Interview: Sunak. “I genuinely think saddling our children with debts that we didn’t have the courage to deal with ourselves isn’t right.”

28 Jul

Rishi Sunak readily admits he is behind in the race to become the next Prime Minister: “I think it’s pretty clear I’m the underdog [laughter].”

But he also reckons that while he hasn’t “taken the easy road”, he is standing up for “commonsense Thatcherism”, a position which is more “moral”, “conservative” and realistic than the unfunded tax cuts commended by his opponents.

Sunak has been accused, by Liz Truss supporters such as Kwasi Kwarteng, of conducting “a screeching U-turn” by coming out for a VAT cut on energy bills.

In this interview, Sunak rejects that accusation, and retorts that “a screeching U-turn on lots of policies that were in the 2019 manifesto”  would “be tricky to implement”.

He says he has not engaged in the “Dutch auction of tax cuts” in which other candidates indulged, and has found that “actually wherever I’m going I’m getting a very positive reception and winning people round”.

In Sunak’s view, the Conservative Party should in future leadership contests negotiate on behalf of all the candidates with the broadcasters, in order to make sure that in televised debates “our party is not doing things that essentially write Labour’s next leaflets for them”.

This interview was conducted yesterday afternoon at Sawston Hall, in the village of Sawston, south of Cambridge, where Sunak was about to address a meeting of around a hundred Conservative Party members.

ConHome: “Tom Tugendhat revealed a private conversation to attack you in an earlier debate. Kemi Badenoch revealed a private Treasury discussion to do the same.

“Penny Mordaunt tweeted that either you or Liz Truss would ‘murder’ the Conservative Party. Truss’s spokesman has said you’re ‘not fit for office’, and you’ve attacked Truss for offering ‘socialism’.

“Hasn’t the only winner from this blue-on-blue contest so far been Keir Starmer, and given this level of vitriol why do any of you deserve to win?”

Sunak: “Well just to be clear, I’ve actually tried to be very positive throughout the campaign. From the get-go there was a lot coming my way, as you can probably remember, and I didn’t really respond to any of that. I’ve still not responded to any of it.

“The quote you’re referring to was not about her personally. I said something for nothing economics isn’t conservative, it’s socialism. That’s what I said. That was not about a person, that was about a policy.

“So I’ve been very clear about that, and I haven’t talked about any private conversations, and I haven’t talked about the many things that happened in government while I was there, very deliberately, because as I said in the debates we’re one Conservative team and one Conservative family.”

ConHome: “But you’re more Conservative than she is? – you have a proper profound belief in the morality of sound money and all that.”

Sunak: “I do, that is important to me, no it does matter to me, as everyone can see in this leadership election. I haven’t taken the easy road and I’ve wanted to make the argument that that should matter.

“And as a Conservative it’s something that I believe really deeply. And we’re now getting attacked by the Labour Party, Keir Starmer just the other day again was able to attack Conservatives for what in his words was peddling the fantasy economics of unfunded promises.

“Those were his words. He also used the expression ‘magic money tree’ to describe what he was hearing. I think we need to ask ourselves as Conservatives if the Labour Party is in a position where they’re able to attack us for that, think forward to an election, and what historically has been one of the strongest dividing lines between us – I don’t think that’s a very politically good place for us to be.

“I also don’t think it’s a sensible economic place for us to be and I don’t think it’s a particularly moral place for us to be because I genuinely think saddling our children with debts that we didn’t have the courage to deal with ourselves isn’t right.”

ConHome: “So how does this U-turn on the VAT cut fit in with that? Doesn’t that undermine your sound money message?”

Sunak: “No, because there’s a big difference between things that by their nature are deliberately temporary, and designed to deal with a particular problem at a moment in time, and things that are structural.

“So what you’re hearing is structural changes to the tax system that are permanent. What we’ve heard from others is I think at the last total £40 billion plus of permanent unfunded tax cuts, tax cuts funded by borrowing.

“That’s not what I’m suggesting at all. What I’m suggesting is a response to deal with an immediate crisis in here and now.

“And I’ve always been clear that as we knew exactly what energy bills would be, we would refine the support we put in place if that was required.”

ConHome: “On that, do  you worry about unfunded tax cuts primarily from an inflation perspective or because you just don’t like borrowing to make tax cuts?”

Sunak: “Both. I think both are wrong. You’ve had all these people from Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet, whether it’s Peter Lilley or Michael Howard or Norman Lamont or William Hague, because I believed what I was doing was commonsense Thatcherism.

“And I’m delighted and pleased that lots of people who were familiar with and lived through some of those arguments have supported that point of view, that you do need to get a grip of inflation first, before embarking on the things that I want to bring, which is a radical reform of our economy to drive growth primarily through innovation and investment.

“And she understood that, that’s what I think is important, and I think it would be very dangerous. And it’s not just me who said that, as I pointed out the other day when Liz Truss was asked if she could name a single economist who supported her plan. She named someone…”

ConHome: “Patrick Minford.”

Sunak: “Patrick Minford, who went on to say that to accommodate these things interest rates would have to rise, he used the number seven per cent, that’s not come from me, it’s come from the person she invoked in support of her position.

“And seven per cent interest rates would mean a typical mortgage would go up by about £6,000. That’s what that costs and I don’t think that is a good thing, I think that would be very damaging for millions of families up and down the country.

“That’s the inflationary argument, but there is also a moral thing.”

ConHome: “Seven per cent interest rates might not be good for millions of families with mortgages, but for those of us trying to get on the housing ladder, they might be slightly helpful in that respect.”

Sunak: “I don’t think it would. Seven per cent would be a big problem for you to get your first mortgage.”

ConHome: “It was more thinking of people having to default on them. But it’s not a particularly nice subject.”

Sunak: “I don’t think we want lots of defaults. Neither do I want people getting on the housing ladder having to deal with seven per cent interest rates.”

ConHome: “Did you say to Liz Truss after the ITV debate, ‘Why are we doing this?’ and if so, why didn’t you ask yourself the question before it rather than afterwards?”

Sunak: “The point I’ve made to the party is that when all this is said and done, someone, the party ideally, should take a step back and figure out what the right process is for having TV debates as part of a leadership contest.”

ConHome: “And what should they conclude about that?”

Sunak: “I think there might be an argument for the party negotiating on behalf of all candidates together with the broadcasters. That might be a sensible thing if the party sets the rules of the contest in general.

