I didn’t go to the Conservative Party’s annual conference this year because I was unwell, but as you would expect I’ve been studying what was said to see what it means for us here in Croydon.
As you may have heard on the news or read in the newspapers, there have been lots of announcements of what the Conservative Party will do if it wins an overall majority at the next Election (or, in a couple of cases, things the Liberal Democrats also support which we can therefore do over the next six months), including:
• letting people keep more of the money they work hard to earn by increasing how much you have to earn before you pay the basic and higher rates of income tax;
• eliminating the deficit by 2018 by tackling tax avoidance by large multinational companies but also by taking tough decisions on public spending like freezing working-age benefits for two years;
• abolishing long-term youth unemployment by ensuring that any young person who has been out of work for six months gets an apprenticeship, a traineeship or community work – and paying for this by reducing the cap on the amount of benefits an out-of-work family can receive each year (which we introduced a few years ago – under Labour, there was no cap and some families got over £50,000) from £26,000 to £23,000;
• helping young people to buy their first home by building 100,000 starter homes only available to first-time buyers under the age of 40 with a 20% discount;
• protecting the savings of elderly people by abolishing the 55% tax they have to pay if they want to pass their pension pot on to a loved one when they die;
• increasing the NHS budget each year;
• making sure everyone can get access to a GP seven days a week;
• reducing immigration from the EU; and
• scrapping the Human Rights Act and introducing a British Bill of Rights so that decisions about human rights are made by British courts, not European judges in Strasbourg.
A number of commentators have speculated that the Conservative Party will lurch to the right in the run-up to the next Election in an attempt to win back voters from UKIP. These announcements show that we are not going to do anything of the sort. There are sensible ideas to address genuine concerns about immigration and the abuse of human rights, but most of them are about making day-to-day life easier for the people I represent – helping people cope with the cost of living by letting them keep more of the money they earn, making it easier to get a doctor’s appointment, making it easier to get the housing ladder and helping young people to find work.
You may not agree with everything this Government has done. As David Cameron had the honesty to admit in his speech, he isn’t a perfect leader.
But ultimately, politics is a choice. Realistically, there are two people who could be Prime Minister after the next Election – David Cameron or Ed Miliband. I am obviously biased, but if you compare David Cameron’s speech yesterday with Ed Miliband’s last week – when he didn’t even mention the deficit and immigration – it’s crystal clear which one is better suited to being our Prime Minister.