Stop dis­loyal, self-ab­sorbed plot­ting . . . or we’ll have a Marx­ist PM

A blis­ter­ing in­ter­ven­tion from the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter who’s filled with dis­may

The Mail on Sunday - - Comment -

IHAVE watched the Con­ser­va­tive Party ma­noeu­vrings of re­cent weeks with in­creas­ing dis­may and have been sad­dened to see the news dom­i­nated by those who have been driven by their own per­sonal agenda.

Their be­hav­iour does noth­ing to re­pair the bat­tered rep­u­ta­tion of pol­i­tics. It is not what our coun­try wants or needs – nor does it serve it well. Pol­i­tics is not a game. Gov­ern­ment even less so. Their con­duct has un­der­mined their own party, their own Prime Min­is­ter, and their own Gov­ern­ment. It is pro­foundly un­be­com­ing and it must stop.

It is ap­par­ent – even four years out – that the Con­ser­va­tives face a real chal­lenge in win­ning the next Elec­tion.

I am among those who re­mem­ber the far- Left in­flu­ence on Labour gov­ern­ments in t he 1960s and 1970s: the over-mighty unions; the strikes; the win­ter of dis­con­tent; the sky-high taxes.

Thus, for me, the con­cept of a Labour gov­ern­ment led by two con­vinced neo-Marx­ists is the re­turn of a night­mare.

And if Labour were elected, no voter could say that they were un­aware of the likely pri­or­i­ties of a Jeremy Cor­byn gov­ern­ment, for Mr Cor­byn and Shadow Chan­cel­lor John Mc­Don­nell have al­ready spelled out the dis­as­ter they would in­flict.

Mr Mc­Don­nell has been ad­mirably frank. Born out of his dis­taste for the free mar­ket, his eco­nomic plans would be pure poi­son to any hope of pros­per­ity. As for Mr Cor­byn, his en­tire ca­reer has show­cased his con­vic­tions: his ad­mi­ra­tion for rev­o­lu­tion­ary causes and un­savoury lead­ers are part of his po­lit­i­cal DNA. He holds to his views with hon­esty and sin­cer­ity, but they do not rep­re­sent mid­dle-of-theroad vot­ers – nor any but a small hand­ful of Bri­tons.

I do not wish to see any sort of Labour gov­ern­ment – al­though a tilt to the Left or Right is al­ways in the na­ture of pol­i­tics – but I re­coil from the prospect of a Cor­byn-led gov­ern­ment.

For the Con­ser­va­tive Party to gain a fourth suc­ces­sive term, we need to win back hearts and minds that are – at present – lost to us. No one is at­tracted to a di­vided party, nor one that is in thrall to its most re­ac­tionary in­stincts. The party must widen its ap­peal and the Prime Min­is­ter’s clar­ion call for so­cial jus­tice – de­liv­ered as she first en­tered No 10 and again at the party con­fer­ence last week – clearly set out a pro­gramme that, if im­ple­mented, can and will change per­cep­tions and reen­gage the mil­lions who have turned away from us.

We must em­brace and build upon poli­cies that help them. It would be fa­tal not to do so.

Such poli­cies will not be easy to de­liver. But to ex­plore them and to im­ple­ment them is the right thing to do. Right for our party, and – most of all – right for our coun­try.

We must be am­bi­tious. Deep­rooted prob­lems need more than a piece­meal, timid, toe-in-the-wa­ter ap­proach that might one day of­fer im­prove­ments. We need brave so­lu­tions. Our plans must en­gage gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sec­tor alike. We need to in­volve faster and bet­ter pub­lic in­vest­ment. We need to widen and ac­cel­er­ate ed­u­ca­tional re­form. And we must demon­strate a clear pri­or­ity for the in­ter­ests of the ‘have-nots’.

I hope such a pro­gramme will in­clude a re­view of uni­ver­sal credit, which, al­though the­o­ret­i­cally im­pec­ca­ble, is op­er­a­tionally messy, so­cially un­fair and un­for­giv­ing. It is time for the Con­ser­va­tive Party to show its heart again, which is all too of­ten con­cealed by its fi­nan­cial pru­dence. We are not liv­ing in nor­mal times and must chal­lenge in­nate Con­ser­va­tive cau­tion.

Bar­ring the un­ex­pected, we are soon to leave the of­ten frus­trat­ing – but now fa­mil­iar and gen­er­ally com­fort­able – em­brace of the Euro­pean Union and quite pos­si­bly, for the first time in our his­tory, face the prospect of a neo-Marx­ist gov­ern­ment.

I am there­fore not sim­ply ad­vo­cat­ing a change of tone by the Gov­ern­ment, but swift and com­pre­hen­sive ac­tion to cor­rect prob­lems that must not be left to fes­ter.

Is such rad­i­cal ac­tion nec­es­sary? With­out a doubt. Will it in­volve some risk? Yes. Will it work? We must make it work.

‘Peo­ple, peo­ple, peo­ple,’ must be our fo­cus. Ev­ery in­di­vid­ual’s well­be­ing must be at the fore­front of our own con­science and pol­icy.

