Archive | July, 2022

My Tory leadership speech

14 Jul

I want to be honest with you. Rather than have a speech filled with boosterish nonsense, I want to talk honestly about the challenges the UK faces and how it should face them. That is the job of a prospective Prime Minister. It would be much easier to wrap myself in the flag, talk about past glories, and launch a culture war offensive. But flags, past glories and a culture war won’t help NHS waiting lists, address the skills shortage, or the mental health crisis.

If we look at most economic and social global indicators then then UK is going in the wrong direction. Not only are living standards declining, but so is life expectancy (and have been doing so since before COVID). British people are getting poorer, economic productivity compares poorly with competitors, and relations with our neighbours need a reset. It is the job of a Prime Minister to protect people and if people are living shorter and – often less happy – lives, then the Prime Minister, Government, and all sensible political parties need to rise to the challenge. An honest Prime Minister would address these challenges and have difficult conversations about “managing decline” and – hopefully – about how to chart a course out of decline.

It is not all doom and gloom though. There are some things that the UK is good at. Parts of the fintech, biotech and financial sectors are in good health. And developing these sectors – and other parts of the knowledge economy – is the route out of decline. A new B&M stores opening on your high street is not the route to prosperity. That way lies a low pay, low skills economy. We need to develop a joined-up educational-industrial-knowledge economy strategy that integrates training and education with the tech revolution. That will mean spending on education and training, standing up to corporations that have no social worth, and actually having a long-term strategy.

We also need to talk about Europe. Brexit has not been a success. We are not going to rejoin the European Union. There is not an appetite for that among many in the UK – and across Europe. But we do need to recalibrate our relations. Europe is a massive economy on our doorstep and we need proper neighbourly relations. Picking fights with Brussels will not bring jobs and investment to the UK. Having a high-skill, open economy, with predictable rule-making will.

And wider relations with the world need a reset. The UK needs to recognise that the big geostrategic trend of our time is the shift of power to the East. China has risen and we need to deal with that. It is likely to invade Taiwan in the next few years. Obviously the UK – nor indeed the US – is going to risk going toe-to-toe with China. So we need to come to terms with a powerful China – engage with it, stand up to it, and make a case for human rights and democracy. The UK has immense cultural power and it can mobilise that much more effectively. It also has a strong record in overseas development and we make sure we continue to be a world leader in that.

We also need to talk about the United Kingdom – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We need to recognise that not everyone wants to remain part of the UK. While some might want a united Ireland and an independent Scotland and Wales, others will not. But we need to have a mature conversation about this, and investigate innovative and flexible constitutional mechanisms that might be able to satisfy competing demands. Trying to shape the future rather than hanging onto the past might lead to a win-win situation. And the conversation between those with competing demands and identities need not be confrontational. Maybe it could be educative, and involve innovation and cultural exchange.

So these are all the things I would say to you if was honest. Instead, I will drone on about cutting taxes (when we can’t afford it), locking up more criminals (when we already do so), chucking good money after bad at a woefully inefficient armed forces, and putting words like “great” or “world leading” in front of the mediocre. Vote for me to be the next Tory leader and your next Prime Minister.