By Tim Montgomerie
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A quick blog to conclude this ConHome series on 'the little guy'. There has been some debate in threads and on Twitter as to whether we've got the name right for describing a Conservatism that demonstrates solidarity with those in society who may lack money, power, opportunity, fair treatment – or a combination of all of these things. I readily concede we might not have the ideal expression but, fortunately, few have missed what we're trying to advocate – a conservatism for the underdogs – those taxpayers who see their money wasted, parents who can't get their kids into good schools, consumers who lack empowerment and small businesses who can't afford the regulations that established producer interests conspire with big government to produce. Some of these underdogs struggle to make ends meet. Others are simply disempowered.
There have been five instalments of this series so far:
- Laura Sandys MP's consumer empowerment agenda – involving greater penalties for mis-selling, transparency of information, education, and mobility between producers;
- Nick Boles MP's ambition to ensure more young families can afford to get a foot on the property ladder;
- Rob Halfon MP's 10p tax campaign;
- Lord Baker's vision for more than 200 University Technical Colleges;
- Harriett Baldwin MP's campaign to deliver 'Justice for England'.
We will return to the series in future months but let's end this week's launch with Liz Truss' childcare agenda. This subject has already been covered extensively on ConHome and I don't, therefore, intend to duplicate. I point you to Paul Goodman's blog from Wednesday and Liz Truss' own blog from nearly one month ago.
Let me simply summarise the situation in Britain as it currently stands. Many parents want to go out to work but are paying huge proportions of their income in childcare. The taxpayer subsidises this childcare at above-average European levels but the average cost of childcare is higher than the European norm. People in the childcare world are near the bottom of European salary averages. It's an extraordinary combination of wasted taxpayers' money and poor outcomes for parents and childcare workers. It may help to explain why many women who want to go out to work are no longer choosing to do so. It may also partly explain why other countries are overtaking Britain in the proportion of their female workforces who are entering gainful employment.
Liz Truss is beginning to set out an agenda that will get rid of the bureaucracy and restrictions that have inflated the price of UK childcare. She wants to move to a model where childcare workers are better trained and better equipped to look after more children. Her reforms were widely welcomed by the childcare industry this week, as Harry Phibbs blogged.
Many Conservatives rightly worry about the impact of taxpayer subsidies for childcare on those single-earner couples where one parent chooses to stay at home. They deserve the long-promised and long-delayed transferable tax allowance. But putting childcare tax breaks aside for one moment (and why not make these transferable?), Liz Truss' supply-side reforms are good news. Good news for parents, employers and for the childcare industry. Good news for the little guys!