EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Priorities for a Red Tory Administration
DATE: 6 30pm-7 30pm, 25th February 2020
VENUE: Committee Room 8, House of Commons, Westminster, SW1A 0AA
SPEAKERS: Phillip Blond, Sherelle Jacobs, Dr Rakib Ehsan
EVENT CHAIR: Brendan Clarke-Smith MP
Brandon Clarke-Smith MP:
Good evening, everybody. Thank you for coming along and thank you for tolerating the room change, a little bit tricky but I think we’ve just about managed it. First of all, apologies if you hear a bell ring and I suddenly have to run very quickly, we may have a vote going on halfway through the votes. So I’m Brendan Clarke-Smith, I’m the newly elected MP for Bassetlaw. Bassetlaw is part of what we used to term “the red wall” which we now like to call “the blue wall”, so parts of the midlands, part of the north, seats in Wales, seats that were traditionally Labour, that in some cases become Conservative for the very first time. My seat has been Labour since the 1920s. Some of these seats, very large majorities. In my own, we had an 18.4% swing, which is the biggest we’ve had before. My neighbour in Mansfield, Ben Bradley, has I think the largest increase in any sort of majority. So the result did take us a little by surprise, and we’re trying to look at why this is, why we’ve seen such a significant result that’s come along. So tonight’s title “Priorities for a Red Tory Administration” and when I saw the title, it’s certainly one that has encouraged a lot of discussion, and there are lots of people here. Laying my cards on the table, I’m someone who’s always been a Conservative, I grew up on what was the largest council estate in Europe, and I was a councillor there in Nottingham for many years. I was used to having to knock on every single door and it was very very tough. You would try to get the community stuff done, and slip in the fact that you were a Conservative in the end and hope that you would still have their votes. So now seeing people convert over to Conservative for the first time is a really great thing for me, obviously. I’m an Ox county supporter, so I don’t have any red clothing, I don’t drive a red car or anything. Nothing political that may be football orientated. So our panel tonight, we have Dr. Rakib Ehsan from the Centre of Social and Political Risk from the Henry Jackson Society. We have Phillip Blond, the director of ResPublica. We have Sherelle Jacobs, from the Daily Telegraph who are going to be part of our panel. So I’m going to invite our panellists to speak, following that, we’re going to have questions which we’ll take in blocks of 3. And I apologise in advance if I have to dash off very soon. So I’d like to start by introducing Dr. Rakib Ehsan to kick us off.
Dr. Rakib Ehsan:
Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone for attending tonight’s event. I’m going to very much act as a warm up act for the other panellists so I’ll be speaking for 5 minutes or so. I think the perspective that I approach this concept of Red Tory is from the left, I traditionally vote for the Labour Party, I’m still a member of a trade union. But I think the one thing I’d say on this particular issue is that, we’ve seen a general election where there has been a fundamental realignment in British politics. Someone had told me a few years ago that the Tories would be able to Blockbuster uninterrupted stream of seats all the way from Wrexham to Redcar in the Northeast of England. I’d say that you maybe perhaps require medical attention but that is exactly what happened in the 2019 U.K. general elections. So in terms of the concepts of what a Red Tory Administration would be, I think firstly I would talk about our distinguished chair’s own constituency of Bassetlaw. There’s an interesting study that UnHerd did, in the build-up of the general election with focal data and they basically did constituency level research into 632 constituencies on a range of public policy issues. And one of the survey items was asking potential voters, “do you support the view that tax rate for high earners should be minimized to keep the U.K economy competitive?” Out of the 632 constituencies, in terms of level of support, Bassetlaw came 569th so you can see that the level of support for that sort of policy is not particularly high. But then when voters were asked, “should immigrants be free to move and work in Britain”, essentially tapping into the freedom of movement, Bassetlaw came into 585th place. So what you can see here, I think this is where Labour fundamentally struggled in the general election, along with their Brexit fudging, and the fact that they felt that broad-band nationalisation would be highly prioritized in places like Bassetlaw, that certainly did not turn out to be the case. This idea of cultural conservatism, which does run deep in traditional Labour voting, pro-Brexit territory. As you can see now, following the general election in county Durham, the Conservative Party received more votes and actually have more MPs in the region now than the Labour Party, which is quite incredible to be honest. So essentially what I feel a Red Tory administration would be, it would be an administration which, in line with some of the announcements made in terms of immigration last week, it would support a points based regimented immigration system. But it would also be one that restores on the beat neighbourhood policing. There has been particularly under the Conservative Liberal Democrat Coalition there were cuts to police numbers. It would fund infrastructure projects designed to boost connectivity within the regions, and I’d also say that it would invest heavily in terms of investing in technical education, so vocational courses for example. So in a sense, really investing in boosting the skills in areas I’d call left behind, deindustrialized parts of the country. So this is what I’d call essentially a dynamic red and blue politics. So sensible socio-democratic economics blended with socio-cultural conservatism. So that would be my interpretation of the Red Tory concept, and I’ll leave it there.
Brandon Clarke-Smith MP:
Our next speaker is Sherelle Jacobs.
