The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By JOHN MA­JOR

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.

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