Monday, 26 October 2015

We need to talk about tax credits

Today the House of Lords’ will debate the Government’s reforms to tax credits, and there is a chance the Lords’ will try to block these. Not only would that be wrong constitutionally, it would also be wrong in principle. Tax credits need reforming. Changes need to be made so that hardworking people can have confidence that every penny of their pay cheque is theirs.

The tax credit system is broken. I first became aware of tax credits as a child watching my Mum, a single parent, fret over an overpayment letter from the tax man. A lot has been written about how government’s changes to tax credits could affect people. Very little has been written about how doing nothing could affect them though. Anyone who has had the experience of being told they got too much tax credits last year, and so they need to pay money back, knows tax credits are not perfect. Nobody on tax credits can ever be completely confident that their pay cheque is accurate. There is always the chance that money you have been given, money you might already have spent, will be demanded back from you.

My experiences have made me believe that instead of taxing people, and giving them a little of their money back as tax credits, the best thing to do would be to tax less in the first place. This would free the British people of a system so open to the possibility of error. Your pay would be your pay, and there would be no more letters through the door saying your tax credits were miscalculated. People could feel secure about what they actually had to spend, and budget secure that no money would be later clawed back from them.

This forms part of the Government’s long-term economic plan. We are moving from high taxes and high welfare, to low taxes and low welfare. The Government is not only making changes to tax credits. It has also cut income tax every year for the past five years. 27 million people have already had their income taxes come down, and even better the income tax reductions will continue. In a few years time none of us will be paying any tax on the first £12,500 we earn.[1] Under the Government’s new system, not only we will have greater security about our pay, the tax man will be taking less of it in the first place.

The fear people feel about the changes we are making is understandable. Some elements or right wing twitter reacted unfortunately after it emerged that Michelle Dorrell, who raised the issue of tax credits on Question Time recently, may not actually be affected by the changes[2]. However, I think people need to understand the fear of those who base their family budgets on tax credits: The change represents a new situation that you have not experienced, so you do not know if you can manage. You are too busy trying to put food on the table, get the kids to school and get to work on time, to grapple with numbers being thrown by so-and-so think tank against such and such analyst. Until the new situation is in place the prospect of change will be unnerving, because you know more or less how the current system works but not how the new one will. As centre-right people active on social media our job is to explain not to attack.

The British people are exchanging a lifetime of uncertainty for one spring’s. Having lived in a single parent family that used tax credits to get by, I recognise how the prospect of changes to them will feel. The whole thing is not made any easier by negative claims about how the changes might affect people, which ignore how Conservatives’ reducing income tax, creating a National Living Wage and offering 30 hours free child will all help. Still, what you need to keep in mind is that once this is done it is done. You won’t have some good years in which the tax man doesn’t try to claw back money from you, and some bad years in which unexpectedly he does. You won’t need to worry about the ‘what if’ of it happening. That will all be gone. Instead, you will know from your pay slip exactly how much money you have to plan for the future. Plus, you will be able to make those plans knowing that under the Conservatives’ income tax will continue to come down every year.

[1] David Cameron, Speech to Conservative Party Conference, 1 October 2014, link
[2] Telegraph, 16 October 2015, link

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Letter to students

Its been too long since I blogged. I apologise for that. I am grateful to those of you who have done me the honour of visiting this blog. In future I will try to make sure it does not go through months of inactivity. I have yet to decide what topic I wish to tackle next. While I work that out I hope the following letter, which a teacher friend of mine asked me to write to her students, will suffice. It is not strictly political. It should, in some small way, add a little depth to where I get my politics though:


Your teacher has asked me to tell you my story, as she believes it will encourage you to write your own stories in the future.

My early life, I assume, was quite similar to many of yours. I grew up a third generation Jamaican immigrant in South London, under the care of a single Mother, with plenty of help from my Grandma. As a child I just tried to work hard and make my family proud. Comparing our childhoods I doubt you will find much different.

