My colleagues Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Elizabeth Truss have sent me a copy of their publication: After the Coalition: A Conservative agenda for Britain. We need to take note of what five intelligent newly elected MPs are saying about how they see the future and wish to shape it.
The good news is in the title. They may be recently elected Tories who have been through modernising as candidates, but they are no Lib Dems in drag or Coalition mongers who fancy another five years of political marriage to another party. They want to help mould the agenda, and want to be part of a majority Consevative government one day.
So how do they measure up to this big challenge? They combine something old and something new, something borrowed and something blue.
Michael Howard would be proud of them. The word “Responsibility” which he placed at the heart of his 2005 election campaign is central to their values, as it is to David Cameron. They wish to see the idea of responsibility infuse welfare, housing and social policies.
They borrow a lot from the current government’s programme, liking the health and education reforms and many of the welfare proposals. They wish to go further in some cases. They like free schools, but favour allowing for profit ones as well as charities. They think the private sector could have a bigger role in delivering good quality health care free at the point of need.
They do have some bold and blue ideas in critical areas. They would cut the 50p tax back to 40p as they see 50p as a revenue loser. They would deport more foreign national criminals convicted here. They would legislate to require a majority of union members, and not just a majoirty of those voting, to be in favour of a strike before taking action. They would build three new south-east runways to help UK competitiveness and the aviation industry, and build new road capacity after years of neglect.
They oppose the intrusion of the European Court of Human Rights into UK law, and wish to legislate a UK solution. They do not like female quotas for Boards, and attack some equality measures which they see as outdated or unlikely to work.
They wish to negotiate a different deal with the EU. They seek a two speed EU, where the UK opts out of much more of the common government. They want to get fishing, social policy and justice back for starters, and wish the UK to be able to make its own case in international trade talks.
My main quibble with them is their belief that we need a carbon tax to tackle “climate change”. It seems to me we have more pressing priorities to put food on the table and a roof over everyone’s head. It will be difficult to compete with China if we have a carbon tax and they do not.