If We Don’t Stand for Anything, We Might As Well Not Stand At All

After the surprise result of the 2017 General Election, a lot of Conservative activists have speculated as to how we might emulate the success of Jeremy Corbyn’s election machine, in such a way that shows that there are still lessons to be learnt from 2017. Those who have formed movements like ‘Moggmentum’ to coalesce around the traditionalist Jacob Rees-Mogg as a Tory Corbyn, or any of the ill-fated ‘Tory Momentum’ groups, which attempt to replicate the success of Momentum…somehow, have correctly identified some of the factors behind Corbyn’s rise, but have missed the most important ones.

Moggmentum, or indeed, any of the personality-driven campaigns which assert that the way to beat Corbyn is to replace Theresa May with someone more personable have successfully identified that one of Corbyn’s advantages is that people like him as a person. However, to attribute his relative success in the election solely to his being personable is to construct an imperfect picture of why people like Corbyn. People like him because he is seen as likeable, normal, in touch with the population, but even in an alternative reality where the Tories conduct the same campaign with a more Corbyn-esque leader, the result doesn’t change.

Likewise, while the ‘Tory Momentum’ groups have correctly identified that the structure of the Party and the sheer volume of Labour activists relative to our own significantly hindered our abilities in the election, the solution is not to form some Momentum replica. The arguments for structural reform of the party have been made time and again, and do not need to be covered here, and proper structural reform to maximise the incentives for people to join the party (a youth wing, better democratic structures, better campaigning etc.) will go some way towards improving our electoral performance. We both don’t need a Momentum replica – powerful autonomous allied organisations have the power to undermine the Party, as Momentum have done with things like Labour candidate selections; whereas most of the structural advantages of a Momentum style group could be gained through internal Party reforms – and wouldn’t be able to get a Tory Momentum, even if we tried to activate one.

The reason that Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum have been successful is that they stand for something. Since becoming Labour leader, Corbyn has had a very clear positive message and, like him or loathe him, people know exactly what he intends to do. Theresa May was very popular until the General Election campaign because she too had a positive message. Mayism was about improving things for the Just-About-Managing, increasing opportunity and making capitalism fairer.

Unfortunately, the election campaign brought a different message. The Conservatives emphasised that May was strong and stable without providing any sort of positive narrative as to why a Conservative government would be good for the country. Our manifesto focussed on issues of intergenerational equality and social justice, and yet we didn’t talk about that. The 2015 campaign saw similar policies backed by a positive message of socially and economically liberal governance.

By focussing alternately on how bad Corbyn would be and how strong and stable Theresa May is, we lost control of the narrative in its entirety. What we need in future is a positive narrative, emphasising our core principles. In 2017, we became so obsessed with Corbyn not winning that we made fatal electoral mistakes. Once the social care policy was in the manifesto we were always going to lose those voters who disagreed with it unless we could explain why it was necessary – if we could have tied it into a positive narrative around intergenerational equality we might have kept some of those who disagreed with the policy, and would decidedly have kept those who we lost by U-turning on it.

Mayism is inherently about intergenerational fairness and equality, and about expanding opportunity, and that should have been what the campaign focussed on. Cameronism emphasised liberal social policy and elements of intergenerational equality, and that was a far more potent campaign message that enabled us to seize control of at least our portion of the narrative. If May leads us into the next election, she will need a positive campaign message to win it. If we have to choose another leader, we should be looking for one with a positive vision for Britain that voters can get behind, not simply one who has mannerisms that are meme-able.

Corbyn did well because he stood for something, if we don’t stand for anything then we will lose the next election. Often it seems that we have become so obsessed with governing that we have forgotten to explain why it is good that we are in government. If we are to stay in government then we need a positive Conservative narrative, whatever angle it takes. Elections are more than slogans and smiles, they are about a vision for the country that the country can get behind – that is why Corbyn did well, that is why the Scottish Conservatives have done so well in recent years, it is also why populism has grown so much in the 21st Century.

We don’t need a Momentum, because without a positive narrative we won’t inspire the activists and the messages that allow Momentum to thrive. We don’t need a more personable leader, because we won’t be able to beat Corbyn without the narrative to compete with Corbynism. These things are all secondary priorities for the party: ultimately if we don’t stand for anything, we might as well not bother to stand at all.

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U-turn if you want to

We expect our politicians to make the right decision every time. We expect them to be exemplary role models in every aspect of their private and professional lives. If we want to have a better politics in this country, we need to accept that all our politicians – whatever their party or ideological background – are human, and that sometimes humans make mistakes.