I was lucky enough to graduate from Oxford University. Before I went to university nobody in my family had done so, so I decided I would. I wanted my Mum and Gran to feel it was worth struggling to raise me. Studying Theology at Keble College, Oxford, gave me a chance to give a little back to them.

Life at Oxford was amazing, I highly recommend it. It was very different to what I was used to, which excited and intimidated me. I was keen not to mess up, so keen that I withdrew a bit and did not use the university as I should have. For all that, I regret nothing from my time there. I enjoyed it and I can use my missteps to guide you.

In families with a tradition of university going people get guided through the system. For those of us not from these families there is a lot to figure out. I am happy with where I have ended up. The journey there could have been simpler though. I fell into Oxford. At 14 I did not think about what I wanted to study at 18, and choose my GCSEs and A levels to get there. At Oxford I did not plan ahead, and use its networks to make my career happen. I should have. Learn from what I did not do, make getting to where you want to go easier.

After university I struggled to find a job I loved until Mark Harper MP employed me in his Parliamentary office. I am a natural Conservative. Thanks to my heritage, I value freedom more than anything. How can I not given my ancestors were slaves? Further, growing up as I did, I saw repeatedly that sometimes there is no good option, just bad, worse and even worse. This taught me that it is often necessary to make difficult decisions to get on in life. I came to see government could not solve all my problems. I learned that you cannot achieve financial security by more spending, more borrowing and more taxes. Still, it was not until a year after I left Oxford that working in politics occurred to me.

When I decided to try and get into politics I had no idea where to start. Luckily, after a hopeful application, I got interviewed by Nick Boles (now an MP too) for a role at Conservative Central Office. Nick explained to me how important it would be to intern, and get some practical experience on my CV. His advice set me on the way to where I am now.

Never underestimate how much people want to help you. When I went to work for Mark Harper I was, frankly, not ready. When I began the jobs I have had since, at the Confederation of British Industry, Conservative Central Office, and at Brevia Consulting, I was also not ready. I have learned that things that seem totally normal to me, coming from where we come from, may seem totally other to those who do not (though everything you picked up as a kid about not snitching is very useful in politics!) I have had to learn to think much harder before I act, and I would be lying if I said I am always successful doing so. Yet, again, I regret nothing.

I have met truly brilliant people in politics and public affairs willing to help me learn. Listing all their names would take too long. Plus, some may find it harder to their jobs if I mentioned their names! Yet they will always have my affection, as they have given me some of the best years of my life. In part thanks to them I am here writing this to you: Helping you to understand how to get the right experience on your CV, before you leave university, to get the job you want. Helping you to understand how different expectations can be in different environments, so you can be ready for that. Helping you to have the skills you need to build a brighter more secure future for yourself.

I hope I have managed to pass on this help to you. I hope someday you can help other people coming from where we come from in the same way. Nobody should feel that a professional career, or any kind of career, is off limits to them. Where you start out from is irrelevant. Where you end up is all that matters. Whatever you want from life is achievable.

I wish you all the best.

Myles Alexander Bailey

Sunday, 28 June 2015

In our past is the surest defence for our future

‘People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors’ (Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790, link).

The tragic events of the past few days, in Europe, North Africa and the Near East, remind us that our civilisation is under siege. The extremists who hate our way of life will not stop attacking us. What motivates them is hatred, not of what we do but of what we are. To our extremist enemies the West, with its emphasis on freedom of speech, belief, expression and enterprise, is a threat. The liberties enjoyed in London give hope to those who are repressed in Raqqa. As long as we live, those slaving under the dominion of Daesh will hope for freedom. Accordingly, Daesh and its sympathisers will do everything they can to undermine our society. In the face of this pressure Britain, and the rest of the West, must not back down. Instead, we must take the fight to Daesh, intellectually as well as militarily. Our society must regain its self-confidence, and its ability to assert its values, in the face of such an uncompromising enemy. Conservatism, by reviving the memory of the best principles upon which British society was built long ago, can provide the spark for that.

