Author Archives: Richard Graham

Post-Election Article: The Conservative Party of Business?

If the Conservatives are anything, we are the Party of Business. We understand how to grow an economy through incentivising investment, encouraging business to provide jobs and opportunities: the sky’s the limit. We work with both academic and vocational providers of skills and business to make sure that Britain has the right skills to stimulate innovation.

But that does not make us the party of rampant capitalism, trampling over human rights – ours is the party of Wilberforce and Shaftesbury, and it’s our Prime Minister who led on legislation against Modern Slavery and female genital mutilation. Where we differ from other parties is getting the balance right – encouraging people to come off benefits rather than making a life on benefits more attractive financially and less hassle. Every Labour government has ended in the equivalent of Liam Byrne’s note (“I’m afraid there is no money left”) , and the country then turns to us to sort out the mess.

Since 2010, the Conservatives have done it again. We’ve hugely reduced an enormous deficit – at the same time as Scotland has increased theirs sharply – and created over three million new jobs, more than all the other nations of the EU put together. And last month, we generated a surplus that caught economists by surprise, as has the robustness of the UK economy in general over the last seven years, particularly since Brexit.

It’s easy to forget this was not what the socialists predicted. David Blanchflower, Ed Balls, the Guardian, the New Statesman and all the other usual suspects spent the years 2010-2012 telling the nation Conservative policies would result in millions more unemployed. Now their narrative is that all of the new jobs are cheap zero hours exploitation – a lie easily put to bed by figures showing that three quarters of the new jobs are full time. And perhaps by illustrating the number of Labour-run councils (not to mention Labour MPs) who employ zero hour workers.

Labour hypocrisy needs to be exposed. There was a good moment during the last Parliament when the Labour front bench were railing against Conservatives for enabling pension funds to use CPI instead of RPI as the inflation rate for pension increases. It was unfortunate that Labour’s own pension fund for party agents had already made exactly that switch.

But we have to make our case persuasively, bringing it alive with examples, if we’re to win elections. And in the last election we didn’t make the case, not just for economic competence – a pretty dull virtue until you’re landed with the opposite, as in say Venezuela – but also why business is a positive for people’s jobs and lives, rather than being the greedy cockroach broadly painted by Labour.

One middle-aged voter in Gloucester, not earning much and with no great love of Conservative politicians, told me in June he would vote for me simply because he’d been laid off during the recession under Gordon Brown, felt Jeremy Corbyn had even less of a clue about how to keep him in work – and didn’t want the risk of being unemployed again under an extreme socialist experiment. Quite.

In my constituency of Gloucester alone, there were more than 5000 people that lost jobs in business during the Great Recession under Labour, and youth unemployment rocketed. It’s down now by 70 per cent, and many have benefited from the huge increase in employment that government has funded the training for. But their voices weren’t heard in this year’s election: we didn’t motivate an army of apprentices, or those who’d been on David Cameron’s National Citizen Service course. There was nothing to bring the positives of record employment alive to the young. And while Corbyn was offering the earth to predominantly middle-class university students, where was the Conservative voice speaking up for the parents of apprentices (who earn while they learn), and asking why they should pay tax to subsidise undergraduates’ tuition?

Interestingly, too, the numbers of jobs in most manufacturers in or just outside Gloucester (14 per cent of local GDP – much higher than the national average) have gone up since Labour left power. The same is true elsewhere – but again we made nothing of this at all, allowing Corbyn to be the only voice to talk about manufacturing at all.

Nor is this just about blokes. One of the most striking successes at Gloucestershire Engineering Training (a charity owned by business, something socialism struggles with and would probably nationalise if it could) is the increase of female engineering apprentices. When it comes to gender equality, women in jobs, the narrowing gap between the highest and lowest wages, work to help those with disabilities into work and a host of other social justice measurements, we have a much better sorry to tell than the country knows.

Of course we could do more: I would give businesses NI reductions (as for apprentices) for hiring those with disabilities because (as with apprentices) many businesses are nervous of how to manage them. Once they’ve hired someone and seen their productivity and the rise in employee morale that often goes with hiring someone with disabilities, their whole approach will change. I would also give earlier payments under Universal Credit to avoid a spiral of early debt and housing arrears. But the key is these are our programmes – with Labour boxed in again on a mantra of ‘it won’t work’.

Let me give an example of what a Conservative approach can achieve. On the edge of Gloucester is one of the best schools for severely disabled children in the whole country, Milestone. It’s a place that leaves no visitor unmoved about what it does to help the most vulnerable. It recently received its third successive Outstanding rating from Ofsted under an inspirational Head Teacher, Lyn Dance.

It also received £1.5 million for an ambitious new hydrotherapy and sports complex project for the seriously disabled pupils (and others in the local community) from Gloucestershire-headquartered St James’s Place. This takes Milestone a long way towards its target and means that the project will, I believe, go on to achieve its funding goal and make a big difference to the lives of those with the greatest difficulties. St James’s Place is the sort of financial business real socialists would consider a parasite (managing assets) and try to tax into oblivion, rather than allowing it to flourish – and in turn give back to society through its Foundation.

It is time, across the country, to stand up not just for the Party of Business, but for the Conservative values that underpin what successful business can achieve – whether in apprenticeships, manufacturing exports, jobs or contributions to good causes.  And while we’re at it lets also tackle the lie peddled by both Labour and Lib Dems that more public spending – pick a figure – can easily be afforded by increasing business tax.

