My Dream Manifesto: Tory MPs on what they'd like to see from the party
In 2019 it was “getting Brexit done” – but what about the next manifesto? Four Conservative parliamentarians set out what they would like to see from the party at the next general election
It is time to prioritise homes, justice and women’s rights and safety
Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Conservative MP for Thurrock
By far the biggest challenge facing us is the need to deliver more homes. Those of us lucky enough to have a home to call our own should not be standing in the way of anyone else who wishes to realise that ambition. And when a market is broken government should intervene. We shouldn’t be shy about building new council homes. They can be allocated by fixed term tenancies and subject to right to buy.
I would also like to see a higher emphasis on prison reform. There are too many people in our prisons who cannot read or write. Too many who have been through the care system. Those people have been failed by the state. Our criminal justice system should try harder to correct that failure so that prisons are home to the criminal rather than the vulnerable.
And good sense please on women’s rights. The desire to be inclusive is seeing a casual diminution of women’s rights to the extent that we have become cervix-havers; people who get pregnant and worst of all people without prostates. We can be supportive of trans rights while still ensuring that male sex offenders are not housed in women’s prisons and women can continue to have their own
sporting competitions. Women have come a long way in achieving equality with men; protecting our rights requires vigilance.
Society is now more aware of violence against women and girls following the tragic case of Sarah Everard. It has been a revelation to many men that so many of their wives, sisters, daughters and friends have shared their experiences of aggressive sexual behaviour. It is just too normal. We need a stronger focus on empowering girls and encouraging respect. If we make low-level sexual banter and casual harassment as unacceptable as drink-driving perhaps the more violent acts of sexual violence will become more shocking and less prevalent.
As Conservatives we know that the state does fail. In fact, that is the real difference between us and the Labour Party. We know that the state is not infallible. We know that problems cannot be solved simply by throwing taxpayers’ money at them. We should not be shy about saying so. We believe that people should be able to keep more of what they earn. We shouldn’t measure success by how much we spend. Let’s focus our attention on outcomes achieved rather than pounds spent.
We should return to a compassionate approach to international aid and migration at the next election
Karen Bradley, Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands
In a Conservative party manifesto, the primary component should be a clear plan to deal with the economy and fiscal situation as we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. This should outline a path to clean and sustainable growth that helps businesses and works for everyone.
Following on from previous manifesto commitments, I would like to once again commit to spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on overseas development. UK aid funds vital international charities and development programmes to help those in poverty and to ensure standards of education, health and hygiene. Many of the countries who receive UK aid have been hit hardest by the pandemic and will continue to see the effects of such for a longer period of time. It is therefore crucial for us to continue providing assistance to those truly in need.
Another core focus of a manifesto should be a plan to deal with the migrant issue, specifically one with an emphasis on safe and legal routes to migration. As co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, we have taken evidence from a range of stakeholders including the independent anti-slavery commissioner and representatives from law enforcement agencies. The conclusion of these consultations is that the muscular solution to people arriving illegally – that is the threat of being denied entry – needs to be partnered with a compassionate approach, namely the emphasis on safe and legal routes of migration. And of course, overseas aid and working with partners are key to solving this problem globally.
My constituency depends on tourism for economic growth. We saw a rise in demand for domestic holidays during the pandemic and so policies to encourage future tourism are key. However, these policies need to detail solutions to problems such as traffic, litter and preservation of natural spaces. Linked with this, the manifesto would include a commitment, under the Department for Transport’s Restoring Your Railway Fund, to reopen the Leek-Stoke railway line, to enable visitors or local people to get to and from the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Protecting nature should be at the core of a Conservative manifesto
Chris Grayling, Conservative MP for Epsom and Ewell
This government is already doing some world leading work on environmental protection. We now have a national focus on rebuilding habitats and increasing species protection. But it isn’t always straightforward to do so.
Take our housing challenge. We clearly need to build more houses. But we also must reverse the catastrophic decline in the number of native animal, bird and plant species. There’s one particular change I am pushing for, though I want it well before we get to the next manifesto.
There are legal safeguards in place for some of our most troubled species when it comes to new developments. One example is the requirement to provide a proper assessment and take action if a species like a bat can be found on the site. Other safeguards are less necessary. The newt is an obvious example. Protected in UK law because of its rarity in parts of the EU, in reality its numbers here are healthy and it should not be top of our priority list when much loved and vulnerable species like the hedgehog enjoy no such protection. Only recently, several hedgehogs were killed in Dorset when a developer cleared a site before starting construction.
But we should not discriminate in law between different kinds of vulnerable species. I want to see the introduction of a requirement for developers to do a proper assessment of what species are present on a site before beginning work. They should be required to relocate any that are at risk.
We also need to continue to develop our new support system for farmers in a way that reinforces our goal of reversing the decline in nature in the UK. We have already legislated for a system that will, for example, encourage farmers to widen their field margins, creating extra habitat for animals, birds and plants.
But we also need to encourage farmers to plant hedgerows. Too many have been ripped up in recent years with a huge loss of habitat. That will require some government support and rules that drive that change.
Finally we need to move our farming away from the intensive use of pesticides which has led to a massive drop in insect numbers. Their loss is also damaging our ecosystems.
We have the technology now to keep farming and building and also protect and encourage wildlife. As a party it needs to be at the core of what we do going forward.
We must get investment in technology in schools right, so it ‘levels up’ education rather than leaving more children behind
Andrea Jenkyns, Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood
During lockdown I received a knock on the door and was handed an Amazon parcel. I was startled to find a brand new £600 iPhone. My three-year-old, Clifford, burst into the room announcing, “hooray my iPhone is here Mummy!” – It turns out our little technical clever clogs had ordered the phone on my husband’s credit card on our Amazon app!
Not only that, but he had purchased it using voice recognition technology – something I hadn’t even got round to experimenting with yet. It was at this moment that I realised just how quickly the world was changing.
The demand for online learning is going to be so much greater for my son’s generation than it ever was for mine. And lockdown has only hastened the transformation from classroom and lecture theatre to the tablet and laptop. This is a good thing; I studied online at the Open University as a mature student, while fighting a seat to become an MP, working full-time and looking after my father, who was ill at the time. The experience was fulfilling but also practical and I couldn’t have studied if they didn’t offer such a flexible approach.
A manifesto pledge I would put forward would be for Britain to lead and embrace this technological online revolution in education – it is the only way we’ll ensure our education system delivers for the next generation. But as we embark on this exciting new adventure, and the opportunities it opens, we must accept that this brave new world has been leaving people behind.
I was elected back in December 2019 on a platform to “level up” opportunity throughout the country. I remember when the Prime Minister said that he believed that talent, skill and genius is distributed uniformly throughout the country and that the Conservative Party’s mission would be to ensure everyone had an opportunity to flourish, prosper, and to have access to equal opportunities and skills, regardless of background.
This was one of the main reasons my party made such huge strides in the “red wall” constituencies in the north. But the Covid school closures and the move to online learning have left some of the most vulnerable children, many in precisely these constituencies, far behind. That’s why we need to see significant and further targeted investment in technology and training in schools, new systems to train teachers in virtual teaching methods, to check children are engaging with online learning.
Technology and the online learning revolution have the capacity to future proof our economy, to open up a myriad of opportunities, to level up opportunity and ensure that Britain becomes a world leader in education, equipping Brits of every background to compete in the ever-changing global jobs market. But it can also be a huge barrier to social mobility.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.