There is a significant cognitive dissonance surrounding ‘U-turns’ in politics. We see a policy we dislike, we make a big clamour about how much we dislike it, the government changes its mind on the policy, and we are outraged that the U-turn has happened. Either we didn’t dislike the original policy, we made too much of a clamour, we spoke too soon and so when the government changed its mind we realised we liked the original plans, or alternatively we like using U-turns as a stick to beat politicians with.

One of the main arguments against U-turns seems to be: ‘but they should get the policy right in the first place’. Certainly there is a case to be made for that argument, but as previously mentioned, our politicians are human, however much we try to convince ourselves they aren’t. If a politician gets something wrong, or underestimates how unpopular something will be, then the right thing to do is to admit that and U-turn. By our constant outcry every time a bad idea gets canned, you’d think we’d prefer to suffer and say, ‘I told you so,’ than have effective policy-making.

This argument also undermines one of the basic principles of politics: the idea that decisions should be made through a public and/or parliamentary debate about an issue. The whole reason we have a debate and elections, rather than just allowing faceless administrators to govern in some benevolent dictatorship, is that we want bad decisions to be overturned and mediocre decisions to be turned into good ones. If we start out with the attitude: ‘we want debate and parliament to listen to our voices, but we don’t want them to actually change their minds’, then one has to ask what the point of the debate actually is?

Politicians may well be expected to get a decision right first time, every time, but when they don’t we should respect them far more for U-turning in the face of public pressure than for carrying on regardless and inflicting poor policy upon us. A strong leader will get every decision right, a stronger one will be willing to compromise when they get things wrong.

Pragmatic policy-making, with consultation and debate, is the desired political process. It ensures that we get the best decisions, and that where decisions go against what we desire we can influence our legislators to implement better policy. Accountability requires responsiveness, if we want an accountable government, we need to stop criticising politicians for being responsive.

When a politician is strong enough to admit that they were wrong about something and change their mind, that is far more worthy of respect than any posturing show of strength in the face of criticism. We put an extraordinary amount of pressure on our politicians and expect them to be everything to everyone. In a culture of criticising everything they do, let’s be clear: if we don’t like a policy they propose, and they have the guts to U-turn on it, then we should be applauding that decision, not implying that it makes them weak.

For a truly responsive, inclusive and working democracy, we should tell our politicians: ‘U-turn if you want to’.

The Conservatives are the Only Viable Party on June 8th

On June 8th, the country will have a choice. It will be a choice between a strong, united Conservative Party with a plan for Britain and the capacity to deliver a stable Brexit; and a Labour Party divided and led by a leader completely unfit to occupy 10 Downing Street.

The only thing that unites the Parliamentary Labour Party is their loathing of Jeremy Corbyn – they are not fit or able to govern this country. Their policies are limited and poorly thought through. Free school meals for middle and high income pupils, funded in such a way that they would have to ensure enough pupils went to private school, which combined with their opposition to grammars shows once again that Labour are not the party of opportunity, seems to be the only thing of any real note.

Not only do Labour not have any policies, but they couldn’t deliver them if they did. They are a party of ideological division, gesture politics, and personal ambitions. Corbyn isn’t strong enough to control his MPs or stand up for Britain on the world stage. He u-turned on his long-standing opposition to the EU for political gain – he shouldn’t be trusted to keep short term policy positions if he can’t even stand by his long-held beliefs. He won’t stand in the way of Scottish independence and stand up for our Union. He can’t keep a Shadow Cabinet together, let alone a government. He couldn’t even get a seat on a train, on June 8th don’t let his MPs get a seat in your area.

The Liberal Democrats won’t listen to the people. In 2010, the people trusted the Lib Dems not to raise tuition fees, they did. In 2016, the people told us they wanted to Leave the European Union, the Lib Dems didn’t listen. If you vote for them in 2017, can you really trust them to deliver what they promise? They want this election to be Remain vs Leave, stirring up the division of the last year once more – on June 8th, reject the Lib Dems’ politicking with the will of the people and don’t let them prop up an incompetent Corbyn government.