To stand up to extremism the West must reject relativism, and remember our society is built upon a belief in truth. Too often we appear afraid to assert that our civilisation is better the extremist alternative. I believe that is because somewhere along the line we allowed our liberalism to be corrupted into relativism. We allowed the unalienable right of freedom to believe to mutate, and something very noble became the ignoble view that all beliefs should be seen as being equally true. Many who feel instinctively that extremism is wrong find themselves unable to condemn it as a result. They are tied in knots by the mistaken idea that what might be wrong to us, may not be objectively wrong to someone else. Yet, that idea itself undermines our liberty. If liberty is not objectively good, true and beautiful, then how can we actually defend it? If our freedoms are not ours by right, on what basis are we fighting those who wish to strip them from us?

Western society was built upon the truth that all men are created equal. This truth is the root from which all other aspects of our liberal democracy have grown. The minds responsible for our society observed that when we come into this world we are the same. Or to paraphrase the Bible, we all come into the world naked, leave it the same way and we can’t take anything with us when we die.[1] From this those thinkers came to see that, as we are all equal, nobody has a fundamental right to rule over others or infringe on another’s freedom. People should be free to think, do, or say what they want, provided that thinking does not compromise someone else’s freedom. To the giants of the Western intellectual tradition it would have been a self-evident truth that extremists are free to hold their views. Not because all opinions should be viewed as equally true, but because our right to freedom of expression gives us the right to be freely wrong:

‘If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind…the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error’ (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859, pp 30-31, link). 

Belief in the truth of the basic equality of all is the basis for our society, it is the basis for being able to say our civilisation is better than the extremist alternative, and it also has the merit that it can stand on religious grounds too. Extremists see our society as divided and decadent. They believe that our lack of uniformity shows us to be disunited and ripe for attack. Again they are wrong. Our freedoms arise from the fact that, as a society, we believe that all people come into the world equal. In Western society people of all faiths and none can co-exist because, regardless of what side of the divide you sit on, there is widely held unspoken agreement on ideals best expressed by America’s founding fathers:

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed’ (U.S. Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776, link).

What Daesh sees as decadence and disorder, as a belief in nothing, we should never forget are expressions as a belief in something very beautiful: A belief shared by all, whether they believe men are made equal by God or by blind chance, that we are all equal. That belief we Westerners hold, just as proudly and resolutely as the extremists hold theirs. It is the foundation of our opposition to slavery, to our insistence on people being able to live as they like, to think and act as they like, to worship and pray as they like… Extremists sneer that we cannot defeat them because they love death more than we love life. Our response should be that as we love life so much, and we share a common conception of its beauty, and the equal value of all life, none of us will be easily parted from it.

May all those who have been victims of Islamist terror rest in peace...

[1] Cf. Ecclesiaties 5:15, link

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The Road to 2020

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Conservatives are already thinking about how to win the 2020 Election. According to Matthew D’Ancona, the Conservatives want to use their majority to prove to working people that they are on their side. Generally speaking, I agree with D’Ancona. David Cameron’s 2015 General Election victory gives Conservatives the opportunity to show the British people we want them to have the chance for a better life. However, to some extent, I think D’Ancona overcomplicates what the Conservatives need to do to achieve that.

First, the Conservatives must remember the desire for security is what motivates people to vote. Generally speaking, what the British people desire from government is security. Britons are not, by and large, a nation of politicos. Between elections we do not enjoy, or wish, to spend much time thinking of what’s going on in the Westminster village. Most of us are too busy thinking about how to support our families, get to work, pay for the kids’ school uniforms and lunches, and pay our taxes and bills, to worry about who performed better at Prime Minister’s Questions. We want to feel confident that if we get sick the NHS will be there for us. We want to feel secure about the quality of the schools we can send our children to. Above all we want to feel that the economy is being managed well, so our jobs are not under threat and we can have the security offered by a regular pay packet.

