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Conservative Conference Fringe Events, 2021


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Conservative Party Fringe Events


  • Speeches must be posted between Monday, 27 June and Sunday, 3 July.
  • Each player may speak to the Spectator event + no more than three additional events (four events total).
  • Speeches should be in the realm of 1,000 words (+/- 200).
  • Replies are moderated in this thread, so your reply will not appear until after the event closes and it is approved by an admin. If you have a question as to whether your post is there, please contact Blakesley.

The Events

The Spectator, “Build Back Better: Plans for a Post-Pandemic Britain”
Topic: Outline one or two specific flagship policies that Conservatives should pursue in a post-Brexit, post-pandemic Britain. These should be plans not previously announced by the government (or plans that the government has announced but fallen dramatically short on in terms of implementation). This is a general event in which all thoughts are welcome, though it is focused on specific ideas.

Conservative Way Forward, “Rolling back the frontiers: small government, free markets, and low taxes at the centre of government”
Topic: Returning conservatism back to its core principles of small government, free markets, and low tax following the COVID-19 pandemic. Alternatively, WWMD (what would Margaret do)? This event is likely to be of interest to the Free Marketers, Loyalists, and (maybe) Spartans.

Northern Research Group, “Retaining the Red Wall: leveling up, investment, and a future outside London”
Topic: Addressing issues of deprivation and leveling up that were critical to helping turn the Red Wall blue and, more recently, see the Tories win the Hartlepool by-election; identifying the strategies that will see the Tories gain and retain here. This event is likely to be of interest to the Loyalists and Red Wallers.

Bright Blue, “Compassionate conservatism: culture wars, climate, and competitive markets”
Topic: Shifting the Conservative Party away from culture wars and unrestricted free market ideology towards one the prioritises social inclusion, climate action, and fair markets - including in the public services. This event is likely to be of interest to the Wets and Red Wallers.

Tory Reform Group, “Back to basics: revitalising the offer of One Nation Conservatism”
Topic: Revisiting the core Conservative offer with the core Conservative voter in mind: what does the party offer to our core voters that haven’t been at the focus of this administration (ie, those in the shires)? This event is likely to be of interest to the Wets and Loyalists.

Blue Collar Conservatism, “An agenda for fairness and freedom: restoring order to communities”
Topic: Embracing fundamental values that are essential to the Tory offer to “normal people”, including tough action on crime, controlling our borders, and a reversion to more nationally-oriented policies (reducing foreign aid). This event is likely to be of interest to the Spartans, Modern Monday Club, and Red Wallers.

Common Sense Group & Net Zero Scrutiny Group, “Winning the war on woke”
Topic: Confronting and winning the fight against “woke” issues, ranging from groups like Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion, to Channel 4, LGBTQ rights (emphasis on TQ), net zero, and more. This event is likely to be of interest to the Spartans and Modern Monday Club.

Henry Jackson Society, “Global Britain After Afghanistan”
Topic: What does “Global Britain” entail and how do we achieve it? In light of the military failure in Afghanistan, how must we reassess our security policy in order to ensure a secure Britain?

Conservative Europe Group & European Research Group, “The Great Europe Debate: defining our future relationship with the European Union”
Topic: How should the Conservative government direct the future relationship with the European Union, in terms of trade, cooperation, and (ultimately) the United Kingdom’s internal market?

Centre for Policy Studies, “Are we serious about growth?”
Topic: Confronting the challenge of strengthening the economy after the pandemic by answering questions like: what does leveling up mean and how do we design it to support growth? How do we reform the welfare system to reward work? How do we adjust pro-growth policies to address the inflation threat? 

Policy Exchange, “Market or manage: the future of the public services”
Topic: As public services are rebuilt after the pandemic, what is the future we seek for them? Is it one of market-based reform or state-led management?

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Henry Jackson Society speech


Thank you all very much for having me here to discuss the future of global Britain. I think we can all agree here that the military failure in Afghanistan was a colossal failure, and in my opinion, one of if not the single, worst national embarrassments we have had since the Suez crisis. But the Prime Minister is quite right when he makes it clear that had we not taken the decisions we had it would likely have cost us British lives and Afghanistan would be no better off than it is now. What this has highlighted however, is the UK’s reliance on American hard power when it comes to international affairs. Whilst co-operation with our allies is essential it should not be something which we are reliant on and we must begin to wean ourselves off this reliance, becoming more and more self-sufficient.


But failure is nothing if not a useful tool for examining what went wrong and learning from it – this is why I see the failure in Afghanistan as an opportunity to re-evaluate our security policy and indeed to re-shape our policy towards the rest of the world. Earlier this year the Government put through harsh cuts to foreign aid which I have to say was a decision I do not agree with – if Britain wishes to reclaim her place as a leader at the international table it carries with it certain obligations to less fortunate countries. 


However, it is equally quite undeniable that foreign aid in the past has been unwisely managed. If Britain is to help developing nations there must be some benefit to ourselves gained and the money sent to these nations should not be filling the coffers of corrupt politicians and officials. Instead - British aid should be used to help develop the infrastructure of friendly nations and to build our relationship with those nations with whom our relationship could frankly be better – it certainly should not be going to nations whose leadership is hostile or worse, nations who finance and support organisations that seek to undermine our democracy. 


