Lord Chancellors, prison ministers, the Chief Executive of the Parole Board, and others involved in the case. Through one of these meetings with David Gauke, the former Justice Secretary and well-known ConservativeHome contributor, plans were outlined following the John Worboys outrage to make the Parole Board process more transparent to the public and provide greater accountability for its decisions to victims and their families.

In a system where decisions were seemingly reached in secret, this was excellent news and a move I had been actively lobbying for. Alongside the summary of the Parole Board’s decision to release a prisoner being made public, there was also the introduction of ‘Reconsideration Mechanism’ rules, whereby the Parole Board’s decisions could be challenged by the Secretary of State for Justice rather than a third party being forced the costly and stressful route of Judicial Review, as happened in Worboys.

Now, the Secretary of State for Justice has the authority to intervene and challenge a Parole Board decision to release a prisoner. The Secretary of State is not acting in a judicial capacity and nor is he adjudicating the merits of the decision and replacing it with one of his own; he only has the power to ask the Parole Board to “think again”.

Whilst the Parole Board is rightly independent of government, when it gets decisions of such highly sensitive cases so wrong, as it did in Worboys, and, arguably now, in the matter of Pitchfork, it is appropriate and proportionate in a democracy that an elected minister has the opportunity to invite the Parole Board to reconsider its decision.

Accordingly, I have written to Robert Buckland, the Secretary of State for Justice, and requested that he use the Reconsideration Mechanism tool at his disposal to challenge the Parole Board’s flawed decision. I have reminded him to have in mind the profoundly negative impact the Parole Board’s decision in Pitchfork is having on wider society and how it is at risk of damaging and undermining his message that the Ministry of Justice takes very serious action against those who commit violent sexual offences and murders against women.

The decision on whether to attempt to stop the release of a double child rapist and murderer now lies in the hands of an elected Conservative minister known for his recent tough-talking on protecting women from sexual offenders and being firm with those who commit such unspeakable acts against women. The nation awaits his decision on Monday.

Alex Crowley: NIMBYs may be vocal, but they do not represent the majority – who want more houses built

24 May

Alex Crowley is a former Political Director to Boris Johnson and microbusiness owner.

If you’re the type to browse the Conservative Party poster archive on a rainy day you will come across all manner of delights.

The classics are all there: “Labour isn’t working”, “What does the Conservative Party offer a working-class kid from Brixton” and so on. From the stark black and white text of Saatchi to the hand drawn art of the 1930s, the themes remain constant: tax, security and jobs.

What struck me though, as I rolled through to the present day, was a theme that has faded over the years. Housing.

Take one from 1929: “800,000 houses built by the Conservatives in the last 4 years.”

Or one from 1951: “Had enough high prices house hunting?”

In 1963 it was about building 1,000 houses a day and in 1987 we proclaimed that a million council homes had been sold to their tenants.

Housing was part of our core offer because, at a base electoral level, building homes and expanding home ownership was necessary and popular.

But we don’t lead on it anymore.

Today it is estimated we are some 1.2 million homes short of what we need. With a whole generation of people who believe they will never get on the property ladder, building homes should be more electorally popular now than ever before.

However, talk to most councillors and MPs, particularly in the South East, and they will tell you “over development” is deeply unpopular. (They support more homes, of course, but only in the “right” places.)

This is why successive administrations have both set ambitious housing targets and left the actual mechanism to deliver them – the planning system – well alone.

Until now.

As noted on this site, the most genuinely reforming part of the Queen’s Speech is planning reform. But it’s also the most likely to be diluted beyond recognition, in the face of intense opposition from the parliamentary party.

I will leave the policy nuances to others, suffice to say that our planning system is optimised to overweight the views of NIMBYs. Until that changes, we will never build enough homes.

Back to the politics. Under Boris Johnson, the party has positioned itself to dominate the current electoral landscape. Corbynite on public spending, Genghis Khan on crime, Grimes on culture all wrapped in sunny, Brexit-y Boris.

But there is one bit missing.

No 10 know full well that home ownership is the single biggest predictor of someone being a Tory voter (apart, of course, from voting intention). Hence constant subsidy for first time buyers and now this attempt at unlocking the system once and for all.

