Grant Shapps is Minister of State for Housing and Local Government. Follow Grant on Twitter. The Daily Telegraph referred to an article by Grant yesterday, which is now available to read for the first time here on ConservativeHome.
“So how come Boris won in London?” persisted the interviewer, arm outstretched with a microphone.
“Well, he’s been a great Mayor and he’s put London first”, I offered.
Interview over, I walked away. But then I stopped in my tracks.
What I should have mentioned was that Boris had the massive advantage of a full-term in office to implement his great ideas. And getting a full-term is more important than you might think because governing comes in three distinct stages.
First you’ve got to tell people what you intend to do. Second, you have to legislate to make it happen. Third you need to follow through to turn all those new rules and laws into real life outcomes. Only then can the electorate truly judge how your pledges stacked up against reality.
Right now this Government is exactly two years down the line. Step one was the Coalition Agreement where our pledges were mapped out. Step two were the 30 pieces of legislation passed during the session. But the most important phase is yet to come – turning that legislation into action. And that requires time and determination.
In a better economy, previous Prime Ministers we’re happy to skip this stage. It’s tedious work after all. Blair, famous for an initiative a day, routinely failed to implement his own legislation or did it half-heartedly. Incredibly there are still 65 separate pieces of law from the last Parliament that have never been fully commenced.
By contrast, David Cameron knows delivery means everything. As one of those Ministers hauled into No10 to have my feet held to the fire, I’ve borne witness to the PM’s sheer determination to get the job done. “How are those plans going to help first time buyers? Will the newly reinvigorated Right To Buy actually deliver for hard working families?” And “How are we doing with our ambition to build 100,000 more homes on Government owned brownfield land?” The Prime Ministerial interrogation presses Ministers into detail that might surprise some.
Yet sorting out the historic low Labour house building track record is only one small part of this Government’s ambitious programme of radical reform. Our plans are based on an understanding that modern Britain was built on the shoulders of people with get up and go. The corner shop owner, the one man band, the fledgling company with a van parked out front and plans to expand. The silent hard working majority, the doers, the strivers, those who can do. These are the people who really built the wealth of this nation and they can do so again, if we let them.
These people aren’t looking for hand-outs or free rides. They simply want to be in charge of their own destiny. But instead they were too often tangled in red-tape and the computer says “no” economy. I remember how frustrating it can be. At 21 I set up a printing company and quickly learned about spending sleepless nights worrying about meeting the wage bill at the end of the month. Working all hours and desperately trying to stay within the overdraft whilst building the business.
Too often that battle was made harder by the need to fight Government-inspired bureaucracy rather than running my small business. I’ll never forget that sense of the system grinding you down, smothering the entrepreneurial spirit and putting out the enterprising fire. So I’m proud to be part of a Government that is serious about making Britain the place to do business again. Axing the jobs tax, doubling small business relief, cutting corporation tax and in this Queen’s Speech announcing measures to give employers more confidence to hire people.
Of course business can’t flourish without willing employees. So we’re introducing the Universal Credit. Justice at last for the 19 year old I met in a Hastings young person’s hostel a couple of years back. Amanda explained that she had taken a job, despite the fact it made her £70 a week worse off. Soon, thanks to our historic reform of the welfare state, no one will ever be trapped on benefits again. From next year, work will always pay. And that’s good for Amanda, for business and for everyone who understands that work is the best route out of poverty.
Turning this country around means laying the groundwork for the next generation of entrepreneurs. So our Free School policy is giving every child, whatever their background, the chance to reach their potential. Meanwhile, over 1,800 Academies are putting schools back in charge of their budgets and teachers back in charge of rigorous standards in the classroom. Radical reform in education. Slashing red-tape and corporation tax to make Britain the best place to do business. Reinvigorated Right To Buy and the return of 5% deposits for new home buyers. None of this would have been possible without a credible plan to tackle our deficit.
So whilst we battle the strong headwinds from the Euro crisis, we’re putting the pieces in place to re-light our nation’s entrepreneurial fire.
There are three distinct stages to radical reform. We have completed step two. As we embark on a new round of ideas in this week’s Queen’s Speech, we know that the key to success is ensuring that we implement everything from the last. This can be slow and frustrating work, but I’ve not met anyone more determined to see it through than David Cameron. Someone who appreciates that we will be judged on our record after a full-term in office.