• 2016

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    08 January 2016

    Politically, 2015 had its surprises. A general election that most predicted would see a hung parliament delivered a majority Conservative government followed by the prompt resignation of Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and albeit only briefly, Nigel Farage. There then followed, perhaps an even bigger political upset in the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the Leader of the Labour Party. Only a very brave person would have bet on these outcomes. The year ahead is going to be equally lively. There is the mayoral election in London and elections to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales. 2016 will also see the conclusion of our renegotiation of our membership of the EU and perhaps the In/Out referendum itself – our commitment is to holding this by the end of 2017. And, given the Prime Minister has said that he will not serve a full term it is possible that the starting gun will be fired on a change at the top with a Conservative leadership contest featuring the Chancellor, Boris and Theresa May. But what matters just as much as these events is where we are headed as a country. The economy is not yet fully healed – we still have a substantial deficit to deal with but the trajectory is clear – employment continues to rise, growth is strong and our finances are coming back into order. Low inflation, increasing real wages, lower taxes (those of the lowest paid in particular are set to drop sharply after April) and the arrival of the largest increase in the state pension in a generation will all assist in ensuring that the economy is in good shape and that the pressures on many families continue to recede. But what of the government’s overarching goals? Conservatism is far more than clearing up an economic mess and now is our big opportunity to show it – there will be four key areas we will pursue. 1. Home Ownership. So vital in the South West, where the ratio of wages to house prices is so low. With Right to Buy and Help to Buy we have made a good start but we need to build more. We will invest in 200,000 starter homes and if local councils don’t build then government will step in. 2. Tackling Poverty. Much has been achieved recently (with income inequality, as measured by the UN, declining in the UK over the last 5 years) but we need to beef up our approach to worklessness and family instability. We are reviewing more targeted ways of delivering in these areas 3. Social Mobility. We will continue to press on improving education with better schools and 3 million new apprenticeships. 4. Extremism. One of the greatest challenges facing our country. We need to continue to support our intelligence services and our police (funding has been maintained). We must continue to tackle hate preachers and extremist propaganda but also address some of the issues at the heart of this problem including segregation, deprivation and the mistreatment of women.