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The Daily Telegraph

26th July 2019

Priti Patel’s approach is just what we need to win the war on crime

As knife crime and homicide rates have risen, the Conservatives’ reputation as the party of law and order has been shredded. Boris Johnson’s decision to appoint Priti Patel as Home Secretary, alongside his commitment to increase police numbers by 20,000, sends a clear signal that his government intends to restore that reputation.

Proud of his record in reducing crime in London, the new Prime Minister wants to show that he will give the police the tools they need – including more freedom to stop and search – to get knives off our streets and make all our towns and cities safer.

In these uncertain times, with an ever-present terror threat and an epidemic of fatal stabbings, you might expect broad support for such explicit emphasis on public safety. Yet the loudest response to Patel’s appointment so far has been from the human rights lobby, desperate to express their concern at the prospect of a Home Secretary who intends to make national security her priority and who has in the past called for stricter enforcement of immigration rules.

Underlying many of the criticisms from the Left is of course a barely-concealed hostility to Patel’s cordial relationship with Israel, a relationship which led to her informal meetings with Israeli officials while she served as Secretary of State for International Development.  Failure to clear all those meetings with Downing Street in advance prompted her sacking from the May government, already uneasy at her outspoken calls to make the international aid budget work towards Britain’s interests abroad.

Like her new boss Boris Johnson, Patel has long argued for a points-based immigration system. As a Vote Leave campaigner, she was a strong exponent of giving the UK control of its own immigration policy, not only to meet its economic needs but also for reasons of national security.

If called upon to decide between supporting the US and the EU in security matters, it is not hard to guess which way the new Home Secretary will turn. Civil liberties campaigners, outraged at her predecessor Sajid Javid’s decision not to seek an assurance from the US government that convicted Isis torturers and executioners will not face the death penalty, have already marked Patel down as an enemy of human rights, believing she is likely to stick with Javid’s line. Indeed, one of the first attacks against Patel is that she once sympathised with calls for the return of the death penalty in the UK, a view she later abandoned.

None of these attacks are likely to trouble Patel overmuch; indeed they will help her to establish her credentials as a politician who sides with the victims of crime rather than the perpetrators; not bowing to the liberal metropolitan elite but rather speaking up for the families who have suffered the consequences of rising crime.

In so doing, Patel needs also to recognise the link between illegal drug use, particularly the habitual use of cannabis, and violent crime. Examples of the connection are numerous, from the Manchester Arena bombers to the bloodthirsty murderer of Lee Pomeroy on a commuter train.

Yet over the last four years police forces around the UK have been increasingly reluctant to charge cannabis users, despite the fact that it remains a Class B drug. In some police authorities, fewer than 20 per cent of  those found in possession of the drug last year were charged. A Home Secretary who wants to make the streets safer has to challenge police forces on this issue, rather than allowing them to turn a blind eye to “recreational” use.

During her time as Home Secretary, Theresa May famously berated the police for their complacency and restricted their powers to stop and search. As Prime Minister she reaped the legacy of that confrontation, both in terms of rising knife crime and lack of confidence between police forces and the government.

Patel is no doubt aware that there is a fine line to tread between calling the police to account and giving them the tools they need to keep us safe. If she can get them to concentrate on public safety, while reassuring officers that she will support them in that task, she will not only restore confidence in the Conservatives but also improve trust in the police force, as a source of security rather than enforcers of political correctness.

4 June 2019

Labour has shown once again that it wants nothing more than the abolition of private property

Do you have a couple of spare bedrooms? Or maybe a large garden you enjoy cultivating? Jeremy Corbyn would like to tax you for such privileges, to discourage “over-consumption of housing. ” If Labour wins the next election,  you can forget about keeping your house in retirement and having space for the grandchildren to stay, unless you are assured of a big enough income to meet the tax bill. An official report produced for the Labour Party laments what it describes as our “broken” system of land ownership and proposes to replace council tax with a “progressive property tax”, set nationally and based on regularly updated values. Payable by owners but not by tenants, the tax would also be significantly higher for second homes. Current discounts for single people such as widows living alone would be removed, to deter them from occupying “large” homes.The report, entitled Land for the Many, is edited by green activist George Monbiot, and has been given a warm response by shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett. It makes no secret of its ambitions to change the way land is owned in the UK, to enable the state to take control over, and ultimately to reallocate, private property.