The way I see it, I’m just going to do broad brush strokes more than detailed policy stuff because that’s where I think I can contribute. I can see two battle lines being drawn. On one hand, you’ve got the free market Thatcherites, who are arguing that you really do need to make the case for capitalism, and through low taxation, deregulation, rolling back the welfare state. And on the other hand, you’ve got one nation Tories who think that in order to consolidate in blue wall, you need to tax wealth rather than income, state driven investment and infrastructure, and levelling up, there’s danger on both sides of the debate, people are not incorporating the language of Brexit, the language of systems change which drove the historic election result that we saw. I think that there’s danger on both sides that it’s starting to sound a bit vintage, in the sense that you’ve got the Thatcherites on one hand kind of trying to recreate the 1980s, and then you’ve got the one nation Tories who can’t get past Blair. I think there’s one fundamental principle which could help the Tories to win next time, win again 5 years later, it’s not necessarily making the case of capitalism, it’s not about levelling up, I would say it’s total systems change. There is a real appetite for complete overhaul of the system, the feeling that things are broken. Whether it’s the police, there’s this language that they’re more interested in prioritizing and categorizing crime rather than solving it. The NHS, the culture of managerialism, which is preventing it from operating, there is sort of a direct relation between this ascent of this culture of managerialism and the rising dysfunction of the NHS, the low wage economy and the welfare state. There’s a sense that nothing works basically. People have an appetite for the Tories not just to deliver their manifesto pledges, [inaudible] but to actually solve the systemic problems which plight the UK, I would say that’s something the Thatcherites would be left behind in a little at the moment. Just listening to them, my advice would be to try and recalibrate the message of Thatcherism, which is very much where I would place myself personally, that radicalising the spirit, and try to recalibrate it in the language of systems change. Some of the stuff that Cummings was talking about. There’s a lot in common with what he was saying and the Thatcherites tradition. in terms of things I’d like to see a Tory government focusing on in terms of systems change, one is the low wage economy, Brexit as a step towards delivering on that, which obviously if we have control over immigration, then that helps to address the problem of low wages. But there’s also that embracing automation, or making automation work for us in the sense that we shift jobs from being based on collecting information, data processing, to actually applying expertise and making decisions based on data collected. In terms of the NHS obviously, its very controversial, but I would like to see a Tory government who is willing to have a conversational bout the fundamental systemic problems in the NHS managerial culture, control freakery, and actually the NHS is sort of a complex machine, but its simple instruction to make it work. What I’m really getting is it is not just making these promises in the manifesto and choose the low hanging fruit to go back to constituents to say we did this that and the other, I think it is about enabling people to be best in a project in which the left will say capitalism is reforms. I would say that the project the Tories really need to sell is we as a country are ready for the next state in capitalism, which is hyper-technological that would bring a second Industrial Revolution. It all sounds like high polluted stuff, but I think we really need to give the electorate a lot more credit because I think people are very ambitious in this country, its why they voted for Brexit, why they switched to Tory because they found Labour to be completely unambitious, felt victimizing in their political narratives. So I would like to see the Conservatives think deeply about what they can achieve over 10 years and to sell a project to the people that is not just their manifesto.
It’s probably worth restating what Red Toryism is, given its success. Outside, where I was chatting with some good friends, and talking about Blue Labour. Blue Labour has many more supporters in the Labour party than red Toryism ever has. But Red Toryism has had 100% more influence. It’s had impact from David Cameron, right to today and will continue to do so. So I think Red Toryism has become a proxy for one nation conservatism, which it really isn’t. I just want some clarity about Labour. Modern one nation Tories are just liberal Tories, one nation conservatism in the 19th century was a critique of liberal conservatism. It was a critique by 19th century Tories against the extremes of capital in both its social dimension and its economic dimension. Red Toryism is that and more. Let me go back to the prospects, let me go back to why so many people on the right dislike Red Toryism, and why red Toryism is so influential, and why red Toryism is the future. Basically, everything ive predicted and argued in red Tory has by and large come true. I said there would be a repudiation of social liberalism, and a repudiation of economic liberalism, and these would be the signs of fundamental realignment, not just of British politics, but of western politics. And so it has. So what is it? Where are we? So if you do value surveys, and I’ve got a big value survey coming out shortly with Damian Collins, liberals, people who are social liberal and economically liberal, make up about 11% of the British population. They make up a similar percentage in almost any other western country, developed western country. And we essentially, since the time of Mrs. Thatcher, have run the west on liberal lines. We’ve run it socially liberally and economically liberally. The first liberals were the left, they went socially liberal in the 60s where they essentially preached, through people like Marcuse, Artie Lange, sexual liberation. They preached individual narcissistic autonomy, and they succeeded. That is the cultural politics that creates the Hollywood of today, it creates the high [inaudible] or low I’d argue today. They in fact were the first neoliberals, the left in the 60s, they were the first neoliberals in that regard. And the reason I think this movement is so important is because it removes the social taboos for the economic liberalism that came later. Both of them were forces that unpicked social solidarity, unpicked common norms, unpicked majorities. And we’ve governed through social and economic liberalism, and it’s worked very well for the people that are socially and economically liberal. It’s worked brilliantly for the top 10%. Well actually if you look at the figures, its actually much smaller than the top 10% but they still think it worked very well for them. It allowed massive economic growth to accrue largely and exclusively to those at the top of the pyramid. They sold everybody else on the idea that these changes were what modernization looked like, they’re what the world would deliver. Now if you look at, I was always invert his name, must be a strange dyslexic issue, Melanovic’s elephant graph, he basically demonstrates that in terms of global growth, since the age of liberalisation over the last 30 years or so, the working class hadn’t benefited from global growth in the west. The people who benefited are the working class in the third world, who benefited enormously. The middle class has been largely stagnant, in terms of share of the pie, and the real gains have gone to incredibly small amounts in the west. This is the economic story. Now what I think both social and cultural liberalism have done, especially when they’re allied, which is what happened with Cameron, and with Blair, is it produces mass insecurity. It produces mass cultural insecurity and mass economic insecurity. That is a phenomenon you see in America, in Europe, and you see it everywhere as the main driver for what we call populism. That’s the main driver for all of the various counterrevolutions you’ve had through Trump, right through to Poland and justice and in Hungary. And what they are in terms of post liberalism, are demands for security and demands for stability. Liberalism can’t deliver this in the developed world. Why? Because all of the requirements for such are forms of collective provision