“Because there’s two competing things we’re trying to balance. One is a genuine need for scrutiny of candidates, and that is entirely reasonable and fair, because ultimately this person is going to become Prime Minister.

“But that need for scrutiny needs to be balanced with need as well to make sure that our party is not doing things that essentially write Labour’s next leaflets for them.”

ConHome: “You can get into a terrible auction.”

Sunak: “That’s why I can imagine the party on behalf of everybody figures out what the right mix of TV debates or interviews is, and when they should be, and can do that on behalf of all candidates.

“That’s something they should look at certainly. I think we’ve now had more TV debates probably in this election than in most general elections probably.”

ConHome: “If the two candidates are locked in a mutual spiral of who can cut the most taxes, or who can be the most fiscally conservative, or indeed who can be the more Thatcherite, then we’re actually missing the conversation the party should be having.”

Sunak: “I don’t mind a debate about policies and ideas, that’s entirely reasonable. My view is that embarking on a spree of excessive borrowing to fund tax cuts right now would not be the right thing for the economy or indeed the conservative thing to do.

“I’m going to deliver tax cuts, but I’m going to do it in a responsible way after we’ve gripped inflation, and I’m going to cut the taxes which actually I care most about, which are the taxes on people’s hard work, which is why I’ve already put in place an income tax cut in this Parliament, and I’d like to go further.

“But also cut the taxes on business that actually make a difference to growth and productivity, not just what sounds good. Now all my business experience, all my career, all the time as Chancellor, has led me to the conclusion that focussing solely on the headline rate of corporation tax is simply wrong.

“It has not led to an increase in business investment in this country, and if you want to see high growth, higher productivity, better jobs with higher wages, then we need businesses to invest more in capital, in innovation and R&D. I want to cut the taxes on those things, because our tax regime on those things is spectacularly ungenerous compared to lots of other countries.”

ConHome: “Do you feel this argument is getting through, or do you think you’re the underdog at the moment?”

Sunak: “I think it’s pretty clear I’m the underdog [laughter]. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. But I’m happy to make the argument. I passionately believe in it.

“And I’m not engaging in a Dutch auction of tax cuts. I’ve decided not to. You saw earlier on when there were lots of people in this contest, there was a weekend where there was an escalating auction of tax cuts. I didn’t participate in that.

“It doesn’t make my life any easier, but I’m going to keep going round the country, and I’m going to keep talking to people, and actually wherever I’m going I’m getting a very positive reception and winning people round.”

ConHome: “Various Permanent Secretaries, at the Department for Education, the Ministry of Defence etcetera, have tweeted and emailed about the importance of Black Lives Matter.

“To many party members these emails and tweets are evidence that after 12 years of Conservative government Whitehall, along with the broader British Establishment, leans Left, and ministers seem powerless to do anything about it.

“Do you agree? Is there a culture war, and should the Conservative Party be fighting it?”

Sunak: “I’m incredibly proud of this country’s history, its traditions and its values. As a Conservative, I think it’s our responsibility, indeed our duty, to robustly defend those values, and that’s what I would do as Prime Minister.

“I’m not interested in people rewriting our history. I’m not interested in people to now say what I believe to be relatively commonsense, mainstream opinions and values should be marginalised, or in some cases labelled as racist or homophobic. That’s just not right and we should be prepared to call that out.

“I put out a video a day or two ago about my plan to tackle illegal migration, and I went out of my way to say it is not racist to say we should have controlled borders.

“I’m living proof that this is an incredibly tolerant, diverse country , and we shouldn’t be shy about defending that, and celebrating it, quite frankly.”

ConHome: “On the refugee cap, how would you get that through Parliament, when the Lords would resist it and it wasn’t in the manifesto so you can’t use the Parliament Act to drive it through.”

Sunak: “Well I think there’s a lot the new Prime Minister can try and do, but my strong point of view is we should have no option off the table in tackling this problem.

“We left the EU so we have parliamentary sovereignty, it’s not unreasonable if Parliament is having a sense of this is an acceptable and affordable level of people we can welcome to this country who are fleeing difficult situations.

“Of course we’re a compassionate country but there’s a limit to what we can do.”

ConHome: “How constrained do you feel by the 2019 manifesto?”

Sunak: “I think we have to recognise we’re actually relatively close to a general election, and that’s one thing that should be on all our members’ minds.

“All the conservative values that we cherish, all the policies that we cherish, will come to naught if we lose that next election.

“So who’s best placed to win that election? I believe I offer our party the best chance of winning what will be a historic fifth general election victory which hasn’t been done before.

“Given we’re all this way through Parliament I think a screeching U-turn on lots of policies that were in the 2019 manifesto is going to be tricky to implement.

“What the Government should focus on is now the things that we know are most pressing in people’s minds and grip them.

“So for me that’s the NHS waiting lists, which are a hugely challenging issue for millions of families. Tackling illegal migration. And making sure we realise the benefits of Brexit.

“The thing that will dominate all of those is the economy.”

ConHome: “Do you understand why some party members think that someone who held an American Green Card isn’t really settled here and can’t be Prime Minister?”

Sunak: “I lived and worked in America for a while and that’s why I had a Green Card, so I had the status there. And I happened to have it after I got back and gave it up when I was busy dealing with the pandemic, and as soon as it became relevant I gave it up immediately.

“So I love this country to my core. It’s why I’m sitting here, right, because this country welcomed my family as immigrants. They chose Great Britain because it was a very special place.

“I feel an enormous debt of gratitude to this country for everything it’s done for me and my family and I want to be Prime Minister to try to provide those same opportunities for everyone else, that’s what I’m about.”

ConHome: “How are you going to build us some houses?”

Sunak: “I set out a few ideas at your hustings. We need to do far more brownfield remediation…”

ConHome: “Will you repeal the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act?”

Sunak: “I don’t think I can commit to that here and now [laughter]. Brownfield remediation…”

The post Interview: Sunak. “I genuinely think saddling our children with debts that we didn’t have the courage to deal with ourselves isn’t right.” appeared first on Conservative Home.

Profile: Grant Shapps, the blandly implausible Cabinet star who is taking on the RMT

24 Jun

When Grant Shapps was 13 he declared: “My name is Grant, I’m from Pinner, and my ambition is to be a Conservative Cabinet minister.”

Simon Johnson, now Chair of the Rugby Football League, heard him say this when they were both in BBYO, the Jewish youth organisation, and remarks: “At the height of Thatcherism in the 1980s that was a very brave thing for him to say – it exposed him to a lot of mickey-taking.”