UKIP are divided and obsolete. They are a protest party without any credible political figures and an inability to keep the ones that they do have. If you want to see what a UKIP presence in Parliament would look like, look no further than their European Parliamentary group – disorganised, prone to (literal) infighting, and with a poor attendance record. A vote for UKIP on June 8th is a vote against Brexit and against a strong government. It is a vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

This election will define the future of our country. For a strong, stable, united United Kingdom vote for a Conservative Party who will stand up for Britain in the Brexit negotiations and who will stand up to the Scottish Nationalists in Edinburgh. It is time to put aside division, and petty politicking and come together behind the Prime Minister to deliver a solid mandate for this country’s future.

Theresa May has shown that she is able to represent Britain on the world stage. She is a proven statesperson with a solid record in government. The Conservative Party has a strong platform of policies and a record of delivering on our promises. If you wanted to find a direct contrast to Labour’s incompetence, you needn’t look much further than Theresa May’s Conservative Party.

A vote for the Conservative and Unionist Party is a vote for a strong and united United Kingdom. A vote for the Conservative Party is a vote for a proven government filled with experienced legislators who can continue to build a strong economy and a fair society. A vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a party who will listen to, and work for, the people of this country at home and abroad.

Now, more than ever, we need a strong and stable government working for this country. Labour and UKIP can’t deliver, the Lib Dems won’t deliver – on June 8th let’s continue building a country that works for everyone.

Today Marks the Dawn of a New Britain

Today after many (literal) trials and tribulations, the Prime Minister fired the starting gun on Brexit. In the next two years, we will get more of a glimpse into what Brexit will look like, but here is a quick take on what Brexit should actually mean for Britain.The first (chronologically) and easiest thing for the Prime Minister to achieve in the negotiations is a guarantee that British citizens living and working in the EU27 will be allowed to remain, and that EU citizens living and working in the UK should be guaranteed the same. This is an important first step to securing peace of mind for the thousands of citizens in both areas who are deeply concerned about their right to stay in the country they now call home. Both sides seem to be committed to this principle as an early goal for negotiations, and so it should be achieved without too much strain.

Another important issue for the Prime Minister is to ensure that we created a globalist, outward-looking Britain, which matches both the desire of Leavers, and of the Remainers who support free trade and other liberal values. We should be aiming for free trade with the European Union after Brexit, but we must ensure that we are not tied down by the Customs Union. The regressive isolationism of tariffs on non-EU states has prevented Britain from harnessing the power and growth of emerging markets like China, India and Brazil, as well as inhibiting our ability to conduct trade with our traditional allies: particularly Canada, Australia and the United States.

Securing global free trade deals is an important aim of Brexit, and was something heavily pushed for by Vote Leave and mandated by the 17m people who voted for it. A global, free trading Britain is the future for this country, and becoming a beacon for trade can only bode well for our economy. Particular focus once trade restrictions with non-EU nations have been lifted should be securing deals with our traditional Commonwealth allies and other countries where there are fewer non-tariff barriers to entry, as well as ensure that the economies of tomorrow are included in any such deals.

With a globalist Britain in mind, we should also be looking to retain our cooperation on initiatives on important global issues, such as security and climate change. Britain should be a world leader in such areas and should retain its links with European nations to continue working to solve them – as was often repeated in the campaign: we are not leaving Europe, nor are we saying that we no longer wish to be friends and allies, we are simply leaving a political union. Cooperation within Europe should continue, and Britain should use the opportunity to build a new network of allies across the world to continue to tackle important issues.

Another goal of the negotiations should be an end to the automatic free movement of labour. Retaining free movement for tourism and for other leisure pursuits should be encouraged, but we must put an end to a discriminatory immigration system which weighs a person’s nationality more than a person’s personality. Our immigration system should be based on the person and not the passport that they hold, and everyone wishing to come and live in the UK should undergo the same process. If we accept that there must be some upper limit on immigration (whatever number that may be), then a system of free movement of people gives an unfair advantage to people from 27 nations over those from 169 – that is not just, not right, and not fair, and it must end.

Brexit also offers us a chance to reclaim and strengthen our democracy. It removes the impact of an unelected supranational body on our legislation, and instead it brings back important competencies to the UK’s legislative system. Increased powers for the UK Parliament should see powers that currently exist at national level fall down to regional governments, creating a system where the decisions that affect you get made by a local government that is much more convenient for you to lobby and influence, and by local representatives who can be swayed by a much smaller group of people (as they have smaller constituencies).

It may also bring an impetus for democratic reform. We have seen people examine the House of Lords with more scrutiny already during the Brexit process, and ask important questions about how much constitutional power the executive and the judiciary should have, and that sort of deliberation can only be a positive thing with regards building a representative and effective democracy.