or shared provision out of solidarity, however you determinate it, that liberalism by definition can’t provide and won’t provide. I see nothing in liberalism that can counter this. So my argument would be that the post-liberal world is the future and it will only intensify. And the evisceration of liberalism that we’re seeing will continue, especially if the left keeps going down the identity politics route around trans-sexuality and all of this. I mean, this is shooting yourself in the head time and time again. So the fundamental thesis is, we’re at the start of governance by something else. We’re going to be governed no longer by liberalism, which very few of the commentary can speak about. Speak to David Aaronovitch, it’s a case of perpetual mourning for Tony Blair and “nothing’s like Tony Blair, if only we have Tony Blair, and everybody who doesn’t want Tony Blair is really dreadful and miserable and pessimistic.” and all this sort of nonsense. This essentially is the range of commentary of the social economic left and to the liberal right. I think, and I’ve written, that post liberalism can go very wrong. It can go in quite a dangerous ethno-nationalist reductive sectarian direction. But it can also go very right, and can produce, I think, forms of justice that I think are unthinkable to liberal polities and liberal politicians. And obviously it’s the latter I’m interested in. I don’t believe in nationalism, I don’t believe in race even, I don’t believe in any form of cantonization, if I can put it like that, of the human world around things that just don’t matter. So what I think is interesting is, and I think you’re right about Thatcherism and its attempt to reinvent itself and I think that’s certainly present in Cummings is more Hayekian than he is anything else. I think he’s a very intelligent man, but he remains Hayekian, and Hayek is [inaudible]. Hayek’s solution is very much of after the war, post-communist settlement, there isn’t any solution for the future. So I don’t think Thatcherism has a future. I don’t think anything the current right thinks in terms of its past options has any future. So let me describe what I think the future will be. Now if you look at the values and the needs of those who voted for the Conservative party, this is an entirely new constituency. The Conservative majority now rests in the hands of people whose needs the Conservatives are not used to addressing, are not used to providing. They don’t necessarily have the policy architecture to deliver it. I think Marmot’s publication today, although I don’t think austerity is the prime cause, is nonetheless telling of health inequalities. So what I thought would be interesting would be if I were to go through the types of economic policies I think are needed that I think come from the good post-liberalism and the cultural policies from the good post liberalism that I think will form part of the post liberal settlement. So, the modern right outside of post liberal polities in central Europe has no answer to the distributional question of capital. It has no way to distribute the rewards of capitalism to those who are at the wrong end of the scale. Yes, we have effective interventions like minimum wage, yes, in non-export non trade areas that would work I’m in favour of it, but they don’t have an asset distribution mechanism. There is no successful way to distribute wealth, there are some good ideas which I agree with, taxing wealth not taxing income. We had a staccato failed mutual agenda, and nobody in the mutual agenda has come up with any for scale. This remains, in my view, the fundamental aim of Red Tory economics. It must deliver economic stability, but it must also deliver economic surplus. We must be able to generate fully distributed capital so that all people have access to capital. The only way we deliver this in the moment is through one market, which is the housing market, and property in the most widely distributed asset, around 70% of the population. But once you go in into financial products, its only essentially the wealthy who can afford to participate in. so the great key for an effective post liberal conservatism is an efficient way to distribute wealth, that isn’t welfare, that’s a form of asset ownership, and we don’t have it yet. We know the shape of it, we’ve had little gestures like workers on board, we do things that do work like higher minimum wage, but we aren’t tackling the fundamental source of wealth inequality. And that remains I think the fundamental economic aim. were quite good at knowing what works in terms of delivering security, so if you look at the Poles, or the Poles less so, Kaczynski is a conservative socialist, he essentially has reendowed the Polish welfare state. The Hungarians are more interesting. What they did was essentially, there’s more welfare, but its only accessible through work, which is much more interesting. What they then did is, they didn’t reduce welfare, they essentially switched it to work so that work paid far more than universal credit, 2, 3, 4 times over as a form of a transformational project. And then allied with various of social policies, very aggressive asset distribution program, which I think is interesting. Transport. I believe in HS2, I think it’s the right thing, if you wanted to do 5 things about regional inequality, transport would be one of them. The real agenda with HS2, they shouldn’t have called it High Speed, they should’ve called it National Rail or something. The real agenda with HS2 is they should extend it further. Extend it to Liverpool, extend it north, into Scotland. Health. If you look at something like health. we at ResPublica are shortly going to publish what I’ve argued for a long time. Which is, if you look at total population health, the NHS influences about 15% of health. The real agency that influences health is your local state, your local authority because that determines all of the other external factors. Your economic prospects, your education prospects, the design of where you’re living in, the quality of your accommodation. Local authorities need health deals at scale that merge the local NHS with local authorities in order to deliver play space health turnaround. And I think the report today made that need even more explicit. We also have to tackle monopoly, it’s also in the original Red Tory article, Ive argued that the great shame of modern conservatism is pro-monopoly, we haven’t had any changes in competition law in a Conservative administration. The current consumer welfare standard is pro monopoly, and if you look at all markets, all markets are concentrating, the tech market is even more concentrating. So conservatives are presiding over a pro-monopoly cartel type economy without realizing it. What that means for everyone else, is we have a [frontier] economy, so that people in small businesses find it increasingly difficult to scale, increasingly difficult to get contracts. And there’s no real access for them to the goods of business. We see this in all the evidence that emerged from America. If you look at an academic paper by [inaudible], which looked at American prices, they found that the mark-up in the American economy had gone up by roughly 40% in the last 15 years that it measured. That’s the type of [ ] economy that conservatives have now created. I went in to see Phillip Hammond, with our paper Technopoly, and I said we also have a monopolized economy. He had introduced the Furman review, but it still hasn’t been enacted on. Even the Furman review still did nothing about the speed of redress. So if we’re really radical, we have to breakup and recognise monopolies and use new conceptualities to do that. Ive also argued on multiple levels that if we’re really going to redress regional imbalances, we’ve got to have different income tax and different capital tax for different parts of the country. We’ve essentially got to make it incredibly advantageous to relocate from the southeast to different parts of the country. We’ve got to say that if you move, all your taxes can be written off against corporate, or the costs of that move can be written off against corporate gains, we’ve got to make a lower income tax rate for those who work in the north. Or we’ve got to have different corporate tax rates. You say it can’t be done? Northern Ireland already has a corporate tax rate to ally with the republic, Scotland has the power to vary both income tax and corporation tax, hasn’t done so about which we can discuss. But the