Onward to Higher Taxes

The government currently has no idea how it wants to raise taxes to pay for the £20 billion-a-year funding increase for the NHS. Step forward Tory MP Neil O’Brien, the former Osborne SpAd who recently co-founded the Onward think tank, with a proposal: freezing the personal allowance for two years. His plan to effectively hike taxes for all voters will raise £4 billion a year, which still leaves a huge black hole.

Labour’s policy is to whack the super-rich with new taxes. This Tory plan proposes to stop low earners, middle class voters and everyone else from keeping more of the money they earn. Which one do they think the public are going to vote for? The Tories are shifting the Overton window way to the left, fighting on Corbyn’s territory, and leaving people with no reason to vote Conservative. This madness is only going to make it more likely Corbyn gets into Number 10…

Ruth and Gove Blast ‘Dour, Joyless, Pessimistic, Unhappy, Authoritarian’ Tories

Some choice quotes from the keynote speakers at the launch of the Osbornite / Mayite / centrist think tank Onward last night. Ruth Davidson left the sweaty Churchill Room in parliament in no doubt as to who she was talking about here:

“Sometimes as Tories we just look a bit dour. We look a bit joyless, to be fair. A bit authoritarian, sometimes. We don’t get to win if we start hectoring the people that we need to vote for us… We’ve got to learn to be a bit more joyful… It’s not just what you say but it’s what you can show people… when you do it with a smile, they actually get behind you.”

Bet that went down well in Number 10.

Her attack on Labour was punchy too:

“If you look at Jeremy Corbyn, actually I feel sad. I feel sad at how far a once important, integral, sensible, solid party has fallen. And I then look at John McDonnell, and the shock troops, and the troll factories, and the conspiracy theories and their envy and their fake news and their Skwawkbox and their Canary and the rest of it, and I think that this Labour Party has about the same amount of moral authority as Sepp Blatter putting a fiver on Russia getting the World Cup. I genuinely think to myself, when I look at the Nationalists or the Corbynistas, what I see is a movement that works in its own way to break up our country. That’s what they want. They want to tear it apart.”

A woke Michael Gove said of Ruth: “In the future when think tanks ask, ‘Can we get the pregnant lesbian to speak?’, they will ask: ‘Which pregnant lesbian?’”. Less woke Gove made two comparisons between himself and Ruth, first as Ike and Tina Turner, the second between Sonny and Cher. Perhaps might have thought that through.

His musical call for the Tories to pursue a Fleetwood Mac / Pharrell Williams strategy was more successful: ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow’ and ‘Happy’ would certainly be a change of tone. Gove echoed Ruth in calling for optimism, though his call could have easily applied to Remainers as well:

“Sometimes in the past the Tories have been pessimistic and unhappy, uncomfortable that we seem to be living in the 21st century, when the 1950s would be far more attractive, and what a pity that the 19th century isn’t an option. Indeed when I heard today that Club 18-30 was at last closing, I thought that must be a group of Conservative modernisers looking forward to that year as some glorious future to which they can aspire.”

The evening was also notable for Neil O’Brien’s Macron style speech, which several in the audience saw as the beginnings of a leadership bid. The theme of the night certainly that the Tories should be more bold, interesting, positive and happy than what is currently on offer…

Onward to PX2

Invitations are going out this week for the launch party of Onward, the new Tory think tank promising to come up with ‘retail’ policies to win back under-45 voters. Onward was the brainchild of Tory MP and former Osborne SpAd and Policy Exchange director Neil O’Brien, with Nick Faith, the former PX comms chief who now runs WPI Strategy with Sean Worth. So is it just Policy Exchange Mark II?

Onward’s main aim seems to be to bring the Cameroon and May brands of Tory party politics together. Last summer O’Brien and Faith organised a dinner at the home of Tory donor David Meller (don’t mention the President’s Club), who hosted Nick Timothy and JoJo Penn from May’s inner circle, top Cameroon Nick Boles (a former PX director) and a number of younger ambitious MPs. Onward’s director will be former May adviser Will Tanner, its chair is Osborne confidant Danny Finkelstein (former PX chairman), and its board members include former Cameron advisers Kate Rock and Kate Fall, ex-Osborne aide Eleanor Wolfson, and Craig Elder, who co-ran Cameron’s digital campaigns in 2015 and the referendum. Their main financial backer is Martyn Rose, who ran Cameron’s National Citizens Service.

The plan is to create a party-oriented think tank for MPs rather than wonks, which combines Timothy’s statist agenda with the more liberal politics of the Cameroons, and has both Remainers and Brexiters on board. They have signed up MPs from the left and centre-right of the party, from Ruth Davidson and Tom Tugendhat to Michael Gove and Kemi Badenoch. It will have some external authors but most of the reports will be written by MPs.

The danger for Onward is it goes down the road of expensive, interventionist, big-state policies which mean higher taxes, more spending and more borrowing – social democracy with a blue-wash. A May-Osborne fusion could mean more cumbersome policies like the energy price cap, HS2 and ever-creeping vice taxes. Guido also fears the instinctively more liberal, small-state, low tax MPs may fail to resist the temptation to drift leftwards as they seek wider support ahead of the next leadership contest. Number 10’s hopeless lack of a domestic agenda means the Tories are crying out for post-Brexit polices, or, perish the thought, policies that could actually be implemented while Brexit is taking place. They won’t beat Corbyn with lite versions of his policies…



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Quote of the Day

Rowan Atkinson tells The Times

“All jokes about religion cause offence, so it’s pointless apologising for them. You should really only apologise for a bad joke. On that basis, no apology is required.”

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