21 June 2019

The Tories must offer tax cuts for business and opportunities for workers


And then there were two.

Leadership is important. Good leaders choose what to do, who to battle, and just as importantly, what to avoid. The best leaders have the guile to navigate round some of the obstacles and the courage to smash through others. That leadership is important has become painfully obvious to Conservatives. I have no doubt that, on her first day of being our leader, Theresa May believed every word of the Burning Injustices speech, but ultimately she did not have the ability nor the fortitude to turn her words into reality.

The current leadership contest is important because both the ideas and mettle of the contenders needs to be tested in the heat of political battle. It is indisputably true that avoiding a leadership battle did not make Gordon Brown or Theresa May stronger leaders. It is also a fact that Barack Obama was not harmed by fighting a testing primary contest with Hillary Clinton. The Conservative Party, the home of free-market economics, should embrace political competition.

The leadership contest is also an opportunity for the different parts of the Conservative family to talk about what they think matters most. That is why today Union Blue (formally the Conservative Workers & Trade Unionists) have published our leadership manifesto – Giving Back Control. The manifesto contains 50 policies which will unleash a capital owning democracy – one where everyone believes that they can be a part of the system. Union Blue wishes both candidates the best as they make their pitches to members.

Creating a growth cycle

The next Prime Minster should use their political capital to create a positive growth cycle, where investment follows skills which then attracts further investment that can be utilised by ever improving skills. Investment in infrastructure, research and new technologies is often influenced by how skilled the potential workforce is, alongside how connected the location is to desired markets. Workforces develop new skills when they believe such attributes can be utilised to improve their careers. The new Government should put together a policy programme that supports every part of the growth cycle.

Bring a decisive end to austerity

People are not happy. They are not happy with the Government and they are not happy with the alternatives. Many are angry because they feel life is getting worse. Wages are stagnant and the public services they rely on are creaking. The good news for the next Prime Minister is that they will be able truly end austerity. It is important that they do so decisively and in a way that is felt.

In their report Firing on all cylinders, the thinktank Onward recommends a new fiscal rule to say that the debt keeps on falling more gently. We would go further, insisting Instead that the next Budget should introduce a new rule not to increase the level of debt up until the 2022 general election. After nine years of austerity now is the right time to give relief to those who have had to cope with the consequences of sliced budgets.

Increasing productivity is everything

People’s lives improve most in successful economies. Government polices such as tax cuts and state spending can impact on wealth and wellbeing, but it is the growth of private enterprise that makes us richer. The best way to solve the low pay crisis, the social care crises, and the social divisions within Britain is to improve productivity. Britain has one the most hostile tax policies in the world for manufacturers and other capital-intensive business. This has harmed the diversity of our economy and harmed regions that rely on manufacturing.

The new Prime Minster should immediately make a big bold gesture – one that gives confidence to people and businesses to invest in their future. The first fiscal act of the new Conservative government should be to cut corporation tax to below Ireland’s rate of 12.5 per cent. This will send a message to global companies that Britain is the premier Western economy to invest in.

Lifelong skills for lifelong success

The world of work is changing rapidly. We need to make sure that we have the right education and training system in place. Having a strong skills strategy will not just help the economy to grow, it will also help workers to be more resilient and feel more secure in the face of challenges presented by the future of work. The Government should help make it easy for people to manage their learning needs and provide both financial and professional support for them to invest in themselves. The skills infrastructure must be adaptive and open and give workers the power to up-skill in the way they wish to.

Workers should get life-long learning accounts. We should all be offered career MOTs at those crucial points in our lives, and vocational education needs to be given the high status it deserves.

Can capitalism work if people are not connected to capital?

The Government should encourage people to have ownership of our economy, so we can all succeed together. When people feel part of what is happening they invest more of themselves into the project. The Government should aim to have 1,000 UK firms that operate an employee ownership model by 2025.

Workers should be encouraged to play an active role in the success of their organisation. Businesses should not be able to stop unions advertising their services in the workplace. In exchange, however, trade unions should be encouraged to show that they want to concentrate on workplace matters and represent all workers by ditching party political affiliation. The Government also needs to do more to help local communities take over used spaces and make them into places that work for the locality.

If the next Government encourages businesses to invest in productivity, helps workers to gain the skills to be more productive and supports more people to be connected to the capitalist system then Britain will be a 21st Century success story.

You can read the whole of Union Blue’s manifesto here.

Nick Denys is Head of Policy at Union Blue (formally Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.)