point is, these issues are conceded, and if we’re serious, this is part of what we need to do. So to sum up on the economic side, we need to come up with a new conservative way to distribute wealth and distribute assets which remains far from our imagination and something we haven’t achieved. We need to break up monopolies, we need to redistribute power, devolution is fundamentally right, we need to devolve the great undevolvables, which are welfare, which are health, so and so forth, to the regions with real power. And again we need to create the forms of massive intervention that would make a difference. And an interesting discussion for us to have is that. So if I ask what are the massive economic interventions to make a difference, a national retraining free that you could access through life that told you what your likely skill needs in the area where you live in the next 10-20 years, we have innovation surveys that can give you a pretty good idea about that. We need new intermediate institutions of short courses that train people up to the skills that companies need around them. My colleague Mark Morin has written a brilliant paper that talks about skills for jobs that don’t exist yet. We need this training fee to be accessed both by university graduates and people who have never been to university. Right now, the only people who can retrain are those who have the money after their degrees to fund something like that. That’s got to change. We need also to focus on cultural aspects, or social aspects. Let me talk about the family. So there are two great penalties conservatism has not yet addressed, one is the pregnancy penalty. Almost all academic studies demonstrate that there isn’t a gender based penalty, its about 15% if that. Overwhelmingly, it’s 80-85% of the penalty paid by women is for having children, and for being out of the workforce, and for going part-time when they return to work and their non-career path at a lower rate. We have to reverse the child based penalty which women overwhelmingly pay more than men. That is the great gender issue that conservatism doesn’t articulate. And still you have the soft left liberals talking about things that don’t really matter. There isn’t really gender prejudice, women do better at university, they do better up to the age of 30 in terms of wages earned. This is the great key. The other great key are single earner households. We tax single earner households, that’s where one parent stays home to take care of the kids and the other works. We tax them heavier than anyone else in the OECD, 28% more heavily. And we tax the individual earner depending which country you compare to, 8-18% more lightly than anyone else in the OECD. All families, because families are like [inaudible], they contract, they expand, all families go through this structure, and when it’s time to harvest, we penalize people more. We’ve got to reverse the child penalty and the pregnancy penalty and start to support the family at a grand scale. We also have to defend, and I’m in the social and cultural now. If you look at all the indicators for populism, it’s not about economics that’s the driver, its values and culture that are the drivers. And the fundamental shift which Eric Kaufmann has written about brilliantly, is we now make war on majorities. We are now in a world where, its often the left, but now it’s in almost all human resource departments, minorities make war on majorities and majorities feel threatened as a result. So any extremism, any small group, can start claiming rights for itself, powers for itself, and make war and deny majorities their normative status. There has to be some return for majority consensus and majority approaches. like for instance, the parental opt out on citizenship and sexual teaching. There was a promise on the floor of House of Commons but not delivered by the Minister. This sort of return to normative values, and by that I don’t mean repressive, I’m not interested in repressing anyone, defensive majorities is crucial to all future centre right majorities period. And if you can cater to both the cultural insecurity and the economic insecurity, this agenda will rule for decades, and rightly so. And if we don’t deliver any of this, if we don’t deliver justice, and inclusion, we won’t have the good sort of post liberalism that I’m arguing for. We’ll have an increasingly unpleasant and reductive and reactionary form where minorities are penalized for being minorities, where accounts of inclusion start to exclude people by scale, this is the danger of which post liberals, which I am one, will have to recognise and avoid. And start to talk about justice outside of the liberal paradigm because liberalism has only delivered, I’m not denying that liberalism is needed, I think different points of history need different agendas. Liberalism has delivered mass social and economic insecurity and it’s the ending of that, that is the politics of the future. That is what red Toryism is. Thank you.
Brendan Clarke Smith MP:
Ok thank you everybody and thank you for excusing me and missing a large part of [inaudible]. So, one thing I’d just add I suppose from myself before I open it up to questions. We were talking about names, and Red Toryism being one of them. For me I mentioned that I grew up on this estate and sort of this Thatcherism idea of aspiration, and the term One Nation Conservatism is always fairly alien to me, it’s not something I would normally identify with. At the moment though I’m quite involved with a group called Blue-Collar Conservatism, I’ll actually be going out for a curry with them later which I’m quite looking forward to, and I think it’s about branding approach and the audience, and I think that if you’re looking at who you are targeting with that, things like the 30 hours free child care is something that we spoke about this week. Recently the fuel duty and it’s about how we target that as conservatives which is the issues we’re actually looking at. I lived in Scandinavia for quite a while, in Norway they do things such as being able to share couple’s tax-free allowance which goes back to the single earner thing. So, I just want to open it up to questions. We’re going to take questions in threes, and if you could just say your name and if you’re with an organisation in particular, let us know who they are.
I’m just curious, are there any [inaudible] How would you sell post-liberalism? Like, on the doorstep of a constituency. There seems to be a bit of a branding issue, I think.
You said you want to break up the tech monopoly, but in my industry, we have got a saying which is “the value of a network is the square of the number of people on the network” so there is a huge tendency towards centralised monopoly
Peter Wilson Smith:
I’d be interested to know what sort of government you all think we have. Is it a red tory government, is it a sort of systems change government [inaudible] is it more Thatcherite? More One Nation, at the moment it’s not at all clear. It’d be interesting once we come to the budget, we might get a clue of where we are headed.
In terms of the branding issue, the post-liberal agenda, it’s got a massive branding issue for me there is a bit of a fear of the mob/ [inaudible]. We need to do it this way because if we don’t Britain will descend into some kind of populist [inaudible], I’m not sure about that. I also worry actually more broadly in terms of post-liberalism, the economic reforming stuff, in the sense, I worry there is an elephant trap there. That’s a conservative government, what you’re saying is that liberalism needs to be massively reformed because it is not working, when really if you go down that road you might end up losing the argument quite quickly to the left and I think that it is the job of the Conservative government to make the case for capitalism and prepare the country for the next phase which is, what I was trying to get at in my speech earlier is, I’m quite suspiciously actually of red Toryism actually, if I’m honest, and I do wonder where some of the intelligence has come from, created some of the idea of what the Tories need to do. For example, a lot of [inaudible] around ‘Workington man’ who wants more stability, I would argue that’s a contrived [inaudible] if you ask that in a completely different way about progress instead of stability you might get a completely different answer. So, I think that we need to ask very serious questions about some of the, of how we’ve got to this idea of post-liberalism.