Second, Conservatives must reassure the British people that they were right to believe that difficult decisions are needed to guarantee a secure future, and that they were right to put their trust in the Conservatives to make those difficult decisions. A great deal of politics is decided by reinforcing the positive perceptions people have about you, and the negative perceptions they have of your opponents. Because Britons are not overly interested in politics, we tend to stick to our long-held views about political parties. The key to winning is helping people focus on your strengths and your opponent’s weaknesses. In his article D’Ancona noted one or two particular policies that he feels may hamstring the Conservatives. My contention is if these were as fatal as some think David Cameron would not be our Prime Minister. The British people elected the Conservatives because they trust us to take the difficult decisions to secure Britain’s future. In life, as in politics, often the only choice we have is between something bad and something worse. Growing up as the child of a single mother in South London I saw that on a daily basis. Hardworking people, who struggle to get by on average wages, get this. They live it. The real battle is not about policies themselves but, as D’Ancona himself highlights, why people think you are doing what you do: your motives. Labour will try to reinforce the negative impressions of why Conservatives do what we do. In the face of this attack, Conservatives must explain the reasons for our actions. We must never forget to say why the difficult decisions we are taking are necessary, or to remind people that by taking them we are securing the chance of a better future for them, their families and our country.

The Conservatives won the 2015 General Election because working people felt more security with us than with the alternative. To win in 2020 the Conservatives need to remind the British people they were right to feel this way. Sensible, stable government that shows empathy even when taking difficult decisions, and delivers lower taxes and more jobs is the surest road to 2020. 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

One month on

A month ago yesterday David Cameron walked back into Downing Street as the leader of a Conservative majority government. On that day the British people placed our trust in the Conservative party to secure a better future for all of us, and to bring Britain together again as one nation. Already the next stages of the Conservatives’ long-term plan to do this are taking shape.

Those of us who work in and around the Westminster village can become too fixated on things that, while interesting, mean the bigger picture gets missed. At the moment the ‘big story’ in Westminster is about ‘splits’ in the Conservative party on the issue of ‘Europe’. Yet, while the press try to find MPs to dispute detailed procedural points, the Conservatives have quietly got on with delivering their manifesto commitments to help people have a better life.

In the first Queen’s Speech announcing their plans for Government, the Conservatives reaffirmed their commitment not raise income tax, national insurance or VAT. Instead, David Cameron will deliver his commitment to cutting income tax on lower and middle earners. The result of this will be that someone working 30 hours on the minimum wage will pay no income tax at all, and more people will have the financial security to plan for the future they want for themselves and their families.

The Cameron Government is also helping more people achieve the dream of owning their own home. Its Help to Buy scheme is helping hard working people on their deposits, and its Right to Buy extension is giving more people extra control over their lives and a chance to have more of a stake in our society.

Additionally, the Government is continuing to take the difficult decisions to keep our economy. Thanks to the confidence created by George Osborne dealing with our deficit, Britain has created 2 million jobs since David Cameron became Prime Minister. Giving businesses the confidence to keep investing in Britain is essential to helping more people enjoy the security of a regular pay packet.

When he won the 2015 General Election, David Cameron said he had been given a ‘sacred trust’ by the British people. We, as one nation, had placed in his hands our hopes for a good life for ourselves, our families and our county. The vagaries of the 24 hour news cycle means sometimes the Westminster village may forget that. However, the British people can be confident that the Prime Minister and his team never will.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Answer extremism with pluralism not secularism

I did not intend for my first blog following the 2015 General Election to be on tackling extremism. However, my slowness in putting together my reflections on the result mean that I have been overtaken by events. In this instance the comments of Metropolitan Police Commander Mak Chishty.

