Published:

By Peter Hoskin
Follow Peter on Twitter

Damian Green is giving a speech to Bright Blue,
this evening, entitled “What modern Conservatism will mean in 2015”. But there’s
already some ado about its passages on Europe, specifically those which attack
the “fantasy” idea of Britain restricting its involvement with the EU to free-trade
only. Some of the papers covered them this morning, and the Telegraph’s James
Kirkup has since written an excellent
post
analysing what they mean.  

In which case, I thought I’d devote this post to
the wider text of Mr Green’s speech, which spans far beyond Europe. He splits
his argument into “five propositions,” but a different five points stand out to
my eyes. Here they are:


1. Spread out, geographically and socially! It’s at the very start of Mr Green’s first proposition that he uses the
phrase “spread out” — and this is a major theme of the entire speech. He urges
the Tory party to move “beyond the comfort zone of the South East of England,”
as well as to be “influential beyond the comfortable middle class”. These might
sound like rather obvious points, but they bear repetition. Success on both
fronts still requires a great amount of change from the Tory Party, in
everything from how
it treats the unions
to its squeamishness about cutting, properly cutting,
middle-class benefits.

2. Spread out, policy-wise! And Mr Green also
advocates spreading out when it comes to policy. As he puts it himself, “we
need a balanced portfolio of policy interests to show that Conservatives are
not one-dimensional”. As James Kirkup suggests, much of his argument about
Europe can be seen in the context of that line.

3. Don't take all the credit, Lib Dems. One of the most striking lines in the speech is Mr Green’s claim that, “Taking low-paid workers out of tax by increasing personal
allowances is a very Tory idea, and if my Liberal Democrat colleagues support
it as well that’s a bonus.” This is the sort of battle over policy authorship
that I expect we’ll see more of as the election approaches. To be fair to the Lib
Dems, the tax threshold policy did feature from their manifesto — but Tories
point out that it was previously recommended in such documents as Maurice Saatchi
and Peter Warburton’s 2001 CPS pamphlet Poor
people! Stop paying tax!

4. Seriously, Lib Dems, you're not all that great. And Mr Green even has a dig at the Lib Dems elsewhere. Speaking about
overseas aid and cuts to unskilled immigration, he says “Only Tories, rather than Liberal Democrats, will recognise
that these policies are mutually reinforcing.” Given that the rest of the
speech doesn’t mention Labour once, these references to the Lib Dems are pretty
significant. Modernising speeches used to make much of the Coalition; now, in
this case at least, they’re slightly more cynical.

5. Strength in numbers. In the section of
the speech on Europe, Mr Green poses the question, “If you were a company in China or India wishing to set up a
base in Europe, would you be more or less likely to choose Britain if we had
withdrawn?” His implicit point, of course, is that those companies would prefer
a Britain that’s still in the EU — and, therefore, that we enjoy strength in
Europe’s numbers. And it’s a point that may aggravate Better-Off-Out-ers almost
as much as the “fantasy” remarks that have been reported in the papers. Many of
them would contend that China or India would prefer to do business with a
Britain that’s even further removed from the moribund currency union at Europe’s
heart.

Comments are closed.