Finally, it seems a given, but we should also use the opportunity to strengthen our Union, and not give in to those who seek to divide it. We share a common history and a common destiny. We share a common language and a common culture. This isn’t an English and Welsh Brexit, it is a red, white and blue Brexit, and it should work for England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, London and Cornwall.

Together, we take our first steps into a bright future.

The Scotland Question: Theresa May’s Four Options

The announcement that Nicola Sturgeon thinks a generation lasts five years was an unsurprising one, and it leaves the UK in an interesting position. With it seeming inevitable that the SNP minority government will be able to force their referendum demand through Holyrood, here’s a look at the four options that faced Theresa May yesterday at Westminster, before she ultimately decided to delay until at least 2020.

1) Don’t allow Scotland to have another referendum.

The surest way to guarantee that Scotland doesn’t vote for independence would, on the face of it, seem to be simply saying no to letting them vote. Sturgeon’s argument for a second ballot seems weak – coming 907 days after Scotland last voted, it doesn’t seem particularly justified to say that Scotland hasn’t been given the choice on independence – and the opinion polls have shown opposition to both independence and a second ballot remains stronger than support for them, meaning that the political implications behind rejecting Sturgeon’s proposal seem to have a net positive. Furthermore, it is certainly an achievable policy: three-line whipping the Conservative and Unionist Party’s MPs would produce a Westminster majority capable of vetoing the referendum.

However, the long term implications of preventing a vote could be significant. Blocking the SNP would incense nationalists and might lend some credence to their traditional ‘Westminster aren’t listening to us’ rhetoric. If the SNP become more determined and are given ammunition, then a Holyrood majority in 2021 seems likely, and by then SNP rhetoric will have had time to convince swing voters.

Verdict: Potentially not desirable, as it energises the SNP’s ranks and gives legitimacy to their arguments, but it would solidify the Union in the short term.

2) Call Sturgeon’s bluff and hold a referendum in autumn 2017.

Support for independence and for a second referendum is low, meaning that the likelihood of a referendum victory for the Union is significantly higher if we hold the ballot sooner. If Theresa May had decided to call Sturgeon’s bluff and hold the vote early it would catch the SNP off guard and wouldn’t give them the time required to convince voters around to their cause. This is particularly the case given the difficulties the SNP have had making clear what exactly an independent Scotland would look like.

Furthermore, an early referendum has some major benefits to the UK. It would reduce the effect that the threat of Scottish independence has on Brexit negotiations and a vote to remain in the Union would strength the PM’s hand immensely. Moreover, it would contain uncertainty and prevent a more significant period of uncertainty impacting on the economy between now and 2019. Lastly, a defeat to a Unionist campaign led by Ruth Davidson would increase pressure on Nicola Sturgeon and potentially topple the SNP minority government, leading to a Holyrood election between a delegitimised SNP and a resurgent Tory Party, and the potential for a much more significant hung parliament in Scotland.

Verdict: Desirable, victory seems much more likely sooner, but may impact upon the Brexit negotiations.

3) The Sturgeon option: referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

This is a terrible plan.

To elaborate slightly more, Nicola Sturgeon has played a very clever game with this particular option. Any move to hold the referendum at a different time will strength Sturgeon’s argument to an extent, as it will be seen as Westminster dictating Scottish policy, but in this case it is a much more desirable option than any other. If it is held at the end of the Brexit process then there are a whole manner of negative implications for the UK – the threat of Scottish independence if the UK gets a bad deal will significantly strengthen the EU’s hand, as it inserts an increased significance into Theresa May’s ability to threaten to walk away without a deal. The EU will know this, and if ever there was a bargaining chip that the UK cannot afford to allow the EU to hold, it is one as significant as secession.

It would also raise a further dilemma: failing to provide detailed information on the nature of the Brexit deal will increase uncertainty around Brexit and may push swing voters towards Scottish independence; on the other hand, providing detailed information would severely reduce the timeframe that the UK government has to complete a complex series of negotiations, and would involve the deal being finalised before the referendum, reducing the ability of the UK to secure a good deal.

Finally, it gives Sturgeon over a year to whip up nationalist sentiments and change the course of current polling. It provides a longer period of time for economic fluctuations to make the result more uncertain. It also increases general uncertainty and flattens markets at a time when we need uncertainty to be as minimised as possible.

Verdict: Political suicide.

4) Make Sturgeon wait for a mandate.