A nation which does foreign aid well is the People’s Republic of China, a nation I will talk at great length about today. But the results they show from foreign investment speak for themselves, they have become heavily involved in sub-Saharan Africa, developing infrastructure in nations which at present are sorely lacking it. Their ‘belt and road’ initiative is one of the most ambitious foreign policy projects ever – linking the PRC to nations far from its shores. It is certainly possible for Britain to pursue more successful foreign aid ventures by replicating aspects of this approach without incorporating their more heinous tactics such as debt-trapping. We must also do more to try and secure influence where the PRC may step in if we do not, they already have their first overseas military base in Djibouti and we run the risk of further such bases, which present a very real security threat to our nation, popping up elsewhere.


But coming back to the issue of the PRC and also looking at the issue of the CCP – this is an issue which many in British politics seem to be reluctant to talk about and I thank some colleagues in my party for highlighting this issue and speaking out on it. Britain has a duty as a leading democratic nation to stand up for freedom and human rights – we must not be afraid to call out nations who undermine and violate these values. The PRC is one of these nations and we must do more to hold them to account whenever they seek to impose their evil authoritarian nature on others. A prime example of this is their current genocide of Uyghurs – this is an atrocity reminiscent of some of the very worst evils carried out by the Nazis at the height of the 1930s and 40s and yet we seem to be content with doing nothing more than making a few half-hearted, limp, ineffective comments. Another example of this is their repeated violation of Taiwan’s sovereignty. Perhaps more pressing however for the UK is the more immediate threat of CCP influence over academic institutions which has been shown to influence the tone of debate and sees many academics serve as mouthpieces for the Chinese Communist Party, we should call this what it is, infiltration, and we must take action to root this out.


But China is not the only nation where security issues we face arise, there are many, chief among these is Russia. We must seek to solidify our relationship with our NATO allies particularly those in Eastern Europe who face the ever-present threat of intimidation and military action from Russia and commit to increasing our defence spending beyond that of the 2% of GDP required from NATO – I would like to see us reach 3% spending before the end of this Parliament. I utterly reject the idea that defence spending should come down because we no longer face conventional threats, anyone who spouts this rubbish neither understands global politics and they certainly do not understand the military.


We should also certainly not be shy about calling out allies who are not pulling their weight, those NATO members with strong economies who do not contribute the 2% target. We must push for them to start doing what is quite frankly the bare minimum. 


We must also do more to support nations like Georgia and Ukraine who are not NATO members but who currently are fighting illegitimate Russian backed separatist insurgencies and a way we can do this is by making sure the door is open to these nations for NATO membership should they desire it. It is not Russia’s place to tell nations around its territory who they can ally with, that decision rests solely with these sovereign nations.


In conclusion, Britain has a chance to make up from its failure in Afghanistan by realising that we have been quite frankly slacking when it comes our national security and our commitments to the wider international community. We now have an exciting opportunity to rebuild our Armed Forces to a proper size and state. We can go forward and once more be a leading nation that effectively stands up for the values we live and preach.


Thank You

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Blue Collar ConservatismEvent

I am different from other Tories MPs for alot of reason being born and raised in america is one of them but that inst really what I am here to talk about. Unlike most I grew up poor I don't even have a college education i was a waitress a drug addict at one point years ago but not that many perhaps as far back as 2015 you would never imaged someone like me being a tory mp or even voting tory maybe ukip but not a tory then 4 year laters 2019 happen. Labour stabbed the working class in the back by supporting the remainers undemocratic idea of a second vote on brexit but that wasn't the first time Labour under Corbyn a man who on paper you think would be able to hold these voter instead threw them out in favor of the champagne socialist trust funds kids who larp as working class people and pretend to care about them but when they vote in a way they dont like would turn on them fast saying things like "They voted against their own interest" Heck one argument for a second brexit vote I heard was that "they didnt know what they were voting for." in the end in they were punished now I warn you all here today that the same could happen if we make the same mistake as labour by taking these voters for granted. But how do we avoid making the same mistake as labour did? By investing in the red wall areas bringing in more jobs upgrading infrastructure and controlling immigrations and being tough on crime. We do these things and the working class will become a tory voting block!


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Common Sense Group & Net Zero Scrutiny Group Speech

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for having me here at this event to speak to you all. I’m so glad to be able to be able to freely discuss these issues, something which is sadly a rarity these days – the loud minority of people who make up the woke mob have taken a hold of our country and our day to day lives. Whether it’s eco-lunatics gluing themselves to roads and trains, children being subjected to sickening displays by Drag Acts or the leftist media at Channel 4 masquerading as a provider of impartial news, these issues now sadly dominate our lives. But we, the Conservatives, stand here holding them back from the gates and preventing them from turning this nation into a Liberal Marxist hell hole.


Now I do not consider myself particularly radical in my beliefs, in fact I think the name of this group, the Common Sense group, sums it up. I speak not of some right-wing fantasy, despite what the leftist infiltrated media wishes to present – no we are simply speaking common sense here.


Now we cannot turn around and say that issues they claim to care about such as: climate change or racism are not a serious issue, just look at the Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party – these are real issues and they cause very serious problems, but the methods of these groups are dangerous to the public, to those carrying out them and they are not the way to resolve such issues. If anything, these dangerous maniacs will put a lot of people off caring about important issues. 


We face a difficult task, we cannot bow down to the pressures of radical fringe groups like Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace or BLM. In order to do this; we must cease to sit on the defensive and instead take the fight to them – we cannot be passive anymore. We must actively combat woke ideology and prevent it from corrupting the moral fibre of our nation.