In widely reported remarks Mr Chishty noted several ways in which he felt British children were being radicalised. On some things I felt some sympathy with him. However, one thing stood out to me as a little odd: Mr Chishty using the example of Muslim children calling Christmas as ‘haram’ as evidence of radicalisation. [1]

We must make a distinction between religiousness and radicalisation. The religion of Islam does not accept Jesus Christ is God made man. Christmas, essentially, is a celebration of precisely that belief. I recognise that in Western civilisation, which is culturally Christian rather than actually Christian, Christmas means something very different to many. However, given the origins of Christmas, it should be unremarkable that a practicing Muslim may teach their children that Christmas is ‘haram’. Indeed, it should be no more remarkable than the fact that, as a Christian, I do not accept or celebrate the things Muslims believe about Mohammed.

A free society, in which people can think and believe as they wish, gives rise to pluralism. Being able to argue openly about what we think, and then agree to tolerate someone else’s beliefs and opinions despite our own convictions, is one of the things that makes Britain great. As Britons we have the right to decide for ourselves what to think and how to act. Given my descent from slaves, I treasure this freedom as much as I treasure anything. My desire to protect this freedom, and secure it for future generations, is at the heart of my personal Conservatism.

There is a difference between a basic religious article of faith, and a more sinister interpretation of religion that wants to kill people who don’t share the same beliefs. Maybe contemporary society’s stress on not offending makes it hard for some to understand this? All religions, to varying degrees, are exclusive. As a result religions can at times appear divisive. Some people may find the belief that Christmas is ‘haram’ offensive, because they feel looked down upon for celebrating it. However, how we feel about something is not the key to determining whether someone has the right to do it. I believe socialism is wrong, I believe many of the things socialists think about Conservatives are offensive, yet it is not my right to stop socialists from believing or expressing those things. Freedom to offend goes hand in hand with freedom of expression, and both are necessary to have a free society.

To the question of where freedom ends, I answer with the words of Margaret Thatcher: ‘My freedom must be regulated by your freedom. My freedom to hit out stops at your chin’[2]. There are those who say by allowing children to be taught that Christmas is ‘haram’ or that ‘extra ecclesiam nulla salus’ we are incubating extremism. To them I simply point to the millions of British people who believe these things and have no desire to harm or kill anyone. Rather than worry about ordinary religious believers, what should trouble us are the extremist recruiters handing out ISIL leaflets on Oxford Street. Not to mention, the extremist patrols harassing people in certain parts of our cities for buying alcohol, dressing in a way they disapprove of or even dog-walking. The Metropolitan Police would do better to explain what they are doing to clamp down on those who feel their freedom extends beyond our chins. The more they try to police thoughts, the more uncomfortable they will make a good section of the British people, and the easier it will be for ISIL to sell their adversarial and hate filled message in our country.

[1] Press Association, 25 May 2015, link
[2] Margaret Thatcher, Catholic Herald, 5 December 1978, link

Monday, 27 April 2015

10 days to secure Britain’s future

The 2015 General Election is just 10 days away. Most people will have noticed this, just from the increased news coverage of politics, but I don’t get a sense that a lot of what the politicians are saying is getting through. Promises, claims and counter claims have created a kind of constant background noise that makes it hard to pick up anything specific. For many people there is a fog clouding the choice at this election and how important it is.

Putting it simply in 10 days time we must choose either to stick with the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan, which is starting to turn our country around, or to go back to square one and risk our future on an unstable alliance between Labour and the SNP.

Through all the noise, through all the arguments, at its heart that is what the upcoming election is about: Do we stick with the plan? Or do we risk that Labour, without a majority, can somehow keep Britain’s economy recovery going while relying on the SNP – a party with no interest in 75 per cent of the U.K. yet says they will be writing Britain’s budgets under Labour?

After the deepest recession in Britain’s peacetime history, the last five years were always going to be difficult. Nobody could pretend otherwise, nor do the Conservatives seek to. David Cameron has been open about the fact that, due to the size of the deficit his government inherited, difficult decisions had to be made: Government borrowing and spending is paid for by taxes, the only way to reduce that burden on hardworking people is to get government borrowing down. That has led to the need to cut government spending, but given the need to help working people have enough money to get by, there was no alternative.

