Lord Wei is a Conservative member of the House of Lords. He is a co-founder of Teach First, a social entrepreneur, and a former government adviser.
Now that the election is upon us, its time to see what domestic policies need to be considered to give voters who might be opposed to Brexit (as well as those who aren’t) reasons to vote Conservative.
An obvious start has been to raise the minimum wage, which the Prime Minister should be lauded for doing. An even better step would be to encourage firms through our tax system to pay their suppliers faster, and fine those who don’t do so more relative to their size, since so many workers are now suppliers not employees anymore.
And amidst the various other incentives the parties will inevitably offer from increased public spending on health, policing, and housing, there are a number of other more nuanced policies which we need for the country to thrive, from a Bill of Rights to reform our constitution, a Royal Commission to look at how the Union should be configured in future (I personally favour creating an English Assembly), and a huge push on digital and physical infrastructure harnessing the latest technologies, such as self-driving lorries to free up our roads and get ideas, people, and goods moving faster by day and night around our isles.
All so far, so good. But even with all these proposals, there remains one underlying challenge which is creating a generational divide that we need to address, especially as Conservatives. Which is that it is getting harder for young people around the world, and not least in the UK, to be owners: whether of homes, of other physical assets, and indeed non-physical assets such as an education, shares, or even a future.
Our survival as a party and arguably that of our nation itself, depends on people having a stake in this country – ideally literally by owning land, a principle Thatcher well understood in her own attempts to create a property-owning democracy.
It has been argued that the young seem to be more interested in renting, or sharing assets, but this is overblown. Young people may share and rent more than many generations, but their desire to own still exists, and the costs of living and of assets is making this a distant prospect for all but the most wealthy.
This is particularly true in relation to home ownership, and not just for first time buyers. Much needs to be done through shared ownership and tax incentives to enable joint purchasing of homes between people and generations even when not related, to enable people to share ownership and gradually buy shares from each other over time without being overly penalised by stamp duty. One way might be to reduce or waive stamp duty for older home owners downsizing if they sell to families in full or gradually through means such as tenancies in common.
But the most direct way to influence many millions of people through ownership, and to create many more owners inclined to align with Conservative values, is actually to back ownership of business, for example through making it advantageous for founders and owners to sell their businesses to their employees.
The most famous example is John Lewis, of course, but there are many other ones including, most recently, Richer Sounds. The key here is not tax, since incentives for those selling now are very attractive (very low or no capital gains tax): rather, it is to create the financing infrastructure for such buyouts.
Vehicles such as the British Investment Bank ought to be mandated to support such sales by founders with favourable patient capital rate terms. In fact, why not require all banks that receive Bank of England or government support to earmark a certain percentage of their business lending to such situations?
Far better this, more democratic and less oligarchic form of capitalism that spreads wealth than either the status quo or the mock counterfeit on offer from Corbyn who would patronise the average worker with a maximum £500 dividend each year and then hive off the rest for his unionocracy of a government – were he or his far left successors ever to win power.
Shared ownership of assets has to be the answer to the Left’s charge that we Conservatives do not care about the plight of the young and those left behind (many of whom are Leavers) by the massive changes that globalisation, the digital economy, and the financial crisis have wrought.
Let’s win this election, secure Brexit, build great public services, and leave the young and disenfranchised throughout the country with a true legacy, a future in which they can have hope again, and a stake in Britain.