One way we can do this is by cutting off any connection to outlets that promote this woke ideology – for example, if Channel 4 wishes to broadcast its own political agenda and become the British purveyor of woke nonsense like CNN in the States, then we should wash our hands of them and privatise the network. It is not the place of Channel 4 to lecture to the public, it is their job to provide entertainment and to broadcast news – not ideology.


Another way we can, and in my opinion must, do this is by tackling those organised groups seeking to cause disruption. Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion have demonstrated recently through their actions that they are nothing more than amateur eco-terrorists, and they must be dealt with firmly. I believe that this Government must act to empower our police forces to carry out arrests and remove their members, and others who carry out similar activities, should they attempt to cause disruption in the manner they already have. We must also be firm with them once arrested and punish them to the full extent of the law, it is only by making them pay a harsh price that we can properly deter them from carrying out their disruptive agenda. I will always be an unapologetic advocate for free speech, and for the right to express one’s grievances to the state. What these radical groups are doing, however, goes far beyond expressing their opinion. They are bringing communities to their knees, stopping ambulances from reaching people in need, and forcing innocent citizens to be subjected to total chaos. The right to free speech cannot come at the cost of the safety and well-being of other people. The Government must back the police on the forefront of this battle and give them the tools they need to stop the radical mob from inflicting their will on law abiding people.


We must also be willing to put our foot down and tackle these issues in education. We should put measures in place to prevent cultural Marxism from seeping into our schools and our children’s minds. We should take active measures to keep dangerous fringe ideas like: critical race theory and gender identity theory out of the classrooms. Furthermore, we must be prepared to prevent public funds being used to promote these politically fuelled ideologies – they are not fact, they are opinions and have no place being presented as such. Public institutions should be prevented from promoting baseless political ideologies – it gives these ideas a sense of legitimacy if they come from a trusted source and is a betrayal of the trust people place in our Government and Public Institutions.


It is clear that these people despise us for daring to challenge them but we must present our own counter arguments instead of simply dismissing them and hoping they will go away, it didn’t work with the first influx of political correctness. We must provide a clear and rational counter-argument to the woke ideology and protect our children. Whilst in past years we have made overtures to metropolitan liberal elites we are starting to return our focus to good governance and to rejecting the nonsense spouted by this very vocal minority of people. Their ideology is not one of the average working Britain, it is the views of a privileged few who undertook nonsense degrees and now preach like some holier than thou intellectuals – the average Brit rightly rejects this nonsense and so should we.


Thank you


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Cole Harris MP
The Spectator event 
"Building Resilient Industrial Towns"

Well, thank you to The Spectator for putting on this event. And thank you all for taking the time to attend it among all of the other exciting events at this year's Conservative Conference.

Britain's entering a new and exciting era as we recover from this global pandemic. We've already seen the first fruits of our making a success out of Brexit: a first-in-the-globe vaccine rollout effort that's saving lives as we speak. The Prime Minister is to be applauded for his leadership in delivering Brexit, making it a reality. But to build Britain back better, we must fully lean into the possibilities that Brexit presents our nation. No longer chained to the continent, we have much more flexibility and opportunity to set Conservative policies that benefit this United Kingdom.

One of the biggest challenges that we will face in this 21st century moment has been rightfully identified by Boris Johnson as a top priority: levelling-up. Unfortunately, up to this point we've yet to see a credible or actionable plan to benefit our industrial towns, the parts of "left behind Britain." These are parts of our country that voted with us for Brexit, they voted with us in 2019. I may not be the most conventional speaker on these regions, coming from the South East of England, but good ideas transcend backgrounds and geographies. And it takes good ideas to form the policies that will benefit all of Britain.

And it is with this in mind that I'm proposing a substantial overhaul of our regional economic development through the creation of BRIT Zones. A BRIT Zone, which stands for Building Resilient Industrial Towns, is designed to enhance economic freedom, prosperity and opportunity across the United Kingdom by tackling development on a local level with national resources. Specifically, there's a three-pronged approach that a BRIT Zone must follow: a reduction in the tax burden, an ease in the regulatory atmosphere, and continued public-private partnerships to spur investment.

Various countries, ranging from the spectrum from the United States to China, have adopted different proposals to empower special economic zones, but the BRIT Zone proposal won't be driven by Whitehall or the civil service: it'll be empowered by the free-market in this post-Brexit era. You see, this levelling-up proposal, a sort of freeport-plus, is only possible because of Brexit. So, what are the specifics?

First, a BRIT Zone will experience a reduction in tax. Specifically this economic development tool will require VAT, tariff, and stamp duty reductions. This will encourage an influx of talent, entrepreneurship, and international trade. These benefits will ensure resiliency as a feature of the new 21st century economy of these areas.

Second is the reduction of regulatory burdens in the region. Broadly speaking, Britain is a great place to do business, as evidenced by the World Bank's ranking us number eight globally in their Doing Business index. But other countries are eager to catch up, so we must be ever-vigilant to streamline business paperwork. BRIT Zones would also benefit from regulatory forgiveness, which will help job creators get off the ground and benefit their community without excessive fear of being caught up in red tape. On the regulatory front, local authorities that contain BRIT Zones should also be offered the opportunity to take advantage of relaxed labour and energy policies. For example, bringing the gig economy - a part of the 21st century that's here to stay - to the work floor would help employers and give greater flexibility to workers alike.