Agreeing to hold the referendum in 2021 would seem a logical move from the Prime Minister. Brexit negotiations will be long done by then and the UK will have borne out any uncertainty caused by it and be in a stronger position – additionally, other than option 1, this seems to be the option that would have the least impact upon the aforementioned negotiations. Furthermore, strengthened by a likely general election victory and the probability of some more Tory MPs in Scotland, it will enable the 2021 Holyrood election to be an essential referendum on the referendum – if the Scottish Tories can position themselves as the credible Unionist alternative to the SNP, then we could see a strong showing for them and a decreased mandate for holding the referendum in the first place.

The problems of leaving it until 2021 are largely ‘what if’ scenarios. If Brexit has a larger economic impact than expected, it could decrease the power of the economic pro-Union arguments. If the SNP are able to increase support for an independent Scotland (or simply get their act together), a 2021 referendum might produce a tighter result. But these are largely unpredictable – overall, it seems likely that this will be the option chosen, giving the SNP an opportunity to prove they have a mandate in a Holyrood election, and providing a solution which does not impact upon the Brexit negotiations.

Verdict: A generation seems much more likely to be 7 years long.

Overall

Options 2 and 4 seem to be the most likely to maintain the Union, while allowing Nicola Sturgeon to have her needless ideological pontification. Of the two, option 4 seems more favourable, given that it will have the least impact upon Brexit and the future that Scotland voted to be a part of in 2014. That reflects the decision the Prime Minister seems to have come to – if there is still demand for a referendum in 2020 and beyond, then it seems likely that it will be held in 2021 after the Holyrood elections. With a primary concern being the Brexit negotiations, options 2 and 3 have been ruled out so as to prevent the potential for an independence referendum to cast a shadow over the PM’s hand. Whether the PM ultimately chooses option 1 or option 4 is as yet unclear, but when making her decision this week she seems to have fallen down on the side of the latter.

Theresa May is Not Unelected

There are many conflicts inherent within modern politics: the fact that we bemoan the lack of young people in politics and yet berate young politicians as both inexperienced and careerist; our desire for more ‘normal’ people in politics but our aversion to paying a wage that would enable less affluent people to afford to enter politics; the list could go on and on. The biggest problem in the modern era, however, is that politics has become about the leaders rather than the policies, the parties, and the candidates.

Policies and representatives have become somewhat of an afterthought when deciding which party to vote for – instead, as the rise of the debates between party leaders during election campaigns attest to, we have descended into a situation where many voters are voting based on whom they want to be Prime Minister, as opposed to which MP they want to represent them and which party they want to be in government. This is, fundamentally, why people mistakenly refer to Theresa May as being ‘unelected’.

The truth is that no Prime Minister is actually elected by the public (or at least not by all of the public). David Cameron was not made Prime Minister by virtue of a ballot of the whole country, but more he was elected as an MP by the people of Witney and made PM by the fact that a majority of constituencies elected MPs of his party to Parliament. The principle of primus inter pares forms the basis of British politics – that is, that our leaders are elected by the representatives that we send to Westminster.

Theresa May was elected by a majority of her party colleagues and is therefore not an ‘unelected Prime Minister’. The only reason she may be considered unelected is if people voted for the person leading a party at the ballot box, rather than the person representing them – after all, only 58,482 people had David Cameron’s name on their ballot paper.

This cult of personality that has developed around our leaders raises interesting questions – after all, if we view electing our local representatives as a means of electing a national leader, won’t that mean that woeful MPs will not be held to account? If we prefer electing a PM to a local representative, should we introduce some sort of list based system of election? Or perhaps separate the executive from the legislature?

Either of those options wouldn’t seem to be a basis for ensuring efficient policy-making – in the former case, it makes it difficult to ensure that our representatives deliver on their promises; in the latter we could end up with the sort of deadlock we see in the American system.

Yet, do we have a problem? Aside from the rhetoric thrown out by opposition parties indicating that a Prime Minister who takes over without a General Election is unelected, the culture of modern politics could be beginning to move away from being leader-dominated. Labour voters may be forced to choose between their policies and local representatives, and their leader – the winner of that particular battle could shape how much the leader dominates the future of British politics.

As with the coalition, when cries of, ‘They have no mandate!’ filled the media, assertions that Theresa May has no mandate are in essence a misunderstanding of representative democracy. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, when one elects their MP, they then represent them using their industry and their judgement – thus it doesn’t matter who the leadership is, if you have an MP able to stand up for your interests.