Shapps is now a Conservative Cabinet minister. As Secretary of State for Transport, he is in the front line of the rail dispute, but well before that he was one of the few people trusted by Downing Street to put the Government’s case on the morning media round.

He continues to be exposed to a lot of mickey-taking, but mingled with that is a note of respect. As one former minister remarked this week to ConHome:

“In a normal Cabinet of quality he would be a minor chord. But in this Cabinet, where mediocrity is laced with incompetence, he’s a bit of a star.”

A serving minister went further:

“I love Grant. Pre-Christmas, when there was the possibility of a lockdown, he was completely pivotal in Cabinet in stopping it. His intervention was crucial.”

Another influential Conservative, who has seen a lot of Shapps over the years, said of him:

“I can’t help but like him, even though I wouldn’t trust him. He’s probably the Government’s best communicator in terms of the Cabinet. He exudes confidence. He’s absolutely right about the rail strike – he’s brilliant. He reminds me a little bit of Jeffrey Archer.”

Shapps is an odd mixture of ambition, boldness, implausibility, realism and professionalism. All front-rank politicians need the self-belief to recover from, or better still shrug off, what may seem to spectators like a knockout blow.

The Prime Minister possesses that quality, and so, in a different register, does Shapps. When Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the RMT, blamed the rail strike on “Old Etonians speaking Latin and Greek”, the jibe did not land on Shapps, educated at Watford Grammar School (by then already a comprehensive), Cassio College and Manchester Polytechnic, and as a teenager more interested in designing computer games and setting up small businesses than in academic work.

Class war cannot work against the classless Shapps. “He’s got much better on the media,” a close observer remarks. “He’s one of the few who talks normally.”

One might say Shapps talks blandly. He is not much given to coining memorable phrases. He makes his case in a reasonable, workaday tone of voice, which offers his opponents no weak point against which to counter-attack.

And because he has been Transport Secretary since July 2019, so for almost three years, he has had time to work out how to continue the modernisation of the railways, which began many years before he came on the scene.

ConHome revealed in November 2020 how Shapps proposed to seize the opportunity offered by the pandemic to give Britain world-class rail.

The vast sums of public money which were needed to keep the trains running through the emergency meant this was a moment of central control, when it became possible, as well as morally right, to sweep away obsolete working practices.

That argument has only become stronger since. As Shapps himself put it in a speech delivered on Thursday of last week:

“These strikes are not only a bid to derail reforms that are critical to the network’s future and designed to inflict damage at the worst possible time, they are also an incredible act of self-harm by the union leadership.

“Make no mistake, unlike the past 25 years, when rising passenger demand, year after year, was taken for granted by the industry, today the railway is in a fight.

“It’s not only competing against other forms of public and private transport, it’s in a battle with Zoom, Teams and remote working. In case the unions haven’t noticed, the world has changed.

“Many commuters, who three years ago had no alternative to taking the train, today have the option of not travelling at all. Wave them goodbye and it will endanger the jobs of thousands of rail workers.

“The last thing the railway should be doing right now is alienating passengers and freight customers with a long and damaging strike.”

The strike is about who wields the central power which has been reestablished over the railway. Lynch and his colleagues in the RMT wish to demonstrate they can bring the network to a halt, and that they will continue to be able to do so.

The union barons used to be a power in the land, a great estate of the realm, because they could shut things down. In the 1970s, neither a Conservative Government, led by Edward Heath, nor a Labour one, led by James Callaghan, could work out how to regain the initiative.

In the 2020s, the Government would have to be extraordinarily incompetent – never, admittedly, a possibility which can be excluded – for things to play out as badly as they did in the 1970s.

Shapps was born in 1968, so remembers the 1970s. He not only announced in the early 1980s that he wished to be a Conservative minister, but at that time showed precocious gifts as a campaigner by getting himself elected National President of the Jewish youth organisation to which he belonged.

In an interview given to The Jewish Chronicle in September 2010, Shapps said:

“I feel totally Jewish; I am totally Jewish. I don’t eat pork, we only buy kosher meat and we don’t mix meat and milk. I like being Jewish and I married a Jewish girl. It’s like a way of life and it’s good to be able to instil some of that sense of being in your kids.

“All of that makes me seem as though I am quite observant but actually the flipside of this is I don’t know if there is a God or not. But one thing I am absolutely certain of is that God wouldn’t care if you were Jewish or Christian or Muslim.”

Although there are many politicians who, while nominally Christian, Muslim or Jewish, don’t know if there is a God, few actually say this.

Shapps is not merely undogmatic on his own behalf: he says God, if He exists, would be undogmatic too.

As a politician, Shapps does not preach doctrine, but is instead keenly interested in practice. “His approach has been generally sensible in a department that isn’t sensible,” as one Tory transport expert put it.

A railway specialist was less complimentary: he feared that Great British Rail, set up by Shapps, will become “another vast government bureaucracy that no one will be able to manage”.

But most observers think Shapps has done quite well at leading a department which is extraordinarily difficult to lead. One may compare and contrast him with Gavin Williamson.

Both men were desperate to get back into the Cabinet, both were astute enough to realise that Johnson was the horse to back in 2019, but Williamson, rewarded with the post of Education Secretary, soon found himself in serious difficulties, which Shapps, rewarded with Transport, has not.

The road to the fulfilment of his boyhood ambition has been a long one, strewn with obstacles, including a car accident in America in which he almost lost his life, and a bout of cancer which could also have proved fatal.

His recreation, when he can find time, is to fly his own Piper plane, made in 1985. His department has to deal with the airline industry, formidable at lobbying though not always good at hiring enough staff or treating them properly.

Shapps, son of a graphic designer, as a young man set up a printing business, but also sought to become an MP. He failed first in 1997, when he stood in North Southwark and Bermondsey, coming a distant third, and next in 2001, when he lost by 1,196 votes in Welwyn Hatfield.

In 2005, he won Welwyn Hatfield by 5.946 votes, and threw his support behind David Cameron, whose nomination papers he signed.

Under Cameron, steady promotion followed: Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party in 2005, shadow Housing Minister in 2007, Minister of State for Housing and Local Government in 2010, Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party in 2012.

But the other Chairman was Lord Feldman, who when profiled on ConHome was described as “the more important” of the two, with much closer ties to Cameron.

There are eight references to Feldman in David Cameron’s memoir, For The Record, and only two to Shapps, one of which reads, in its entirety:

“Grant Shapps became Chairman. He was loyal, energetic, and really wanted it.”