Playing on widespread concerns about the cost of housing, the report blames lack of social mobility on increased land values; it argues that the “accumulated wealth” of those who own homes is blocking the aspirations of those unable to get on the housing ladder.

Instead of considering the obvious causes of pressure on housing in the most overcrowded parts of Britain – such as the huge increase in immigration triggered by the last Labour government – Monbiot and his co-authors fall back on the old Left wing sentiments of envy and spite. Since we cannot all have a tennis court or swimming pool, it asserts, our objective should be to arrange that all tennis courts and swimming pools be publicly owned and shared by all. Or perhaps you hope to have your own vegetable garden to tend in retirement? Think again. If Jeremy Corbyn takes power, you will have to join the queue for a state-owned allotment instead.

Taking the socialist view that private ownership of land should ultimately be abolished, the report envisages an ideal world in which no-one would own the land on which their home is built. Land and housing should no longer, it argues, be “treated as financial assets.” As a first step, powers of compulsory purchase would be extended to enable public authorities to buy up land for social housing, paying landowners below market price.

Determined to crush any financial return on owning a property, Labour also has private landlords in its sights. The report describes the private letting market as a “buy-to-let frenzy” and proposes “open-ended” tenancies, with caps on permissible rent increases. Not only would this remove the incentive to let out a property , it would also create significant risks to landlords of being able to reclaim their property in the future, effectively handing control to the tenant.

Closing down the private rental market in this way would of course mean that everyone unable or unwilling to commit to buying a home would lose their access to privately rented property, a prospect that apparently does not trouble the writers of this report. They seem confident that the state would be able to take over enough land to supply social housing for all at public expense.

Conservative housing Minister James Brokenshire describes the proposals in Labour’s report as “extraordinary and deeply damaging in equal measure.” He is right.

Yet this is the same James Brokenshire who less than two months ago announced Conservative plans to stop private landlords reclaiming their properties on “as little as 8 weeks’ notice”: in other words, to end the freedom of contract brought about by shorthold tenancies, currently terminable by either side on a minimum of  two months’ notice. These “Assured Shorthold” tenancies, introduced by the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher, produced a huge increase in the availability of property for rent. If Jeremy Corbyn wins the battle for hearts and minds with his openly socialist and authoritarian agenda, today’s Conservative Party must take its share of the blame, for shifting the goalposts so far in Mr Corbyn’s direction.

Let us hope the next leader of the Conservatives grasps the threat to freedom posed by today’s Labour Party – and succeeds in communicating it to the electorate before it’s too late.

6th September 2018

The Archbishop of Canterbury occupies a unique position in public life. Leader of the Church of England and symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican communion, he has the opportunity to apply biblical wisdom to the challenges of the modern world and to speak up for Christ in a society too often consumed by secular demands. With a publicity machine and Twitter account at his disposal, the Archbishop’s opinions on controversial topics have the potential to influence both public and personal morality.

How depressing it is, then, that Justin Welby uses his unique position to espouse the standard Left-leaning political prescriptions that we can hear any day of the week not only from Jeremy Corbyn but from nearly all Labour, Green, and LibDem politicians. It has become all so predictable. At least since the Eighties, when in response to inner city riots the Church published Faith in the City – described by one Cabinet member at the time as “pure Marxist theology” — whenever an Anglican leader has chosen to intervene in politics, his demands have been for higher taxes, more state intervention, and more redistribution.

In Welby’s case, by participating in a commission on “economic justice” led by the IPPR, a think-tank founded to promote New Labour policies, the Archbishop has been unapologetic in expressing a tax-and-spend political worldview. Writing in support of the IPPR’s findings, he demands that the Government should increase taxes on personal wealth and multinationals, set up a state investment bank, force businesses to pay higher wages, and strengthen the bargaining power of the unions.

As Telegraph readers will know, such policies have been tested under past Labour governments and have proved ineffective at solving the problem of poverty and disadvantage. Under the current Conservative government, UK employment is at an all-time high, income inequality has fallen and the wealthiest people now pay a higher proportion of all income tax than at any time under Labour. As for strengthening the trades unions, rail and tube strikes in recent years surely demonstrate that in industries where the unions still exert significant bargaining power, the public pay a very high price in disruption and rising fares?