In the next five years things should start to get better, but crucially there is still more to do. Yes, the deficit has been halved since David Cameron became Prime Minister. Yes, also under David Cameron, 2 million jobs have been created so that a record 31.05 million people have jobs (22.69 million of which are full time), and nearly 30 million people have had an income tax cut. However, there is still more to do, and any departure from the plan could see everything fall apart.

In the last five years, all the difficult decisions David Cameron’s government took to get us to this point were opposed by Ed Miliband and Labour. Without a majority, having to barter on a vote by vote basis with the SNP, will Labour be any more capable of taking action to secure Britain’s future?

In the last five years, David Cameron has shown he can make the difficult decisions to get us to where we need to go. It has not been easy but gradually Britain is being turned around. The choice in front of us all is do we change direction now, after everything we have achieved, when the alternative looks such a risky and insecure gamble?

It won’t happen overnight but given time the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan will deliver a better, brighter, more secure future for all of us. That is not something anyone can confidently say of a chaotic and confused arrangement between a minority Labour government and the SNP (and potentially other minor parties too). That’s why on 7 May 2015 there is only one choice anyone can really feel confident about making: the choice to keep David Cameron as our prime minister by voting Conservative. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

The choice ahead of us

Britain’s most important election for a generation is now just over a month away, yet in the past week instead of debating issues of substance a lot of the comment has been about style. On the back of a TV appearance in which Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, claimed to be ‘tough’, the key issue this election will decide seems to have been forgotten.

When we vote on 7 May 2015 we will be deciding who we trust to with our livelihoods, with our security, with our futures. Our economy is still healing, and we will be making a choice about who will be able to make the difficult decisions to keep it on the road to recovery.

When we vote on 7 May 2015 we will be choosing who we think can do what’s needed to keep businesses in Britain investing and creating jobs, so that more people can have the security of a steady wage. We will be making a judgement about who has a plan to get the deficit under control, so that the government needs to take less of our money in taxes to cover Britain’s borrowing.

Anyone can claim to be tough but when David Cameron was making difficult decisions on spending to fix Britain’s finances, Ed Miliband was opposing them. Even now, Labour remain unable to say what difficult decisions they are willing to take to reduce the country’s deficit. Today, Ed Miliband’s deputy campaign chief could only outline 1/75th of the required measures needed to deal with the deficit and keep borrowing down. [1]

Government borrowing has to be paid for in taxes, and many people are struggling to meet their obligations as it is. They David Cameron says he has a long term economic plan that can deliver for our country we can look at what he has done and see the proof: The deficit halved, 1.9 million jobs created, a record 30 million people in work (22 million in full time work), taxes cut for 27 million people.

With David Cameron it is not just words, it’s action that has stopped things getting worse and helped things to start getting better. It has not been easy, and it won’t be easy, but we are now on the road to a better future.

When we vote on 7 May 2015 the choice will not be about TV appearances, it will be about whether we risk all the progress we have made through five years of austerity simply to go back to square one. I am unwilling to chance it, I am sticking with the plan, I hope Britain will do the same.

[1] Spectator, 29 March 2015, link

Sunday, 15 February 2015

For hardworking people

The Conservative Party stands for all hardworking people. In the wake of a debate that’s been raging this week in Westminster about tax, several commentators seem to be questioning this. To a large extent I have let the debate itself go over my head. From what little I saw, it seems to be about tax avoidance (which, as opposed to the crime of tax evasion, is legal). Plus, I’ve now seen reports appearing to show those that those that started the debate have benefited from tax avoidance themselves. I have just had to pay my quarterly gas bill. To my eyes, this latest manufactured political game of pot kettle black is trivial by comparison. However, what I do not find trivial is the attempt to attack the motives of the party I support. Conservatives support business because it’s the best way to support hardworking people.

