MAJOR: STOP THE PLOTS
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 the 1960s and 1970s: the overmighty 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. His economic plans, born out of his distaste for the free market, 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-the-road 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 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 No10 and again at the party conference last week – clearly set out a programme that, if implemented, can and will change perceptions and re-engage the millions who have turned away from us.
We must be ambitious. 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.
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.
‘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 long-term borrowing is low – there is an opportunity to vastly accelerate 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 accept that, provided annual revenue expenditure is kept under control.
The frustrating delays in planning law must be be speeded up. To house our nation better, we must unshackle the private sector. Many education reforms are under way, and that is excellent. But we must move faster and further to skill the next generation. 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.
Government should make apprenticeships yet more attractive for employers and trainees alike. And we should have no fear of breaking down any remaining taboos that inhibit the young or the old or minority groups from acquiring new skills. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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. Our party, our Government and our country would all be the better for it.