Shapps was sometimes known to the Cameroons as von Schnapps, a nickname which perhaps suggests he was not taken with complete seriousness. He made valiant and for a time successful attempts to get Conservative activists bussed to wherever they were most needed.

But after the general election victory of 2015, he was demoted to the post of Minister of State for International Development, no longer attending Cabinet, and in November of that year he stood down because of  grave bullying allegations which had been made about Team2015, the scheme to move young activists around.

There had also been unwelcome publicity about Shapps’s business activities, touched on in this recent piece for ConHome by William Atkinson, including the use of the pseudonym Michael Green and the promotion of a get-rich-quick scheme which seemed unlikely to make anyone better off.

In October 2017, Shapps  said the Conservative Party could not “bury its head in the sand”, and called for the resignation of the Prime Minister, Theresa May.

The plot was a flop and she did not resign until the summer of 2019, when Shapps backed Johnson to succeed her, and became celebrated for the accuracy of the spreadsheets which he prepared for the Johnson campaign.

“He successfully adumbrated the weaknesses and venality of his colleagues,” as one Johnson supporter put it. Shapps had again proved his usefulness, and made sure everyone knew it.

He also makes sure everyone knows that Mick Jones, lead guitarist of The Clash, is his cousin.

Johnson is a fan of The Clash, and especially of Joe Strummer, the band’s lead vocalist. In November 2005, when Johnson was asked by Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs for “record number seven”, he replied:

“Right. Ah, this is fantastic. It is The Clash, “Pressure Drop”, and the great thing about The Clash, of course, was apart from anything else, Joe Strummer was towards the end an avid Telegraph reader and it was the highest moment in my journalistic career when Joe Strummer actually sent me a letter saying how much he’d admired a column I’d written, about hunting funnily enough, and he was a fantastic man, a great hero of mine, a good poet as well as a fantastic rock musician.”

The Prime Minister will be excited to have appointed a Transport Secretary whose cousin performed with Strummer. Here is not the least of Shapps’s implausibilities.

The post Profile: Grant Shapps, the blandly implausible Cabinet star who is taking on the RMT first appeared on Conservative Home.

Andrew Bowie: Cameron, and his modernising agenda, inspired my generation. Who or what will inspire the next one?

13 Oct

Andrew Bowie is Member of Parliament for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, and a Vice-Chair of the Conservative Party.

My political life has been dominated by referendums.

By arguments over national identity.

First the 2014 referendum on Scottish Independence. Then the 2016 referendum on our membership of the European Union. It has been exhausting.

And it is not why I got into politics. I joined the Conservative and Unionist party, not because I was a unionist, although I am, but because I am a Conservative. Because I want to make this country a better place.

But I would never have joined had it not been for one man, David Cameron. I joined the Conservative Party because I believed in the modernising agenda that Cameron, George Osborne and our now Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, brought to our party.

Because I thought you could believe in free markets, private enterprise, personal responsibility, aspiration, fiscal responsibility and low taxes, whilst also believing that we have a responsibility to act on man-made climate change; that two people in love, whatever their gender, should be able to marry; that the NHS is an institution to be as proud of as the British Army and that our response to mental health could be better than simply asking people to keep a stiff upper lip.

Cameron represented a modernising force that redefined centrist politics and left Labour – and the SNP at the start of its dynastic crumble – struggling to find relevance.

I was three weeks too young to vote in the 2005 General Election. Thank goodness, because I had absolutely no idea who I would have voted for! For me, I’m afraid, the Tories were a bit too pale and stale; speaking about issues in a language that my mates and I just were not interested in nor could understand. And yet, I knew was a conservative.

It was just after this, whilst waiting to join the Royal Navy, I found myself working at my local Morrison’s Supermarket. I loved it. I still miss it.

And one day, whilst waiting to start my shift, sitting in my dad’s car outside the store, I listened, in awful quality Medium Wave, to Radio 5 Live’s coverage of Cameron winning the leadership election (DAB in a car was a dream back then). And I knew then, that the Conservative Party was my party.

Because for me, Cameron spoke to my generation.

My generation. A generation that doesn’t remember Thatcher, but was born when she was in Downing Street. That grew up through the Blair years, entered the world of work through the Brown years and suffered as we did, the financial crisis.

One that is old enough, just, to remember a pre-internet age but that were the first users of Facebook and YouTube; to remember when going for a night out meant waking up the next day reeking of the stale smoke of the club the night before. That thought playing snake on a Nokia **** or owning a tamagotchi were the limits of technological achievement. That had the terrifying experience of actually speaking to a girl, or a guy, in person, before going on a date.

We did grow up in a different age. All of this is ancient history to the 18-25s of today.

My point? We, the “Cameroons”, are about as far removed from the lived experiences of young people today as the Tory Party and its leaders were from my generation and our values, concerns and dreams in the mid 2000s.

And, to go back to the start of this piece, I wonder if our focus, particularly in Scotland, on the constitution or referendums, has gotten in the way of our recognising that, as we in the political and commentariat class re fight, ad nauseam, the battles of 2014 and 2016, there is a whole new generation out there in the country we are not speaking to. A generation who voted in neither referendum but will vote in the next General Election.

A generation who have never known a world without social media, on whom the demands to look, speak or act a certain way have never been more demanding. Who are being asked to define themselves in ways I don’t even fully understand.

A generation who, just as friends of mine fought the battle for equal marriage, now fight for more equality. A more in touch, connected, informed, campaigning generation than ever before. A generation for many of whom owning a house is simply unimaginable and for many, owning a car, undesirable. And a generation who have had their whole lives turned upside down, put on hold, due to our actions in locking down the country last year to combat the pandemic.

I have been saying for a while now that the current generation of 18-25s have been more affected, not physically or medically obviously, but mentally and socially by the pandemic than any other. School life put on hold. Travel banned. The workplace closed down. University of college experience changed beyond recognition. The simple pleasures of going out and, shock, dating, banned.

I challenge anyone who hasn’t lived it to fully understand the sheer enormity of the impact of these decisions on the youngest in society.

At Party Conference, I had the huge privilege of speaking on a panel – organised by Onward and Speakers for Schools – alongside a 17-year-old young woman who *should* have sat her GCSEs last year, but whose entire academic career, everything she had worked so hard for, was upended, brought to an abrupt halt, by the tough but necessary measures taken in March last year.

