The party conference season is now in full swing and so far there have been strong feelings of déjà vu. Last week at the Liberal Democrat conference we heard the same recycled speech from Vince Cable that he has delivered in every year since 2010. Each year he seems to spend more time on the podium playing to the crowd by insulting Conservatives than talking about the business portfolio he is responsible for in Government. Since becoming Business Secretary, he has undergone a remarkable transformation from economic soothsayer to conference clown.
Nick Clegg also reeled off his usual lines claiming that the Lib Dems have brought fairness to the Government and boasting of how he has blocked the Human Rights Act from being scrapped. There is nothing fair about letting dangerous foreign criminals and terrorists continue to abuse human rights laws to remain in Britain or giving prisoners the right to vote.
This week we will no doubt hear Labour continue to oppose all cuts, make more unfunded spending commitments and be firmly in the pockets of their trade union paymasters. Ed Miliband will carry on displaying the weak leadership that is now synonymous with him and Labour will demonstrate why they cannot be trusted to govern the UK again.
With all of the predictability and shallowness associated with the Labour and Lib Dem conferences, we must use our own conference next week to show the public that the Conservatives have a clear set of values and principles. We must demonstrate a clear narrative that connects with the British people and gives them the confidence to elect a majority Conservative Government in 2015.
At our conference we will be paying our respects to Lady Thatcher and what better way to honour her legacy than to show the British people that we still believe in the steely principles she advocated and which led us to unprecedented electoral success. With Labour and the Lib Dems
being fundamentally weakened by their own combinations of weak leadership, lack of vision and dogmatic left wing policies, we have an opportunity capture the imagination of the public, as Lady Thatcher did throughout the 1980s.
What we need to hear in the days ahead are policies based on our principles that will be game-changers at the next general election, draw a clear distinction between us and the other parties and place us firmly on the side of the British public. There are six policy areas in particular where Conservatives can focus on to secure support.
- The EU referendum.
- Lower taxes.
- Law, order and immigration.
- Home ownership.
- Public service reform.
- Welfare reform.
Firstly, the Party needs to reaffirm its commitment to renegotiating the terms of our membership of the EU and then give the British people a referendum. For the last decade, since the development of the European Constitution and then Lisbon Treaty, Labour and the Lib Dems
conspired to deny the British people the referendum they were promised.
Neither party has come out to match our commitment to a referendum by the end of 2017, so it will fall to a majority Conservative Government to deliver on this. We must not hold back from reminding the public of this fact.
Secondly, we must advance our historic mission to free people and businesses from the state by letting them keep more of what
they earn. Reforms to income tax and national insurance should also be at the forefront of our thoughts along with cuts to businesses rates, to stimulate economic growth on our high streets and in town centres. While Labour and the Lib Dems seek to find new ways to pillage the pockets of the British public, we should be proud that the Conservative Party gets behind British business and will pursue economic success based on a system of low taxes.
Thirdly, we must strengthen our stance on law and order and immigration. Both Labour and the Lib Dems want to maintain the Human Rights Act and oppose our commitment to scrap and reform these discredited laws. The British people need to be reassured that we will change the law so that sagas like the removal of Abu Qatada will never take years to resolve again and to reduce the interference of the courts. The public want to see that their Government can control its borders and abolishing the Human Rights will help to do this. We should also stand firmly on the side of victims of crime and continue to build on the Lord Chancellor’s actions to toughen-up the prison regime.
Fourthly, Conservatives need to follow in the footsteps of the Thatcher Government and empower a new generation of people to own their own homes. The property owning democracy which was created back then, with millions of families being able to buy their council houses or get a
mortgage to buy a private property, has been undermined by the last Labour Government’s failure to ensure sufficient new homes were built. We must give more hope to today’s workforce that their aspiration to own property is realistic and achievable.
Fifthly, the Party must push ahead with plans to reform public services and cut the costs of Government. While Labour and the Lib Dems will always pander to vested interests from trade unions and pressure groups, we should be on the side of patients and parents. Whether it is through free schools or encouraging new providers to run some health services or
probation functions, we must remain committed to giving people choice.
Finally, the Party must go further on welfare reform as costs of welfare remain far too high and are unsustainable in the long term. Around £3 in every £10 spent by the Government goes on welfare spending and we can only get to grips with controlling and reducing public expenditure by cutting more from the welfare budget. The benefits cap already implemented has slowed the rate of welfare expenditure but hardworking taxpayers struggling to get by have every right to expect this amount to be lowered. While Conservative should always provide a safety net for those in need, we must show hardworking families that Britain is not a country that tolerates worklessness.
Through focusing on guaranteeing the EU referendum, delivering lower taxes, providing strong law, order and immigration policies, encouraging more home ownership, reforming public services and cutting welfare costs the Conservative Party can give Britain the principled leadership it needs and the public the confidence to give us a new mandate to govern in 2015.