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Manning SP at Bright Blue Reception

Sir Peregrine Messervy

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I have said before that we need to find a new way in the Conservative Party.

That there has to be a new policy platform for the 2020s, and not one born out of the 1970s or 80s.

The die-hard socialism of the Labour left, which looks to turn back the clock with recklessly high spending, high taxes, a blockade against innovation and a revival of the legacy of industrial disharmony, must be opposed stringently.

But just as that is the wrong path for Britain, Thatcherite neoliberalism on steroids is not the right path either.

The Conservative Party must recognise that a successful government is one which governs in the present and for the future; not one which clings to past glories.

And I admire Mrs Thatcher greatly. I have a portrait of her in my office. But her reforms, her legacy, were of their time.

The challenges Britain faces today are myriad and different. They cannot be solved by dramatically shrinking the size of the state again.

And a programme of ever-lower taxes, ever-lower spending and ever-smaller government is a fantasy.

It is as much a fantasy as its diametric opponent, espoused by the government today: ever-higher taxes, ever-higher spending and ever-bigger government.

Sluggish productivity growth, barriers to entry, a skills, and underpowered regions are the challenges of today; the rise of technology the challenge of the future.

And the private sector will have many of the solutions to these problems. I will never fail to advocate for liberating businesses to innovate, invest and grow.

But the state has a role to play too. That role should be nimble, efficient, effective and limited, yes. But it is there.

Only the public sector has the capital and risk appetite to fund major infrastructure projects of the kind this country needs. In Britain, the state has a monopoly on healthcare and education. And whilst free markets, competitive economies and business growth raise wages, reduce poverty and deliver opportunity, the government has a duty to deploy taxpayer’s money effectively to support those who are poor or disadvantaged from birth; those who are left behind.

There is a rich tradition in the Conservative Party, from the time of Disraeli indeed, of believing in a state which acts as party to a social contract.

There is such a thing as society. And whilst it is individuals, families and businesses who make it up, it is the government which guarantees the social contract by fulfilling its obligation to deliver the best for its people.

The social contract means that where the private sector cannot adequately deliver a social good, the government should act to do so.

It means that for big infrastructure projects which will better connect our country and deliver growth and opportunity across all the corners of the United Kingdom, the government must put up the money to make them happen.

It means that for public services upon which all our people depend, the government must make sure that they are adequately resourced and properly managed.

And it means that where the productive capacity of our people and our economy can be enhanced by the actions of the government, through improving education or health outcomes, the government has a duty so to act.

I am a conservative. I believe in the lowest possible taxes, and a competitive tax regime which attracts investment from around the world.

I believe in the free market, in an open and competitive economy, in free trade and in the ownership of property.

I believe in fiscal responsibility, in reducing our debts and balancing the books.

And I believe that taxpayers’ money should be spent carefully, sparingly and accountably.

But I am also a unionist. I believe in a single British nation and people. And I believe that all of those people, whoever they are, wherever they live and whatever they do, deserve the best chance possible to thrive.

I believe in utilising the levers of government policy to deliver an opportunity agenda, and a national story in which every man has his place.

This is not unconservative. It is precisely the kind of patriotic, communitarian approach that the modern Conservative Party needs to espouse.

It requires bold thinking and sometimes radicalism.

It requires straight talking and compromise.

It requires an acknowledgement that we cannot always do everything we would like at once.

But I believe that you can have the best of both worlds. You can have thriving business, a growing economy, blossoming wealth creation, alongside fairness, equal opportunity and equity - a stake in British society for all.

I don’t mind at all if the rich get richer, as long as the poor get richer too. As long as we all get richer: richer in our environmental inheritance; richer in the quality of our public services; richer in our pride and our capacity to do good around the world; and richer, yes, because the government has taken steps to put Britain back at the forefront of global innovation and growth.

David Cameron spoke of a Big Society. Theresa May spoke of a country that worked for everyone. Dylan Macmillan wants us to “walk together.” And he is right. When our country succeeds, we should all succeed: and our country will only succeed when all our people do.

So the next Conservative government will scrap the benefits freeze and uprate welfare payments in line with inflation.

It will fund £140 billion in major capital infrastructure projects over 20 years, paid for by a 1% rise in national insurance contributions for those earning more than £40,000, and delivering growth and opportunity in every corner of our country.

It will raise the personal allowance to £15,000 over five years, taking the lowest paid out of tax altogether.

It will deliver real-terms spending increases in health and education, as well as systemic reform, to deliver the improved outcomes we all want to see.

It will deliver critical investment in clean energy, unleash the power of the electric vehicle revolution, and redouble commitments to improving energy efficiency for homes to drive our transition to net zero at a net profit.

It will abide by our longstanding policy of no rises in income tax.

It will maintain all existing tax reliefs for businesses and families.

It will eliminate the current budget deficit within three years, halving it in year one, and get the structural deficit down to sustainable levels within five.

It will cut taxes where possible, whilst realising higher revenues through stronger economic performance.

And it will deliver a Brexit deal which enables us to take control of our destiny, giving Britain the freedom to flourish with better regulation, a more competitive economy and a commitment to free trade.

And it will recognise that a strong economy and a strong society combined are what makes a strong nation.

This is the Conservatives’ New Deal for Britain. A focus on levelling up, not down. A commitment to the strong public services that we all rely on. A commitment to fair taxes which leave the least well-off, better off. A commitment to fiscal prudence and sustainable finances. And a commitment, above all, to build in Britain an opportunity society: one where nothing and noone can hold anyone back. A stake in society for all. A strong economy for each. A vision defined by the future, not the past. All of it made possible by unleashing the potential of this island people, as we move beyond Brexit and into the next decade.

Thank you.




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