Monday, June 17, 2019

Building an economy that works for everyone

A reminder of the data released this week showing the progress of the UK economy:

 

Key facts:

 

  • More than 500,000 new companies have been set up under the Conservatives, taking on more than four million employees. There are now 32.7 million people in work – more than ever before – with record female employment, a million disabled people in work in the last five years and wages rising for 15 months in a row.

 



  • Britain is also one of the top locations to start a technology company that reaches a $1 billion dollar valuation, only behind the USA and China.



Why this matters

This data shows we are an entrepreneurial, high-tech nation attracting talent and investment from across the world. We are pro-business because it is private enterprise that creates growth and opportunity, and with wages and employment continuing to rise people across the UK have more money in their pockets.

Quote of the day 17th June 2019


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Breaking the cycle of disadvantage

Tomorrow the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, will say that to truly break the cycle of disadvantage and ensure every child gets the chance to reach their full potential, we need to better understand its changing nature. 

Key facts
  • The speech from the Secretary of State will shine a light on a range of factors holding young people back based on new analysis and challenge oversimplified concepts, such as the North/South divide.
  • New data shows disadvantaged children in big cities – not just London - outperform counterparts elsewhere in the country, while disadvantaged pupils in coastal areas have much lower outcomes. 
  • There are certain factors which come together to trap families into a cycle of disadvantage and stunt social mobility such as geography, ethnicity, special educational needs and disabilities, stability of home life, contact with social care, poverty, low-income and mental health. 
  • Understanding better how these factors interact to hold children back will allow us to unlock social mobility and close the disadvantage gap. 

Why this matters:

We have seen really strong progress in narrowing the attainment gap at each stage – from pre-school to primary to secondary. But this new analysis will help us move faster to rebalance the odds for more children so they have best start in life.

Reflections on the leadership hustings

Yesterday, despite considerable difficulties with the train journeys to London and back (caused by a trespasser on the railway) I listened to all six candidates for the Conservative leadership speak and answer questions about why they should be leader at a meeting of the National Conservative Convention (which consists mostly of the chairmen of all the local constituency Conservative parties plus Regional and Area chairmen and deputy chairmen,)

Today I watched five of the six candidates appear on a Channel Four debate.

I thought all six candidates performed well yesterday and all five who took part did well today.

It was a great pity that it was not possible to broadcast the speeches and Q&A session with all six candidates yesterday: this would have been of value to candidates and voters - including those who are not members of the Conservative party and participants in this election but will have a vote on whoever wins when the next general election comes.

The presenter from Channel four was a bit silly at times.

For example, when the presenter made the ridiculous suggestion that Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who holds one of the four great offices of state was not important enough to have been invited to meet Donald Trump it was very noticeable that the other four candidates instantly reacted with outrage at this slur on a rival candidate - indeed, if anything the other candidates rejected the idea more strongly than the Saj himself did.

Nevertheless I thought the programme was valuable and informative and it would have been even better if all six candidates had taken part.

Sunday music spot: "Sanctus" from Mozart's Missa Brevis in D Major

Quote of the day 16th June 2019


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Saturday music spot: Ensemble Zene sing Byrds "Ave verum"

Foreign investment and jobs

This week UN figures showed that the UK has retained our position as the top destination in Europe for foreign direct investment.



Key facts:



  • Figures released by the UN Conference on Trade and Development show that inward investment stock into the UK by the end of 2018 was worth $1.89 trillion, more than Germany ($939 billion) and France ($825 billion) combined.

 

  • Since 2010, the value of inwards stock in the UK has increased by 77 per cent, demonstrating that we have built an attractive business environment which is protecting and creating jobs for people here in the UK.

 

Also this week, the latest UK jobs figures were released and show more people than ever in work and wages growing faster than inflation for the 15th month in a row.



Key facts:



  • The latest data shows that unemployment remains at its lowest rate since 1974, whilst employment is up 357,000 over the last year, and by 3.7 million since 2010.



  • There are 458,000 fewer young people out of work since 2010 and the rate of women in work is at a record high.



  • Wages have increased by 3.4 per cent compared with a year earlier – growing by 1.5 per cent after adjusting for inflation – meaning people have more money in their pockets.



Why this matters

Behind every employment number is a person whose self-esteem, mental wellbeing, economic circumstances and life chances are all vastly improved by being in the workplace.

