Sam Gyimah is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prisons, Probation, Rehabilitation and Sentencing and MP for East Surrey.
Comparing the Conservative Party to British heavyweight boxing world champion, Anthony Joshua, might seem, to some, surprising – he is the plucky, fresh-faced boxer at the top of his game. What could we possibly learn from this young man from Watford? Everything.
After seven years in government, we need to positon ourselves as Joshua would when defending his title – primed, fresh and ready to go on the attack. That is my counter-intuitive budget submission: to focus our attacks on the Corbyn-McDonnell Labour Party, and its dangerous ideas for our country.
The current polls flatter to deceive. Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum have been out there, in cities and towns across the country, twisting the history of the last seven years. We Conservatives rescued the country, rescued our economy in one of its bleakest hours. And yet, the narrative that we are in it for our rich mates runs deep in many parts of our society. Labour are leading the political conversation and we need to wrench it back, so it’s time to call out Corbyn and deal with his central charge that we are in it for the few and not the many.
I was struck when a second-year university student said to me: “you’ve been talking about the deficit for seven years now, it’s an ideological thing for your party”. While another young man, from a sixth form in south London said: “deficit reduction has failed, it has not delivered anything for me, and I’m suffering from the cuts”. That means explaining deficit reduction afresh. We must not use the word austerity, which is a political term of the Left.
Many people don’t understand that deficit reduction is a necessity and not a religion. We need to make it clear that we are not ideologically wed to the idea, but that it is something we have to do in the interest of our country’s future. We have a moral imperative to do so because there is no worse inheritance for our children and grandchildren than mountains of debt, which they will have to pay for, while trying to get on with their lives.
From Paradise Papers to taxes, Labour say we are in it for our rich friends. The reality is the top-rate of tax under the last Labour government was 40 per cent and Gordon Brown only proposed a 50 per cent tax-hike as a political trap for the Conservatives in the last few months of the 2010 election.
Even now, when we reduced it from 50 to 45 per cent, it was still higher than at any point during the last 13 years when Labour was in power. And, even now, the top one per cent are paying 28 per cent of all taxes.
This is in contrast to Labour where private equity investors paid less tax than their cleaners because they could re-classify their earnings and avoid income tax. But, for Corbynistas, the fact we are doing better than the last Labour government doesn’t matter to them. They are offering a completely new, yet archaic, economic model and it is time to call them out on this.
Labour have become adept at camouflaging their true beliefs, using a smoke-screen to make their plans appear moderate. Beneath this glossy veneer, you’ll find a more sinister ideology inspired by Karl Marx where spending an unlimited amount of money appears to be their only policy.
“We are the new mainstream”, Jeremy Corbyn bellowed at the Labour Party Conference. There is nothing mainstream about spending billions of pounds you do not have. There is nothing mainstream about a fantasy utopian future that will lead to disillusion. There is nothing mainstream about governing society with the belief that the state can do better than individuals, families and communities.
We’ve had 45 years of history where these Marxist plans have been discredited. We’ve long used Venezuela as an example of what Labour’s economic policies would do to our country, but we can look much closer to home with the recent anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
East Germans were willing to tear it down with their bare hands to escape the centrally-planned, state-controlled and sluggish economy created by the oppressive Communist regime. Wages were twice as high in West Germany as were the number of jobs and East Germans were crying out to have the same opportunities.
Corbyn’s model is not those used in Sweden and Denmark, as he has claimed, but discredited Marxism. I remember hearing of a Hungarian man who had been to Karl Marx University in Budapest, now being re-named ‘Technical College’, that was approached by a socialist campaigner in London who wanted to explain to him the benefits of socialism. He simply replied, “I’ve lived under it…there are no benefits”.
This is something we know as Conservatives, and we’ve already received the warning signs with McDonnell talking about capital controls and a run on the pound. If we’re not out there on the attack then these ideas will gain currency and legitimacy in the minds of the public and we will have ourselves to blame.
But criticising is not enough: we need to set out our approach. We need to speak clearly with one voice for what we are for and shout about our record for the last seven years because no-one else will.
We cannot be the tired heavyweight in the twilight of their career landing a few punches. We need the energy and urgency of the underdog to go on the attack, block Labour’s counters and go for the knock-out blow because, ultimately, the future of our country is at stake.