In a representative democracy like Britain, Theresa May and the Parliament we elected in 2015 have a mandate to pass the laws and regulations they see fit, just as we have the right to lobby them to act in a certain way. Mrs May is not unelected, she is simply the new first among equals – a principle that always guides the steady hand of British democracy through restive waters.

Brexit Means Letting Theresa May get on With it

The impact of uncertainty on an economy has never been more apparent than in the case of the Brexit vote. Nothing has changed since the vote – the UK remains in the European Union, Article 50 has not been activated, and no deal for departure has been agreed – and yet the markets have already been through turbulence. That turbulence is not because of Brexit – it is because of the uncertainty that has been allowed to permeate the markets.

When you have six months of being told that the markets will crash and there will be a recession after a Brexit, then the likelihood is that, in the event of a vote for Brexit, you will assume the markets will crash, and accordingly sell stocks and shares and stockpile resources rather than investing – you would also be much less likely to pile investment and consumer spending into the economy. As a result of that withdrawal of investment, the markets will decline and GDP will be lower than expected – thus compounding the impression that Brexit will lead to market decline and recession, and resulting in a downwards spiral of investment and growth.

That downwards spiral is why stability and certainty are so important. We have seen the markets become significantly less volatile following the conclusion of the Conservative leadership election on July 11th, with the election of Theresa May providing stability and giving confidence to investors and businesses. May’s election in particular was important, with her record in government meaning that she has the experience needed to guide Britain to Brexit, as opposed to the much less experienced Andrea Leadsom.

Equally important to achieving a successful Brexit will be May’s quick dismissal of any suggestion of a snap election. Accusations that the Conservatives do not have a mandate to implement Brexit are unfounded – the manifesto to which the British people gave a mandate in 2015 include a commitment to hold a referendum and ‘honour the result’, meaning that the Conservative Party were explicitly given a mandate to implement either the deal to Remain in the EU or the necessary legislation according to a vote to Leave.

A snap election is not only unnecessary, but would also have the effect of causing political instability at a time when Parliamentarians should be working together to achieve the best deal for Britain in Europe. There might have been a political advantage to calling an election when the Labour Party are in disarray, but Mrs May deserves great credit for not giving in to the temptation to prioritise political advantage over achieving the most stable Brexit possible.

The delay to the activation of Article 50 has caused great consternation amongst many staunch Leave voters, but the logic behind such a delay is sound. If Theresa May can build good relations with the international actors who will be crucial to discussions about post-Brexit Britain, then the government can ensure that there is a clear, concise and coherent plan in place for Brexit negotiations and a clear end goal, before discussions start with the activation of Article 50. Having such a plan in place means that negotiations can be focussed on achieving the best deal for Britain and ensure that no important areas get overlooked – it also means the process from official declaration of our intention to exit to departure from the EU will likely be a lot quicker. Such stability and long term benefits are worth the costs of a short term delay in the activation of Article 50.

Another idea that has been floated – most notably by the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron – is to have a second referendum on the terms of any deal on Brexit. While this works conceptually and certainly seems like an idea that provides real power for the people to decide on the terms of Brexit, it is an idea which is inherently flawed in its execution. If, which is not what is being proposed, there were a referendum on the goals of the negotiation, then that might be an idea with a sound basis, unfortunately however, the idea of a second referendum once terms have been agreed is not one with any sound footing at all.

First off, the timeframe such a referendum would require would be prohibitive to constructive negotiations. If we have a referendum at the end of the two year negotiation period, then we will have had to present a deal to the British public around four months before such a referendum, meaning that we lose four months from an already tight window to negotiate a new deal.

Alas that is not the largest problem with Mr Farron’s proposal, the problem more comes from a logical paradox within his assertions. In essence, in order for a deal to have been negotiated on which to hold a second referendum we will have had to trigger Article 50 and thus have begun the inevitable process of departing from the EU. In that circumstance, were Mr Farron’s referendum to return a result of ‘Remain in the European Union’, we would have to reapply for membership of the EU via Article 49 – during which time our Article 50 negotiation window will presumably expire and we will leave the EU without a deal, which would cause further uncertainty and instability.

If we vote to Remain through Article 49, will Farron then demand a referendum on the terms of re-entry? The argument could go on and on. As no such referendum on ‘accept deal or remain on current terms’ is possible, why is Farron continuing to promote uncertainty by pushing for such a referendum?

