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Con SP: Building the Side-by-Side Society
#1
[Image: chloe_smith.png?itok=36x8a5Fx]

The Leader of the Conservative Party, Elaine Ashbury, gave a speech at the Manchester University Conservative Association (location approved by Blakesley) entitled "Building the Side-by-Side Society":

Quote:Ladies and gentlemen,

In the months since I became leader, you may have heard a lot about the Side-by-Side Society that we as a party want to build. We have already showed you how it can work to revolutionise our schools system, to combat climate change, even to turn the nationalisation of Northern Rock into a net positive to tax payers, consumers and communities. I'm excited about using the untapped potential of communities up and down this country, the slumbering giant that is British society. That potential, that new direction for our party and our country is what I want to talk to you today.

The principle of the Side-by-Side Society is simple, positive and radical: we have all we need to change Britain - right here, in our communities. When people come together, in their local pubs, in churches, in neighbourhoods, in the workplace and in all those places across this country where community is born - that's where we can find the potential we need to change Britain. So many people across this country every day are coming up with solutions big and small to the problems facing our communities and our country, from improving our public services to combatting climate change - and we need them all. And they need us. They need a government that is on their side, that can help them unlock the tremendous energy in these communities.

This is not a new idea in the tradition of our party - but it is one that we are newly rediscovering and redefining for a new age. Because as David Cameron showed us "there is such a thing as society, it's just not the same as the state". The ideological father of our party, Edmund Burke, argued cogently for civil society that starts close to home when people take responsibility for their own little piece of it. And through our history, our party has upheld that, in different forms, but always starting from the same principle: it's society, not the state, that really makes Britain. When government works side by side with society, that's when the real results come in.

Make no mistake - when I say the government and society should work side by side, I mean side by side. It's far too easy, from Westminster, to just take control, to co-opt social initiative and take over. Or to do the opposite and withdraw and just force the hand of communities up and down this country unaided to jump in. We're seeing it in the Labour attitude that seems to have gone on vacation with Blair but now seems back in full force: it's either the government, in some defined public interest, or the private sector, in self-interest. When we raised questions as to whether private parties could not be negotiated with to play a bigger role in Northern Rock, they claimed we opposed nationalisation even as a last resort. When we proposed our own plan for the future of a new Northern Rock building society, they still somehow discarded it as something "for the few" because of the fact that it was a private solution. To them, there is no middle way.

I reject that. I reject that because of the cynical, mistrustful, pessimistic attitude to private initiative that it exposes. In the New Labour era, private initiative is all nice and fine - but only if they control the terms. Otherwise, there must be some ulterior motive or profit goal behind it. We saw it in Education. The government is perfectly happy to come calling for help to private parties to turn failing schools into Academies, and with some success. When, however, we propose that when local communities of parents and educators might with that same help set up a new Free School to fulfill a need for an innovative approach in education, that is decried as stealth privatisation and businesses taking over our schools. In combatting climate change, this government is perfectly happy to try and legislate society into reducing carbon emissions. But when we set the same ambitious target and offer help to ordinary hard-working Britons to go green, it’s suddenly not good enough.

All this would not be so much of a problem if that approach had delivered quality to the highest possible amount of people. But the clear and painful fact of the matter is that there is a ceiling to it all. And the reason is simple: another target, another law or regulation, another project conceived at a Whitehall drawing board will not solve the real issue here. That’s because the government and civil servants cannot be everywhere, cannot take account of everything. No civil servant, no matter how experienced, can know what our children need to grow their talents to the maximum possible extent. The boroughs of London will need an entirely different approach to climate change than a village in the Scottish Highlands.

The problem with the government’s approach is this: there is no one-size-fits-all Britain.
And the power of our approach is this: we realise that when it comes to changing a country, the government cannot go it alone. We won’t just stop at politics for the many, not the few; we’ll introduce politics by the many, not the few.

