By Chris Grayling
Reading the comments, when I warned of the need to appeal to a younger electorate who had no experience of real left-wing policies and their consequences, I was struck by the number of people who complained about the lack of a positive message. Pursuing a negative strategy won’t work, they said.
The truth is that we will need both going forward. In the General Election that is scheduled for 2022 we will be asking the electorate to back us for a fourth term in office – albeit over a shorter period of time than some previous administrations. We won’t get that mandate without articulating a positive vision, nor without a positive track record.
This Parliament will obviously be heavily dominated by Brexit. But we also have to demonstrate that we continue to build a stronger and more secure society. And a fairer one too. The evidence shows that the Conservatives are doing just that.
We shouldn’t forget the achievements of the past seven years. The one I am always proudest of is the fall of well over half a million in the number of children growing up in workless households.
If you grow up with no one going out to work, no one bringing in a wage, no one getting up in the morning to do something purposeful, then chances are you will grow up with limited expectations of what you can achieve. But if that all changes, and you have a parent who does have direction and responsibility in their lives, who is earning a living for the household, then your expectations will change too.
And in deprived communities all round the country, that fall in worklessness is already making a big difference. We must make sure that continues.
In education, we have seen a real step forward. And now our plans for improved technical education will continue that progress for the future.
The skills that that technical education delivers will also continue to underpin the big international technology investments we have seen – whether it’s Apple, Facebook and Google, or a company like Ford making Britain it’s smart technology hub, or our plans to develop commercial space business here – because under Conservatives Britain has a reputation as a centre for innovation and new technology.
We have to see that vision on into the 2020s, and continue to underpin it with policies that engage every part of our country and every part of our community.
But nor will we get that mandate unless we really work to expose the risks of those left-wing policies and really challenge and expose Labour. At the election they promised to abolish student fees, and to pay for it by putting up taxes on big business. They never explained that a tax rise of that kind would simply drive those businesses and the jobs they provide out of the UK.
I want the students of tomorrow to have excellent job prospects. Penalising business is hardly a strategy likely to provide those prospects.
And as we now know, many of those election promises were an illusion. Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to write off the debt of past students proved as durable as an ice cream in the heat of the sun. Time and again Labour politicians struggle to explain in interviews how their policies add up. Because they don’t.
So we mustn’t take as a lesson from the election campaign that we should stop challenging Corbyn and his illusory promises. Just the opposite. We should redouble our efforts to expose the damage that they would do to this country.
But we also need to demonstrate that Conservatism means a brighter future. Just think back to 2010, with an economy on its knees, and unemployment heading for three million – and compare it to where we are today.
This is a country that has been put back on the right track by Conservatives in government. Our job is to show people clearly how we will keep it on the right track.