Finally, continued investment is needed. But instead of top-down, heavy-handed investment, a BRIT Zone offers the perfect opportunity for bottom-up, public-private partnerships. Take education as an example. The free school model has already opened up opportunities in many parts of Britain. Expanding free schools' reach throughout these BRIT Zones would allow more parents to choose this great market-driven alternative to stagnant state schools. I would also propose enabling these Zones to invest tax monies that would otherwise go to the Exchequer in their own communities through the local authorities. Retaining tax in the local community for specified investments is a necessity in these left-behind industrial towns.

This speech sounds like it could've been given to the Northern Research Group, and perhaps it could have. But I want to close by emphasizing the benefits of this innovative policy outside the so-called Red Wall and outside of old industrial communities. Those of us in the Conservative Party, those of us here today, we recognize that a low-tax, light-touch regulatory environment with locally-driven investment is the right path forward for the entire country. And we can, should and must pursue that path forward - especially in times like these where we have a Conservative majority Government led by someone who cares about British excellence.

Simply put, if a BRIT Zone can help pockets of left-behind Britain that most need to play catch-up, it can help our entire country moving forward. That is how I view this proposal: a proving ground for a new, innovative, bottom-up Britain. By showing these traditionally red heartlands the power of innovation and low-taxation, by empowering them to rise up and prosper, we can disprove Labour's tax-and-spend socialism once and for all.

The best part won't come at the ballot box, though that too will come. The best part won't come at party conferences, though these are enjoyable times. No, the best part will come when our economy is roaring out of this pandemic hiccup. The best part will come when innovation enables individuals to thrive and prosper. That is what I hope we can achieve together.

Thank you.

Thomas Randolph (Conservative MP for New Forest West since 2010)

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The Spectator Event

“Ladies and gentlemen,

What a pleasure it is to be able to speak today and to have met so many people courtesy of The Spectator. What always inspires me when I come to Conservative Party Conference is the number of enthusiastic young people, many of whom are coming to conference for the first time, who surely cast away any doubt that this party can find and has found a constituency in the young.

The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed challenges on a scale foreign to this generation of Britons. Perhaps in the most meaningful way since the Second World War, the state was forced to intervene in the economy in a manner so overwhelming and far-reaching that it changed the fabric of the British political debate. We lost, for a time, some of our most treasured liberties as we made sacrifices to keep people safe. But we also saw light in the darkness: the communities which came together, starting Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups and arranging to deliver essential supplies to those in need. The businesses which adapted to circumstance, embracing flexible working and allowing their workforces to work more readily from home. The teachers and doctors who innovated, seeing those in their charge virtually and striving still to provide the best possible care.

The legacy of COVID lives with us all. But as we move past the pandemic, and indeed past Brexit, we must accept that for many people a return to the status quo is simply not good enough. Just as, after the second world war was one, the British people demanded that the country change and win the peace; the people today demand that things change and that we win the future. It is not enough to build back; rather, we must, as the Prime Minister has said, Build Back Better. And there are a couple of essential ways in which we can do this.

First, as a party of low taxes and small government, the Conservatives must work to recapture the imagination of the British people and promote what these values mean in practice. Consider a single mother working in social care, putting in 40 hours a week on the minimum wage. Before tax she will earn £1,520 a month. But she will lose almost £100 of that money each month to tax. And so she will work one of her twelve hour shifts, in which she earns only £9.50 in an hour, for the taxman rather than for herself.

It is clear to me that the basic personal allowance should be set at the level of the full-time minimum wage: so that nobody earning less than this pays a penny in income tax. And more than that, the rates of income tax and national insurance contributions should be harmonised: so that again, those who are taking home less than the bare minimum are not forced to contribute to the Treasury’s coffers. Of course, such changes would need to be gradual and careful. Means of replacing lost revenue would need to be found. But if our tax system is to be one which is fair and one which rewards hard work, it is simply unacceptable that those earning what the government deems the minimum acceptable income are working for free at the behest of HMRC.

Another badly-needed measure to revolutionise our country is the liberalisation of the planning system and a wholesale commitment to housebuilding. I subscribe to the housing theory of everything: that is that the ability to own or rent a home where you want to affects almost everything else not only in your own life, but in the strength of the wider economy. It determines the employment opportunities you can seek, the services you have access to, the schools your children will attend. And right now, especially for the young, getting on the housing ladder is harder than at any time before in our history. There is a chronic housing shortage in Britain, and if the Conservatives are to maintain a winning coalition of voters amongst the British electorate, we must address it.

One of the problems is the planning regime itself. I am delighted to know that the Prime Minister is proposing in this session a Planning Bill which will make it easier to build the homes that people need. But another issue is the designation of vast swathes of economically valuable land, close to centres of job creation, as part of the infamous greenbelt - which has doubled in size since the 1970s, much of which is already built on, and very little of which constitutes an area of natural beauty or ecological significance.

The solution in my mind is to institute the creation of new garden cities, each housing 100,000 residents, on the peripheries of the large existing cities and to enable rapid mass transit between them. High quality, beautiful homes surrounded by green space, and designed to be walkable, cyclable and accessible for public transport. Such new developments, in economic and innovation hotspots such as the Oxford-Cambridge arc, would create up to a million new homes in areas of very high demand and extend the boundaries of our property-owning democracy to those who have until now been excluded from that franchise.

Politically, there will always be local difficulties with the construction of new dwellings. Noone wants a new town in their back yard. But the national considerations are far bigger. The Conservative Party cannot afford to be a party of NIMBYism; for NIMBYism is the younger brother of Ludditism, and we here all understand the unstoppable nature of change.

