Otherwise, we might as well hand Corbyn the keys to No 10
I reckon I speak for millions of people on all sides of the debate when I say that after almost three years of Brexit I am fit to burst with impatience. We cannot go on like this. We need to get on with it and to get it done.
We should really come out with no deal – now looking far the best option; but if we cannot achieve that, then we need to get out, now, with an interim solution that most closely resembles what the people voted for, in the knowledge that – following the PM’s decision to step down – we have at least the chance to fix it in the second phase of the negotiations.
Yes, it will be tough, and yes, it will mean we will need a very different approach. But it is absolutely essential now that we in the UK recover our courage and self-belief. We need to get Brexit done, because we have so much more to do, and so much more that unites the Conservative party than divides us. We have so many achievements to be proud of – and yet every single one is being drowned out in the Brexit cacophony.
Let me remind you of just a few things that have happened under this Conservative government, and which you may not have heard about. We should be immensely proud of the work of the NHS cancer service, at every level, and their achievement in reducing the incidence of breast cancer by 17 per cent since 2010.
That is the biggest fall for any major European country. It has been made possible by consistent investment – which is in turn the result of economic growth enabled by sound Conservative management. The number of first-time buyers is on the way up for the first time in 12 years; partly because it is Conservatives who believe in home ownership. Wages are rising at the fastest rate for the last ten years – and remember that it was the Tories who instituted a national living wage.
There are now a million more disabled people in the workforce, because Conservative policies encourage independence and opportunity for all. Under the Tories, we have cut greenhouse gas emissions to the lowest level since 1888. Tories believe in the technological and market solutions that help to make this revolution possible. We should be proud of the role played by Britain’s military and security services in helping to eliminate the Daesh statelet in Iraq and Syria; and remember that this achievement requires a belief in the power and projection of Britain’s military.
All this is true – but it is all being lost in the row over Brexit. We need to get back to explaining our One Nation Tory approach, and the vital symmetry between great public services and a dynamic free market economy. You cannot pay for the NHS, or fantastic infrastructure, unless you are prepared to champion those who pay taxes – the risk-takers and the entrepreneurs and the wealth creators.
And business can only flourish if the public sector creates the right seed-bed for growth: safe streets, high skills, good health care and the rest. One Nation Tories understand the need to satisfy both sides of the equation, and it is a profoundly moderate creed.
We need to remember that Brexit has supporters from all over the political spectrum – from Bennites to Ukip to Lord Owen; and that when Tories win it is because they govern from the centre-Right. Of course we have much more to do. We now have some types of crime going up again – notably knife crime. It is time to get behind the police, and to give them the political and legal backing to sort it out, with more stop and search.
We should be doing even more to help young people on the housing ladder, and tackling the planning and other problems that are holding back development. It is quite wrong that owner occupation rates for young people should be lower in this country than they are in France and Germany – and there is plenty we can do to turn it round.
We should be cutting taxes wherever we reasonably can, since some judicious tax cuts – look at corporation tax – can actually stimulate more activity and higher yields. We should consider cuts in stamp duty, and inheritance tax on family firms. We should be devolving fiscal powers to mayors and local government of all kinds, since that is the way to build a sense of local civic pride – and responsibility. That is the way to get Tories elected.
We need to look again at our whole system of deciding major infrastructure projects, and we need to start closing the gap in productivity between London – the most productive region in Europe – and other parts of the country. We need to recognise that in many ways Brexit was a cry for attention from places that have felt neglected, and that are full of potential if only they were given a chance.
Above all, we need to start believing in Conservatism, and in what Tories can really do for this country; and the first step is to stop running ourselves down, and to start believing in Britain. This is by far the most innovative and exciting economy in this hemisphere: the intellectual, technical, artistic and cultural powerhouse of Europe. If we can get Brexit done, and get it done right, there is a huge tide of investment waiting to come.
The Norwegians and others have shown their confidence, and it is justified. We Conservatives have only one priority now, apart from Brexit, and that is to prevent a Corbyn government. The leader of the Opposition would be an economic and political calamity for this country. He has no interest whatever in free enterprise, and no understanding of the public-private symmetry I have described.
He is a semi-Marxist anti-Semitism-condoning apologist for the Kremlin. We cannot let him anywhere near power in this country. His motion tomorrow on the customs union is entirely cynical, since he was taking exactly the opposite line a couple of years ago. He just hopes to split the Tory party. We cannot let him do it. It is time to unite the Tories, get Brexit done, turn to face the real foe – and believe in what the UK can do.