Nick King was a special adviser from 2012-2017. He is now a freelance consultant and the Head of Business for the CPS.
On this site two weeks ago, Robert Colvile, the director of the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), wrote of the urgent need for a more positive and appealing Conservative message, alongside a compelling set of policies explicitly focused on making people’s lives better. In that piece he talked about some of those he had recruited to the CPS in recent weeks to lead efforts in that regard – in key policy areas such as taxation, welfare and housing. I feel privileged to be the latest name to be added to the team sheet, leading the CPS’ work on business and enterprise.
It’s a crucial area of policy that I am excited by, and a topic with which I have unfinished business, if you’ll excuse the pun. I joined the Department for Business in May 2015 – one of the three Departments in which I worked as a special adviser to Sajid Javid – but had to leave in the wake of the referendum some 14 months later. I know from my time in government that, even working with a radical and intelligent minister like Sajid, it can be hard pushing the Government machine to think big, and to ensure that smaller businesses and entreprenuers get the focus they deserve. Consequently, organisations like the CPS, and people like the extremely talented backbench MPs with whom we’re working on the New Generation programme, can help ministers by both setting the weather and supporting Government by formulating exciting new policies
The CPS’s position is unapologetically pro-capitalist and free-marketeer; these principles have led to unprecedented economic growth and prosperity in the recent past and are our best bet for the future. Both the CPS and the Conservative Party have proud records of standing up for enterprise, and advocating policies which have started and sustained businesses, created jobs, and improved millions of lives as a result.
But with the rise in popularity of a Labour leader who considers socialism and nationalisation to be his watchwords, it now falls upon us to make the case for enterprise, free trade and capitalism anew. And to support us in that endeavour we must craft original, eye-catching policies which will support businesses, and provide the jobs, opportunities and rising incomes that people crave.
This need is all the more starkly felt in the midst of the Brexit negotiations and with the inevitable uncertainty that currently affects some British business. But Brexit also gives us an opportunity to think again about how we do things, and to reaffirm Britain’s position as a leading economy – innovative, creative and entrepreneurial, with high skills and low taxes, and trading with the world.
These notions will be the ones we abide by and argue for at the CPS. We will focus on how we can best support those who have started, or want to start, a new business, believing that this country’s economic success is built on the back of our entrepreneurs. We will make recommendations to tackle the iniquities and inefficiencies which currently exist in business taxation. We will craft policies to get new companies exporting and current exporters exporting more. We will look again at regulation to ensure it’s proportionate and relevant. We will develop ideas to encourage, and commercialise, research and innovation.
And, whilst doing all this, we will continue to defend capitalism as the single best economic system that exists – and the one which will help the very poorest in society – whilst identifying the means by which we can take on monopolies, vested interests and crony capitalism.
It is by showing that capitalism is inherently fair and works in all our interests that we can advance the front in the battle of ideas. This is important in political terms but it is even more important in policy terms – because as a country we cannot afford, economically or socially, to go back to the 1970s.
But if we’re going to win that argument we must also this also ensure we have policies which aim at those parts of the country that feel, with some vindication, left behind. There are too many places in the UK where the local economy is stagnant and where poverty of opportunity is all too prevalent. These regional disparities need to be taken on through tax and other economic incentives, through a wider commitment to devolution, through targeted infrastructure investment and through intelligent use of other government resources, such as the Shared Prosperity Fund.
Taken together these policy ambitions reflect a bold programme of action for both the CPS and for the Government. If we get the right answers and the right ideas, we can take the fight to Corbyn’s radical left-wing agenda, win over a new generation of voters, and secure Britain’s social and economic future. If we fail, the price we will pay doesn’t bear thinking about.