It is always better to be the architect of events than a passenger in their voyage. If this government grasps the nettle of local interests and applies a national strategy to revolutionise access to housing, we can tackle many of our other challenges: sluggish economic growth, the ticking demographic timebomb, the all-consuming creation of wealth in London at the expense of the rest of the UK. Colleagues, it is no panacea: but it is the closest damn thing. And it is a policy for which I will be advocating most strongly in the weeks and months ahead.

Thank you.”



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The Henry Jackson Society Event

“It is an absolute pleasure to speak today at the invitation of the Henry Jackson Society on a matter close to my heart: the meaning and future of Global Britain.

In the aftermath of the allied withdrawal from Afghanistan, I would like to pay tribute to the myriad military and diplomatic staff of the United Kingdom and of the wider ISAF for their diligence and success in evacuating people from Kabul and elsewhere. I think I speak for everyone - and I have spoken to the Prime Minister too, who agrees with me - that anyone at risk of persecution by the Taliban, and in particular anyone who has assisted the British military force during its twenty-year presence in Afghanistan, should find a safe home in Britain.

The withdrawal itself, of course, leaves many questions raised. How do we rate the success of the operation in Afghanistan to defeat al-Qaeda and remove the Taliban from power? Clearly, it has not been wholly successful. But wider and more fundamentally, questions are left unanswered about the role of Britain in the future in the international arena.

Over the last eleven years, the defence budget has been cut - there’s no getting around that. For a long time, it was earnestly believed that the future of the British armed forces was in a smaller, more nimble, more highly-specialised force capable of fighting the battles that we assumed would be those of the coming decades: smaller, more sporadic, more assymetrical.

And yet I am forced to wonder whether we have learned the wrong lessons. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an overwhelming success, insofar as allied forces removed Saddam Hussein from power and established the basis for a democratic, liberal government in Baghdad. But the subsequent occupation broadly failed in its objectives. In the early days post invasion, there was looting and civil disorder. There were riots. Weapons caches were looted. And the failure of allied forces to control the situation marked the beginning of a descent, gradual at first, and then at once more rapid, into civil war and sectarianism. The problem was not that our forces were not sufficiently mobile or specialised; it was that there were not enough of them, and they had too few resources. Indeed it was only after the American troop surge in 2007 that the security situation in Iraq began again to stabilise.

We all heard the stories of inadequate armour, broken-down vehicles, and insufficient helicopter backup.

And it is easy to dismiss the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as the conflicts of the past; to assume that we will never again fight a war on that scale or in that way. But we thought this once before: when the British government presented Options for Change at the close of the Cold War, and dramatically downsized our armed forces. Indeed, only nine years ago, President Obama mocked his Republican opponent in the presidential election for naming Russia as the biggest extant threat to the United States. Who is laughing now?

Our defence reviews and assumptions should not be focused solely on anticipating a future whose bounds we cannot know for sure; rather, our focus should be on maintaining existing capabilities and ensuring that our overall ability to conduct operations of any kind, not just those we deem most likely, is not diminished. The power of a large and strong conventional force cannot be underestimated, particularly as we seem once again duty bound to fight the war of words between open and closed societies, between democracies and autocracies: between Britain and her allies, and Russia, China, Iran.

I would propose that the government seriously contemplates raising defence spending beyond 2% of GDP to 2.5% by 2030 and 3% by 2040. And I would further challenge the government to ensure that Britain’s armed forces are the best-trained, paid, equipped and cared for in the world. There is an old joke, not very diplomatic, and meant in jest, about the American servicemen who arrived in Britain from 1942 onwards: that they had all the gear and no idea. Our servicemen and women deserve to have all the gear and a landscape-dominating repertoire of training and experience behind them, and that costs money. Frankly, it is money we cannot afford not to spend. Because whilst today another Iraq or Afghanistan looks unlikely, it would not take much for looming threats in Iran, Pakistan or Syria to pose a serious danger. China has her eyes firmly on Taiwan. And Russia is salivating over the Baltics and Ukraine.

Beyond the military sphere, it is clear that Britain remains one of the premier exporters of soft power in the world. We can enhance our ability to exert cultural, diplomatic and economic power by continuing to promote free and fair trade, by expanding the bounds of the BBC World Service and institutions such as the British Council, by maintaining our commitment to Overseas Development Aid and by stepping in with humanitarian solutions when the world is in crisis: in Hong Kong, for instance, I see nothing short of a legion of former and future Britons ready to rejoin a free society and make the United Kingdom their home.

The World Service should redouble its efforts on providing honest information and education in those areas of the world where restricted information is the norm; and Britain should take the lead in legislating for human, civil and political rights around the world. With our allies in Europe and the Five Eyes community, and the Commonwealth realms, we should consider developing a ‘Belt and Brace’ international investment fund to wrest away Chinese dominance of FDI in Africa and the far east. And we should seek vigorously to support the arts, and Britain’s cultural contribution to the world.

These measures will not make the United Kingdom a reborn hegemon or create in the world a new Pax Britannica. But they will ensure that we continue to bear the responsibility of free and prosperous nations to the oppressed and poor - and reap the rewards.

Thank you.”


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The Spectator Speech

Thank you all for having me here to speak to you today. As we emerge from a global pandemic it is important for us to re-evaluate the priorities that the nation faces and I am delighted to be able to share my thoughts on what I believe the government must focus on going forward.


With the danger of Covid-19 slowly subsiding we are going to see the world return to some sense of normality and with it the resumption of uninterrupted international trade, vital infrastructure projects and overseas travel.


