Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.
With sincere apologies to the Editor of ConservativeHome, if there was ever a nickname for this wonderful website, it might be ‘Conservative Groan’ or ‘Conservative Moan’.
“The Government should do this, the Government should do that”. “The Government have got this policy wrong.” “No – they’ve got that policy wrong”. “The leadership is Un-conservative”. “No – now it’s too Conservative”.
You get the point. As a regular columnist on this site arguing the case for x, y and z, I should know!
But in February I wrote a column urging the Tory Westminster village to remember our hard-working councillors and activists who are working day and night to keep our councils Conservative.
The loss of Tory councillors does not just mean poor local government, but also a real hit to our activist base in constituencies. When a councillor loses their seat, we often lose their family and friends too. Fewer activists equals less leafleting and campaigning which hits all MPs come election time.
Sadly, in the past few weeks, whilst our activists have been hard at work waging the ground war, canvassing street by street, the war for the airwaves can be best described as too cloudy to wage. Some Conservatives have been taking aim at each other, or lobbing grenades into the political mix.
In order to counter, this as we go to the polls tomorrow it is worth a reminder not just the known fact that Tory Councils cost the public less with lower council tax, but of some of the good things the Government have done, particularly in spreading opportunity.
The Lifetime Skills Guarantee giving adults a new chance to get valuable qualifications. The 1.9 million children in good or outstanding schools. The fuel duty cut on top of the eleven year fuel duty freeze. The increased Living Wage, £150 Council Tax rebate and lower tax thresholds. The £2.6 billion Levelling Up funds, rebuilding our towns and infrastructure.
Then there’s Britain’s role and leadership in the Ukraine war. Our world-leading Covid vaccination programme. A ban to end ground rent charges on leases in England and Wales, and a manifesto commitment to build 300,000 new homes a year.
If I had more column space, I could go on and on as there would be plenty more to add. When things are getting gloomy, as they do for any Government, it is worth reminding ourselves of these achievements.
I suspect tomorrow there might be some Conservatives who may be tempted to sit on their hands as a form of protest given the events of the past few months. Reassuringly, on the doorsteps, we are not seeing a great movement or swing back to Labour, but it is this abstention protest which may cause us difficulties.
So the test tomorrow will be how good all of us are in getting out the Conservative Vote.
In the meantime, I wish all good fortune to every Council Candidate running tomorrow. You deserve to win.
A Windfall Tax
Rishi Sunak is right to float the idea of a windfall tax on the oil companies.
That well known left-winger, Margaret Thatcher, imposed a windfall tax on the oil and bank industry during the 1980s during the difficult economic situation and the recession. She did it because these companies were making wads of cash and because there was a need to deal with the national debt and the deficit.
Currently, with the oil companies raking it in, making many billions of pounds of profits during the cost of living crisis, there is a similar case for a windfall tax to be made. The oil bosses are not doing too badly either (the current Shell CEO got a £4.5 million bonus on top of a £76 million ever increasing annual salary).
The oil companies have also been ripping us off at the petrol pumps, taking ages to reduce prices when the international oil price falls, yet jacking them up straight away when global oil costs rises.
I don’t accept that a windfall tax would mean the loss of thousands of jobs and less investment. They said this in the past and it did not happen.
A few billion pounds raised from a windfall tax, could be used to fund a tax cut for the lower paid. This is Conservative redistribution – fairer capitalism to give those on lower incomes, more of their monies back.
PS. Great news that Boris has ditched plans to ban buy one get free (BOGOF) at supermarkets. Hopefully this will mean an end to hectoring food policies that favour the rich over the less well off.