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Let’s use the opportunity of Brexit to build a new, modern Britain

4 min read

With its strong economic story, combined with a narrative of radical change, the Conservative party has the vital ingredients to win the next election, writes Eddie Hughes

“Exhausted, out of ideas, knackered” cry the commentators; and they aren’t referring to my football team Aston Villa. The Conservative Party has been in power since 2010 and it’s easy to mistake disagreements over Brexit as a vacuum for new ideas.

Beneath the surface, the Conservative Party is quietly undergoing a ‘second spring’ and as a party, I think we have the vital ingredients to make renewal happen. We have a new generation of MPs with the skills, talent and real-life experience to connect with the electorate.

But do we have the ideas to win the next election? I think we do. Starting with a really strong economic story to tell. But this doesn’t mean a narrative of continuity but instead a narrative of radical change.

As the first Conservative MP elected for Walsall North since 1976 I constantly hear on the doorstep that people want change. I believe this message of change is being echoed around the country. We must be radical and deliver; not for the many, not for the few – but for everyone. A refocus on the ‘common good’.

With George Freeman’s ‘Big Tent Ideas’, Chris Skidmore’s Policy Groups and the work of thinktanks Onward and Freer, there are a number of centre-right policies being proposed that would build upon our economic story, take advantage of the opportunities post-Brexit and deliver the change people are hungry for.

For starters, we need to increase the number of police on the streets, show the police we have their backs and demonstrate to the public that we are the party of law and order.

It’s time to simplify the tax system, use the opportunities provided by Brexit to cut corporation tax and attract even more businesses – and jobs – to Britain. We should scrap and replace crippling business rates. Companies who use international structures to reduce their tax burdens should be welcome to trade in Britain but need to pay their fair share in tax.

It’s time to radically change our High Streets to reflect the internet age – in some cases changing some of them back to housing and in other cases radically cutting overheads so businesses can compete.

And international aid should be reviewed to reflect the total tax take, rather than an arbitrary GDP figure. The public need to be assured that when we help people most in need around the world, the money is reaching those people.

Post-Brexit we may have fewer tradespeople coming over from mainland Europe, so we need to incentivise to train tradespeople locally, encouraging more young people to follow a career in building through a modern and properly paid apprenticeship scheme. With future technological developments and changing jobs, we need to be able to reequip people with new skills throughout their lives, not just at 18.

We also need to redouble our efforts to build more housing. More should be invested in Modern Methods of Construction to improve off-site construction capacity, we need more land remediation and we should accelerate work on quantum sensors which could radically reduce the costs and risks associated with ground works.

There’s also the NHS. A fantastic service but operating with an analogue technical system in a digital age. With wearable tech, distributed ledger technologies and the adoption of artificial intelligence, as well as building more capacity in the system, we should aim not only to make the NHS a seven day a week service but a pro-active service wherever possible.

I’ve only touched on a handful of ideas that would renew the Conservative Party and show people that we are hungry for change too. Let’s get on with Brexit, but let’s use the opportunity to build a new, modern Britain that truly works for everyone. 

Eddie Hughes is Conservative MP for Walsall North

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Read the most recent article written by Eddie Hughes MP - Eddie Hughes reviews John O’Farrell's 'Family Politics'

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