As part of our recovery from Covid I firmly believe that the Government must also review its foreign and security policy. Britain was falling behind pre-pandemic and continues to do so now – we must look to further British investment in developing nations in order to explore the opportunities that bring with it economic benefits. The Prime Minister must reverse course on the regrettable decision to cut foreign aid now that we are getting the country back into a more stable situation but I firmly believe that in the new post-pandemic world we find ourselves emerging into that competition is going to become all the more fierce and as a result Britain needs to ensure its own security. In addition to this our Armed Forces are involved in a lot more than simply protecting the nation; they are also involved in a multitude of other projects such as: peacekeeping, disaster relief and training the militaries of less developed allies.


Defence spending however has gone up and down in terms of actual spend since the 1950s – in 1956/57 defence spending was just under £40 billion, in 1977/78 it was a little under £50 billion and in 2019/20 it was £39.8 billion. But when accounting for inflation we have fallen as a percentage of GDP consistently. 


In 2020/21 Britain contributed 2% of its GDP towards defence spending, we are at this time spending the bare minimum expected of us as a NATO member, which ordinarily would not be saying much but it’s still better than a lot of NATO members who we’re picking up the slack for. But this must change, successive heads of the Armed Forces Branches have all stated that what we are not spending on our nation’s security is not enough – experts vary on how much is needed to be spent but all agree 2% is not enough for our nation.


I firmly believe that in order to catch up to where our military should be we would need to spend 5% of our GDP in the short term before scaling this spending back to 2.5% in the future however I recognise that this Government has limited spending capabilities and must juggle priorities – however the defence of our nation is one of the most important things we are tasked with, and as a result the Ministry of Defence needs every penny it can get, so long as it’s not spent on pointless projects like diversity tsars or problematic equipment as it previously has been. Therefore, I am calling on the Government to announce a massive spending increase at the next budget, to bolster our nation’s armed forces and keep our nation safe.


I am also calling on the Government to announce the reversal of the disastrous foreign aid cuts in order to secure Britain’s place as a leading player at the international table.


Britain must also take stock of its relationship with other members of the international community. If the global pandemic has shown us anything it is the true nature and the danger posed to our nation’s security by the PRC – even the simple fact that throughout the starting stages of the Covid pandemic the CCP lied to their own people and to the world at large about the scale of threat posed by the initial Covid outbreak which in turn left many nations unprepared and effectively led to the shutdown of the entire world. We can make no mistake the PRC is an imperialist, expansionist power which seeks to undermine our nation, its allies and our way of life and they will stop at nothing to achieve it. 


This is one of the reasons why I am calling for a complete overhaul of our foreign policy – Their burgeoning Belt and Road initiative is going to cause many problems for our nation as well as facilitating a neo-colonial expansion into developing nations through methods such as debt trapping and the placement of further overseas PRC military establishments. In order to combat this, we should commit fully to supporting the G7’s Build Back Better World initiative helping to give developing nations an alternative to the unethical practices of the PRC and seeking to build better relations with those nations as well as providing extensive mutual benefits – and as a global power we must be prepared to shoulder a significant degree of responsibility and take on a leading role alongside the United States. Furthermore, we must start to wean our nation’s economy off of China’s teat and look to not only our allies but also towards a degree of self-sufficiency – it will be a long and arduous road towards doing so but as a nation we have no other option, we simply cannot afford to continue kowtowing to Beijing.


Ladies and Gentlemen, I do not think I overstate anything when I say that we stand at a crossroads in history, we can take a path of ease and go back to being a second-rate power at best, reliant on the hope that our stronger allies will protect us and keep our economy turning OR we can seize the initiative and start to make our nation stronger, well defended and return Britain to its rightful place as a leader among the international community.


I thank you all and I hope that my words here today will be the start of a great change for our nation.

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Cole Harris MP
Centre for Policy Studies event
"Social Mobility as a Catalyst for Growth"

Thank you all for being here with me and the Centre for Policy Studies today; I know there are a lot of great events throughout this Conservative Conference, but I'm humbled that you chose to spend your time here as we discuss the real fun stuff: economic growth. Now, please note that I say that only half-jokingly. Economic growth might seem a bit a dull topic to non-economists, but the rate of growth will really determine the future direction of our great nation.

Let me give you an example. Since we began compiling data in the 1950s, the UK's GDP growth rate has been about 6%. In 2019, before the pandemic, we had a growth rate around 1.4%. Some economists are have hailed this as a "new normal," but that is a disastrous conclusion to reach. In this decade alone, the 2020s, if we grow at our historic rate, we will see a nearly 80% increase in our national production, which roughly translates into well-being measurements like family earnings and health outcomes. If, instead during the 2020s we grow at the 2019 rate of 1.4%, we'll only see a 15% increase in GDP and associated well-being metrics during the decade. Put differently, if you make the UK average salary and it only grew at the 1.4% rate versus the 6% rate, we're talking a difference of nearly £17,000 per year.

But I promised not to bore you with numbers and statistics. I only use these examples to illustrate just how important economic growth is for our lives and our nation's future. What I'd really like to delve into with my time here today is the interplay between the concept of social mobility and economic growth. You see, during my time in Parliament, I serve a Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility. This is an issue I think on an awful lot. Social mobility, of course, is the ability of an individual and his or her family to move through different socioeconomic layers in society.

