There’s an old adage that runs something like this. A man attends a sermon at church, and afterwards is asked by his friends, “What was the Priest’s position on sin?” “Well”, he responds, “he was against it!” The current state of the Government seems alarmingly similar to this. We are simply against Labour. Their policies are just unattractive enough to keep us in power. We cannot go on in this manner. We are most certainly not charting our own course. We are stumbling along with continual u-turns, bungled press conferences and scandals. Only 37% of voters think the Government is handing the Brexit talks well. Indeed, with the rapid technological advances, the current jobs market is undergoing, it seems that the current government is woefully unprepared for the future. If we fail to adapt, we face defeat at the next election. There has to be a bold vision for a Conservative-led Britain.

Whilst delivering a successful exit from the European Union understandably remains the Government’s priority, we need to start offering a distinct plan as to what the future looks like under the Conservatives. Unfortunately, the Brexit cacophony submerges any piecemeal initiatives that the Government announces. When was the last time the government offered us a substantial, clearly thought out policy that did not relate to Brexit. Michael Gove’s department seems to be the only one coming out with original, effective policies.

My concern is the apparent failure of the Government to plan effectively and prepare for the future beyond Brexit. Every few months, alarmist headlines appear in major publications worldwide, laying out the wrath that automation will lay to jobs. KPMG has predicted that up to 15 million jobs will be lost as our lives are transformed by technology. In the North of England, one in four jobs is at risk of being replaced by advances in technology – which is substantially higher than the 18% average London and the South. Furthermore, it is the regions of the UK that, on average, most overwhelmingly voted for Brexit, that will be most adversely affected as well. The Government cannot neglect those which have lost out most severely in the past.

George Osbourne’s Northern Powerhouse plan was a noble attempt to tackle the regional disparity or the ‘North-South’ divide, bringing investment and infrastructure plans, and although this policy is still somewhat in place, Theresa May’s current government seems woefully unprepared to deal with what will be yet another crisis in only a matter of time.

Leaving the European Union opens up immense opportunities, but that cannot be confined to the South as has continually been the case. If we are truly going to be Global Britain, outward and open to investment, we must ensure that outside of the London bubble there are clear government incentives to ensure that everywhere achieves more prosperity. Whilst Brexit is understandably the primary concern of the Government, we must not neglect regions beyond the capital.

French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron gave an interview to ‘Wired’ Magazine last month, detailing a $1.5b investment plan into the field of artificial intelligence, and speaking intelligently and candidly to their editor. I am not conflating AI and automation, and to do so is a cardinal sin, but here is a clear, decisive and well thought through policy which will yield success for the French in dealing with a serious issue. The level of competency he has over a very complex issue is impressive. I fail to see any member of the current Government showing any prospect of being aware of this topic and discussing it with confidence and vision.

Of the nearly 100 new Conservative MPs who have been elected since 2015, very few have been properly utilised. They are fresh, modern and ambitious; the government must make use of them or else be continually seen as a relic. Our policies and Cabinet seem stuck in the past, and we are hurtling towards the future with little in the way of policy to help us on our way.

My fear is that this Government lacks is a clear view of what Britain could and should look like by the next election, in only four years time. There is a distinct lack of self-confidence and vision. We need to be seen as a modern, ambitious party with clear plans for the future. It is worth noting that we have not convincingly won an election since the late 1980s. Sam Gyimah MP was recently reported by the FT as stating ‘If we don’t offer a vision beyond leaving the EU that delivers on their hopes and aspirations, our appeal will be like a jammed radio signal. They will change the station.’ It is down to the Government to ensure that our ‘station’ is an attractive, dynamic and inspirational choice for the public; if not, dark days of socialism lie ahead.

 

Written by Toby Payne

Toby Payne is Head of Digital at 1828.