I’m glad that a Thatcherite is suspicious of what I argue, I’m reassured by that, precisely because Thatcherism hasn’t delivered for people who voted Conservative at the last election, it didn’t deliver. The point is that there are obviously parts of Thatcherism that I agree with. If you look at Mrs. Thatcher’s speech to building society movement while she was leader of the opposition. She basically said what I said. She said that we have to have a cataclysm that widely distributes capital, and we need a mechanism to do that, and that’s why I like the building society movement, and that’s what she did. It’s very clear that the [inaudible] agenda did nothing of the sort, people sold there shares very quickly to become consumers again, rather than to buy their video. I think it’s just as wise to be fearful of the wrong sort of elite as it is wise to be fearful of the mob. All I’m arguing for is the good should govern us, and I’m defining the good as not just for those who benefit from a Thatcherite dispensation, what is I would argue a very small number of people, and I think it’s a mistake, a self-evident empirical mistake, I would argue that that isn’t the case on the back of widening inequalities that we have, and I think that the case for a new kind of cataclysm will have to be a new kind of conservative offer. If cataclysm is essentially monopoly which is what capitalism has delivered, then that is wrong even on Thatcherite principles, on Hayekian principles. What is so weird is modern conservative Thatcherites can’t even recognise it, they’re the ones who are in favour of crony capitalism, they’re the ones who are in favour of monopoly. They cannot see monopolies that are right in front of them. The question of how you break up tech is a very, very good question. What we argued was the substitute innovation as an additional requirement in competitional law, innovation means to meet new market entry, because new market entry is part of what we want to create new groups of people create new and different things, and what you see in mergers and acquisitions, you see a very clear evidence of a fall in innovation. In the recent case I think it was Dupont merger in the European Union, it was denied, they actually said we will stop researching in these medicines. So, innovation as a standard competition law is a very good one. We can’t just have one network, because then in effect you are arguing for one owner, and you’re arguing for one delivery, you have got to deny the networks ability to absorb other networks. There’s no need for Facebook to own You tube, or Google to own the other things that it does, there’s no need. There can be different networks, you still access them via different platforms, there’s no consumer detriment. The issue on re-branding. I wouldn’t knock on anyone’s door and say hey I’m a post-liberal. I think they’d be confused. The nature of concepts is that they allow you to think at a different level, the nature of saying I’m a post-liberal allows you to say that’s liberalism, I’m not that and I’m conceptualise is this. What I would argue for on the doorstep is the policies that I have outlined. They’re all pretty bloody good policies, I would argue. I was chatting to the government picking up a large number and I think it’s quite high. That’s what I argue for. I’d also by the way, probably use the language of One Nation Conservative in it’s 19th century form, which is a form of soft liberalism, which is what it’s used for now. But I’d just talk about caring for everybody, what the prime minister has also spoken about.
Dr Rakib Ehsan:
I think in terms of the branding of post-liberalism, so my hometown is Luton, though Luton returned two Labour MPs, there was a dip in the Labour vote share in both Luton North and Luton South. I think I would just touch upon what I said earlier, if you want to say in quite simple terms, I think people in Luton generally, they want to make sure their public services are properly funded, that the social care resources are well resourced, there is a large investment in peoples vocational skills, people generally feel that there was too much of an emphasis on university education, and people perhaps investing in vocational schools, investing, there wasn’t enough of that. So, as I said, there could be that emphasis on a sensible social democratic economics, and just following up from what Sherelle said, the reality of the matter, is that I don’t feel if the conservatives were to run on a small state, free-market policy pitch, I don’t think they would live with the sort of parliamentary majority that they did, or just parliamentary majority since 1987. If you are trying to sell the liberating free market to people in Bolsover, you might as well be trying to sell a big juicy burger to my Hindu elders back in Luton to be quite honest, this isn’t to say that I advocate mass protectionism, really interventionist economic model, but there is this idea that we do operate in competitive economic marketplace, it’s about what Phillip talked about, this idea that people can interact with a skill system, they can understand what skills are in demand in their local communities, that they can enter that system irrespective of age, irrespective of their existing level of educational attainment, so that they can actually prosper, so that they can actually, they can genuinely function well in a competitive economic environment. But the point that I mentioned earlier, along with that sensible social democratic economics, is the addressing of people’s economic anxieties and addressing their cultural economics, the reality is that Luton delivered a Leave vote 56.5%, the reality pales into significance, Bassetlaw 68%. People will talk about I don’t really agree with Freedom of Movement, I think immigration needs to be controlled, it needs to be managed, they won’t be supportive of the idea that people from the European Union they can enter the UK without their educational qualifications being assessed. There English language skills, I was quite pleased to see in the recent immigrations reforms which were announced, that there is an emphasis on English language skills. So there’s also the idea that so for example, tough sentencing, if you talk to the sort of, Brexit voting, de-industrialised provinces, there will be generally arguments about you tend to prioritise the rights of criminals at the expense of the people, what about victims and all the rest of it, so, there is that idea of your blending a sensible democratic economics with what I would call cultural conservatism. Controlled immigration, the idea that the state is very much adopting a form of view when it comes to how criminals are being penalised. I think instances such as the London Bridge terrorist attack, we will be seeing, are we placing too much idealism when it comes to rehabilitation courses for convicted terrorists. They’re instinctively conservative when it comes to those sorts of issues, so that’s why I call it Red and Blue, put in very simple sort of terms, in the sense that it talks about investing In people, trying to boost their skills, making sure that there public services, they have confidence in their public services that they are well funded, but they also are addressing their socio-cultural anxieties when it comes to immigration, when it comes to law and order, and also when it comes to issues such as counter terrorism. If this current Conservative government if theyre really looking to consolidate their new found support in places such as Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Blythe Valley, Red Car, Wrexham and all the rest of it, that sort of policy, if they’re looking to sell that, then I think that would be an effective way of going about it, and in the meantime let Labour slowly destroy itself over issues such as transgenderism, because most people find that argument, it doesn’t relate to their everyday concerns at all, of they just find the whole debate, say if a male rapist self-identifies as a woman that means they have the right to be located in a female only facility, I think they find that absolutely bonkers, in those sort of working class traditional Labour voting territories. So that’s just generally how I would go about selling post-liberalism, I think in regards to the gentleman’s question in regards to the government, I think I’m a little bit slightly disappointing in the sense that, for example the decision over Huawei, being in the 5G network, I feel that if you were to place that many restrictions there would be, how much do you trust them to begin with? I think HS2, this is where I do have a point of disagreement with Phillip, I do see HS2 as being a bit of a vanity project. Much of that money could be spent on boosting connectivity within regions. So, if I just give you an example, if I wanted to go to Hitchen 6 miles away, I’d have to go to St Pancreas and then I’d have to go back out to Hitchin from Luton, so I think improving connectivity and reopening some of the Beeching lines that were closed a number of decades ago, I think that would be a more worthwhile investment as opposed to bringing all this money into the HS2 project.