Stability means that Brexit works, if we all come together and fight for the Brexit deal that works for all of us and provides as much stability as possible, then Theresa May will be right: ‘Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make it work’.

Why Grammar Schools Will Revitalise Equality of Opportunity

Theresa May and Education Secretary Justine Greening have indicated the return of Grammar Schools to the mainstream of British education. While many commentators have reacted with hostility – sometimes going so far as to argue that Grammar Schools entrench elitism – the reintroduction of such a system will both revitalise that old liberal value of equality of opportunity and continue the Cameron government’s push to expand the opportunities available to young people, with regards finding the type and style of education that best suits them.

The existing system for Grammar Schools is by no means perfect – it is true that richer parents can hire expensive tutors to help their children pass the Eleven-Plus – but that is not a reason to reject the notion of Grammar Schools. While there are elements of the current system that need reforming, the answer is to reform those faults – not reject the system as a whole. If we want to create a society where a person can achieve their maximum human potential regardless of their result in life’s first great lottery, then we need to embrace Grammar Schools.

When journalists decry Grammar Schools as a place for rich parents to send their children instead of private school, they fail to notice the converse of their argument. Grammar Schools are indeed as good as private schools, and the fact that they are free means that people who would not be able to afford to attend a private school receive the advantages of that level of education without it bankrupting them. Yes, sometimes rich students will attend Grammar Schools instead of private schools, but if even a single student gets the opportunity to enjoy a standard of education they would have been otherwise unable to receive, then that represents a victory for equality of opportunity and social mobility.

If we want to give opportunity to all, then we need to have a Grammar School system alongside our present education system – allowing students who want a more intensely academic education the chance to have such an education, and to learn alongside equally minded people who will drive them to do even better. Students who want to go to the best schools should be able to regardless of their income bracket, social class, or location – that’s why bringing Grammar Schools to more locations across the country is so important.

We need to have an education system that caters to everyone. If a student favours a vocational-specific education, they can choose to go to a college and learn a specific skill or group of skills. If a student wants to learn on the job, they can do an apprenticeship after they leave school. If a student wants a comprehensive education – combining vocational subjects and academic subjects – they can choose to go to a comprehensive school. If a student wants to specialise in a subject, they can go to university. So why should a student who wants an academically-focussed education have to pay for private school?

Reintroducing Grammar Schools into the mainstream of British education enables students to have a full range of choices about the type of education they want to have, regardless of their financial backgrounds. Students shouldn’t lose out on a high quality education because some aspects of the current system need reform – let’s reintroduce Grammar Schools and make them even more accessible to all students.

Bringing back Grammar Schools will enable us to bring opportunity to every corner of this country, and bring choice to every student.

Brexit Means Brexit – How Theresa May Should Make It Work

When Theresa May took office yesterday afternoon, her opening speech set out a series of radical reforms to Britain that she will deliver over the next four years. Arguably her most important statement of the last week, however, is the one she made on Tuesday: ‘Brexit means Brexit, and we’re going to make a success of it’. With the appointments of David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to her cabinet early on, it is clear that that statement was more than hyperbole, so here is what Theresa May might consider doing to ensure that Brexit does indeed mean Brexit.

If we are to deliver the Brexit that the country voted for, then we need to get everyone rowing in the same direction. Brexit requires real unity if we are to make it work, and securing that unity will be one of Mrs May’s toughest challenges. Within the Conservative Party (both its Parliamentary members and the membership as a whole), Theresa May has already embarked upon her unity drive. To continue to secure that unity, May will need a Cabinet which encompasses the most competent MPs from both sides of the Remain/Leave divide, and she will need to convince Party members that she is truly committed to delivering on Brexit.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must be included and consulted as part of the negotiations on how our post-Brexit relationship with the EU will look. We are a family of nations in the United Kingdom – sometimes in a family decisions get made that not everyone agrees with, but what we must do now is ensure that we have an open and honest dialogue with all of our regions to ensure that we get a Brexit that works for all of us. The appointment of Ruth Davidson to the Privy Council last night was an interesting signal that there will be a cross-nation Brexit team, however it remains an important fact that – whether you like her or not – Nicola Sturgeon must have a representative at the table if we are to ensure true unity post-Brexit.

