Amanda Milling is the Member of Parliament for Cannock Chase and co-Chairman of the Conservative Party.
They say a week is a long time in politics, and in a year, well, a lot can happen. But when Boris Johnson spoke on the steps of Downing Street as Prime Minister for the first time exactly a year ago today, absolutely no-one could have predicted the course of events that would unfold.
Coronavirus has been an unprecedented crisis that has required an unprecedented response. Who would have thought a year ago that the Government, a Conservative government no less, would be directly paying the wages of over nine million workers?
We make no apology for that, and our response to Covid-19 – to save lives while protecting our economy and people’s livelihoods – has been one of the most comprehensive in the world.
And while the machinery of government has rightly been focused on getting our country through this pandemic, we have not lost sight of the promises we made to the people of this country. At the last election, many people who had never voted Conservative before put their faith in us for the first time. And even in the depths of this unprecedented crisis, honouring that faith has remained at the core of what we do.
We are a Government and a Party that is determined to make good on our commitments and repay the voters who lent us their votes, no matter the turbulence that might hit along the way. When reflecting on the year passed since Johnson became Prime Minister, we have kept to our commitments and made remarkable strides forwards.
We said we’d get Brexit done, honouring the biggest democratic vote in our nation’s history, and we did. We broke through the endless parliamentary deadlocks and on the 31st January 2020, we delivered on the mandate the people set us to leave the European Union.
And we also set out an ambitious and wide-ranging domestic agenda, to level-up our country and forge prosperity for every region and nation of the UK.
During the last election, we all had to endure the age-old Labour lie that the NHS would not be safe in our hands. It was as wrong seven months ago as it was when they trotted it out 38 years ago.
It is this Party and this Government that enshrined into law the biggest-ever cash boost for the NHS, investing an additional £33.9 billion in frontline services every year by 2023-24, the largest and longest funding settlement in the history of the Health Service. And when the NHS needed additional resource to cope with the coronavirus, we provided it.
And we are making good on our commitment to recruit more doctors and nurses too: there are now 12,000 more nurses and 6,000 more doctors in our NHS since a year earlier.
I also know many of you and my parliamentary colleagues were subject to local schools cuts campaign run by the National Education Union at the last election. Yet it is this government that is boosting funding in our primary and secondary schools by £14 billion over the next three years, so that every child can get a good education.
And just last month, the Prime Minister set out our ambitious ten-year plan to rebuild schools throughout England, with £1 billion for the first 50 projects.
Safety on our streets was another area where we pledged to take action, and we have. Recent rates of knife crime have been a major concern, particularly in London, where the Labour Mayor refuses to take responsibility. I am pleased that we have already recruited an additional 3000 police officers as part of our manifesto pledge to put an extra 20,000 officers on the streets.
We also know that transport and infrastructure is key to driving our future economic growth and success, but that particularly in our Northern cities and towns, good transport infrastructure has been too often lacking.
As someone who used to live in Leeds, I was delighted at Grant Shapps’ announcement yesterday of £589 million to kick-start upgrade work between York, Leeds, Huddersfield, and Manchester, to speed up trains and boost reliability by electrifying much of the line and doubling the number of tracks on congested stretches. This comes on top of the money we have already pledged to upgrade rail and roads across the country.
Finally, I know that for many the cost of living is a major concern. In April, this Government gave the National Living Wage its largest cash boost to £8.72 – giving nearly three million people a well-earned pay rise. This week we also gave millions of hard-working public-sector employees, such as our armed forces, doctors, police, and teachers, an above-inflation pay rise, on top of what we’ve already given to nurses in the NHS.
Over the last year, in the face of adversity, a remarkable amount has been achieved. Yet we cannot be complacent. We still have much to do to honour our commitments and level-up our country as we emerge from the greatest crisis of our times.
But the last year should give us confidence that we can, and will, achieve our mission.