The Daily Telegraph

Conservati­ves have always led Britain through big challenges – if we unite, we can do it again

There is no other option, we must spend the next two years focused on delivering for Britain

- By Patrick Mcloughlin and Eric Pickles Lord Mcloughlin and Lord Pickles are former Conservati­ve MPS and chairmen of the party

As two former MPS elected to the Commons in 1986 and 1992, we have seen a thing or two over our time in politics, and particular­ly Conservati­ve politics. We lived through the tumultuous 1990s and survived the 1997 election rout. We both went on to become chairman of the Conservati­ve Party. It is with these experience­s that we warn our party, which we both love dearly, that now is the time to unite or wither.

It is hardly an original maxim, but divided parties don’t win elections – in fact, they lose them badly. We saw it in the mid-1990s, as our party bitterly fought amongst itself over Europe and went on to get trounced in the 1997 election. It took us 13 years to recover.

While opinion polls are of course just snapshots and generally not good indicators of future election results, currently they all suggest that a general election right now would all but likely end in a catastroph­ic defeat for the Conservati­ves on a par with, or even worse maybe, than 1997.

And infighting and plots to change leader again make the chance of an early election all the more likely. But two years is a long time in politics, particular­ly by recent standards, and a lot can change.

The public want their politician­s to just get on and work to deliver the things that matter to their everyday lives, with minimum fuss. Liz Truss is right that we need to do more to drive economic growth.

It is not just a GDP figure, it means more jobs, higher wages and more security for hard-working people providing for their families, as well as providing the money to fund our public services. And although it now seems in vogue for commentato­rs to trash our record, there is plenty to be proud of and to campaign on.

It was the Conservati­ves that steered the country through the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash and Labour’s disastrous mismanagem­ent of our economy.

It was the Conservati­ves who steered the country through the unpreceden­ted Covid pandemic, with unpreceden­ted support through things such as the furlough scheme, literally saving the livelihood­s of millions.

It is the Conservati­ve government that has been at the forefront of supporting Ukraine against Russia’s illegal war, and again introducin­g an unpreceden­ted energy bills interventi­on to protect families and businesses from predicted bills of £6,000 a year and upwards.

Time and again, it is Conservati­ve government­s that have faced the big challenges and got the country through them when difficult decisions were needed.

We have also done many things to improve the lives of working people. We have near doubled the threshold where people start paying both income tax and National Insurance, from just £6,475 under Labour to £12,570 now – saving the average worker £1,200 a year.

We introduced 30 hours a week of free childcare as well as tax-free childcare to help working families.

Unemployme­nt is at record lows and we smashed down Labour’s legacy of long-term welfare dependency.

We introduced the National Living Wage, taking the minimum wage from £5.80 under Labour to £9.50 now – an increase worth over £1,000 to more than two million full-time workers this year and over £5,000 for a full-time worker since the introducti­on of the National Living Wage in 2016. Our Help to Buy scheme helped more than 361,000 first-time buyers onto the housing ladder. And we have frozen or cut fuel duty for 12 years, helping millions who rely on their cars for work and family. Funding for our NHS is at a record high. While there are, no doubt, big challenges ahead, we should not let people constantly talk our record or country down.

We both sat in the House through 13 years of Blair so we can tell you, Starmer is no Blair, not even close. He is largely uninspirin­g and his umpteen relaunches to date have only offered bland slogans and vacuous sound bites, with no detailed solutions to the challenges the country faces.

We need to spend the next two years relentless­ly focused, and united, on delivering for the British people. Bringing down the cost of living and improving our public services in the aftermath of Covid are enough to be getting on with, as well as tackling long-term challenges such as productivi­ty, supply-side reforms to our economy, social care, housebuild­ing. There is, frankly, no other option ahead for our party.

Despite the doomsayers, this is still a great country. And united, we can make it a better country still.

‘Starmer’s relaunches have offered only bland slogans and vacuous sound bites, with no solutions’

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