One Nation politics has had a home within the Conservative Party for over hundred and fifty years. It has lasted less than two years with Labour. Ed Milband’s Conference Speech last week dropped the One Nation phrase he appropriated in 2012 and instead showcased a more traditional Labour politics of division. Employers were painted as exploiters, countryside campaigners declared dinosaurs, family homes rendered into mansions. Matters of concern to a great many people, including the deficit and immigration, were not considered worthy of comment.
Unlike Ed Milband I feel that One Nation politics, where all parts of our society work together for the common good, are needed more than ever. As the economy grows we need to work together to ensure that no-one is left behind.
Measures such as the Work Programme are helping more people than ever before into work. In my own constituency of Truro and Falmouth unemployment across all ages has fallen by a third since 2010. As the Government works hard to create a good economic climate for employers to create these new jobs, businesses in the South West are leading the way, with our regional economy growing faster than any other in the UK.
It isn’t only new jobs that are helping people to get on; a revolution in education and skills training is opening up new opportunities for people of all ages. More people are in apprenticeships than ever before, more people are going to university than ever before. The Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership is working with businesses to provide employment focused skills training and increase the adoption of the Living Wage. This One Nation politics is working – figures published in July by the DWP show that inequality in the UK is at its lowest point since the 1990’s.
One Nation also means trusting different communities in the UK to decide how they can best contribute to our shared future. I want to see more decision making powers not only devolved from Westminster to City and County Halls, but to Town and Parish Councils.
However our current relationship with the European Union imposes a stumbling block – how can we in the South West ensure our economy powers ahead when decisions that shape key sectors, like farming, fishing and maritime trade are made not by us, but by people sitting in Brussels? Being in Coalition with the LibDems is like driving a car with the handbrake on. At the General Election we need to win more support in the SW and around the country to release this brake and drive forward reforms with our relationship with the EU, returning powers to people and communities here and around the UK.
In the years ahead Britain’s economy is set to grow faster than any of the largest economies of the world. This means that we have a real chance to build a balanced economy which helps everyone to build the lives they want to live. It’s been done before. Over the desk of David Cameron hangs a portrait of Harold MacMillan, the Conservative Prime Minister who presided over a decade of full employment, rising living standards and plummeting inequality. Sixty years on a new generation of One Nation Conservatives are looking to build an even brighter shared future.