Whenever I travel and meet people from around the world, upon finding out I'm a British politician, they like to tell me about this nasty reputation Britain has of a calcified upper class, impossible to break into, a narrow middle class that is constantly struggling to keep up, and a working class that just can't get by. To which I like to respond we're not in the 1800s and we're not in a Charles Dickens novel! But it does beg the question, how can we make it easier for individuals and families to move up the socio-economic ladder and to achieve more than their parents ever dreamt for them?

Before delving into the three primary components of social mobility - education; employment; and the economy - I did want to dispel an unhelpful myth that has unfortunately predominated the social mobility literature for far too long. The typical narrative is a bright pupil receives a scholarship to a public school, leaves his hometown for an Oxbridge education and then moves to London to rise up on the socio-economic ladder. That story entirely ignores the vast majority of Britons and it ignores the critical role payed by social capital - the network of "who you know and where you know it" - that grounds us in meaningful relationships. So, as I address education, employment, and the economy, I will be leaning on ways to help individuals achieve social mobility regardless of geography.

As I alluded to earlier, the traditional model of mobility is a flawed, broken one. By placing an emphasis on elite academic institutions, we undercut that about half of all Britons today won't graduate a university. Education need not be synonymous with formal schooling, but rather should include opportunities for employers to provide new skills and competencies amid one's day-to-day job. To the extent the Government is an employer, we must lead by example: for instance, allowing school-leavers the opportunity to get ahead and providing educational opportunities on-the-job. Providing incentives for employers to send their top performers to university mid-career and expanding the reach and access of massively-online open courses like those at The Open University are other ways we can tool education for social mobility. And we mustn't forget the role primary education plays in setting pupils up for long-term success. That is why parental choice in local educational institutions, whether free schools or academies or traditional state schools, is so important early on.

Employment is not only a critical input to social mobility that can catalyze economic growth, it is also a valuable outcome in-and-of itself. A job well done is a rewarding experience, regardless of what work you perform. Whether you're a teacher or carer, a construction worker or a banker, the satisfaction that comes with steady employment is a great joy in life. A key way to build up a social mobility society is to tear down barriers to occupational entry. As I mentioned, not everyone will end up at a university. Some occupations require a level of academic knowledge, but apprenticeships and other mechanisms to launch a career are equally important in most fields. Reducing occupational regulations, from licensing and accreditation to certification and registration, in safe and meaningful ways is a vital step to spurring meaningful employment while also building a pro-growth economy.

And now, let's talk about how social mobility - grounded in diverse educational experiences and important work - can spur economic growth and the conditions that supercharge this growth. And, in looking to the future, I'd like to hearken back to that great French observer, Alexis de Tocqueville. In his writings about 1800s America, he was struck by the degree of flux between their socio-economic strata. One of the benefits Tocqueville identified of social mobility is that it stabilizes the democratic capitalist system which we British Conservatives are defending in today's 21st century. Another key benefit is the positive impact that entrepreneurialism and innovation have in stirring up economic growth. Without a strong ethic of social mobility permeating our culture, tomorrow's thinkers won't feel the urge or the need to become tomorrow's doers.

Creating a dynamic society where people can rise on their own merits, regardless of what type of schooling they've received or what kind of trade they find themselves employed in, is an imperative for any society that seeks prosperity in the long-run. The United Kingdom is no different, and that is why as a proud advocate for the free market - as my colleagues here at the CPS would agree - I am so concerned about enabling people to make the most of their opportunities through social mobility. Thank you all!

Thomas Randolph (Conservative MP for New Forest West since 2010)

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Blue Collar Conservatism Event

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Blue Collar Conservatism movement is fundamentally about making our party responsive to the needs of working class Britons in areas where we have not traditionally been successful. We saw in 2019, and to a lesser extent in 2017, a renewed success of the Conservative Party in such communities. But if we are to go further, and secure the trust of the hardworking many who find themselves increasingly frustrated with a liberal, metropolitan agenda focused on London and the south east, we must be ready to adapt our thinking and embrace policies which will connect with the downtrodden heartlands of working class Britain.

Some of this comes from our traditional values. Lower taxes; I have spoken already at another event about the need, as I see it, to take minimum wage workers out of income tax altogether and to unify the income tax and national insurance thresholds. A strong defence; I have spoken about the need to reinvest in our armed forces and target a 2.5% of GDP defence spend by 2030. Law and order; the Conservatives in government are already hiring tens of thousands of new police officers, but we also need to work to ease the courts backlog, toughen sentencing and ensure that for the most serious offences, life means life. We also need to tackle low-level offending and antisocial behaviour, which is devastating to the people I meet on council estates and in corner shops every day. Part of the solution draws on the great Conservative tradition: a tough rebuke to young offenders. But part of it comes from beyond our own orthodoxy. We must consider how we can give young people responsibility; how we can help them to aspire and achieve; how we can promote model citizenship in a world which increasingly glamorises crime and criminality.

We also need to raise living standards in some of our most deprived communities. And that comes, yes, with direct targeted support through the welfare system. It also comes from supporting people of all ages in finding work, finding secure work, and progressing at work. And frankly, it is unrealistic and undesirable to imagine that all young people will or should go to university. There is a commonality amongst people in the poorest communities in that they want to “get on with it” - go into work and start earning money. Often it is because they need to, to help support their families. And more often still it is because they want to: because the working classes of this country, whether it is politically correct to say so or not, have an intrinsic understanding of hard graft, a willingness to do it, and a desire to make money.

