Party Conference is the time to set an agenda for the year ahead. It is when the party leadership should be presenting their plans to the party and setting out their policy plans for the party. What we stand for and what we believe in should be front and centre of the agenda at every event. From issues of human rights to taxation, from democracy to climate change – this is when we need to step forward and make the case for what we support and how we should be tackling the great issues of the day.
First on the agenda is our recovery as a nation from the necessary evil of lockdown to help fight against the threat of the Covid pandemic. It is clear to all that the economy is not as strong as it was before the pandemic hit our shores. As a nation, we pulled together and have come out on the other side of a difficult period. It is time to revisit the idea of government bonds to help recover from the pandemic. They create the opportunity for the nation to invest in its future and provide economic recovery. All would be encouraged to pay into this scheme to help get the country moving forward, especially as it is also guaranteed investment into their families’ future. Those who have done well throughout Covid should be looking to give back to the country and do their duty to the nation to our recovery.
However, we cannot spend the remainder of this government – and then beyond, solely thinking in terms of Covid. In some ways, Covid allows us to reset our approach to how the government behaves and to move towards a more streamlined and reformed system. To do so, the government must reverse the temporary emergency Covid policies of intervention and unparalleled government funding of both individuals and businesses. We must look to cut taxes where possible – especially those that harm those who are worst off. We cannot lose sight of truth, tax rises do not necessarily equal better government income and almost always will restrict investment and strangle entrepreneurship. Lowered taxes will help revitalise the economy and allow people to be freer in their spending. As part of this, we should be looking to cut areas where we are wasting money. One clear example is HS2, with ballooning £100bn costs, a symbol of inefficient, ineffective and unaccountable infrastructure spending.
Conference is also the time to reset the foreign policy agenda. The major foreign policy event of 2021 was the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Let me be clear – the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a mistake, a mistake that was founded on flawed analysis and intelligence as well as short term political expediency for President Biden. The fall of Kabul and the West’s withdrawal only demonstrates weakness. We clearly failed in our primary goals of creating a stable democratic nation state and permanently removing a foothold for terrorists. This is largely due to our failure to plan adequately for the nation-building stage which left us supporting what was widely regarded as a corrupt and thus highly unpopular government – much like the US during the Vietnam War.
We must not forget that our withdrawal has left the majority of those who worked with us at the mercy of the Taliban. This betrayal will make it much harder to work with locals in other regions. This failure and the recent immoral foreign aid cuts, which will likely lead to thousands of people dying, has only weakened our international position. We should be capitalising on our independence from the EU and re-engaging with the world rather continuing to back away from the role we could play.
We must also engage with the intolerance that has become rife in our society with orchestrated attacks on people’s reputations and livelihoods for the crime of “wrongthink”. The Conservative Party must stand against any attempts to silence disagreement or to create some sort of social hierarchy dependent on your political or religious opinions. People must be free, within reason, to be able to say what they believe with no fear of reprisal and should not be cowed by any self-appointed Thought Police.
Finally, I am concerned with how dodgy statistics and alarmist rhetoric seem to have crept into government usage to justify massively flawed green energy policies. I support renewables but at the same time we need to recognise that they are not a short-term or even medium-term solution. However, unfriendly policies will stifle growth and are directly responsible for our current energy shortage. We have avoided sustainable long-term options for plentiful energy such as fracking or nuclear power and for too long kicked the football down the road preferring to become more reliant on Russian gas. Renewables remain inefficient and insufficient – we need better options to give us time to develop a greener future. We have seen the failures of our energy policies for many years – with government resorting to intervention and artificial price controls rather than actually addressing our energy problems.
There is much that the Government could do to set us on the right path, or at least a good path, let’s just hope that the Government decides to take this opportunity.