Yet those who worry about the future of the party in the traditional shire strongholds will tell you that being pro-development is a definite vote loser. A slap that could sting every bit as much as Brexit.

They will point, as David Gauke did, to issues like “unpopular” local housing plans as a reason for Conservative underperformance.

Planning reform risks driving these homeowning, Remain leaning, upper middle-class voters further into the arms of Starmer’s Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens.

It’s a legitimate concern. According to one estimate, over a recent three year period, there were almost two million objections to planning applications. That’s about 80 an hour.

But here’s the thing. Housebuilding is actually popular, has been for years and this is true in every part of the country and for every demographic.

I’m not talking in the abstract. When the long running British Social Attitudes survey asked if people supported housebuilding in their area, almost 60 per cent said yes. This has increased from just 28 per cent 10 years ago. Voters have noticed a rocketing house price to wages ratio.

This silent majority exists wherever you care to look, most obviously among renters under 35, but also in the most apparently NIMBY of places:

  • 48 per cent of those who live in a “country village” (compared to 28 per cent against)
  • 55 per cent in the South East
  • 53 per cent aged over 66
  • 54 per cent earning over £4,000 a month
  • 50 per cent who already own (compared to 28 per cent against)

But, you might ask, is this not a classic case of people telling pollsters what they think is socially acceptable, masking their true selfishness?

Curious about this, some pro-housebuilding colleagues and I started a campaign to find out.

The Just Build Homes campaign works on a simple premise – our planning system is optimised for existing homeowners with plenty of time, money and expertise at their disposal to object. Their voices are amplified way beyond their numbers.

The majority who would benefit the most from housebuilding – younger renters – are effectively excluded from the decision-making process. This needs to change.

In the accompanying notes to the Queen’s Speech, the Government noted that just three per cent of people engage with planning applications. One can guess where these people stand.

So, our campaign went into leafy areas to see if we could engage and persuade the silent pro-housebuilding majority.

We made it digital, easy and quick. We kept our message very simple – build more homes – and we targeted excluded voices.

The results? In Havering (outer London) we registered over 300 supporters and counting. In Sevenoaks, we got over 100 supporters for a single scheme. All in a matter of weeks. Most schemes struggle to break 10 supporters over many months (with opponents in the hundreds).

We found this audience were highly receptive to engagement, with a high rate of conversion to support. They are desperate to see more homes built.

The political point here is that there is a massive pool of new voters for the party. There is significant electoral value, especially in the shires, to be pro-housebuilding.

If you believe that younger voters moving into Tory areas from London, bringing with them their “liberal” voting habits, represents a threat then consider this.

In a worsening housing crisis, planning reform is a political opportunity to grab these voters. What do they value most? The same thing those of us lucky enough to be homeowners do. A home for our families – a foundation upon which to build a life.

If that’s not conservativism, I really don’t know what is.

Our political future lies as much in being the party that unashamedly pursues building more homes as it does in levelling up. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will also give us a complete lock on the electoral map.

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.

David Lidington: Why I profoundly disagree with my friend and former colleague, David Gauke

7 Jul

David Lidington was the MP for Aylesbury from 1992 to 2019, and has held a number of roles including Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

Last Thursday, in a piece that was characteristically both thoughtful and thought-provoking, my friend and former Cabinet colleague David Gauke came to a pessimistic conclusion. Choices had been made, he argued, which compelled the Conservative Party to pursue “the war on woke and Rooseveltian economics”. Implicit in his analysis was the suggestion that those whom he termed “small state free marketeers and one nation social liberals” had no future in the party and might have to look elsewhere.

I profoundly disagree. Throughout the 45 years that I’ve been a member and for decades before that the Conservative Party has been a coalition. Economic liberals, defenders of traditional values and institutions, social reformers, blue-green environmentalists: all have found a home. Different leaders of the party, at different times have chosen to emphasise different elements of the broad Conservative tradition.

As Paul Goodman pointed out yesterday, human beings tend not to fit neatly into a single, neat political category. Margaret Thatcher was strongly in favour of opening up broadcasting to greater competition and market discipline. Yet she was also passionate about the need for high standards of decency in what was broadcast – which meant intervention and regulation. I have crossed swords with Iain Duncan Smith many times over Europe, but have also admired his efforts to promote a Conservative approach to social justice.

