Theresa May now has the chance to reshape Britain

So, it’s a General Election. The Fixed Term Parliaments Act proved as impotent as its opponents had always said it would be. Roll on June 8. After the Scottish referendum of 2014, General Election of 2015, and EU referendum of 2016, this will be the fourth year in a row with an epochal vote for the UK.

One difference between this year’s vote and the other three is that there is no real doubt about the outcome. The only two questions are how massive Theresa May’s massive majority will be and how catastrophic Labour’s catastrophic defeat. In 1923, the Liberal Party won 158 seats — the last time it was a serious contender for government. Can Labour do better than that, and maintain the illusion, just a little longer, that it might one day recover?

Aside from Jeremy Corbyn’s personal haplessness, the three really big reasons the Conservatives will win big and Labour will be gutted are Scotland, Brexit and the economy.

Labour has never won an overall majority in a General Election without winning a majority in Scotland. Yet they only have one Scottish MP at present. And there’s every chance the Conservatives will get more. Under their dynamic leader Ruth Davidson, the Conservatives are now thoroughly established as the real opposition to the SNP.

The SNP will presumably put seeking a second Scottish independence referendum in their manifesto and claim a mandate. Will the Conservatives say there should be no referendum this coming Parliament? Or could they agree to a 2022 independence referendum, once Brexit is out of the way, drawing the SNP’s sting?

On Brexit, Labour remains appallingly split. A rump want to keep arguing for a second referendum. Others want to move on. For the Conservatives, Brexit means it will pick up votes from Ukip, now that party’s raison d’etre is gone. If you want Brexit, vote for the government that’s promising Brexit. What point is there in voting Ukip now?

The Conservatives may even pick up quite a few votes in northern England, where former Labour voters (some of whom may not have voted for several elections) have crossed the Rubicon by voting against Labour in the EU referendum and now might be harvested for the Conservatives.

On the economy, the Tories can claim their policies of the last seven years have been dully effective. We have very low unemployment. Growth has been steady if not spectacular. Things could have been a lot worse – for example if Jeremy Corbyn had been in charge.

And during the campaign, voters will be exposed to the full force of Corbyn’s deranged economic programme and philosophy. There will probably be a series of Tory election broadcasts that do little more than repeat Jeremy Corbyn’s own views in his own words. There’s no need for spin.

One useful thing an early General Election does is to get the Conservatives out of various of the daft election pledges made in 2015. We saw in the debacle of the 2017 Spring Budget how 2015 promises were making policy awkward.

What could go? Obviously they won’t want to continue with the pledges of no change to self-employed taxation or NI. They probably won’t want to pledge to ringfence spending on pensioner benefits any longer, either.

Other spending pledges to keep an eye out for might be commitments on international development and defence. The pledge for these might be combined in some way? Could they be really brave and refuse to pledge to ringfence NHS spending? If they are ever going to get rid of that absurd pledge, a can’t-lose election like this would be the time.

Connected to the above might be migration issues. Surely they can’t pledge to keep net migration to an average of below 100,000 over this parliament? Maybe some modified vague pledge such as promising, by the next election, to be getting net migration “down closer towards” 100,000? They might also promise to end free movement with the EU “by the end of this parliament”. That could allow up to three years of transitional arrangements, giving May some helpful wriggle room in the Brexit talks.

We can pretty much bank on May getting a majority greater than 100, perhaps north of 150. With no opposition worthy of the name, she will have full freedom to do whatever she likes domestically for the foreseeable future. Time for all those right-wing think-tanks to flaunt their wares. The UK could look a very different country by the time all this is done.

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Theresa May triggers Brexit – Article 50 FULL STATEMENT

Brexit negotiations begin as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom makes her statement to the House of Commons and Nation.

 

Conservatives

Dear Ian,

Today we formally begin the process of leaving the European Union. This is a moment for our country to come together and to forge a new partnership with Europe and with the rest of the world.

When I sit around the negotiating table in the months ahead, I will represent every person in the whole United Kingdom – young and old, rich and poor, city, town, country and all the villages and hamlets in between. And yes, those EU nationals who have made this country their home.

It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country.

For, as we face the opportunities ahead of us on this momentous journey, our shared values, interests and ambitions can – and must – bring us together.