Quote of the day 15th June 2019

This quote is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin: a number of people including Wendell Phillips, Andrew Jackson and Frederick Douglas do appear to have used these or similar words but to have been quoting an earlier source. The most common view among those who have looked into the matter is that this saying originated with John Philpot Curran in 1790.



Friday, June 14, 2019

Hustings for the Conservative leadership elections

There will be a series of Conservative leadership election hustings around the country at which party members can see and hear and the two candidates who reach the final round.

Most of the dates have been released and are as follows:


Electoral Precedent

Is the sequence of leadership elections in which the favourite has never won about to come to an end?

In the whole history of Conservative party leadership elections, there has not - so far - been a single instance of a seriously contested election in which the person who was thought most likely to win a couple of days before the close of nominations has actually won.

It would still be wise not to completely rule out the possibility that things could still go wrong for the Boris Johnson campaign. Both Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart have impressed me, in very different ways, and neither the initial electorate of Conservative MPs or the final one for this race of Conservative party members are quite as homogenous or predictable in their views as a lot of people appear to think.

However, though it can seem for a long time that an unwritten rule like this one is in effect, an exception nearly always comes along sooner or later. It is beginning to look possible that this will be the first Conservative leadership election in which the favourite actually wins.

There was a very funny cartoon written before the 2012 US presidential election which listed how every single election from 1788 to 2008 had broken a precedent. You can find it at

https://xkcd.com/1122/

Some of the previously observed precedents about which candidate could win, were transparently silly, some of them, like "Nobody can win a majority of the popular vote and still lose" appeared reasonable and would still be expected to apply most of the time. (I think Hillary Clinton was only about the third candidate in 228 years to win the popular vote without carrying enough states to get a majority in the Electoral College and become President.)

But all of these "streaks" eventually did come to an end.


Heretical opinions: 2) Giles Fraser in defence of the Pharisees

Hypocrisy - failing to live up to your own standards - is often seen as the number one moral crime in modern society.

Giles Fraser argues in a very thought-provoking article on Unherd here that this is because it's often just about the only thing you can "get" someone on.

But he suggests that society itself is somewhat inconsistent when it mocks Theresa May for saying the worst thing she has ever done is run through a field of wheat yet pillories Michael Gove for admitting that he failed to live up to his own standards on cocaine use.

He argues

"The Pharisees were basically right: better to aim high and fail, than to be complacently content with the small and closed world of our own moral limitations."

"For me, hypocrisy is an inevitable by-product of upholding high – even objective – moral standards. If you are not a hypocrite, you are just not trying hard enough."

Heretical opinions: 1) on the leadership election

My heretical and probably unpopular opinions on the leadership election:

Boris Johnson has shown much more of the self-discipline which the country would need him exercise if he does become PM needs in this leadership campaign than sometimes previously.

Several other candidates especially @sajidjavid and @RoryStewartUK have impressed in interesting and very different ways and this difference - and therefore potential choice - is very healthy.

It is in the interests of party and country alike that this leadership campaign goes the full distance so that the candidates, especially whoever wins, are fully tested in the way that the present PM wasn't.

Quote of the day 14th June 2019

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Leadership results first round

Hat tip to Guido Fawkes for this graphic on the results of the first ballot of Conservative MPs in the leadership election:




Any candidate with more than a third of the vote (represented by the green line) is guaranteed a place in the final stage of the contest, the ballot of Conservative party members between the top two candidates. Provided he holds on to the support of the MPs who backed him in the first round, Boris Johnson has achieved that.

The candidates who go forward to the next round are:

Boris Johnson
Jeremy Hunt
Michael Gove
Dominic Raab
Sajid Javid
Matt Hancock
Rory Stewart.

Quote of the day 13th June 2019


Cognitive dissonance

Only Jeremy Corbyn could refer to Anne Frank at Prime Minister's Questions this week, welcome the new Peterborough MP to the House of Commons later the same day, and not appear to see the cognitive dissonance between the messages these two actions send.

Thursday music spot: The Seekers "A World of our Own"

Building the homes that communities need

This week the government announced investment of £142 million in vital infrastructure to support the development of the homes that communities need, helping more people onto the housing ladder. 

Key facts

  • The funding will be used to widen bridges, build roads and connect utilities so up to 8,500 properties can be built. 
  • The funding, from the £5.5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund, is part of the Conservative drive to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. 
  • The money is allocated to local authorities after a competitive funding allocation process.
  • You can find more details including the local authorities to which money was allocated in the most recent round here.

Housing Minister Kit Malthouse MP said:

"For decades, governments of all stripes and types have not built enough new homes but we are turning that around, brick by brick.