Can I just make one point about the identity issue, I think that one thing [inaudible] too complacent, giving the left credit about it [inaudible] we have already seen this talk about a progressive patriotism, if you read the left wing magazines they are thinking about this issue, and yet you can see with the MP’s the candidates of the leadership, they are, throwing meat to the party members, but behind closed doors they will tell you that they know that identity politics is a cul de sac and they’re going to ditch that stuff quite quickly, and I just don’t see it that the left are going to eat themselves about this issue, in 5 years I think they might actually get there act together a lot quicker than some may think, then that leaves you to the real fight which is sort of inaudible [inaudibly] economics, that’s why I think that it’s quite dangerous with red Toryism, if you go down this “oh yes capitalism isn’t it awful” then you are opening the doors to a far more radical agenda, and you see in other places where they crack that left wing patriotism. Bernie Sanders may well give Trump a run for his money
This is one or two levels, first of all people vote in terms of values, so we won not out of economics but out of values in the last election. The Brexit vote was driven by values and the notions of threatened majorities, and also you couldn’t have a better candidate for a Conservative than Jeremy Corbyn, he was [inaudible]. So, the point is, and also the idea, kind of this is the wrong conservative, lets jus defend what we have, although it doesn’t deliver what we believe in, I mean this is completely incoherent. If we have a form of capitalism that delivers monopoly, and you’re saying we must defend that because the alternative is worse, people vote for the alternative, whatever is going.
No there has been no interference with capitalism, that is the point, that’s why we have monopolies, and unless you can see that, then you will end up, opening the door for radicals. The way to close the door to radicals is to be radical yourself with the proper conservative aim, which is a genuinely free market, I’m a free marketeer, I’ve always been a free marketeer, my greatest enemies are the defenders of monopolies who are all libertarians, who say whatever is, is fabulous. This is nuts because [inaudible] hardly ever argue that, least of all Hayek,
[inaudible back and forth between the panellists]
Show me one piece of evidence where a libertarian has introduced an anti-monopoly bit of legislation? Where?
Dr Rakib Ehsan:
Brendan if I could just say, one thing I like is this idea of town centre regeneration schemes, and the expansion of free ports I think that is something that would really help to harness some that support that has been vote in that Brexit vote, de-industrialised provinces, and also areas like Workington and great Grimsby as well, that sort of moves would work really well.
People care about the local, people care about the particular, they care about what’s close to them, the reality is Burkean, access the universal through the particular, and if we can show as conservatives that we care for people, which is what Mrs. Thatcher didn’t show, then we have the opportunity to make this majority ours for a long time to come.
Brendan Smith MP:
If I could just come in on the local part of that as well for my constituency, we’ve spoken about the social values and so on, we would knock on doors and we would have former minors, we pretty much had a monopoly on the armed forces vote, so from the social point of view we thought that we were ok with that, but if anything it was as if it had moved away from ideology, for if you’ll excuse the term ‘in getting things done’ – with that message we were on the right side of the Brexit argument, where we would necessarily be seen as traditionally stronger, we were attached and so on quite a lot, but we said we would invest in this Children’s ward which had closed down on evenings and weekends, the idea was if we get this done we would deliver for you, it was almost getting across to people locally that they would actually see something done, and it wasn’t left or right particularly, people just wanted to see things get done, and I think locally, looking at a coalition government and people at seen it in action for quite a long time, it was that credibility that we rode on of getting things done, obviously next time around this is going to develop, some of these things aren’t going to be there necessarily, I would probably argue that if we do get things done then that puts us in position as I say, that there may be a generational shift, in terms of where the parties are aligned and so on, only time will tell. Ok we will take three more questions
I’m interested if I could ask Phillip, how would red Tory approach look with regards to climate change and what would be the solution for it? and if I could ask, in the whole panoply of the agenda with climate change, be it protection of nature what is it chimes with your [inaudible] on the doorstep
John – the Sellston Group:
Is red Tory the most fortunate name you could have chosen, it implies stealing the Labour party’s clothes, Thatcherism is a bad where I’m concerned, increasing personal choice, breaking up monopolies and cartels seems to be in the spirit of that, my favourite example of that is in 1979 [inaudible] had a monopoly on telecommunications, and you had to wait half a year to get a line installed.
Man asking question (no name provided):
I wanted to ask how you reconcile post liberalism as the future when so very few 18-24 year olds voted for the Conservatives.
Red Tory approaches to climate change, in almost all surveys carried out about localities, people want their locality to be clean, safe, and green. Two of the things they want I think are clearly in the environmental offer, one of the things I’ve argued for and we at the Res Publica is beauty and the role of beauty in buildings and beauty in design, and local control over beauty, people care about their high street, they care about how it looks. I was also, we were in the Sunday Times on Sunday, talking about the new office of environmental protection that’s proposed the environmental bill with Tom Holland, what I argued is that the risk of the new regulator is that it will try to regulate for generalities, but nobody dies in a ditch for generalities, you die for your mates, you die for your street, you die for your field you die for what’s close to you, you die for the particular. The great error of the environmental movement it is always went abstract instead of going concrete, it talked about things you couldn’t see like carbon, it always became a minority, intelligentsia agenda when it should be mass popular, and that’s the great error, and they keep doing that time and time again, and so what with Tom I argue for is that there should be proxy species that we defend, like the hedgehog, the sparrow, the brow trout, it works for every other calculation that you make, now I think that if we can task this new environmental protection agency with powers, the only way to do it is to make everybody support it, now people will support an organisation that defends hedgehogs, they will defend an organisation that defends birds in their garden, that defend fish in their rivers, they wont support an organisation that sounds like every other, “oh we’re about re-wilding, we’re about kind of ecosystems” its about inverting it and defending those particular things that people care about, and so what I would try to do is in terms of a red Toryism approach is again a Burkean, the particular gives you access to the universal, so I would never, I would always talk about what people care about in politics, and they do care. The point about personal choice is that I think that Mrs. Thatcher was very good at breaking state monopolies, but she was always very good at replacing them with private sector monopolies, and that’s the point, and the conservatives have been completely sold on private sector monopolies, this is undeniable, they have come with no new procedures, legislation or ideas on how to break up private sector monopolies, it’s an ongoing scandal, and the pint about increasing personal choice, people don’t want that, what they now want isn’t freedom to buy a television, a VCR, they want to feel that their neighbours are safe, they want to feel that their neighbourhood is safe, these are things that personal choice can’t deliver that, personal choice is a bullet that has been fired, and there is no point of that in politics. The point about the youth is a very interesting point, people have been talking about our future for years and I there are completely wrong, for years, because they are young, and values shift by about 1.1% every year that you get older and say you get concerns, and also the young has also not consistently voted at scale, but I also think we should speak to both their housing and wage crisis at scale, but we do that through precisely the type of ideas that I have long advocated, about, it got very close several times through a few chancellors, I essentially argued that what the market needs is a guaranteed buyer, that’s what missing from the housing market, who can speed up the real issue in the housing market which is speed and scale, and you can then have a public sector buyer, what they can offer to people is that if they rent for ten years, the purchase price of that property ten years ago, and then you have massive transformation over a decade, you can have Tory house, an asset creation machine in every country and every city in the country.
