Stewart Jackson: Tax cuts, more homes, immigration controls and NHS reform. What the Conservatives need to do to win next time.

Stewart Jackson is a former Conservative MP and special adviser, and is the founder and director of UK Political Insight.

As well as whether or not you think his job as Prime Minister is terminal or can still be saved, Boris Johnson’s decision over the weekend to bring both Guto Harri and Steve Barclay to Downing Street and to posts direction is sensible and absolutely necessary.

Harri is a Remainer and a free spirit, but also an accomplished communications professional who isn’t afraid to challenge the groupthink and complacency that has haunted Downing Street since at least Dominic Cummings’ departure.

Barclay is also a smart guy – hardworking, intelligent, highly regarded in the parliamentary party and as a former aide to a party chairman (Liam Fox in the 2005 election campaign), candidate for a marginal seat ( Lancaster and Wyre in 2001) and whip, he has an instinct for what motivates backbenchers and activists.

Ditto, David Canzini, who will join the team or not. Having worked with him, I can attest that you would definitely want this hyper-focused party veteran in the trench next to you. A rapprochement between Number Ten and the Commons troops is the most necessary ingredient before any reset or revival of the Johnson administration can even have a chance of success.

However, this isn’t going to be another “where Boris Johnson/Carrie Johnson?” column: the market for them is somewhat crowded at present.

Fundamentally, any Conservative revival from horrific polls and memos on politicians and personalities must answer the most pressing question of voters, asked now and every day until the next election: “Why vote Conservative?”

Even if Johson survives his current Gotterdammerung and emerges from the bunker stronger; or even if a usurpation results in a Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak, Jeremy Hunt [add name here]..premiership, just being different from what happened before won’t be enough. Voters are sophisticated and nuanced and they want competence and seriousness, not just bread and games.

It was always going to be incredibly difficult after 2019 – even without the global pandemic and Brexit and with a benign economy – for any Tory Prime Minister to hold together the powerful electoral coalition that emerged by chance from the failures of the May government and the madness of Corbyn’s hard leftist coup that eviscerated Labour.

To paraphrase Mario Cuomo; Boris was still able to campaign in poetry but it would be the devil’s job to rule in prose. Affluent southern Tories, supporters of the Remain, held their noses voting Tory for fear of the apocalypse Corbyn would inflict on their mortgages, savings, businesses and pensions. Likewise, for many new working-class voters in seats such as Workington, West Bromwich West, Burnley, Leigh and North West Durham, voting for Tory was a huge Rubicon to cross both culturally and politically. Clearly, it was Johnson and Corbyn who prevailed over a mixed electorate.

Perhaps Boris’ greatest strategic failure was twofold.

First, by sins of omission and commission, to give Labor time and space to regain its credibility and be taken seriously again, even in short-lived polls, to the extent that a party without Perceptible “narrative” or any memorable element of policy prescriptions is currently about ten percent ahead of the government in most opinion polls. Tony Benn defined two groups of politicians as road signs and weather vanes – Keir Starmer is an example of the latter and many voters hoped that Johnson was the former.

Second, to be seen as wasting the historic opportunity afforded to no Tory since Margaret Thatcher in 1979 – that is, to cement a unifying narrative (a “radical shift”) as the catalyst for a comprehensive program of government: a largely community government, socially conservative, state interventionist, small nationalist consensus “n”.

This would balance support for institutions such as the monarchy, the armed forces, the National Health Service with a more filibuster and outward-looking post-EU strategy of British exceptionalism, lower taxes and regulations, a soft power and an economic, cultural and social renaissance.

Any putative conservative leader should now be thinking about a conservative legacy. Harold Macmillan had public housing, Edward Heath had access to the Common Market, Margaret Thatcher the fall of communism, the right to buy and people’s capitalism. John Major had the Cones hotline and May, well, Christian charity doesn’t allow me to be too mean.

What would reinvigorate and reinvigorate Conservative activists and Conservative voters?

This government now needs to cut taxes for the middle class as much as anything else because the path back to redemption is through self-confidence and overhauling things you’ve always been considered good at : low taxes, for business and entrepreneurship (but not sweeteners and helping special interests), deregulation and fiscal responsibility.

It’s fair to say that the reputation has been shredded over the past five years. In the last general election, the Conservatives’ biggest tax pledge was actually not to cut corporate tax from 19% to 17%. That was it! The other was not increasing the NICS, but let’s shed some light on that….

Next, the Premier must contend with NIMBY’s small number of critics on the backbenches. It must restore the commitment to build more housing not just on brownfields and in city centers, but through new towns, garden villages and urban extensions. He should recruit Liam Halligan – whose superb book Home Truths presented a simple manifesto for change by tackling such difficult issues as land value capture, public sector land banks, market distortions such as purchase assistance and poor land management policies. planning – to run a new housing unit.

Why is the UK so far behind other advanced countries in tax relief and planning reform for the construction of additional care facilities for the elderly, a policy that would free up billion dollars for acute hospital care and social care?

Penultimate, Tories are angry and impatient with illegal immigration across the Channel, and gimmicks won’t cut the mustard. Verbiage about the Brexit bonus with the end of free movement rings hollow in the face of the thousands of illegal landings in Kent facilitated by smugglers.

The British are welcoming and generous (in Hong Kong terms), but intolerant when their hospitality is abused at their expense. Time to make tough decisions on human rights law: after all, those famous right-wing headbangers David Cameron and Theresa May stood on a manifesto pledge in 2015, to enact a UK Bill of Rights instead and in December 2019, page 48 of the Conservative manifesto promised an update to the HRA.

Finally, any Conservative government that hesitates to reform the NHS will have failed. At the time of the next general election, we will devote 44% of all our daily public expenditure to health services. and rapid demographic change and an unreformed NHS will mean extra funds for social care will be crowded out by a lack of innovation, waste and inefficiency.

The Health and Social Services Act 2012 shows how difficult it is to muster the political will to bring about radical change and fundamental reform when, ten years later, we are languishing in the middle or at the bottom of the table. among advanced economies in key areas like after-hours care and post-surgical health. results. Such a commitment requires courage and intellectual self-confidence and remains the most difficult challenge in British politics.

The 2019 election result was a conservative triumph, but perhaps gave rise to hubris and institutional stasis. The party’s historic reputation for flexibility and ideological pragmatism should not obscure the fact that without new and radical ideas to inspire and motivate even its own supporters, the trappings of power will be fleeting and the retribution of voters brutal and ruthless.

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