But setting aside the economic fallacies in the Archbishop’s proposals, the problem many Christians will have with Welby’s decision to share a platform with the IPPR is the political nature of his interventions.

With a background in the evangelical wing of the Church of England, it might have been expected that this Archbishop would seize every opportunity to promote a specifically Christian worldview and explain how Bible teaching can be applied to modern social and moral challenges.

There is surely no shortage of such challenges. Take the rising cost of care for the elderly: it might be apt for the Archbishop to remind us of the commandment to honour our fathers and mothers by taking responsibility for their care, instead of always assuming that the state will step in. The epidemic in gang-based violent crime is one of many social problems with roots in father absence and lack of male role models. Yet we do not hear a call from the Archbishop for policies to discourage casual relationships or increase parental responsibility.

As lawyers and the media combine to argue for easier divorce, a speech from the Archbishop about the serious and lifelong pledges contained in the ceremony of marriage might not come amiss. These are all topics of fierce debate involving decisions of both public and personal morality, where spiritual guidance is arguably more important than “economic justice.”

Politicians are very wary of talking about God, perhaps fearful of appearing messianic in their ambitions. But church leaders have a God-given opportunity to engage in moral and spiritual questions, untainted by a political agenda. Earlier this year, Welby attracted widespread ridicule by claiming that the European Union was “the greatest dream realised for human beings since the fall of the Western Roman Empire.” His boldness in attaching himself to the side of Remain shows that he is not afraid to court political controversy. But many of his flock would prefer that he showed similar boldness in speaking out for Christianity, instead of calling on the state to solve our social and economic ills.

From smart meters to the cash point’s decline: Why we are becoming hostages to tech

29th June 2018

Far from liberating society, technology is eroding our independence

Have you had a smart meter installed, thinking it would enable you to control your energy use and keep your bills down? Well, maybe you should think again.

This week the former head of “meterology” at energy regulator Ofgem, Jerry Fulton, confirmed what many of us had long suspected: smart meters will give suppliers, rather than consumers, greater control over our energy use and in particular the ability to charge us more for our gas and electricity when we most need to use it. Mr Fulton explained that the latest meters will allow half-hourly variations in charging rates, so that when wind and solar power generation is sluggish and usage is high, prices will rise steeply.

This seems entirely believable, given the failure of both Labour and Conservative governments over the past 20 years to plan for Britain’s energy needs. Too much green wishful thinking, combined with a pathetic inability to take infrastructure decisions, has led us to the point where energy rationing is a serious possibility.

As a substitute for long-term planning, the Government nags us into accepting smart meters (paid for by a levy on everyone’s bills), while telling us to save money by switching suppliers. Thousands of householders have already discovered that these two objectives are incompatible because their meters won’t recognise different suppliers. And, as Mr Fulton points out, once fluctuating tariffs are introduced, price comparisons will become virtually impossible.

This doesn’t feel like progress, does it? Worryingly, a similar process is threatening our access to our own money. Online banking, contactless cards and the end of cash payments are all promoted as tools to give us control over our finances. Yet the technological dream rapidly turns sour when online banking systems crash, leaving customers powerless and bringing businesses to a halt.

The march to a cashless society continues: more than a thousand cashpoints have closed in the past six months, often in towns where bank branches have also disappeared. Where ATMs remain, customers are more likely to be charged for using them: yesterday the Daily Telegraph revealed that the UK’s biggest cashpoint provider plans to start charging customers at thousands of its machines.

We thought that technology would liberate us, yet in the hands of big government – and big corporations – it is slowly but surely tying us down, by making us dependent. Once hooked, our choices are constrained and we cannot break free.

This bears down hardest on the poorest in society, who cannot pay their way to freedom: rationing by price is more regressive than any tax. David Cameron once memorably scorned Gordon Brown as an “analogue politician in a digital age”. But in its eagerness to embrace technology, the Government should be more mindful of the digital threats to our freedom.


