LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine ) – Earlier this month, my fellow Conservative MPs and I were asked to consider whether we had confidence in the Prime Minister. No one could have predicted the series of unprecedented challenges he has faced over the last two years. I cast my vote of confidence in Boris because I believe he has got the big calls right.
Fortunately, the majority of my colleagues agreed with me, and the Prime Minister’s leadership was decisively endorsed by the Parliamentary Party.
It is now time for the Conservatives to unite behind the Prime Minister and focus on delivering the priorities of the British people. Boris’ laser focus on this in 2019 delivered an 80-seat Conservative majority and won in constituencies that had never been Conservative before.
The Boris that won in 2019 deserves the opportunity to govern. If he can deliver a real conservative agenda, he will win the next general election just as convincingly as he did in 2019.
Although there are other issues Boris will need to get right, he would do well to heed the famous words, “It’s the economy, stupid”. The Government needs to start looking at the economic challenges the country is facing through a conservative lens.
Conservatives believe in rewarding hard work and enterprise with a safety net for those in real need. Lower taxes drive economic growth, and through economic growth, tax receipts rise. Socialists on the other hand believe in high taxes and high government spending. Some people are saying, somewhat unfairly, that so far Rishi Sunak has been the most impressive socialist Chancellor in history.
The economy is groaning under the weight of the highest tax burden in 71 years. It cannot be right that, when the cost of filling up the average family car has soared to over £100, the Treasury continues to take 83p per litre in duties and VAT.
Despite manifesto promises, National Insurance was raised, not just taxing the individual but businesses too. Then, despite senior Ministers ably explaining why a windfall tax would discourage investment, the Chancellor introduced one anyway. Both of these policies have been tinkered with in an attempt to mitigate their unwanted effects, but there is a much more effective way forward: simply lower taxes.
The Chancellor’s spending announcements, seem designed to elicit a standing ovation at the Labour Party Conference. Government spending should be to provide a safety net for those who genuinely could not get by without it. It certainly should not be giving everyone in bands A-D a Council Tax rebate or blanket hand-out grants to offset energy bills whilst the Treasury takes money from those bills in VAT and ruinous green levies.
If he wants to win the next election, Boris will need to urgently right the ship at the Treasury. The economy presents the biggest and most pressing challenge for Boris, but he must do more still.
When the Government announced the Rwanda policy, this represented a real commitment to tackling the issue of illegal immigration and busting the business model of evil people smugglers. It is crucial that the Government takes the necessary actions to make this policy a success. Unless we reduce the UK’s pull-factor for economic migrants, the problem of dangerous channel crossings will never be solved. Boris needs to show voters that only he has the metal to tackle this issue.
Voters also want to see promised capital expenditure such as Boris’ 40 new hospitals delivered. Boris needs to start by building these hospitals, getting shovels into the ground. However, this has to extend further to an outcome focused approach to all health spending. It will not be enough to point to money given to the NHS anymore, this will need to translate into actual improvement.
Boris’ first act in office was to finally deliver Brexit, with the Free Trade Agreement his opponents said was impossible. With that agreement came the Northern Ireland protocol. The EU has chosen to take such a legalistic and pettifogging approach that the protocol has effectively created a border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Boris needs to show the same strong leadership that bought the EU to the negotiating table at the start of his premiership and do away with the disastrous Protocol Agreement.
What will define the next election is fundamentally this simple: people want to see common-sense reflected in government. They want the government to let them keep more of their money; they want to see government spending deliver tangible improvements; and they want to see our borders controlled.
It will be a challenge, but I have confidence that Boris Johnson is the man to deliver.