We are driving to create homes, opportunities and thriving communities – and this £142 million investment will mean we can build more of the properties our country so badly needs.

We need to keep upping our game and build more, better, faster, if we are to meet our ambition to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s."

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Midweek music spot: The Seekers "I'll Never Find Another You"

A classic from the sixties …

Using technology to transform public services for the better

The government has set out plans to harness new technologies so as to transform our public services for the better. 

Key facts
  • The government has launched a new guide to help government embrace artificial intelligence and an online marketplace to support tech start-ups sell to the public sector. 
  • These measures accompany a new Technology Innovation Strategy, setting out our approach to enabling widespread adoption of new technologies across the public sector. 
  • The new Artificial Intelligence (AI) Guide will be used across government to help departments make better use of AI , for example by reducing fraud or improving cancer checks, in an ethical and safe way. 
Earlier today Health Secretary Matt Hancock shared an incredibly moving video which you can find on the BBC Click site here, showing how technology helped a woman who has been blind for six years to "see" again.

This is just wonderful and shows how the miracles of modern science can help people.

Why this matters:

The UK has led the world in harnessing technology to transform public services, but we cannot afford to sit back – the use of new technologies will not only save money but help to improve services.

Second quote of the day 13th June 2019

"Famous dead people make excellent commentators on current events."

Ralph Keyes, from the Quote Verifier website here. The full quote reads as follows:

"Bad memory can be a good editor. Since quotations are most useful when they come from famous mouths, misattribution is routine. This is due in large part to the “sounds like” syndrome, in which much-quoted figures such as Lincoln, Churchill, and Dorothy Parker are credited with comments they never made because these “sound like” them. It also helps that such figures are not around to correct the record. As a result, famous dead people make excellent commentators on current events."

Sajid Javid on the forthcoming defining decade for Britain

As he sets out his stall to be Conservative party leader and Prime Minister, the home secretary Sajid Javid has a powerful piece on the CAPX website,

"A defining decade for our party and our country."

He begins by saying that

"I believe we are at the dawn of a defining decade – a decade in which building the foundations of our post-Brexit future will just be the start. From changes in the balance of global power to the impact of disruptive technologies, there are new shifts in the tectonic plates beneath us. The traditional dividing lines of politics are tilted by nationalism and populism."

He goes on to argue that today the country faces different issues to the ones our traditional politics has evolved to address, and

"To a whole generation of voters, the pillars of our political philosophy have no purchase or meaning whatsoever. Our task is not simply to win the same arguments all over again, but to demonstrate how politics and our party can be relevant and make a positive difference in people’s lives.

First and foremost, the referendum result reflected years of underlying frustrations about the European Union, and a lack of meaningful consultation about the way it had evolved. That said, it’s also clear that the bitter divide over Europe reflects deep frustration and division in our society more broadly.

The Iraq War, the financial crisis of 2008 and years of believing that Westminster had casually shrugged off concern about uncontrolled immigration have all fed a growing anger over crony capitalism and inequality. This was also personified by a political, business and financial establishment that appeared to enjoy an ever-higher standard of living while others struggled."

"Not since the 1980s has our discourse felt so divided: between north and south, metropolitan and rural, young and old, long-time resident and new immigrant, home-owner and home-renter. And unlike before, we now see the role of social media in reinforcing the echo-chambers still further.

To heal these divisions, we need an agenda that shares the benefits of growth, by investing in infrastructure, equipping people with the right skills, with well-paid jobs and a better chance to own their own homes. It also means strengthening our sense of shared identity, at both a community and national level. That has been a guiding principle for many of my decisions as Home Secretary, as it was at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government."


"‘One nationhas been a well-worn phrase, but it does speak to something profound in this polarised era. How do we create a sense of belonging that speaks to everyone in our country?

From a white working-class woman living in a post-industrial town to a young metropolitan citizen of the world. From a first-generation immigrant from the Commonwealth to a European citizen who made the UK their home and may be anxious about their future.

I believe there is an authentically Conservative approach to identity. We speak of British values, of our common cultural inheritance and of a local and national experience of membership. The Left purports to speak for minorities, but its approach is too often one of segregation and a conception of identity politics that stereotypes and divides us.

As Conservatives, we don’t categorise you according to your characteristics: we seek to understand your views, your values and your actions as a person and protect the institutions that you belong to, be they your church, your family or your football team. We need fewer labels that keep groups apart, and more layers that overlap them. Layers of community, place, shared experiences, common language and national identity. 