The words she used to describe her experience – likening it to being in prison, feeling hopeless, despairing, trapped and abandoned – to describe being in education over the past year and half was so powerful it brought some in the room to tears. It was the best speech at Conference by far. And it gave me pause for thought. There is no doubt that she will go very far indeed.

But not all will. And we have an obligation, a responsibility to those young people. We, who took the decisions that put their lives on hold, must reach out, must listen, must start engaging and talking about the issues that affect them. We cannot assume we have the answers if we do not even know the questions to ask.

We cannot, for example, blithely talk about changing the student finance model without understanding the fear and worry this causes for students aspiring to a university education but who know their parents can’t afford it or don’t understand the process. Or dismiss new housing developments as undesirable whilst they look to a life at home with their parents because there is simply nothing affordable to buy for themselves.

So that is the challenge I lay at the feet of every one of my colleagues in the Conservative Party. Talk to this generation in the way that Cameron spoke to mine. Engage, challenge and be challenged. If we do we reap the rewards and change this country. If we don’t, others will. And we, as a party and as a country, cannot afford that.

Charlotte Gill’s Podcasts Review 1) Nick Robinson with Rachel Reeves, Steven Edginton with Jordan Peterson

29 Sep

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

Title: Political Thinking with Nick Robinson
Host: As above
Episode: The Rachel Reeves One

Link: Click here
Duration: 36:15 minutes
Published: September 24

What’s it about?

With the Labour Conference wrapping up, readers may be somewhat reluctant to hear any more from party members (nor the words “cervix” and “scum” any time soon…). However, this interview between Reeves and Robinson offers an upbeat and insightful look into the former’s politics; perhaps the most interesting revelation is how skilled Reeves is at chess (the former under-14s champion for the UK).

During the course, Robinson delves into Reeves’ childhood, her experience working for the British Embassy in Washington D.C., as well as exploring how she got into politics. The interview shows a softer side of the party.

Some teaser quotes:
  • “I didn’t play the Queen’s Gambit… I was more the Sicilian defence.”
  • “Christian socialist values are my values. I was always brought up that you should give something back, but also that you should work as hard as you can.”
  • “I didn’t agree with Thatcher’s politics and values, but I think in some ways she inspired women to believe that they could do it (lead).”
  • “Well Labour just keep losing; we’ve lost four elections in a row now… Why have we lost four elections in a row? Because people didn’t trust us.”

Title: Off Script – The Telegraph
Host: Steven Edginton
Episode: Jordan Peterson: The collapse of our values is a greater threat than climate change

Duration: 56:23 minutes
Published: September 24

What’s it about?

“Why are you a phenomenon?” begins Steven Edginton in this revealing exchange with Jordan Peterson, which has clocked up over 390,000 views (at the time of writing). It’s a question that leaves Peterson uncharacteristically lost for words. But Canada’s famous psychologist soon has lots to say on everything from his infamous interviews with Cathy Newman and Helen Lewis (“there’s a particular viciousness about British journalists”) to whether he could become a cult figure.

Some teaser quotes:
  • On the Newman interview: “It was so preposterous; the interview was so absurd; it was so palpably ridiculous that it couldn’t be believed; it was surreal. And then since then my whole life has just been one surreal event after another.”
  • On how easily Western societies adapted to lockdowns: “We certainly imitated totalitarian China almost instantly… It’s possible that we’re primed to imitate the first actor in a crisis, like a herd.”
  • “I don’t like the mandated vaccines; I think that’s a dreadful error. I think it’s a terrible mistake, and I think it’s an indication of failure of policy.”

Title: UnHerd with Freddie Sayers
Host: Freddie Sayers
Episode: Sweden won the argument on Covid

Duration: 21:15 minutes
Published: September 23

What’s it about?

“Judge me in a year”, were the words of Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s Chief Epidemiologist and now one of the world’s most controversial figures, when UnHerd interviewed him in 2020. The channel was one of the first to take a huge interest in his “herd immunity” strategy, which attracted mass criticism across the globe.

When grilled on whether the policy has been a success or a failure, Tegnell replies that the “question is very, very difficult to untangle”; it sets the tone for the interview, in which – for one of the most decisive epidemiologists – he remains fairly indecisive on the way forward in Covid. Far from being someone who wants to provoke debate, Tegnell emerges as a moderate and solemn figure.

Some teaser quotes:
  • “Even with a fantastic vaccine the way we’re having, we can control [Covid], but we cannot eradicate it. And I think that’s the difference we need to understand and deal with.”
  • “I really do believe that we’re going to have a much easier winter than last winter. Because really, 95, 96 per cent of the people that really got badly hurt last winter, they are now vaccinated, and they have a good protection.”
  • “It’s been reasonably peaceful in Sweden. We haven’t had a huge divide like in the United States and other places.”

Daniel Hannan: We should thank, not demonise, the patriots who donate to political parties

4 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.

The Financial Times is becoming slightly unhinged in its dislike of Tories. The paper’s loyalties have always been mercurial: over my lifetime, it has endorsed all three parties. Having enthusiastically backed Tony Blair, it gave some support to the Coalition and then to Theresa May. But Brexit seems to have tipped it over the edge. Even when the alternative was Jeremy Corbyn in 2019, it could not bring itself to back Boris.

Now it has taken to insinuating that donations to political parties are somehow dodgy – an odd stance for a newspaper that still sees itself as a defender of the private sector. For several days, the FT has been running news articles, features and comment pieces that vaguely suggest – without actually alleging any impropriety – that there is something suspect about the Conservative Party’s receipt of private money.

Property donors provide one-quarter of funds given to Tory party,” was Friday’s headline. Oh dear, we’re meant to think, not property donors! Not those johnnies who put roofs over our heads! It is a curious feature of our present discourse that, despite an acute housing shortage, developers can be presented as being almost on a level with arms dealers or pornographers.

The following day, it fired its second barrel: “Elite Tory donors club holds secret meetings with Johnson and Sunak,” was its lead story, followed up by pages of analysis inside.

Gosh. Secretive, eh? Bad enough that they’re property developers. But these, we learn, are furtive property developers. How did the FT find out about the donations of this sinister cabal? It turns out that they’re all registered with the Electoral Commission. Anyone can look them up. The organisation that happened to do so is an outfit called Transparency International whose Director of Policy (and evidently the driving force behind this report) is Duncan Hames, who is married to the former Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and was himself the Lib Dem MP for Chippenham from 2010 to 2015.

