We should have much faith in David Cameron, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown says
In May 2015 the Conservative Party won an election that surprised most people, including many within the Party if they are being honest. This is not because we didn’t believe in ourselves, or were not proud of our record in Government or even because we didn’t think the British public would like our manifesto. It was because history was against us.
No Prime Minister had continued in office immediately after a full term with a larger popular vote share since 1900 and, perhaps more crucially for us to secure that all important majority, no Governing party had increased their number of seats since 1983 under Margaret Thatcher. Impressively, and against the odds, David Cameron achieved both of those feats, the first person to do so since 1895.
History was against us but instead of crumbling beneath the pressure we created new history. We were able to do that because, albeit in Coalition, we had set the groundwork to get our country back on track after the perilous situation it was left in by Labour. It meant we could go to the country with a truly Conservative manifesto, promising we could finish the job of creating a future of prosperity for Britain.
With the historic election behind us we must evaluate what that actually means for us as a party and for the Conservative ideology. We must make sure we take advantage of our majority by implementing the manifesto that got us there. With the Labour Party in complete disarray, concerned more with internal debate than acting as a force in British politics, we should be implementing truly Conservative principles which will benefit Britain, as well as changing the political discourse for the next generation. We should show that we really are a One Nation party that will be looking after the interests of the whole country.
We have made an excellent start. In less than a hundred days since the election we have begun setting out how the Conservatives will make Britain a country of aspiration, fairness, equality and success. This requires action at all levels, and all stages, of society.
We have already set out how we will help the younger generation succeed through the Education and Adoption Bill, which will tackle failing and coasting schools. The Child Care Bill will deliver 30 hours of free child care for parents of young children.
We have shown that we will be a Government that will protect the vital public services that we all need, such as committing the additional £8 billion needed by the NHS. The Prime Minister has confirmed his commitment to making sure that Britain gets a good deal from Europe by beginning his renegotiation, having already spoken to every EU leader since the election. The EU Referendum Bill is making its way through Parliament, and we will entrust the future of this country to the people. It is right that everyone has a say on this, and the Conservatives are giving them that say.
However, perhaps the clearest demonstration about the direction of the Conservatives in a majority Government came from our Summer budget, which I believe was a masterstroke in showing that the Conservative Party is there for everyone and will help all get on in life, as well as removing the culture of dependency that has existed for far too long.
There was a raft of measures in the budget which provide much encouragement about the future of Conservatism. The introduction of a new Living Wage is an excellent example of how we are be shifting the burden of responsibility away from the state and the taxpayer to the private sector, as well as demonstrating how we are a party of workers.
This is on top of the further increases to the personal allowance which will benefit a huge number of people, allowing them to keep more of what they earn. The increases in the personal allowance have already reduced income tax for 26 million of the lowest paid workers. The Liberal Democrats tried to claim credit for the Coalition Government’s move to increase the personal allowance. However this is a truly Conservative idea, reducing taxes especially on the lowest paid. In 2005 I introduced a Private Members Bill with the exact purpose of increasing the personal allowance which was co-signed by Conservative MPs from across our party’s spectrum.
These are all signs that in exchange for people taking responsibility and getting work, we will reward them with low taxes. As well as reducing taxes on income we are, rightly, increased the inheritance tax threshold who that people are able to pass on hard-earned assets to their family. The budget also continued to make Britain one of the most competitive countries in the world to do business with a reduction in Corporation Tax. All of the steps announced in the budget are aimed at continuing the Long Term Economic Plan that has already begun getting the country back on the right track, shown in the fact that we are growing faster than any other major developed nation.
However while it is right that we celebrate increased jobs, apprenticeships, GDP figures and other such good news, it is important to remember why these things are important. When an individual gets a job it is not simply that they are then contributing to employment numbers. It means they are taking responsibility for their own lives, rather than living on welfare benefits paid for by taxpayers. It means they are taking a salary home and setting a good example for the next generation, breaking the cycle of joblessness and welfare. It represents a change in ethos which should, and is, celebrated by Conservatives.
With this majority Government it is important that we remember that our aim is to genuinely improve the lives of everyone. While Labour might think the best way to achieve that is to increase benefit payments, we need to make it clear that the Conservatives believe the best way to do that is by accepting responsibility for your own decisions and outcomes, where appropriate, and making sure if you can work you do. We should continue to focus on making sure we create the climate and the circumstances that allow people to take responsibility for themselves by implementing good education, business and taxation policies.
We must carry on making clear that we are the party that will give you a hand up, not a hand out.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown is Member of Parliament for The Cotswolds.
This article was originally published in Crossbow, the Bow Group Magazine - Autumn 2015 on 11/11/2015. Published online 13/07/2016