Many young people feel let down by Brexit, and it is they who will be affected by the future direction this country takes. We need to involve young people in the Brexit process – remembering that a significant number of (albeit less vocal post-referendum) people aged 18-24 voted to Leave as well as those who voted Remain. It would make sense, therefore, for May’s government to create a body of young people who could be consulted on the negotiations and the sort of package young people want to see delivered. MPs are, by the nature of life and their jobs, not able to be in touch with the Students’ Unions and the classrooms to the same extent that young people are. If we created a panel of young people, from both the Leave and Remain camps, who could go out and garner opinions on the best post-Brexit strategy for young people, then we would ensure unity in one of the most affected groups, and it would also be a terrific statement by Mrs May, that in her government, young people have a voice.

A Parliament united behind the Brexit package is so much more powerful than one fighting over every little amendment. To garner Parliamentary unity is no easy thing – as the Cameron/Clegg coalition premiership showed us – but garner it we must if we are to deliver a Brexit that will unite the country. Just as with all of the groups in our society being included, and all of the nations in our country being included, all of the parties in our Parliament must be included in the decision about what sort of deal to pursue. Including members from Labour, the Lib Dems, UKIP and all of the other Parliamentary parties would be another bold statement from Mrs May that Brexit is bigger than party politics.

The Brexit that Theresa May delivers will define her premiership. Regardless of whatever else she delivers, she has been charged by the Conservative Party with securing the best deal for Brexit and her legacy will depend on that deal. She needs to deliver unity to a divided nation – removing hatred towards others (be they of a difference race, class, gender or political position), dismissing this idea of ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’, and delivering a Brexit that works for all. As Theresa May says, ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – if she’s going to make a success of it, then we need unity now more than ever.

Theresa May is the Unity Candidate We Need

In the next couple of months thousands of Conservative Party members will have to choose between Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom to be Prime Minister. This is not Referendum II, it is not a choice between Remain and Leave – after all, both candidates have promised to deliver Brexit. If you were a Leave voter, do not write off Theresa May because she voted Remain; likewise if you were a Remain voter, do not write off Andrea Leadsom because she voted Leave.

This leadership election seems a relatively simple choice. Both candidates are committed to delivering a Brexit we can all get behind and both candidates are offering a relatively similar policy platform. What we are voting on, is who we think is best placed to enact that platform.

Theresa May is the candidate to unite the Conservative Party. With the backing of 199 MPs from across the Leave/Remain spectrum, it is clear that May commands the support and respect of a significant majority of her colleagues – which is vital in the process of reuniting a divided Party and a divided Parliament, and getting them behind a plan for the future of our nation. When you look at the current state of the Parliamentary Labour Party, it should not be underestimated how important a unity candidate is in this leadership election – Theresa May is that unity candidate.

Arguably even more important at this time of uncertainty is experience. As we sail HMS Britain into new and uncharted waters, do we want a captain who has previous experience as a first mate, learning from the previous captain, or do we want a captain who has brief experience manning the oars but considerable experience as a passenger? Theresa May has been Home Secretary for the same length of time that Andrea Leadsom has been an MP. May has considerable experience in the Cabinet and the Shadow Cabinet and on top of that she has 19 years of legislative experience in Parliament; whereas Andrea Leadsom has no experience in the Cabinet or the Shadow Cabinet – she has only had 2 years of experience of any form of government role, during which time she was described as the ‘worst minister ever’.

If we are looking for a firm hand on the rudder, then Theresa May is the obvious choice. Indeed, the choice between one of the longest serving Home Secretaries and the ‘worst minister ever’ seems an obvious one. People will point to Leadsom’s considerable experience in the private sector – but with significant elements of that experience under question, it is not clear that she is overly qualified. In addition, private sector experience does not qualify you to be Prime Minister – otherwise everyone in a board room would be running for the job – and now is not the time to have a Prime Minister who is learning on the job.

It is a time of uncertainty we face, and that is not a period in which we need an anti-establishment candidate. It is not a period in which we need a candidate with little experience and no record. It is not a period in which we need a candidate with questionable tax affairs. It is not a period in which we can afford a candidate whose media gaffes are either the result of naivety or incompetence – or perhaps a genuine belief that being a parent is a requisite requirement to occupy Number 10.

There is a clear choice in this leadership election. A choice between experience and inexperience. A choice between a candidate with a cool demeanour in the media – and one who seems prone to gaffes. A choice between the person who was the Minister for Equalities who championed equal marriage – and a candidate who questions it.

We need a candidate with experience. We need a candidate to unite our country behind a Brexit tolerable to both Remain and Leave voters. We need Theresa May.