Nothing wrong with any of that, obviously. Indeed, I have always had a soft spot for Swinson, who served her party with diligence and good humour, and whose dignified reaction when the SNP took her seat was a model of how to do it. But this was hardly a disinterested piece of research, as the FT must have known.

It is worth stepping back for a moment and reminding ourselves of some basic principles. First, there is nothing wrong with individuals giving money to things they support. I’m sure most ConHome readers give to charity, and I’d be surprised if most of us don’t also pay subs to our local Conservative Associations. If wealthier people make proportionately larger donations, God bless them. It must surely be better for the rich to support whatever causes they favour than to spend their cash on themselves.

We are, of course, rightly suspicious of oligarchy. I wouldn’t want a system where big donations bought policy changes, and neither would you. Such things can happen, even in Britain. Most of us remember the 1997 Bernie Ecclestone affair, in which the Formula One magnate gave Labour a million pounds in exchange for exempting his races from the ban on tobacco advertising. Fewer of us, for some reason, remember the 2009 cash-for-amendments scandal, in which two life peers asked for payments in return for moving legislation.

By any definition, both these were cases of straightforward corruption – that is, of politicians being paid to do things they would not otherwise have done. But such cases are extraordinarily rare in this country. Bad behaviour by our MPs tends to be rather more Pooterish, involving bath plugs or fumbling adulteries.

There is no suggestion that any Conservative donor has tried to buy favours. Indeed, far from seeking advantages for their own firms, these benefactors seem to be pushing for open competition. As the FT reports, with a hint of corporatist distaste, “the top donors are Thatcherite free marketeers, and they have no qualms about giving Boris a piece of their mind.” If so, good for them.

Which brings us to a second basic principle. Private donations are admirable whether or not we happen to agree with the cause being supported. One thing I have learned from social media is that there is an almost total overlap between people’s definition of “corruption” and their definition of “views with which I disagree”.

To see what I mean, consider the way Left and Right respectively treated the Koch brothers and George Soros. Depending on which side you were on, one was an example of high-minded generosity while the other was a conspiracy against the public weal.

ConHome readers should admire donors from all sides – philanthropists like Lord Sainsbury of Turville, for example, who, alongside vast charitable contributions, has given millions to Labour, the Lib Dems and various pro-EU outfits. We should likewise salute Keir Starmer’s ambition to increase the proportion of his party’s spending that comes from private contributions.

It must be better to live in a world in which rich people give their assets away. The alternative is a world in which we are forced to support political parties with our taxes. Quite apart from the tax bill being high enough already, this strikes me as morally repugnant. As Thomas Jefferson put it, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.”

What applies to donors applies even more to the people who volunteer to fundraise for parties. Here is a truly thankless job. Make the slightest slip and you’ll be treated as a crook. Indeed, the chances are that you’ll be hounded and accused whatever you do. In 2012, the then Conservative treasurer, Peter Cruddas, had to resign following newspaper accusations that he had been peddling cash for access. He sued for libel and won substantial damages, but he was not reinstated and, nearly a decade on, the original story was still being used to keep him out of the House of Lords.

Cruddas comes close to living up to John Wesley’s injunction to “earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can”. Brought up in a council house in Hackney, he has set up a £100 million scheme to help kids from deprived backgrounds. Had he not also backed the Conservatives, he’d have been in the Lords years ago.

A similar campaign is now being waged against the party’s current Co-Chairman, Ben Elliot – again, a successful businessman who has given up a great deal of time to take on a role for which the only payment is abuse. He is the real target of the press campaign. The original allegations in the FT prompted a bizarre story in The Sunday Times which seemed to be based around the idea that there was some impropriety in his arranging for a wealthy donor to back one of the Prince of Wales’s charities.

Again, does anyone think it is a bad thing for successful people to volunteer as Elliot is doing? If he raised cash for Prince Charles’s good causes, we should applaud him. If he raises cash for the Conservatives (and he does, with extraordinary effectiveness) we should likewise applaud him.

We are in danger of driving public-spirited individuals out of politics altogether. The assault may come in the form of negative press, as with Cruddas and Elliot. It may come in the form of actual legal harassment, as with Alan Halsall, the big-hearted businessman who was pursued for three years by the electoral authorities after acting as the treasurer of Vote Leave (all the allegations were eventually shown to be nonsense, but the stress and the financial burden of those three years can never be undone).

A combination of partisanship and purse-lipped puritanism threatens to make politics a no-go area for patriots who want to support a cause bigger than themselves – whether on the Left or the Right.

So, just this once, let’s say it. Thanks to everyone who is prepared to act on principle. Thanks to all those who put their money where their mouths are. And thanks, especially, to those who give up their time and risk their reputations to make the system work. Without you, our public life would be colder, meaner and smaller.

Profile: Priti Patel, who promises to stop asylum seekers crossing the Channel in small boats

8 Jul

On 24th July 2019 Boris Johnson appointed a woman of Indian descent, born in London to parents who had fled Uganda, to one of the great offices of state.

Two years later, Priti Patel remains Home Secretary, and has introduced the Nationality and Borders Bill, intended to deter illegal entry into the UK, the most conspicuous route being by small boat from France.

On Tuesday, Patel told readers of The Daily Mail: “This cannot go on and as Home Secretary I will not allow this to continue.”

By introducing a two-tier system, making those who arrive illegally in the UK far less eligible for asylum and far more liable to be deported, Patel promises she will break the power of the people smugglers.

Henry Hill has examined, for ConHome, how likely these plans are to succeed, but we shall not know for sure until the legislation has been passed, and operated for a reasonable period of time.

Enver Solomon, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, has suggested on this site that trying to send refugees who have arrived illegally in Britain back either to the safe countries through which they have passed, or to their countries of origin, will not work, and will merely increase the already disgraceful backlog of cases.

The Home Office’s administrative record is so poor that one cannot feel much confidence in its ability to clear the backlog. Nor is Patel’s task made easier by the leaking from time to time of implausible proposals said to be under consideration by her department – waves in the Channel, a detention centre in Rwanda or on Ascension Island.

But these obstacles in some ways make Patel’s appointment all the more comprehensible. It is harder for liberal critics to impute racism, or undue severity, to a Home Secretary who herself belongs to an ethnic minority.

And Patel is in any case capable of showing a remarkable imperviousness to argument, as when she defended the death penalty against opposition from Harriet Harman and Ian Hislop in a Question Time debate in 2011, the year after she entered the Commons.

“She’s small and a woman and an Asian – to be heard she has to be quite aggressive,” a parliamentarian who knows her well remarked, and went on:

“She is intolerant of people who disagree with her. I think she does go too far.