This is a central pillar of conservatism, so let me personalise it with some examples from my own experience. The first layer of identity, beyond immediate family, is the community around you. When coming into Government, our party brought new thinking to the role of local community groups and civic society, and it is clear that a sense of geographicplaceis just as important, if not more important now, as it was before the impact of social media."

Sajid also emphasises that

"the biggest thing we could do is no secret: build more houses. Not only are house prices the biggest barrier to social progress in our country today, they are also a barrier to social cohesion.

Moving from tenancy to tenancy, you feel you have less of a stake in society, and without a permanent base it’s harder to lay down roots in the community around you.

But more housing means higher quality as well as quantity – design can play a huge role in making sure the new housing we build actively engenders a sense of community. I won’t focus on all the policy solutions here, but my time at MHCLG convinced me that bold solutions can and must be brought to bear for the sake of the next generation."

There is more to the article which you can read in full here.

I also recommend the #TeamSaj campaign video which you can find at

https://www.teamsaj.com/watch_campaign_video.

Electric cars

Here is an example of a practical measure to cut Britain's contribution to climate change as outlined in the previous post and reduce the amount of pollution in the air on our street. The Business Secretary has announced that the government is investing £23 million of taxpayers' money in electric car battery development, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of new technologies as we build a cleaner, greener economy.



Key facts:



·     The Conservative government is investing £23 million to help keep UK companies at the forefront of electric car development.

 

·         This is part of the £274 million that will be awarded to companies across the UK through the Faraday Battery Challenge, which brings together academia and business to develop the technology needed as we move towards a net zero emissions economy.

 

·         Transitioning to a low carbon economy represents one of the greatest industrial opportunities of our time and through our modern Industrial Strategy we will ensure the UK remains a world leader.



Why this matters

We are committed to ensuring our world-leading automotive sector can flourish and this latest investment will build on the UK’s reputation for excellence, supporting more good jobs and paving the way for a cleaner economy.

Ending Britain's contribution to Global Warming

Today, the Prime Minister is proposing legislation which will effectively end the UK contribution to global warming by 2050, as we work to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.



Key facts: The government today puts forward legislation that commits the UK to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.



  • We will be the first major economy in the world to legislate to end our contribution to global warming.



  • In May, the independent Committee on Climate Change recommended that the UK commit to net zero emissions by 2050. After careful consideration, we will start the legislative process for a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target today.



  • We have already reduced emissions by a quarter since the Conservatives came to office in 2010, and last year was the cleanest and greenest on record, with low-carbon sources making up more than half of our electricity.



  • There are almost 400,000 people already employed in the low-carbon sector and its supply chains across the country and through our modern Industrial Strategy we’re investing in clean growth to create two million high quality jobs by 2030.



Why this matters: We can be truly proud of our record in tackling climate change – slashing emissions while continuing to grow our economy. Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but one that we must achieve if we are to protect our planet for future generations.

Quote of the day 12th June 2019

A line from the case book of Sherlock Holmes.

Of course, for this method of deduction to work, one must have taken every possibility into account - it will not necessarily apply if there is a less improbably answer which you have not thought of. But sometimes the only possible explanation for the facts really is something which would have appeared a priori to have been a very unlikely one.

 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Good news on Employment continues.

Latest employment figures show that the British labour market remains strong, there are more people in work than ever before, a record high rate of women in work and wages growing faster than inflation for the 15th month in a row.



We are helping people into work by reforming welfare so work always pays, while backing businesses to create more, better paying jobs across the whole country through our careful economic management and modern Industrial Strategy.



With the unemployment rate falling to its lowest since 1974, more people have the economic independence that a job brings and can reach their full potential. Behind every employment number is a person whose self-esteem, mental wellbeing, economic circumstances and life chances are all vastly improved by being in the workplace.



Key statistics:



  • Wages: Average weekly earnings for employees increased by 3.4 per cent compared with a year earlier.



  • Employment: 32.75 million (up 357,000 over the last year and up by 3.7 million since 2010).



  • Employment rate: 76.1 per cent (up 0.5 points over the past year and up 5.9 points since 2010).



  • Unemployment: 1.30 million (down 112,000 over the past year and down by 1.20 million since 2010).



  • Unemployment rate: 3.8 per cent (down 0.4 points over the past year and down 4.1 points since 2010) – the lowest rate since 1974 and almost halving since 2010 (8.0 per cent).