Use King’s Speech to spark Tory renewal
TODAY marks Rishi Sunak’s first King’s Speech as Prime Minister. If the bookmakers are to be believed, it is also likely to be his last.
Without a dramatic change in fortunes, the Tories appear doomed to electoral defeat – if not humiliation. So can Mr Sunak defy the odds, and if so, how?
After a year of rampant inflation, damaging public sector strikes, and a steep cost of living crunch, millions of voters clearly feel the Government is out of touch and out of ideas.
If the Conservatives are to have any chance of redemption, they must first acknowledge that narrative, then reverse it. They must convince the public they are both competent and on their side.
Yesterday’s announcement that unions in the rail, border force and ambulance services will be legally obliged to maintain at least 40 per cent of normal service during strikes shows the way forward.
The wrecking action of hard-Left unions in these key sectors has strangled growth and productivity and, in some cases, put lives at risk. It has also made passengers’ lives a misery.
This will be a hugely popular reform which can be achieved quickly. The primary legislation is in place, so it will not fall victim to the usual Parliamentary foot-dragging.
Plans to expand North Sea oil and gas licences will also resonate with the public, many of whom fear that in the rush to net zero, energy security may be compromised.
There are signs, too, that the economy is on the turn. The PM is close to achieving his pledge of halving inflation, interest rates are beginning to level off and borrowing in the year to September was £20billion less than forecast.
Soaring tax receipts mean that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has £13billion more to spend than was forecast earlier this year. He must use this ‘fiscal headroom’ to reduce the tax burden on hard-pressed families. This is a Tory Government after all.
Crime is another area of deep public concern, so Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s package of measures to better combat knife crime, neighbourhood drug dealing, car theft, nuisance begging and anti-social behaviour are welcome.
Above all, the public must be made to feel more optimistic about the future. That means putting more money in their pockets, getting on top of crime and migration, and making work pay.
The PM must use today’s state opening of Parliament as a springboard for renewal. Tinkering around the fringes simply won’t do. This is no time for faint hearts.