When so many are desperate for the security of a regular pay packet, Conservatives have a duty to support businesses to ensure they create and keep jobs in Britain. I am fortunate enough to be one of the record 30.8 million people in work in our country[1]. However, we all know how quickly the situation could change. If Britain’s businesses fall into difficulty, or foreign businesses stop investing in our country, our jobs and our ability to meet our obligations and get on in life would be at risk. The Government has a duty to do everything it can to stop that happening. Being pro-business is the only way to help hardworking people find and keep jobs. In the circumstances in which we find ourselves, building a good relationship with businesses is the right thing for the Government to do.

Conservatives are pro-business because we are pro-employment, people need jobs and only businesses can provide them. Almost two million new jobs have been created in our country since David Cameron became Prime Minister. That means there are almost two million more Britons secure in the knowledge that they can provide for themselves and their families. Government spending is paid for by our taxes, so government cannot employ everybody. If everyone worked for government there would be no new tax money coming in. Government would be trying to pay itself and that does not work.

Conservatives want businesses to be successful because a strong economy means strong public services. Without the money that businesses bring to the British economy, both by paying taxes and employing people who pay taxes, we could not afford the public services we treasure. There would be less money to invest in schools, in hospitals, in providing a secure retirement for Britain's elderly. In a globally competitive world, where billions of pounds can move across oceans by pressing a button on a keyboard, we cannot afford to be anti-business. We need the money of the global business community to come to Britain, not leave Britain, because we need that money to spend on building a secure and better future for our people.

The whole point of having a long term economic plan, and the reason why supporting businesses forms part of it, is because Conservatives understand people want a secure future and we want to deliver it. We know that people want to protect our public services and we share those values.  One of the key ways we can do those things is by supporting businesses, so that Britain has a strong economy that can pay for strong schools and hospitals. Conservatives back business so that we can back the hardworking British people.

[1] ONS, UK Labour Market January 2015, 21 January 2015, link

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Greece speaks

As I write this the news is coming in that Greece’s radical left party, Syriza, will be the dominant force in Greek politics after the elections there. It is currently unclear if Syriza will win enough seats to form a majority government. What is clear is that Syriza’s triumph will have implications across Europe including in the UK. Our economy is healing but still very delicate and the slightest shock could knock it off course. Syriza’s anti-cuts policy could be that shock.

I can understand the Greek people choosing to turn their backs on what they regard as Brussels imposed austerity. Without a Greek central bank to make it cheaper for Greeks to borrow, and cheaper for foreigners to buy Greek goods, Greece has suffered terrible since the credit crunch. According to the European Commission last year one in every four Greeks was unemployed.[1] Contrast this with the record number of people in work in the UK, and you can start to imagine the pain of the Greek people. Many Greeks feel they are being forced to make cuts for Brussels, while Brussels and the European Central Bank does nothing to help them. It is completely understandable that Syriza’s defiant message appeals to them.

There may be consequences for the UK from Greece’s decision. I respect and empathise with the sovereign will of the Greek people, and I wouldn’t dare tell them what they should do. However, David Cameron’s government has had to make difficult decisions to put the UK on the path to a secure future. The Prime Minister also acknowledges to reach that better, brighter future more difficult decisions will be needed. If, as a result of this Greek election, the European economy and financial system is plunged into chaos again those decisions will become even harder to make.

That is why it is important that we have a government that has shown it has a long-term economic plan. If our economy receives a shock we need to have politicians in place with a plan for dealing with that. Under David Cameron and George Osborne Britain is creating more jobs than any other major economy is, wages are starting to get ahead of prices, and our deficit has been halved. That is a record that shows that, if the Greek elections do set off a chain reaction across Europe, we have a team in government capable of dealing with it. It is yet another reason to trust the Conservatives to deliver the secure, brighter future we all want.

[1] Eurostat, Unemployment Statistics, November 2014, link