“People do like her straight talking. That’s part of her appeal. I’m full of admiration for her. It’s a bloody tough job. She’s still there.”

She might not be there. In February 2020 Sir Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, resigned, claimed he had been “the target of a vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign”, and accused Patel of bullying staff.

Sir Alex Allan, the Prime Minister’s Independent Advisor on Ministerial Standards, looked into these allegations, and in November 2020 concluded:

“My advice is that the Home Secretary has not consistently met the high standards
required by the Ministerial Code of treating her civil servants with consideration
and respect. Her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be
described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals. To that extent her
behaviour has been in breach of the Ministerial Code, even if unintentionally.
This conclusion needs to be seen in context. There is no evidence that she was
aware of the impact of her behaviour, and no feedback was given to her at the
time. The high pressure and demands of the role, in the Home Office, coupled
with the need for more supportive leadership from top of the department has
clearly been a contributory factor. In particular, I note the finding of different and
more positive behaviour since these issues were raised with her.”

Johnson, as ultimate arbiter of the Ministerial Code, decided to stand by Patel, and Sir Alex resigned.

When Patel was interviewed by ConHome in 2015, she described how her family lost everything in Uganda, and the death of her mother’s father soon afterwards in India:

“He was a businessman. So he had tea factories, cotton plantations, coffee plantations as well. My grandfather was incredibly well known in Uganda. R.U.Patel, a very pious man, so always giving back to the community, very religious, a big Swaminar in the Hindu community.

“I think the trauma, it was just incredible for my entire family, for my Mum’s family in particular. My Dad’s family were shopkeepers as well. Everyone in that era of East African Asians was hugely displaced, hugely displaced, their rights taken away from them, and they were persecuted for what they had.”

They arrived in Britain with nothing, and set out to rebuild the family fortunes:

“And it was from a people point of view just deeply challenging. You know, hostile, immigrants coming in, really, really difficult. I was born [in 1972] in Islington, in Highbury, and my Mum and Dad rented a room off an elderly man in Finsbury Park, and that’s where we lived.

“Typically in Indian culture, if you’re the eldest you bear the burden of everything else in terms of family responsibility. So my Dad, who’s the eldest, he’s got a brother and two sisters, did the right thing, he had to think about looking after his Mum and Dad and his brother and sisters.

“So my Dad dropped out of university to just get a job, basically, to get cash wherever he could, low-skilled work, just to build up pots of money to get some security. So he then helped my grandfather, his Dad, to buy a shop in Tottenham, Number One, White Hart Lane.

“That was a newsagent. That gave my grandparents the footing to get on. My Dad became a shopkeeper as well. My parents have been self-employed like that for over 40 years. So I effectively grew up on top of a shop for most of my life. So we’ve done everything from newspapers to post offices to small supermarkets.”

Patel grew up with Thatcherite assumptions. Her father rose at four in the morning every day for 40 years and built up a chain of newsagents despite unfair competition from the established chains, who saw to it that independent competitors got the papers too late to be sure of delivering them in time for breakfast.

She went to Watford Grammar School, studied economics at Keele and politics at Essex University, became a devout Eurosceptic as well as Thatcherite, joined the Conservative Party in 1991, from 1995-97 was head of press for the Referendum Party, but rejoined the Conservatives as a press officer under William Hague, and also worked for several years in public relations.

At the 2005 general election she stood for the Conservatives in the safe Labour seat of Nottingham North. Early in David Cameron’s leadership she was placed on the A list of candidates, and in 2006 she put in for the newly created seat of Witham, in Essex.

The finalists for what was going to be a safe Conservative seat included Geoffrey Van Orden, who was already an MEP and had served as a brigadier at Nato, James Brokenshire, whose seat of Hornchurch was going to be abolished, and Patel, who looked like an outsider.

There was an open primary, and Baroness Jenkin, who was in the audience of about 200 people and in 2005 had co-founded Women2Win with Theresa May, recalls that when Patel started to speak, “It was very clear straight away that she appealed to Conservatives but also to people who weren’t Conservatives.”

Patel, who had begun to wonder whether she would be selected anywhere, was the unexpected victor, and on arriving at Westminster said in her maiden speech:

“My own deep and personal interest in what I call the economics of enterprise and small business stems from my family background…my youth was literally spent sleeping above the shop and playing directly under the till, while watching my family—thanks to the free-market policies of Margaret Thatcher—thrive and grow. Wherever my parents set up shop, they employed local people, contributed to the local community, and made a substantial contribution to the local economy.”

Along with Kwasi Kwarteng, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Elizabeth Truss, she wrote Britannia Unchained, published in 2011 and somewhat critical of the British attitude to work:

“Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor. Whereas Indian children aspire to be doctors or businessmen, the British are more interested in football and pop music.”

Harsh words, but four of the five authors are now in the Cabinet. Perhaps this is a more Thatcherite administration than has yet been noticed by the pundits.

Patel rose swiftly, in 2015 becoming Minister of State at the Department of Work and Pensions,  and in 2016 backing Leave in the referendum campaign and Theresa May for the leadership, who rewarded her with the post of International Development Secretary.

But Patel had already displayed a marked capacity for annoying some of those around her. Here is Sasha Swire in her diary entry for 12 November 2015:

“Modi comes to town. Priti Patel has been inserting herself into this trip at every turn. As the PM’s Indian Diaspora Champion she does have a role, but she is behaving like the Minister for India, which is actually what Hugo [Sasha’s husband] is. Sure enough, she turns up at the VIP suite to greet Modi. She has also done all the press that morning, at Craig Oliver’s insistence, and got herself invited to a small lunch with the Queen when we were told no ministers were invited. H has thrown a wobbly…”

Sir Alan Duncan is even less complimentary in his diaries, in which she is variously referred to as Priti Horrendous, Priti Outrageous, Priti Appalling, Priti Frightful and Priti Unspeakable. In his entry for 23 January 2017 we read:

“They hate Priti Patel in DfID, mainly because she seems to hate all of them.”

Patel came a cropper at DfID when it was revealed in November 2017 that she had held a series of meetings with senior Israeli figures without informing the Foreign Office, or indeed the Prime Minister. A senior Tory backbencher and former minister described this episode to ConHome as “absolutely disgraceful”, and after a much publicised flight home from Africa, some not entirely candid statements about whom she had seen in Israel, and two meetings with May, she was obliged to resign.