Dr Rakib Ehsan:
I liked what the gentleman said that red Toryism is essentially taking the Labour parties clothes, I mean I read the Labour party manifesto and I can tell you now very much based on mass nationalisation based on water, energy. I found the nationalisation of broadband network absolutely bonkers, they actually thought that this could actually be quite popular with its core constituencies, if I had to describe that, that is very much a chattering class initiative I’m sure, as I said, I made the point that it’s sensible social democratic economics, I wouldn’t say that the Labour party manifesto was a representative of sensible social democratic economics at all, I think that many of there even traditional working class voters, I think they very much just kept hearing, free this, free that, and they just couldn’t really relate to this, they just became, I think it’s a very simplistic way of framing it the red Tory concept is simply stealing Labour party clothes. I think that the point that you made about personal choice, one thing I’d follow up about what Phillip said about people don’t, it doesn’t really relate to the community spirited approach that people have, especially in areas that the conservative party have never won before, which they have now Conservative MPs representing those constituencies, and I think I’ll make that point as I said when you’re trying to make out the liberating virtues of the free market or personal choice or all the rest of it, I don’t think that people in those sort of areas can really relate to that sort of chat, that’s my personal perspective, I think in terms of the point about young people overwhelmingly voting for the Labour party, I think that there’s a range of studies show that if you take on more responsibility, when you begin to own your own home, you have more personal property, you have more social responsibility, starting your own family, that does have a conservative effect on your values and your worldview, a number of labour party councillors in my constituency were showing a map just of the UK in a block of Red, if only 18-24 year olds could vote then we’d have a majority of 600, some sort of comfort zone politics. The reality of the matter is that that doesn’t mean that they are going to have the same worldview as right now in 10 years’ time, so I don’t necessarily think that by the sort of view that these people’s ideas just stay stationary, there is a host of scholarly literature that that is just simply not the case. What I would say about the environment, I think that that is going to be a challenge for the administration, I think HS2, we might disagree on this, I don’t entirely feel that is a pro-environment endeavour to be perfectly honest, there are a number of environmental organisation that have said that this is actually quite anti-environment, I think that particularly when at my neck of the woods where there is Conservative councillors talking about liberalising planning laws so you can build more on the green belt. If you take Luton, there are plenty of derelict brown fields which could be utilised. One challenge for this administration something that I would like to see is if they try to adopt a pro-environment agenda for sure because I think that that is quite important.
I think that what I have seen so far in terms of the government’s climate change proposals [inaudible] to be quite problematic, banning diesel cars, I’m quite surprised actually, because what I would have respected was at least some kind of Manhattan style, high risk, high reward scientific drive for the next carbon free [inaudible] that’s really want Tories should be doing. They should be arguing that capitalism really is the key to all of things that are going to make us more environmentally friendly, so I’m not sure what is going on there, it all seems a little ‘Mayite’ for me. In terms of the future and the fact that young people don’t really like the Tory party, I think that the future is going to be, is going to depend on whether the Tories can embrace, make an argument that we need to embrace technology, and I think we are on the brink of a very interesting time, on the brink of biotechnology, and that could create a new industrial revolution are going to very much recoil from it, based on, all this sort of stuff about tech monopoly and how evil they are, and automation and how scary that is because people are [inaudible] but actually I think that the Tories have to make this stuff really exciting, they have to make the case for how to deliver huge dividends to us as an economy and its going to mean higher productivity, better with better jobs, better life and I am really interested in the language that came out of Brexit and how it was sort of enmeshed in computer speak, systems change, and I think that that politically campaigning will increasingly couched in this kind of language, because this second industrial revolution is going to be really key, I think politics is going to be driven by how each side responds.
[inaudible] I think one of Thatcherism’s biggest issues is that it saw breaking up the state monopolies was one of the key things to get the market working, rather than upturning the traditional liberal view was essential the state was a spine around the free market to operate healthily, it actually attacked the state itself and in many cases created what you guys are referring to is a monopoly and rentier based economy, an example is basically [inaudible] history where the conservative ideal has actually been realised is effectively the post war period and how that was enabled was with a mass council house building programme, which had lots of positive effects on the housing market, people who would not normally have been able to afford a home were able to take advantage of subsidised rents in council housing, save up over a period of time, purchase their own home, what I [inaudible] the destruction of council housing were a massive influx of that housing into the private sector, that in and of itself has inflated housing prices, as houses have become assets not just clothes, that has pushed more people out of the housing market itself and into rented properties, and it has created a huge damaging spiral which has effectively destroyed the home owning ideal, which mostly conservatives would have actually supported, and I think that that’s just one example of the myriad of issues that are the unintended consequences of Thatcherism that has actually had a negative impact on the free market which it was supposed to defend, but on the flip side of that, I think a lot of the things that you are opposing, effectively we need a strong state, but the reality is that subsequent governments persistently from the 80’s onwards have continued in the same vein of undermining the capacity of the state to deliver on the things that we have been talking about. So I work in a local authority, we have just had to take highways and infrastructure back in house, that has created a saving for the local authority of over a million pounds a year, because whilst that contract was being contended to the private sector, people were paid for not only maintenance of highways and infrastructure, but also for administration to monitor the contract, and you’re paying for the profit of the company that are making the payments, its much more effective for the government, for things to be delivered in house, I think we found [inaudible] the last few years, is the very vehicle through which you want to achieve a lot of your ambitions in those policy sectors, has been undermined, and I think, on the very last point, I think it will take a lot to get the conservative party under the current leadership to reverse that and invest in rebuilding the integrity for some of those structures.
