In the aftermath of Thursday’s local elections the Conservative Party is left with a difficult choice – which path to take on the route to 2015? I write this blog reflecting on my own personal disappointment at the Tories in government while considering the wider context of Thursday’s defeat. Since the tail end of 2011 it seems Cameron and the Coalition have been becoming increasingly out of touch with the public. This is a worrying trend especially if it means the electorate follow the examples of the Greeks and the French today and turn to Socialism. I feel the Government’s obsession with sticking to Plan A is foolish and will result in disaster both economically and eventually politically. Of course deficit reduction is needed, however, this needs to be complimented with growth; without growth the economy will never recover and neither will the Party. Victory in 2015 is still possible but a change in direction is desperately needed.
What options are there to resolving the deep problems facing our party, how can we become electable again? I suppose we could just shrug it off, its mid-term blues – every party in government goes through them, and if we had a hundred seat majority I might agree with this conclusion. However, this is not the case, action needs to be taken to address this while we still can. Some factions within the party believe we should retreat to the right, championing traditional conservative values and standing on a eurosceptic soap box. This knee-jerk reaction would achieve nothing, the average person doesn’t want to see a back to basics Tory Party, they’re more concerned with job security, fuel prices and fearing their children will not have the same opportunities they had. The real problem is that we haven’t modernised; Cameron’s modernisation was a PR exercise of political evasion; he focused on media tactics, personality attacks and reminding us every five minutes that it’s Labour’s fault. Whether this is true or not no longer matters, people don’t care what did, they want to know what Cameron plans to do about it. I keep on hearing my conservative friends complaining that they want a true Tory PM – I want a pragmatic PM and I want conservatism and pragmatism to be two sides of the same coin.
The different route I feel we need to take on the journey to 2015 would compliment austerity with growth, while dropping some of our unnecessary reforms. For example, the NHS debacle has already cost £3bn and raises by £1m on average everyday, very few want this change and the money could most definitely be better spent improving NHS facilities rather than bureaucracy. The same can be said of Lord reforms and elected mayors; costly, unnecessary and I wouldn’t say unwanted, I feel the public is apathetic towards these issues far more concerned, quite rightly, with the economy.
Growth in the economy is key to victory in 2015 and to get growth we need to be more actively encouraging business. As a party with the values we claim to hold, I have never understood why we always raise VAT. Its damaging to small businesses and discourages the public from spending, an immediate cut to VAT will help our fragile retail market recover. Further incentives in corporation tax and national insurance should be used to help new businesses, the whole of the UK should be an enterprise zone; with the rest of Europe turning to socialism Britain has a unique opportunity to become the Hong Kong of Europe.
However, the state will have to get involved with some sort of stimulus packet. Investment in public infrastructure would create the necessary temporary jobs while the private sector recovers. Moreover, education needs to better equip students to compete in a global market returning to vocational courses and real apprenticeships. And finally the Conservatives should once again be the party of small business, the focus of our economy needs to be entrepreneurs not monopolies.
Our government currently believes that cutting alone is enough, however the double-dip recession and rising unemployment proves that further action is needed and Thursday’s election result confirms the public agree. Election victory in 2015 is not impossible; not only has Labour got a huge challenge to return to government, let us remember 20 years ago the Tories recovered from Poll Tax to receive the largest popular mandate in electoral history. The need for change is clear, both for the party and the country, however, the real question is whether Cameron will act, or will a change in direction also require a change in leader?
BUCF Vice President 2010-2011