We all want to see a Britain that is stronger than it is today. We all want a country that is fairer so that everyone has the chance to succeed. We all want a nation that is safe and secure for our children and grandchildren. We all want to live in a truly Global Britain that gets out and builds relationships with old friends and new allies around the world.

These are the ambitions of this Government’s Plan for Britain. Ambitions that unite us, so that we are no longer defined by the vote we cast, but by our determination to make a success of the result.

We are one great union of people and nations with a proud history and a bright future.

And, now that the decision has been made to leave the EU, it is time to come together.

So please show your support for our Plan for Britain today.

Thank you.

Theresa May
Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party


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UK government strategy for 2017

A successful government needs a vision. It also needs to decide which are the main steps it should  take to show progress towards its vision. It can only fight a limited number of battles during a Parliament. It needs to be mindful of the need to keep a majority in the Commons, which usually means not alienating the majority party. When you have a small majority there are even fewer you can afford to alienate. It needs  to keep enough public opinion on side for the specifics as well as for the broader aims. If a good majority of the public buy into the aims, the government has a  bit more leeway over the unpopularity of any particular measure needed to pursue the vision. A government can survive rebellions on its own backbenches where it can attract support from other parties or where the opposition is not united in exploiting the weakness of the governing party.

Some of the individual steps Margaret Thatcher took, like the abolition of the GLC, employment  legislation, the handling of  strikes and the disposition of budgets were highly contentious. Nonetheless she won three elections in a row, with levels of voter support more recent governments have been unable to achieve or sustain. The general strategy of promoting growth, individual responsibility and enterprise, and restoring the reputation of the UK at home and abroad was well supported overall. People said “We know where we stand with her” whether they liked her or not. Government policy was sufficiently predictable and consistent for many to want to follow it and for its opponents to know exactly what they did not like and what they were up against. You could work out many of the detailed policies from understanding the principles behind the strategy, without knowing the detail in advance.

Theresa May has been very clear about her high level vision. She wants to govern in the interests of all, especially raising the living standards of those who work hard but are not well off. She also has stated clearly that she will lead the UK out of the EU in a timely way, commencing with a formal letter of departure before the  end of March 2017. Her aims in the discussions that follow are equally clear. She will take back control of our laws, our borders and our money. She will offer and seek tariff free access to each other’s markets.

All this is vision enough. It is clearer and less divisive than the Coalition’s rhetoric about getting the deficit down and accepting austerity as a necessity for recovery. The issue is, how many steps can be taken for reform, in pursuit of a higher earning, wealthier independent UK?

As always there are plenty of other important topics that government has to deal with that are not central to the overriding aims. Jeremy Hunt wishes to press on with  his transparency revolution in the NHS, seeking to raise standards by greater openness in reporting results and mistakes.  Many want reform of social care, as frustrations grow with the lack of provision in some local authority areas. The government  is keen like its predecessor to make big changes in mental health care. The prisons are crying out for reform. The great welfare revolution with the introduction of universal credit is still incomplete.  Leaving the EU will require new agriculture and fishing policies.

2017 should be a time for the government to concentrate on its two main strategies. The sooner the EU issue is resolved the better. It will reduce uncertainties and boost confidence if it can be done quickly. The new industrial strategy, appropriate tax changes, and other measures to boost productivity, output and therefore  jobs and wages are needed by the Spring budget at the latest. Carry out the first aim and make good progress with the second is the sensible approach, to buy the right for the other reforms that may follow.

John Redwood’s Diary

THE JON GAUNT SHOW: White flight! UK more segregated than ever.

You are not a racist if you don’t want to live in an area where white people are the minority! But a new study shows whites are leaving towns like Leicester, Birmingham and Luton in record numbers as a direct result of mass immigration. In Slough in Berkshire, the white population between 2001-2011 dropped from 58.3 per cent to 34.5! I’m not afraid to say it, I don’t want to live in a majority Muslim area! Our communities are changing too quickly!

My guest today probably never has to deal with the consequences of the last Labour government’s open-door immigration. He was Professor Ted Cantle, Founder of the Institute of Community Cohesion. I rowed with him because he wouldn’t accept that recent levels of Muslim immigration is damaging our country. I remember when we all used to rub along together! Today I feel a stranger in my own home town of Coventry.

FREE speech wants your view so get involved 020 38 29 1234, jon@talk2meradio.com, @talk2meradiouk @jongaunt. Listen LIVE from 10am every morning and download the talk2meradio app to hear all our shows.