Helping people to better themselves can be done in three key areas. First, infrastructure: every home in the UK should have access to fast broadband. Every street should be connected to a bus service. When we build flagship projects like HS2, we should focus on driving interconnectivity between more deprived towns and cities. Second, public services: every child should have the opportunity to attend a good or outstanding school. We can achieve that by reforming the education system to put student choice at its heart, and by eliminating the rigid expectation that every child will pursue an academic career. We need to make sure that healthcare provision is top-notch - and even as this government opens new hospitals and clinics, it must ensure that oversubscribed GP and pharmacy services are supported to handle the additional load in terms of patients that comes from local growth and also in the wake of the COVID pandemic. A broad embrace of telemedicine and the opportunities, particularly for the young, of mobile medicine can help todo that. And third, lifelong learning: education that is there for you whenever you need it, whatever you want to learn, and whatever hours you are working.

That is why I propose the creation of a College of Britain, along the same lines as the Open University. The College of Britain would provide distance and at-home learning services, mostly in this day and age via the internet but also through local services such as libraries, and would accredit students with academic, technical and vocational qualifications below degree level. It would offer nursing access courses to the carer who dreams of becoming a nurse; it would offer English and Maths tuition for those who are lacking in those key skills; it would offer NVQs and HNDs and business courses for the young girl in Clwyd West I met last week, who wanted more than anything to set up her own online makeup store. I bought some of her lipstick, by the way, and Shaniqua - it’s excellent!

And access to the College of Britain would be provided on the same basis as university admissions: free at the point of use, with a tuition loan repayable only if and when the student earns above a reasonable threshold. It would be of no greater cost to the public purse than the £500 million a year afforded to the Open University, and the economic benefits it would bring would far exceed that value.

Of course, improved education on its own is not enough. We must cut the taxes of these hardworking communities; improve their services; build the housing that their young desperately need; connect their towns and cities with good public transport; tackle crime and ensure that serious criminals are put away for good. We should also decriminalise marijuana, and stop locking young men and women away for “bunning a zoot.”

*there is a degree of confusion and shaking of heads in the audience*

But more on that another time. Thank you for having me.”


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Policy Exchange Event

“Ladies and gentlemen,

The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the role of public services in Britain today. Our national story has become woven into the fabric of institutions such as the NHS and the education system, the BBC and the Church of England.

It is unpopular, nay even blasphemous, to propose substantial reform in any of these areas. They are sacred cows, and the closest thing the British people have - apart, perhaps, from the Church - to a religion.

But reform we must, and reform as Conservatives should really be our clarion call. A strong economy, thriving public services, homes to live in and more of your money in your pocket. These are the foundation stones of the fight for the next general election.

In education, the most significant reform possible is to establish a National Education Service within which sits every school in the country, as an academy receiving its funding directly from the Service. Academy trusts should be given the power to merge, demerge and take one another over where necessary. Parents should be given the absolute right to choose any school they deem appropriate within the state sector for their child - with the proviso that they provide transportation if it is out or catchment, of course! - so that the popular, successful, outstanding schools are enabled to thrive and so that those which are failing can be easily taken over and revitalised by their outstanding counterparts. In effect, a free market in schooling: state-owned, state-funded and always free at the point of use. But a market in which parents choose the schools and the schools level each other up.

I would also propose a greater diversification of the schools portfolio. We should have schools which focus on academic subjects; we should have schools which specialise in supporting those who might otherwise be left behind; we should have schools which train their pupils in woodwork and carpentry and schools which teach their students how to parent, make a home, care for others, sew. I am not proposing a return to the old ways of grammars and secondary moderns, where one’s life chances were determined at eleven: rather, I am proposing that within the model of a free market in schooling, academies should be encouraged to diversify, develop unique offers to students, and offer unique results. One school might focus on competitive sport, another on the arts. And I would expand the pupil premium by £1,000 per student, but make an element of it available to parents to aid them in selecting the school they prefer and, if necessary, transporting their child to it.

The NHS can be reformed along similar lines. Always, we hear the Labour Party carp and crow about privatisation in the NHS. The truth is that, overwhelmingly and since its inception, many NHS services are already privately provided. GP surgeries are all private institutions contracted by the NHS to serve patients free of charge. I would go one step further, and take clinical commissioning groups out of the state sector. They would still receive state funding per patient; but beyond a basket of essential care, they would be free to offer the services and treatments that they chose. They would not be geographically restricted and would be free to compete across borders. The private and charitable sectors could also provide CCG services, again funded by the state on a per-patient basis. And patients would get the choice - a free choice - of to which commissioning group they wished to subscribe. They could choose to match with a provider with a specialism in cancer care; or another which leads in alternative therapies. They could sign up for a provider who guarantees shorter waiting lists, or one which is rated most highly for clinical outcomes. In short, it would be a patient’s market: within the control of the end user, and, as always, free at the point of use.

And as we reform the public sector, we must reform the private sector too. Cronyism and corporatism are the enemies of a functioning free market economy as much as they are the enemies of socialism. And so this Conservative government should step forward to abolish restrictive practices, tackle the problem of insider trading, boost worker representation on company boards and eliminate anti-competitive practice.

None of this can be achieved overnight, but it can be achieved ofer the course of a Parliamentary term. And that is what we have before us.

“Reform” is not a word which sits easily alongside the word “conservative.” But it should be. For as we fund our essential services and support our businesses in the wake of the pandemic and in the wake of Brexit, we should demand from them too not only that they do the job - but that they are world-leading and world-beating. That they show the world how the job is done.

Thank you.”


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