Upholding family values will see off the Left

5th August 2017

Conservatives have long understood that strong families are the best safeguard against state intervention. Couples who take care of each other, look after their children and take responsibility for their elderly relatives, all reduce the burden on the state and on the public purse. In contrast, socialism has always been dismissive of family ties, viewing parents as agents of inequality. Marxist doctrine holds that children should be reared collectively, to eradicate privilege and to ensure loyalty to the state and its objectives.
To rediscover the differences between conservatism and Corbynism, to build a coalition of voters that will deliver a majority at the next election, and to create positive arguments for limiting the size – and cost – of the state, the Tories need to make the case for upholding and strengthening the role of the family.
What does this mean in practice? It starts with support for marriage, the institution proven to be the best insurance against family breakdown and the most likely to provide children with stability. Research shows that the value of marriage is not just coincidental; the public affirmation involved in signing up to marriage, rather than drifting into cohabitation, plays an active role in maintaining a couple’s commitment to each other.
Happily, divorce rates are falling, with fewer married couples splitting up. But the prospects for children remain bleak because nearly half of all babies are born to unmarried parents. These parents are three times more likely than their married counterparts to split up before their child reaches 16.
Worryingly also, marriage is becoming the preserve of the better-off: the vast majority of married parents are higher rate taxpayers, whereas low income parents are mostly unmarried. Clearly any government interested in promoting family stability needs to provide more support for marriage among middle and lower income groups. Yet recent Conservative governments, in common with their Labour predecessors, have focused support on couples who split up. The marriage tax allowance, so long promised by David Cameron, was finally implemented at a paltry £200 a year, so insignificant that most couples fail to claim it. This contrasts starkly with the level of subsidy available to parents living apart.
Conservatives also need a message to contrast with the Left’s vision of collective, state-supervised childcare. Raising children should be the prerogative of parents, with minimal state intervention, save in cases of abuse or neglect. The role of a Conservative government should therefore be to encourage freedom of choice for families. Instead of subsidies contingent on non-parental, state-regulated care, families with a working parent should be offered tax allowances to spend as they wish, on childminders, nurseries, or care by a family member. If one parent wants to spend time at home caring for their children, while the other works, Conservatives should applaud that decision. Perversely, however, the Tories’ strategy of continually increasing individual tax-free allowances has driven more families to have both parents in work, leaving those with just one breadwinner substantially worse off.
Giving families the option to pool their allowances, allocating work and care as best suits them, would not only affirm family life, it would demonstrate a Conservative belief in individual choice, enabling parents to transmit their own values. Such choices should also be open to families when deciding on the best school for their children, and so it is disappointing that the government is cutting the budget for free schools, the parent-led initiative introduced by Michael Gove.
Forced by their lack of a majority to abandon plans for more grammars, the Tories should at least be confident in making the case for free schools and their ability to respond to parental choice while providing opportunities for families at all income levels. Instead, however, Justine Greening appears to be succumbing to the agenda of the Left: that all schools should receive more cash regardless of their success rates.
The Education Secretary also seems overly keen to subscribe to the most extreme of Left-wing ideas: that gender is a social construct rather than (in almost all cases) a biological fact. Parents who are worried about such outlandish and confusing notions becoming part of the curriculum could be excused for thinking that “conservative” is no longer an apt description of Theresa May’s party.
In opposition, a political party can more easily be forgiven for toying with borrowed ideas or seeking to reinvent itself at leisure. But for a government trying to hold back the advance of the most Left-wing Labour leadership Britain has known, such luxuries are not available. If Tories fail to articulate a message based on recognisable principles, ideological ground will soon be ceded and they will find themselves lacking any coherent message. In making the case for conservatism afresh, and pushing back socialism, where better to start than by upholding the family?
Jill Kirby is a policy analyst and former director of the Centre for Policy Studies, the think tank co-founded by Margaret Thatcher

Projects like Hinkley Point look dated before construction even starts

24th June 2017

The government’s deal with French energy suppliers EDF for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point is risky and expensive, and will force consumers to pay higher electricity prices for 35 years. That is the damning verdict of a report released yesterday by the National Audit Office. The total subsidy bill of the massive new power plant, which is not due to be completed until at least 2025 and is based on unproven technology, have risen from an initial £6 billion to £30 billion.

Theresa May came close to ditching Hinkley last summer, before apparently concluding that a bad deal is, in this case, better than no deal. It’s true that Britain has an energy gap but it’s also increasingly clear that Hinkley is not the answer. What would a better electricity deal look like?

First, we need to be more nimble: mammoth infrastructure projects like Hinkley look out of date before construction has even started. By basing the deal on pessimistic energy price forecasts back in 2012, the government committed to paying EDF more than double the market price for electricity at a time when prices are falling.

Second, the government must reconsider the UK’s carbon targets in the light of evidence on the harms of so-called “renewables”. The Labour government’s 2008 pledge to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 has distorted the market, closed British factories, and driven hefty subsidies towards the most costly and inefficient energy sources. Instead of burning cheap coal, several of Britain’s biggest power stations are now subsidised to burn imported wood pellets, a practice which is not only costly for households but has also now been found to emit more carbon. As the Chatham House think tank concluded in a report earlier this year, this misdirected subsidy has been bad for the planet as well as for the consumer.

Third, use home grown solutions. British engineering companies are developing small nuclear reactors, based on existing technology, capable of being built off site and installed much more quickly and cheaply than a giant reactor like Hinkley. Instead of paying hefty subsidies to EDF, why aren’t we promoting these British engineering skills, with the potential not just to supply the UK but to export their products?

Finally, the government must continue to make the case for fracking in the UK. Shale gas has driven down US energy prices, providing so much fuel that the gas is being liquefied and sold across the world. Because gas is the fossil fuel with the lowest emissions, it can provide us with cheap and reliable fuel at the lowest environmental cost – long before Hinkley Point raises its ugly and expensive head across the Somerset landscape.

The adoption crisis is a legacy of target culture 

12th November 2014

Rules intended to speed up the process have led to fewer children finding a suitable home

The Daily Mail

The more you tell teenagers about sex, the more sex they will have. And the more unwanted pregnancies will result.

31st May 2017

How can rewarding the feckless and punishing the hardworking be the right way to support families?

19th August 2014

The Times and Sunday Times

Arrogant Bercow should be brought to heel

20th August 2014

The Speaker’s nonsensical appointment of a new clerk of the Commons threatens to bring parliament into disrepute

The British parliament is the envy of the world, a model for lawmaking. So as the public lose trust in politicians, the reputation of parliament itself is crucial. That is why the row over the appointment of a new clerk to the House of Commons, at a salary of £200,000 a year, is not just a silly season Westminster spat. The prime minister should intervene.

The clerk of the House reports to the Speaker and is responsible for ensuring that parliamentary procedure is observed. This is not just fusty tradition: these rules allow MPs to be properly heard in debates, for due weight to be given to proposed law changes and for parliamentary privilege and freedom of speech to be upheld. The rules are  set out in Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice, now in its 24th edition and comprising 45 detailed chapters. They are an essential part of the UK constitution.

John Bercow, the Speaker, depends on the guidance of the clerk and his or her team, as does every MP. The clerk’s salary is much higher than the prime minister’s because it is pegged to that of a lord justice of appeal, which suggests its quasi-judicial status. Indeed, the clerk has the authority to correct the Speaker if necessary, as Mr Bercow’s predecessor, Michael Martin, found to his cost. Mr Martin, under fire for his failure to respond to public concern about MPs’ expenses, tried to slap down backbench attempts to instigate a motion to unseat him. On consulting the clerk, Mr Martin was proved wrong; he resigned the next day.

Perhaps Mr Bercow is keen to avoid this fate. He is said to have clashed with the current clerk, Sir Robert Rogers, who is standing down after more than four decades of service. Sir Robert is said to find Mr Bercow’s domineering behaviour towards him intolerable.

In common with his predecessors, who have typically spent their working lives in parliament, Sir Robert not only has a comprehensive grip of procedure but also knows every MP by name. This knowledge is not lightly acquired, which is why the obvious front-runner to replace him is his current deputy, David Natzler. But Mr Natzler, despite being well-liked and respected by parliamentarians, has been passed over by Mr Bercow, who proposes to appoint instead Carol Mills, a manager from the Australian senate.

Ms Mills has apparently been chosen for her management skills, having been responsible for catering and other administrative services at the Senate. Yet she is totally unfamiliar with parliamentary procedure. The clerk of the Australian Senate, Rosemary Laing, described the potential appointment of Ms Mills as “bizarre and an affront”. Baroness Boothroyd, the former Speaker has this week joined her voice to the criticism, declaring that Ms Mills would be “totally out of her depth”.

In choosing a clerk with so much to learn Mr Bercow clearly wants to grab more authority for himself. At the very least, he is showing disdain for the institution he is meant to serve.

To date, he has shown not only a determination to modernise his role but also to put his personal stamp on it. His decision to reject the speaker’s traditional robes and breeches, in favour of a lounge suit and schoolmaster’s gown, was an early indication of his tendency: to assume that his own choices are more important than the office he occupies.

Yet parliament is much greater than the sum of its parts. What makes it great is not its MPs or indeed its officers, but the collective wisdom drawn from its rules and traditions, built up over eight centuries. Foremost among the guardians of those traditions is the clerk of the House. Governments and prime ministers come and go; they rise and fall in public esteem and the quality of their governance varies widely. But their mistakes, their whims and preferences, and the possibilities of corruption, are curtailed by the “mother of parliaments”.

If, when the Chilcot inquiry finally reports, questions are raised again about whether Tony Blair knowingly misled the House of Commons over the Iraq war, there may be calls for the former prime minister to be impeached. The decision whether or not to do so will lie with the House of Commons, under the guidance of the chief clerk. Should this be a former Australian services manager or a clerk whose working life has been steeped in the workings of our democracy?

Mr Bercow’s wish to jettison institutional wisdom to further his own agenda must be overruled immediately. The clerk’s post is a Crown appointment, which must be authorised by the Queen on the advice of her prime minister. There are two problems. The passed-over deputy clerk, Mr Natzler, is said to be planning a sex discrimination case, arguing that the reason he was rejected for preferment was his gender. Ms Mills is also facing an investigation into her department’s decision to allow CCTV surveillance of an Australian minister’s office. The Queen should not be invited to ratify Ms Mills’s appointment with these issues still outstanding.

It is hard to see how such a controversial candidate can occupy this post with the quiet authority that is needed. The prime minister has the power to send this proposed appointment back to the Speaker and ask him to think again. He must do so.

First win hearts and minds. then win elections.

16th April 2014

Politicians must win the battle of ideas, and the Conservatives are at last making progress in tax and welfare debates

Has George Osborne finally decided that Conservatives can win the battle of ideas? The Chancellor’s new-found confidence, derived from a well-received budget and a growing economy, seems to be inspiring him to seek a change in the terms of debate. Given the importance of positive language in winning hearts and minds, this could be a crucial turning point. On Monday he appeared to lay to rest a negative description of tax cuts that for many years pervaded every speech he made on the subject.

The pejorative phrase “unfunded tax cuts” entered the political lexicon back in 2006, when Gordon Brown used it to slap down Blairites on the Labour benches. It was swiftly adopted by Mr Osborne, then shadow chancellor, who deployed it at regular intervals to dampen expectations that he would cut taxes. Notably, he used it to rebuff his own Tax Reform Commission’s proposals for increases in the personal allowance, asserting that he would (like Mr Brown) put “stability” ahead of reductions in tax — as if the two were mutually exclusive.

Such timidity in the face of Labour’s arguments has now, it seems, been overcome. This week, heralding the results of a new Treasury analysis showing that freezing fuel duty has contributed to growth, the Chancellor was bullish about the ability of tax cuts not only to help “fund” themselves, but also to boost the economy. This analysis came hard on the heels of the news that cutting the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p resulted in £9 billion of extra revenue to the Treasury — too big a margin to be explained away by deferred earnings. Instead of trying to defend “tax cuts for the rich”, Mr Osborne can now ask Ed Balls: “How would you fund a return to the 50p tax rate?”

Seizing the initiative in this way is hugely important for the Conservatives, who have spent too long — both in opposition and in government — on the defensive. Fearful of seeming to relish their task, ministers have often appeared apologetic about the decision to cut state spending. Yes, deficit reduction is a necessary and vital task — albeit one in which the government has made painfully slow progress — but it is not the only reason to curb the excesses of the Labour years.

The growth of the state was not just financially costly. As the long arm of government reached further into our businesses, our schools and our families, it squashed initiative, eroded trust and — as we have now learnt — increased inequality. The Blair/Brown governments proved that spending more does not solve deep-rooted social problems; on the contrary, it often exacerbates them.

In their pre-election pledges to increase spending on overseas aid and the NHS, the Tories appeared to concede an important argument to Mr Brown: only by spending more taxpayers’ money can you prove you care. Yet the cabinet minister most associated with “compassionate Conservatism”, Iain Duncan Smith, has argued consistently that public spending creates dependency and damages lives. He has been vindicated by a steady accumulation of data showing that tougher welfare sanctions are getting people back to work, confounding his left-wing critics.

The number of UK households where no one has a job has fallen from 20 per cent in 2010 to 16.6 per cent last year. Figures released yesterday show that in more than 4,000 of the households affected by the government’s benefits cap, working-age adults have now found jobs. If Labour had achieved these advances it would be proclaiming them from the rooftops.

Children growing up in a home where no one is working were among the greatest victims of the Labour years, lacking any role model for their future lives and learning to accept joblessness as a way of life. In describing the plight of these households, Mr Duncan Smith has rightly refused to describe the welfare dependent as feckless scroungers. Indeed, his preferred terminology is not welfare “cuts” but welfare “reform”. This insistence on positive language has reaped popular dividends, with polling showing consistent support for the government on this issue.

It is said that Mr Osborne’s new, positive language is at the behest of the Conservative campaign adviser Lynton Crosby, who has been concerned that the party is too often on the intellectual defensive. In observing Mr Duncan Smith’s success in getting voters on side, however, the Treasury should also take note of the role of think-tanks in crafting and promoting policy. Margaret Thatcher’s greatest achievements, in curbing big government and unleashing enterprise, would not have taken place without free-market think-tanks such as the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Centre for Policy Studies. Mr Duncan Smith’s own policy agenda was developed over the past decade by the important think-tank he himself founded; the Centre for Social Justice.

As Ed Miliband presents the electorate with a vision of old-style price controls and renationalisation, it is imperative for Conservatives to win the battle of ideas. In doing so they must demonstrate, as Mrs Thatcher did, that ideas are not the preserve of policy wonks in dark rooms, but are capable of transforming millions of lives. Key to the ideas’ success will be the language in which they are expressed. As Mr Osborne speaks of a “quiet revolution” where people come to realise they are better at spending their money than government, he is at last recognising the power of ideas and the vital necessity of sharing those ideas with voters. Otherwise it is your opponents who set the terms of debate.

Couples on £300k should pay for their own nannies

19 March 2014

David Cameron could soon be eligible for £6,000 a year of taxpayers’ cash to help him pay his nanny’s wages. The PM’s salary of £142,500 might seem a pretty comfortable annual income but things must be tougher than they look. The upper earnings limit for the coalition’s shiny new childcare subsidy is a whacking £150,000, or £300,000 for a couple, provided both parents are in paid work.

As long as Samantha’s part-time role at Smythson slips under this limit, the Camerons’ annual outlay on their Nepalese nanny could be nicely reduced. An extra £6,000 (£2,000 per child under 12) might come in handy. It might even pay for a chillaxing family holiday in Ibiza.

I can’t help thinking, however, that the Camerons, and other “hard-working families” on £300,000 a year, should pay for their own nannies. Nick Clegg, who is keen to take the credit for this government largesse, seeks to justify this generosity towards the rich by claiming that a lower cap would make things “too complicated”. Funnily enough, we didn’t hear the “too complicated” excuse when, two years ago, George Osborne confiscated child benefit from any family with a parent earning more than £50,000. They were labelled as the “better off” who should not, in the Chancellor’s view, be receiving support for raising children.

That confiscation has hit hardest families with only one breadwinner, for whom £50,000 represents their total annual income. These one-earner couples, typically with a mother at home looking after young children, are so far beyond the Government’s sphere of concern that they have been repeatedly punished by coalition policies. The increase in the tax-free personal allowance, for example, is worth half as much to them as to a dual-earner couple. The tax burden on one-earner families in the UK has risen steadily since 2010 and is now 45 per cent higher than the OECD average. And unlike the Prime Minister’s Notting Hill friends, these families will have no share at all in the latest childcare goodies.

Nor indeed will the very poorest couples, if one of them has the temerity to stay at home looking after their baby. In the eyes of the coalition, a mother who cares for her own children cannot by definition be “hard-working”. As far as Cameron, Clegg and Osborne are concerned, childcare is only worthy of financial recognition if someone else does it.

Jill Kirby is a policy analyst who blogs for The Conservative Woman

The nanny state must prove nannying works

31 May 2013

Is the Government really about to make some of the poorest working families in Britain worse off? 

Tax credit changes to encourage hard work can be justified but they have been bungled

6th April 2012

If you’ve got erotic capital, why not flaunt it?

Feminists may hate it, but good looks are just as important in the boardroom as the bedroom

23rd August 2011

Why Britain must spring its dependency trap

22 April 2011

Don’t tell us debt is bad then treat savers like mugs

7 April 2011

More maternity rights are bad for mothers

14 January 2011

National insurance is just a tax by another name

26 November 2010

Mummy, they’re misleading you about going back to work

The Sunday Times 8 August 2010

This retirement age needed pensioning off

30 July 2010

How Labour blew the children’s inheritance

11 June 2010

ASBOs can’t beat a neighbourhood policeman

30 September 2009

It’s not hard to spot the children really at risk

12 August 2009

Spare some change for our new billboard?

7 April 2009

Dithering ministers saddle us with an energy crunch

The Sunday Times, 3 August 2008

Parents beware: do-gooders want to push you aside

The Sunday Times, 8 February 2009

A mother’s place isn’t in the war zone

The Sunday Times, 1 April 2007

Scandal of the pension haves and have-nots

The Sunday Times, 25 February 2007

After Climbié, children are at even more risk

The Sunday Times, 11 February 2007

The hoodie needs a daddy, not a hug

The Sunday Times, 16 July 2006


The Daily Telegraph

Prison isn’t working for Huhne or for us

2nd April 2013

Neither the lax regime housing the disgraced MP nor high-security jails are fit for purpose

Our abortion law is being undermined

4th February 2013

The 1967 Act was never intended to make terminations a form of contraception.

Nick Clegg is not going to give working mothers a helping hand

14th November 2012

Mothers want to be able to spend more time with their children – this requires changes in the tax system, not pushing fathers to take paternity leave

Parenting should not be taught by the state

18th May 2012

David Cameron must not be led astray by Norway’s “Golden Skirts”

10 February 2012

Quotas are not the way to promote women’s interests

(Also covered as Talking Point  in The Week 10 February 2012)

Marriage desperately needs a royal boost

19 April 2011

When is the Coalition going to tackle the growing problem of family breakdown?

There is a way to save our lost children

22 February 2011

With 64,000 children in care, and adoption rates falling, reform is urgently needed.

Marriage makes us all richer – not poorer

8 February 2011

The cost to the nation of family breakdown is immense. It is time for politicians to act.

Prison is what Jon Venables knows best

24 July 2010

It might have been kinder to have left James Bulger’s killer in custody

Labour’s Katherine Rake is wrong: it takes two to mend a ‘broken …

1 December 2009

It is not in the interests of children to suggest that the nuclear family is dead.

The bigger Britain’s government gets, the worse it is for us …

10 July 2009

How has government become so disconnected from reality? Five techniques have been deployed to create the appearance of success while presiding over failure.

The equality agenda is bad news for women

30 July 2009

Women are being told to avoid ‘feminine’ jobs – but what they want is to stop being lectured.

The worst place to grow up is in care

7 November 2008

Councils should not be making it even harder for children to be adopted.

Why the NHS keeps failing mothers

10 July 2008

A lavishly funded health service in a Western economy should surely be able to guarantee every mother a properly supervised delivery. Where has it gone so wrong?

Tories must set parents free to raise children

16 June 2008

The Conservatives must develop their ideas for less state intervention in childcare.

Labour must stop penalising marriage

7 December 2005

Jill Kirby argues that the Chancellor’s policies have deepened the lone-parent trap.


Daily Express


27th October  2012

Couples are putting off having children because they need both salaries to pay the rent or to keep up their mortgage payments.

They also worry about the price of childcare and the sacrifices they will have to make to give their children a good start in life.

Why should their taxes be spent on allowing a jobless household to avoid these tough choices?



5th November 2011

We know that the coalition is fighting shy of a row about immigration.

But if it wants to cut the welfare bill, lift the burden on public services and get our young people into work it needs to talk about it.



10th September 2010

Today a child in a house where no one works may have access to a flatscreen TV and the latest trainers….



3rd February 2010

Do children have a duty to look after their parents in old age? The leading lawyer Baroness Deech believes we are too quick to shrug off our responsibilities…



2nd December 2009

Why won’t Gordon Brown stand up for marriage? The Prime Minister is, by all accounts, a happily married man…


The Independent

The trick is to succeed where a Labour government failed

28 July 2010


The five ways that government disguises failure as success

10 July 2009


The sinister Newspeak that makes cynics of us all

28 December 2007