I have therefore used the Christmas period to reflect on how we might achieve a Parliamentary majority and the following five suggestions might help.
Firstly, European renegotiations; it is nearly a year since the Prime Minister’s bold expression of a new approach to European Politics – renegotiation followed by a referendum. Since then frustratingly, little detail has emerged and I believe it is essential that we define the “red lines” far more clearly and immigration must figure at the top of that list. In addition I would like to see the Prime Minister take personal charge of the creation of those red lines and of the programme for renegotiation, not least because I believe this is the only way we will achieve the necessary drive both for a successful repatriation of powers and a far more acceptable settlement to present to the electorate.
Secondly, carbon reduction; we must adopt a much more sensible approach to the business of carbon reduction recognising that Huhne’s legacy creates a financial millstone around the necks of British businesses and adds to the difficulties of competing on the global stage. Our current approach is undermining confidence and risks damaging the emerging recovery. The myth of renewable energies has been comprehensively highlighted, and we need to both sizably lengthen the timetable for carbon reduction, allow innovation the space to develop superior technologies for decarbonisation and place the emphasis on the conservation of resources.
Thirdly, Small Businesses; the importance of these engines of growth in Britain’s business sector cannot be overstated, but the government needs to act decisively to allow them to achieve more by pursuing an aggressive approach to deregulation. Businesses employing fewer than five employees must be excluded from the ever-more intrusive parental leave regulations, and we should exclude new start-ups and micro-businesses from much of the red-tape that already inhibits them. We must do all we can to allow small business to succeed; the government has made a fair start but we must do more.
Fourthly, transport infrastructure; we need to be more energetic on vital infrastructure projects such as High-Speed 2 and improved air transport capacity. I would like to see all Conservative MPs adopt the vision and courage previously adopted by those forerunners of the industrial revolution who paved the way for Britain’s success and had the foresight to lay down the transport infrastructure which we benefit from today. Indeed Telford, Brunel & Watt would be turning in their graves if they heard some of the comments made by so-called Conservatives on this issue. We need to make an early decision about increased runway capacity, and we need to recognise the current capacity crisis on our most important national rail corridor. To renege on our responsibilities now would be to hamper the wellbeing of future generations. Much of the preparatory work on HS2 has been undertaken, but the argument has not been comprehensively won. All Conservatives worth their salt would see that it is.
Fifthly, home ownership; I want to see that the Governor of the Bank of England understands that home ownership is a natural aspiration for Britons, and the suggested overheating in the housing market may be a phenomena based upon the south and south-east alone. I applaud the Government’s efforts to help first time buyers onto the housing ladder, and I suggest that Governor Carney would benefit from a few days away from the City to appreciate how much “help-to-buy” is valued by those buying homes. He might even like to take the curmudgeonly Liberal Democrat ministers from London constituencies with him for the benefit of their knowledge.
The polls might suggest we have a mountain to climb, but these five points could make a big difference to our outlook and prospects. It is easy to forget what the coalition has had to deal with so far, but the next 18 months must be about something bigger and must be about the creation of a Conservative agenda capable of winning outright victory at the next general election. The future wellbeing of our children could well depend upon it.