Let me give you a few examples of policies that will bring in that new politics. First of all, in many parts of this country, local communities are struggling to maintain the places where people come together due to demographic decline, fighting to get out of a downward spiral. Places like the pub and the post office that are vital to social cohesion. But the problem also pops up in another form in our cities, where people live close together but not really together. Services such as the swimming pool or parks might feel like places one hasn’t got much of a stake in, but has ideas to improve. Community begins in both these situations, worlds apart, with having a stake in the services that matter to you.

That is why today, I am proposing a radical decentralisation of power to the lowest level: our communities and citizens. I want to give local areas more power on what they offer to businesses by creating local enterprise areas, and give local governments the choice to have an elected mayor analogous to London. Where the government earmarked most of its funding increase in this year’s budget for a prespecified purpose, I want to increase the autonomy of local authorities to make the choices - in Housing, in the local economy, in planning - that matter to their area.

But more importantly, I want to go further and give a stake to local communities. We’ve already launched our Free Schools initiative to empower local communities to set up their own schools when they feel something is missing about the local schools system. But I think we can use that same logic to improve services and save the vital services I named just now. That is why we will put into law the right to challenge your local authority if you believe, with a group of local citizens, that you can do things better. If a local community believes bin collection is unsatisfactory, and they can prove their proposals can do it more effectively, they should be able to. And we’ll bring in new opportunities to pitch in together to save local services such as the Post Office from closure and take them over at the service of the community. In general, we will be looking to temper the bureaucratic tendency to throw up regulatory barriers and say “yes, thank you” to social initiative. That’s what the side-by-side society can do.

Another way to say “yes, thank you” to the people who, day in day out, work for their communities and fellow citizens, is to recognise their hard work and give them the breathing space they need to do it. We will be reviewing what we can do to help volunteers up and down this country pursue the causes they care about so passionately. Part of that review will be recognition of their work besides their job. We will give each volunteer in Britain the right to a number of days of paid leave from work to devote to their voluntary efforts. In doing so, we will lower the barriers to get involved and lay the basis for building a nation of volunteers.

Building a nation of volunteers, starting a responsibility revolution. That starts with the next generation. And we’ll get them involved early through a National Citizen Service, making social responsibility a key part of growing up. We will broaden the horizons beyond the school walls, across communities. The next generation of the side-by-side society starts when the working-class bloke from the Council estate meets the barrister’s daughter from the sub-urbs, two paths that might not have crossed otherwise, and work for a common cause. By serving their fellows, for example by helping out in care homes, they won’t just learn how worthwile it is to get involved, how joining together can improve our communities and society, but also how despite our differences, we all share the same, fundamental British values.

But the power of the side-by-side society isn’t just local. We can use it to empower communities and citizens to shape the future of our public services and even our economy. We will allow doctors and patients greater control over our NHS by scrapping the central culture of funds and figures and creating a system where the local GP surgery becomes the gateway to the NHS. We’ll increase choice in the NHS for patients and allow those choices to shape the flow of money in the NHS, while protecting basic standards in the most vulnerable communities. And we’ll build on the Foundation Trust model to empower local NHS trusts to take more control over the choices they make to provide for their patients. And we will do the same in crime, increasing accountability by letting local communities elect their own Police and Crime Commissioners.

The recent economic troubles reveal a lot about how things have changed since 1997. Facing an economic slowdown and a banking crisis, the government has adopted a “public at all costs” approach and accuses us of the opposite. You need only look at the latest budget that intends to inspire consumer confidence solely by means of government investment - it is now up to us to promote solutions that have public and private parties work side-by-side in the national interest. Because when a storm threatens to blow us back down the road, you don’t run out into the headwinds hoping to reach safe haven before you fall down exhausted. You stand side-by-side, shoulder-by-shoulder, reinforcing eachother, using each partner’s strength, and move onward at a steady pace.