[inaudible] there is some meetings, that sort of thing, what my question is, in the Tory party are there many re Tories? There are many groups in the Tory party, are there many supporters of the agenda of red Toryism in the party?
I’m in favour of strong local run state, you’re sitting next to Mark Morrin, who together with me, although it was mostly Mark, wrote [inaudible] which essentially is probably one of our most successful policies. I think that what we need is a very powerful local state, that varies, that can do different things, and a not so powerful central state, because the central state has to get the micro economic model right, but I even think that that should be regionalised, for the reasons that I said earlier, for me the reason that the central state cant deliver on things like health, is because it can’t act differently in different areas according to different problems that different areas have. What we need is the mass bespoke, and what we need is the state to become a place-based initiative, that can deliver on place-based solutions, that why I favour mass devolution, to create a strong local state. So, in a way that would be my answer. The question about the Tory party, it’s a very good question, I have a lot of sympathy with the Blue Collar Conservatism, and I think Esther McVey is right in a lot of things that she’s argued for, I think there is an innate sympathy for those who have been elected in those areas and their policy needs. But it remains what I said, I’ve had personal meetings with two prime ministers, helped shaped the agenda with two administrations, for better or worse, if ever they listened to me more on all sorts of things, and I hope that that will be the case with this agenda, so Red Toryism remains an argument that many Tory MPs don’t accept, many are with Sherelle, many are with kind of the Neo-Liberal agenda, and I’m relaxed about that, but what I say to them is that I am the only person who is actually advocating for delivering the free market, which can only be achieved by what I argue for, some are arguing, some are sympathetic, some less so, but I remain a strong social conservative, and I remain committed to a Red tory economic agenda. And I bet you, all the policies that I read out, I think most of them will be adopted by this government. That’s the level of power that good ideas have, and its only with the quality of the ideas, that’s what I would say. But no, we’re not organised in any mass, we are not a party within a party, we just argue our case and aim to do quite well.
Yea I think that yea there is a level of disorganisation, you can see at the grass roots, but I think its because the Tory party is shell shocked about what’s happened, I don’t think that they were expecting it, whilst a couple of us were saying what was going to happen, not because the Tories were doing a particularly spectacular job prior to the election, but the Labour party had completely imploded, and I think that its important to really listen to people rather than theorise with what it is that they want, and I would argue that the date says that working class people want tax cuts, and they are more in favour for example, council tax cuts, VAT, junk food, all that kinds of stuff, indirect taxation. And I’m not really sure where this discourse about the evils of monopoly comes from, I certainly hear that in Black country, maybe its more of a London thing, I’m not sure. Interesting this idea of Thatcherism, this idea of monopolies, hostile takeovers, that’s probably a very natural form, addressing the phenomenon of the monopoly. So I’m not sure where we go with, what I worry is that, its kind of proto-Blairism, in London you’re theorising what the project, what needs to be done, and I think the Tories need to take a step back and think about what it is that people are saying that they want. I think the reason that the election were so successful is that people have a hunger for change, and I think that it’s the ability of getting things done, rather than going down the route of criticising capitalism, I don’t think that is what it’s about, I think people were quite repulsed by Labour because they were so spendthrift, and people feel austerity, that the government should be fiscally responsible, if you come from a working class family with not much money, its kind of a natural idea of not just throwing money everywhere. So, I think that the Tories have quite a bit of work in getting to know properly the psychology of their new constituent.
Dr Rakib Ehsan:
I couldn’t disagree more if I’m being completely honest, I think the idea that parts of Black country, Dudley north for example that they would be able, the idea that you would achieve that sort of Conservative majority with a small state low tax philosophy is for the birds if I’m being completely honest, I think that more generally I think looking at, if this current administration if they’re really serious about consolidating that new found support in places like Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Blyth Valley, this is not overthrowing the capitalist system, this is the reality that you have to acknowledge that there are certain anxieties over certain forms of inequalities that are reproduced by the existing market capitalist system, for example I am very supportive of the German social market economy, I don’t think people describe that as an authentically socialist economy at all, but I think that the German model of co-determination, the fusion between government, trade union and the business community, I think that those are important behaviours to be had, but I do think as I said, if this current conservative government is really serious about consolidating its support, in areas which traditionally are Labour voting, pro-Brexit, I do think that that combination of making sure that the immigration system, in terms of boosting public confidence in the immigration system, the immigration system is being controlled and is well managed, I think when it comes to law and order, if you was to adopt a more hard headed conservative approach, I think the reality of the matter is that when you’re are talking about those working class communities is that they have a very, generally have a very culturally conservative approach when it comes to law and order, and when it comes to people being punished over breaking the law, so I think more broadly it is just a matter of, this is the existing economic system, perhaps in terms of broader political culture we are focused on macro-economic indicators like GDP, when the reality of the matter is that we should be bringing change, trying to introduce things that I have discussed earlier, for example town centre regeneration schemes, expansion of port schemes, people can really relate, and then they will be able to see those sorts of local economic regeneration, because I think the reality is including a great deal of people is many voters that the conservatives managed to win over from the Labour party, that they are quite patriotic, they are quite family orientated, also community spirited, so if they see that sort of positive change in their local communities, I think that could make a genuine difference and I think that might make the conservative party consolidate support, it is unfamiliar territory.
Brendan Smith MP:
Ok, think you I found that very stimulating tonight I hope everybody else did, so thank you very much to Sherelle and Phillip for their contributions tonight, thank you to the Henry Jackson Society for making tonight possible as well, and of course everybody here for coming and being so patient with the staff as well. So have a great evening and thanks for coming along.