The present government’s commitment to “level up” the opportunities available to people living in towns and estates that have for years felt left-behind and ignored will need to draw on all strands of Conservative thinking if ambition is to be realised: incentives for free enterprise to create wealth and jobs, and government action, both national and local, to provide modern infrastructure, drive urban regeneration and boost expectations and outcomes in education and training.

For years, Conservatives have fretted about our loss of support in old industrial areas and among people on lower incomes. The fact that we now represent seats in County Durham and South Yorkshire as well as Surrey and Sussex is something to be celebrated: it gives our words about standing for One Nation much greater credibility.

If a successful policy of levelling up (and at the same time improving our chances of holding those seats) means a tilt towards the economic and industrial policies of Macmillan, Heath and Heseltine, it should be seen as a pragmatic response to the needs of the times, certainly meriting debate and argument, including within the Conservative family, not some heretical departure from the one true faith.

Nor do I share David’s pessimistic conclusion that there is an inexorable electoral logic which must compel the party to abandon the ideas, policies and perhaps even the support of liberal Conservatives.

By 2024 the Conservative Party will have been in office for 14 years. The coming economic storm, even if, as we all hope, it is short-lived, will have left many people scarred. The Labour Party will be led by someone who is not Jeremy Corbyn. The temptation to vote “for a change”, to “give the other lot a chance” will be strong. It will be as great a challenge to secure re-election then as it was for John Major in 1992. We shall need every vote from as broad a coalition of support as we can.

Of course we shall want to hang on to traditional Labour supporters who lent us their votes last December, which in turn means that in four years time they need to see that we are at least beginning to deliver results for their families and neighbourhoods.

But that on its own won’t be enough. By 2024 there will be about three million new electors on the register who were too young to vote in 2019. According to YouGov, at last year’s election the tipping point – the age at which someone is more likely to have voted Conservative than Labour – was 39.

That is better than 2017, when it was 47, but still leaves no room for complacency. While it is possible that those who were in their teens, twenties and thirties in 2019 will automatically shift into the Conservative column by 2024, we cannot count on it happening.

In any case, we ought to be seriously concerned that so many people in their twenties and thirties – working, paying tax and often holding both professional and family responsibilities – should have preferred Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism to what we had to offer.

To win again in 2024 we shall need to secure support from more younger voters than we did in either of the last two elections and to do that will mean reaching out to people whose values are, in the convenient shorthand, more “socially liberal” than those of their parents and grandparents, and who want to see political parties to take seriously their concerns about issues like the environment.

Next year, the Prime Minister will host a world summit on climate change. The Glasgow conference will be an opportunity for the United Kingdom and its Conservative government both to showcase its own ideas to address the climate emergency and to demonstrate global leadership on the issue.

In recent years, “green” policies have been identified with the liberal wing of the party. David Cameron took a lot of flak early in his leadership for focusing on this agenda.

Again, it’s easy to oversimplify: I’m old enough to have been in the audience at the party conference in 1988 to hear Mrs Thatcher declare that: No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy – with a full repairing lease. This Government intends to meet the terms of that lease in full. The key point is that it will be both right and in our electoral interests to take action on the environment and to be seen to do so.

Another political reality that the party must grapple with is the fact that voters from British people of Caribbean, Asian, African and central European heritage make up a significant proportion of the electorate in a growing number of constituencies.

Yet again, we need to beware of oversimplification. Many of my former constituents from Pakistani, Indian and Polish backgrounds are on the social conservative rather than social liberal end of the spectrum. They are certainly a long way from being “woke”.

But they care passionately about racism – sadly almost always because they and their children have been at the receiving end of abusive or insensitive comments – or worse. They judge politicians in part by how they handle these matters. Community relations and anti-racism are causes that, like the environment, have been championed within the Conservative Party by its liberal wing and, once again, are issues where our electoral interest coincides with what it is right to say and do.

The Conservative Party’s electoral success has rested in large measure on its ability and willingness to adapt to the realities of social and economic change. Far from giving up in despair, liberal, centrist Conservatives should redouble our efforts to influence the party’s thinking about how we can win again in 2024.