We must per­suade the Trea­sury that – while the cost of longterm bor­row­ing is low – there is an op­por­tu­nity to vastly ac­celer-

Labour plans would be pure poi­son to pros­per­ity

A po­lit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion is needed to end de­spair Fo­cus on the peo­ple, not per­sonal am­bi­tions

ate pub­lic de­vel­op­ment of in­fra­struc­ture and, in par­tic­u­lar, hous­ing. Use­ful ini­tia­tives have been an­nounced but we need to go fur­ther. If this in­creases pub­lic debt we should – and could – ac­cept that (as I be­lieve the mar­kets will) pro­vided an­nual rev­enue ex­pen­di­ture is kept un­der con­trol.

An es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent is for the frus­trat­ing delays in plan­ning law to be speeded up.

To house our na­tion bet­ter, we must un­shackle the pri­vate sec­tor. We must en­sure that the wind­fall gains from plan­ning ap­proval are shared fairly be­tween the ven­dor and the com­mu­nity.

Many ed­u­ca­tion re­forms are un­der way; that is ex­cel­lent. But we must move faster and fur­ther to skill the next gen­er­a­tion. All our tal­ents will be needed for us to thrive in a com­pet­i­tive world.

And to help with re-skilling, Con­ser­va­tives should ac­tively en­cour­age the same so­cial ca­chet for blue-col­lar work­ers that has hith­erto been given to white-col­lar pro­fes­sion­als.

The lack of this is one of the worst lega­cies of a class-con­scious Bri­tain. It is out of date and must be cast aside. Gov­ern­ment should make ap­pren­tice­ships yet more at­trac­tive for em­ploy­ers and trainees alike.

And we should have no fear of break­ing down any re­maini ng taboos that in­hibit the young or the old or mi­nor­ity groups from ac­quir­ing new skills. We must look for hope and op­por­tu­nity for them all. It is a scan­dal that so much ex­pe­ri­enced tal­ent is ly­ing fal­low.

Both rad­i­cal and mod­er­ate Con­ser­va­tives should all favour a pro­gramme whose pri­mary fo­cus is to help in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies the length and breadth of the UK.

We must not let ide­ol­ogy get in the way of com­mon sense. Nor must we hes­i­tate to en­gage the State in this cause.

I have set out only the bare bones of the ac­tion we need. The Gov­ern­ment should in­vite the most orig­i­nal and cre­ative minds to help flesh out the ideas and en­act them.

The need for this po­lit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion is man­i­fold: to end per­ceived un­fair­ness; to ac­cel­er­ate de­ci­sion-mak­ing; to im­prove productivity; and to al­low hope to tri­umph over de­spair in the lives of too many who have fallen be­hind – and far more who wish to look with con­fi­dence to­wards their fu­ture.

We need not be caught up in a spi­ral of cau­tion and fear when, by our own ef­forts, we can en­cour­age op­por­tu­nity and op­ti­mism. The Con­ser­va­tive Party has to re­gain the af­fec­tion and sup­port of young and old, North and South, East and West – and this can never be achieved while we re­strict our­selves only to the drum­beat of ‘Brexit, Brexit, Brexit’.

The is­sue of Europe may ob­sess some but it has never been the prin­ci­pal con­cern of the pub­lic.

Ev­ery Con­ser­va­tive must recog­nise that Labour’s short­com­ings alone will not de­liver an Elec­tion vic­tory to us. It is time for us to wake up and smell the cof­fee.

Our party’s sup­port is age­ing. Our poli­cies are not at­tract­ing enough of the young, mil­lions of whom be­lieve the de­ci­sion to leave Europe has dam­aged their fu­ture, for which they blame us.

The re­ac­tionary el­e­ment of our Right- wing re­pels more elec­tors than it en­thuses.

Many peo­ple in our coun­try – es­pe­cially t hose who have fallen be­hind – are dis­il­lu­sioned, an­gry, and fear­ful over what the fu­ture holds in an in­creas­ingly un­cer­tain and volatile world. Spec­u­la­tion over who has which min­is­te­rial job – and when – is of ab­so­lutely no con­se­quence to those whose money runs out be­fore the end of each week.

The Bri­tish peo­ple are sick and tired of the navel-gaz­ing that has dom­i­nated the news head­lines, all of which has been deeply uned­i­fy­ing to be­hold.

An un­easy na­tion is cry­ing out for the Gov­ern­ment to speak for them. To act for them. To be seen to un­der­stand what is most im­por­tant to them. To cre­ate the cir­cum­stances in which they might feel more se­cure about the fu­ture of their fam­i­lies, their homes, their liveli­hoods. That must be the Gov­ern­ment’s task.

The Prime Min­is­ter her­self made a valiant ef­fort to get this mes­sage across last week but was drowned out by a se­ries of events – none of which was of her own mak­ing.

But, as Par­lia­ment re­turns to­mor­row, I would urge all Con­ser­va­tive MPs to re­flect very care­fully on what is at stake.

The coun­try has had enough of the self-ab­sorbed and, frankly, dis­loyal be­hav­iour we have wit­nessed over re­cent weeks.

It is time for the in­di­vid­u­als con­cerned – both in Par­lia­ment and in Gov­ern­ment – to fo­cus their minds in­stead on the needs of the Bri­tish peo­ple, rather than on their own per­sonal am­bi­tion.

Were they to do so, our party, our Gov­ern­ment and – most im­por­tant of all – our coun­try, would all be the bet­ter for it.




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