Brexit is the priority; but we still need a radical manifesto


As Conservative members up and down the country prepare for the second election campaign in two years, it seems to many that the result is already a foregone conclusion. A larger Tory majority is highly likely.

With things as they stand, the election is set to be fought over Brexit and will see the Lib Dems gain in many areas. With the new parliament now set to stretch well beyond the conclusion of article 50 negotiations, the new manifesto must show that the Conservatives are not just willing to campaign on successfully negotiating Brexit alone, but that Theresa May’s government is ready and willing to seize the opportunities that a global Britain presents.

Whatever result the election returns in six weeks’ time; the Prime Minister must be willing to show that it is her government that is best positioned to seize the new and exciting opportunities at hand. Although Brexit is the priority, the Party must use this new manifesto for radical thinking.

Liberalisation of planning laws is long overdue, for example. Although the recent white paper has alleviated some fears, tight restrictions over the building of houses on the green belt still mean that the construction of new homes is limited and unlikely to herald much change to the ongoing crisis in the housing sector. It is essential that more houses are built and easing planning restrictions will facilitate this.

The housing crisis, combined with the triple lock on pensions, does little to create a country that “works for everyone”, but instead rigs the country against the younger generations. Contrary to received wisdom, many young people are attracted to the Conservative Party. An ICM poll from March showed the Party ahead comfortably amongst people between the ages of 18 and 24; we have to exploit this and build upon it. The youthful, tech-savvy voters are the future and shouldn’t be neglected. Instead of securing the largely already safe votes of the over 65’s, Mrs May should look to embrace a radical manifesto to appeal to the increasingly apathetic young generations.

In her speech calling for the snap election, Mrs May referred to the House of Lords alongside arguably the buzzword of 2016: “unelected”. There are few people that will argue that the House of Lords isn’t in need of serious reform, and in the spirit of bringing democracy closer to the people, one viable option could be to see a jury style system introduced.

To many, the House of Lords is an extension of the establishment system that rewards friends with devalued peerages; a network of cronyism. Furthermore, the House of Lords has shown itself to be no friend of Brexit, and have vowed to fight the process every step of the way. According to polls, the single largest reason for Britons voting to leave the European Union last summer was for a more democratic country. If Mrs May is willing to deliver sovereignty to Britain from Brussels, then so too should the political system be brought closer to the people.

Regarding Defence policy; Mrs May would also do well to pay attention to inescapable geopolitical tensions. The armed forces of the UK are pitifully weak and in a world where the balance of power seems at its frailest since the cold war as eastern powers become more and more prominent, this matters even more. As Russia and China grow stronger and with North Korea looking nuclear, Europe appears precariously undefended. With so many of Britain’s neighbours and friends failing to meet NATO commitments, an independent Britain must look to restore its armed forces.

British troops have already been deployed to Eastern Europe to counter the ever growing threat of Russian escalation and yet an investigation by the Sunday Times earlier this year found gaping holes within UK defence. Malfunctioning drones and ships that could be heard from 100 miles away were two particularly troubling findings.

The Prime Minister has understood the desire for change; for free trade, open markets and a more workable meritocracy. Her desire to push forward the grammar schools programme demonstrates her understanding of the desire for change, so the new manifesto must not stop there.

Housing restrictions, the triple lock and reform of the House of Lords are all issues that would go towards creating a fairer country for all. The Conservative Party manifesto must reflect the real change desired by the British people and with May’s tenure now set to extend beyond Britain’s exit from the European Union, the conservatives must present themselves as the party best suited to hit the ground running and to capitalise on the new opportunities that a global Britain will present.

Brexit must bring change. June’s general election is an opportunity for Theresa May to present herself as the candidate best suited to do this.

Elliot is an English student studying in Southampton.Follow him on Twitter: @Elliott_Fudge

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty