I’m just about old enough to remember politics before Brexit. All too often unpopular legislation passing through Parliament was blamed on the EU, and was deemed unchangeable unless we left. A possibility of leaving was offered when David Cameron announced that a referendum on our EU membership could be held if he was returned to power. We therefore gave the Tories their majority in the 2015 election, in order that the referendum could take place. We obviously all know what the result of the referendum was. Now, Donald Tusk has revealed that Cameron never believed he would have to hold a referendum, thinking that he would be back in coalition with the Lib Dems. Cameron’s lack of preparation for what eventually happened, was the start of a calamitous series of events, that have finally led us to where we are today, with an EU deal that nobody wants.
It was quite striking to see just how many of you, who attended Conservative Voice’s (CV) Brexit events at last year’s Party Conference, had deep reservations about Mrs May’s deal, evidenced in our Q and A sessions. This speaks volumes about the great schism that there is between you and a Tory party hierarchy that often has refused to listen to your concerns, more of which later.
I wish to outline what I strongly feel should happen as a result of Brexit. I believe wholeheartedly that the government should ensure that however we come out of the EU, that the main beneficiaries of exit are the working classes.
This group voted overwhelmingly for ‘Leave’ in 2016, for reasons often disputed. There is no doubt that immigration concerns were a factor. But there is another factor, not usually mentioned. For many working-class people, living in areas bereft of industry, and experiencing high levels of welfare dependency, there is a genuine feeling of a loss of purpose. I have seen it myself when I have visited family in Tredegar, Wales, a former coal mining town. I remember vividly witnessing a young family walking around the town in their nightwear at two in the afternoon. I suppose that there’s little point of getting dressed if you have no job to go to.
All too often these days the industries and the jobs have moved to places in the world where wages are cheaper. Therefore, if Britain is to become a successful player on the world stage post-Brexit, we cannot just simply open ourselves up to new markets, for that would mean cheap imports en masse, and would be of little benefit to those desperate for a job and purposeful life. What the Tory Party must encourage foreign businesses to do, and what we as CV must encourage our Party to do, is to make the case for companies to set up in areas of deprivation. We should demonstrate that those areas currently heavily bereft of industry, have great potential post-Brexit.
In addition, our Party must look at incentivising businesses that happen to set up in deprived areas, to train and educate the local population. So much of that community have been out of work for so long, or have never even had a job, and need assistance in learning both the social and specific work skills if they are to stand any chance in the job market.
On another note, I firmly believe that the way in which the Conservatives are handling our departure, clearly demonstrates the need for the Tory membership to demand greater participation in the workings of the Party, particularly when it comes to policy-making. As Don Porter wrote in 2017, the Tory membership often feel ‘undervalued, ignored and under-utilised’. Without our generosity in donating, canvassing and turning up to Tory conferences, the Party would be a shadow of what it currently is.
I know that the membership’s support for Brexit and criticism of the Prime Minister’s deal, is very much in tune with what the public think at large. So, let us not remain silent on the issue of needing greater democracy within our party, for it is the Tory elites who for the most part, are not in touch with the public mood, on Brexit but also in other areas that the Tory membership, and we at CV care deeply about.