In July 2019, Johnson put her back in the Cabinet in the altogether more senior role of Home Secretary. Here she has developed, presumably at his behest, a more stringent immigration policy than liberal opinion would wish.

Lord Lexden, official historian of the Conservative Party, yesterday reminded ConHome that the choice between being stringent and liberal about immigration is by no means new:

“As is well known, Tory Home Secretaries have to choose between offending much of their party and alienating the complacent lefties who always seem to be in the ascendant at the Home Office.

“Perhaps no holder of the post pleased the Party more, or attracted more derision from bien pensants, than Sir William Joynson-Hicks, known as Jix, who served throughout the five years of Baldwin’s dominant second cabinet of 1924-9. He detested short sentences, and thought prisons should be the permanent homes of the irredeemably wicked.

“His proudest boast, however, was to have stemmed ‘the tide pouring in here to secure better conditions than can be obtained in their own lands’. He visited the Channel ports amid great publicity, and looked into immigration control arrangements in minute detail.

“Afterwards, he told the Commons that ‘few aliens crept through the net that stretched round the coast, and that most of those who evaded the net were subsequently discovered and deported.’ Priti Patel must take heart from Jix’s success a century ago.”

Bim Afolami: Conservatives need a new economic vision

14 Sep

Bim Afolami is MP for Hitchin and Harpenden.

Covid-19 gives us the chance to examine deeper questions about the nature and direction of economic policy. I believe it is time to have a rethink of our economic philosophy as a Conservative Party, and rediscover some fundamental Conservative principles – which are, and always have been, much broader than support for market economics. We need to embrace an active enterprising state, reformed and reforming, that can help drive an enterprise nation forward. And one with strong environmental credentials, which can deliver an everlasting environment.

Much of current Conservative economic thinking was set in the Thatcherite revolution, succinctly described by Nigel Lawson in 1984 as “increasing freedom for markets to work within a framework of firm monetary and fiscal discipline”. I agree with that and believe that articulates a simple truth at the heart of macroeconomics which is still true.

However, the greatness of Thatcher was not ideological. It was because she was radical in reaching solutions for the economic problems of that time in ways that were rooted in Conservative principles of freedom, opportunity, self-reliance and prosperity on the basis of hard work.

We need to do the same today. Conservative thinking on economic policy has become muddled in recent years. We profess to believe in a balanced budget, but we do not want to reduce government spending. We often talk about reducing bureaucracy and regulations – yet our tax code continues to become more complicated and the quangocracy goes from strength to strength. We believe in devolution, yet the Treasury keeps its iron grip on all major infrastructure decisions. We need to be clear what and who we are for and show how timeless Conservative principles also apply to our new age.

The economy should benefit the person with ideas rather than inheritance. It should support families and communities rather than allowing multinationals to rip them apart in the name of efficiency – the family and small communities are the bedrock of society. It should unashamedly help the British business grow and scale here at home – and be better at supporting our national champions in different sectors. Finally, as climate change worsens, we should aim to make the UK the cleanest economy in the world, truly a Conservative act, conserving our green and pleasant land for our descendants.

I believe that there are five principal, significant, long-term economic problems in the UK at the moment, and that Conservative economic thinking needs to provide a sensible response to them. These are: (i) poor investment and productivity growth; (ii) too much SME debt and too little equity; (iii) growing fiscal challenge; (iv) unbalanced growth – the need to level up; and (v) climate change.

To deal with these we need an enterprising state, which can help power an enterprise nation.

An enterprising state

Central government needs to be a macro-enabler. It needs to use its broad strategic oversight to enable the private sector and devolved parts of the public sector to do transformative things.

The Government has set out its clear intention to build and deliver much more and better infrastructure. Yet the way for us to achieve this cannot be for the Treasury to control every single infrastructure decision of any consequence. We need to facilitate private investment in infrastructure, by allowing many more development corporations to be set up using innovative financing models that allow money to be raised locally.

We should establish a UK Sovereign Wealth Fund (long championed by John Penrose MP) that would create a pot of savings that could pay for state pensions and benefits. The Fund would provide an intergenerationally fair solution that would take some of the burden of these costs from being shouldered by future generations. It would also be an ‘anchor investor’ providing long-term investment capital for British entrepreneurs and start-up businesses and would help provide equity to UK SMEs which have too much debt to grow.

An enterprising state cannot be governed by command and control from Whitehall. We need to give local areas and cities the ability to experiment with different ways of doing things, to learn from their own experiences and from each other. This should have two aspects.

The first is that all regions (particularly in England) need to have a greater degree of fiscal autonomy. We should allow regions to (i) raise local income, sales and tourism taxes (all up to a limit); (ii) make decisions on infrastructure to allow them to give private companies the ability to build and operate new infrastructure; and (iii) give local public services much more freedom on procurement.

The second aspect is that the enterprising state needs to remember that economic growth and success can often come from investment in non-economic things by local people. Investing in a village hall or local library may not have an ostensible economic benefit, but improving the local environment of a small town can have incalculable improvements to the lives of those who live there, and can have significant economic benefits through increased desirability and investment.

An enterprise nation

We Conservatives know that prosperity does not fundamentally come from government. It comes from people willing to start and sustain a business.

We should reduce NI for new hires, keep taxes on the self-employed low, and maintain the difference between capital taxes and income taxes – capital taxes should be low because we should reward those who take risks.

The central government should also work with the private sector to help the UK’s technological landscape. Emerging technologies like blockchain should be utilised to help revolutionise our approach to trade and SME finance through a Centre for Distributed Systems, established in a partnership between the government and the private sector.

On the environment, we need to see this as an economic challenge and opportunity. The state’s role should be twofold. First, the Government needs to continue to issue binding targets for decarbonisation in key areas and give more targets across different areas of the economy.

The second aspect is to provide, and to help corral, the finance required for every aspect of decarbonisation. This finance will be needed to help ensure that there are very few barriers for individuals, communities and businesses which prevent them transitioning into a low carbon future.

Lubricated by this finance, inventors and innovators will be able to take advantage of the UK’s position as the first major country to turbocharge our approach to net zero and export its technologies across the world. This could be transformative for the UK, and the jobs created across all industries will be created all over the country, at different skill levels. Levelling up to save the planet.

Conclusion

What I have tried to do here is to sketch out a new economic vision for the Conservative Party. We can build on the achievements of the past 30 years by addressing our modern weaknesses. We have every chance of leading in the world in a new type of Conservative economics just as we did in the 1980s. We can achieve it.