Government should not go it alone, not so much because they ought not to but because they need not to. They need not create all the jobs needed to stop the rise in unemployment (even if they could), because when you help businesses succeed, they will create those jobs. They need not pour all the taxpayer’s money into the economy to stop the slowdown, because when you protect spending power and inspire confidence, people will invest that money in their own families. And they need not hold on to Northern Rock to ensure no reckless risks are taken with people’s savings - they could commit, here and now, to re-mutualise the bank when it’s safe to do so.

The re-mutualisation of Northern Rock is just the beginning. I believe in the good terms the market can offer - but I believe even more in choice and in communities. Just like nationalisation is no one-size-fits-all solution, commercial banks needn’t be. Mutual financial institutions with specific goals - lending to businesses for credit unions and providing mortgages and helping people get homes for building societies - are an excellent way of providing small-scale services where the risk is shared. They are grounded in their communities, and they take responsibility for them. That is why I believe the Conservative Party ought to lead the way in creating a new generation of credit unions and building societies to help small and medium businesses grow and to help people finance their homes. To the many competitive offers by banks, let’s add a local option grounded in communities up and down this country.

The same goes for going green as an economy. While the government believes they can just mandate going green by law, we realise that we cannot tackle the challenge of climate change unless we do it one community at a time. And we’ll do it in the same way we’re tackling all these other challenges - by putting power and responsibility into the hands of communities and families to make a difference. Local authorities will be key partners in our Green Enterprise Zones that will, particularly in the North, use the Green Revolution to create jobs and wealth. And our Green Deals will help ordinary people pay for generating their own electricity and insulating their homes. And here’s the great thing - the Green Deals come not just for individuals and families, but for groups as well. We’ll offer each neighbourhood a Green Deal for microgeneration, so that when people come together to help combat climate change, they will be able to - and we’ll make that offer to council estates as well as more affluent neighbourhoods, bringing our country together to face the challenge of the 21st century. Because the government need not go it alone and should not go it alone.

There is no one-size-fits-all Britain - and that’s a good thing. Because all these communities, all these different people, across this country, make Britain what she is. With their energy, their public spirit and their passionate involvement, the government need never go it alone. And what these people deserve is that they should not have to go it alone either. We need to put an end to the cynical attitude of this government that sees its ideas as the public interest and private citizens as cynical, profiteering individuals working in their own self-interest. We know better than that - the British people are generous, public-spirited and willing to get involved to make things better for themselves and others.

And when I get to Downing Street, I want to lead a government for them and by them, but most importantly:  a government that is on their side. A government that brings in that energy, that dynamism, from communities all over our country and brings it together to solve the problems our country faces. With this optimistic, positive vision in hand, I invite all my fellow Britons, from all walks of life, from all parts of our country, from every possible background: join with us. Stand side-by-side with us, because politicians and governments do not change this country - its people do. And with the Conservatives in power, you can rely on us to put that realisation once more at the very heart of our government.

Thank you very much.
the Rt Hon. Emily Greenwood MP

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party (2019-)

MP for Barrow & Furness (2010-)
Secretary of State for Education (2019-)
Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (2019-)

Shadow SoS for Public Services (2019)


Traits: Media Darling, Campaigning Guru, Constituency Appeal, Finite Resources
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#2
The speech starts really well, you outline the history of your vision and couch it in terms of popular ex-Tories like Cameron. Your attacks on Labour are similarly striking, causing people to wonder who really is the heir to Blair, and causing them to wonder whether Labour are really sticking to the line that they say they are. The meat and gravy of your pitch is a big decentralising drive that's enough to make older Tories froth at the mouth, your proposals on citizens' suing seems to me to be a recourse for privatising various local projects, but the volunteer stuff goes down quite well. Generally the rest of the policies are broadly popular, people like the idea of doctors running the NHS, they like environmentalism, they like the idea that Northern Rock doesn't need to be around forever on the public dime. This speech is very good in places, but some little areas like the citizens' suing/privatising local services gives people cause for concern.

XP to Ashbury.
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