We failed in GE2017 to explain that by reducing the corporate tax rate we’ve raised more tax to fund vital services. But the Infographic at the top of this article was finally produced recently, and we must re-make the point of Thatcherism and Reaganomics again and again – you generate more tax for services by cutting, not by increasing, taxes. Of course, the correlation doesn’t continue indefinitely and the Chancellor must decide what the optimal rate today is by reference to the Laffer Curve – a subject for another day.

What matters now is proving the case for low tax rates and higher tax revenue, and explaining why a great forest of taxpayer funds, without anyone having to do anything but increase business tax, simply doesn’t exist. For that we need business, and workers, to help make the case.

So I hope that during the coming Party Conference we tackle these issues head on: that we re-make the case for being the Party of Business and responsible capitalism, with businesses giving back to the communities in which we encourage it to succeed: the party of lower but more tax that funds our health and welfare system. The spending on this has (contrary to socialist myth) continued to increase in the last seven years; an uncomfortable fact for those who oppose Conservative ‘austerity’.

At that conference, let’s make our case for the values of community and country, with examples of lives changed and improved by understanding business and motivating it to do good. That way we will show the link between business and better lives.

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP welcomes extra school funding for Gloucester

Gloucester MP Richard Graham has welcomed the Education Secretary Justine Greening’s announcement on a new fair funding formula that will increase funding for Gloucester schools by 3.6%.

The Education Secretary made a statement outlining her response to the consultation on the new fair funding formula for schools on Thursday, publishing illustrative figures for schools across the country up to 2019-20. She accepted recommendations made by MPs including Richard to introduce a minimum level of funding per pupil (£4,800 for secondary school pupils and £3,500 for primary school pupils).

Richard said, “I’m delighted that the Education Secretary has listened to the views of schools, parents, teachers and MPs and introduced a minimum per pupil funding level. I met with the Education Secretary to discuss the initial plans, and she took on board our recommendations which will see all schools in Gloucester benefit.

We’re spending more on schools than ever before, in particular on pupils from deprived backgrounds as we should. So I welcome this announcement and hope it reassures the many parents who wrote to me on this issue.”

NOTE TO EDITORS
The proposed National Funding Formula aims to address historic imbalances where a student with the same needs (e.g. free school meals or from a deprived background) can attract some £500 more depending where the student goes to school.

The government pledged to introduce the national formula, and while the initial plans offered extra support for pupils with additional needs or for deprived backgrounds, MPs raised concerns about basic funding levels. This week’s announcement confirms a basic level of funding that gives every school in Gloucester an increase, with some getting over 9% extra per pupil.

The proposals will come into full force in 2019-2020 after a transitional year in 2018-2019. Find out more: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/fairer-funding-system-to-end-postcode-lottery-for-schools

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP elected as member of Brexit Select Committee

Richard Graham MP has been elected by Conservative MPs to join the Select Committee for Exiting the European Union. Richard will be one of 21 Members of Parliament on the Select Committee, chaired by Labour’s Hilary Benn, which examines government policy on Brexit and its implementation and departmental administration and spending.

Richard said, “This is the key issue for at least the next 18 months and I’m delighted to have been elected. Brexit is neither the best thing since sliced bread or a great disaster in slow motion. It’s a national decision to be pursued and delivered successfully and I’m looking forward to playing my part in that on the committee. I showed when on the joint Select Committee examining the collapse of Bhs that I look at all issues objectively, and without fear or favour, and I’ll do the same here.”

NOTE TO EDITORS

The full list of Conservatives elected is:

Peter Bone, Chris Chope, Stephen Crabb, Jonathan Djanogly, Richard Graham, Andrea Jenkyns, Jeremy Lefroy, Craig Mackinlay, Jacob Rees-Mogg, John Whittingdale.

Richard recently wrote an article for Conservative Home outlining his views on the media coverage of recent Brexit negotiations, see: https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2017/09/richard-graham-four-ways-in-which-the-media-distorts-our-eu-negotiations.html

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PRESS RELEASE: ‘Fantastic opportunity’ to be the next apprentice for Gloucester’s MP

Richard Graham MP is currently looking to hire his next apprentice. His previous apprentice, Sophie Jones, has called it a ‘fantastic opportunity’.

Sophie said, “the apprenticeship was a great learning experience that has enabled me to go on and land a full time job with the Gloucestershire County Council.”

Richard’s first apprentice Laura Pearsall went on to work with Prospect Training, was elected as Gloucester’s youngest ever city councillor and is now the Conservative Agent for Gloucester. Laura said, “an apprenticeship is an excellent way to earn while you learn. I thoroughly enjoyed my time working as part of Richard’s team, gaining valuable work experience which provided me with the basis to develop my career, as well as learning a lot about the city, how an office works and what a difference you can make to peoples’ lives in politics.”

Richard’s second apprentice Holly Piper now works with the Pied Piper Appeal. Richard said, “I’m looking for someone who’s keen to help my office answer constituents’ calls and mail, help organise events and keep office admin and casework files up to date. It helps to be curious and want to know how things work in the city and to have a sense of humour!”

NOTE TO EDITORS

The apprenticeship is a Level 3 in Business Admin.

Applicants have until 21st September to apply to aishayakub.pandor@parliament.uk. Find out more about the role and how to apply here: https://www.findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeship/-162645

 

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PRESS RELEASE: MP welcomes Glosterpreneur Raging Bull to Gloucester’s city centre

Gloucester MP Richard Graham said former Gloucester and England rugby star Phil Vickery has played a blinder by bringing his clothing brand Raging Bull to Gloucester’s city centre.

Richard said, “there are always plenty of people ready to knock our city centre, even though there’s been a 40% drop in the number of empty shops since 2010. But there are also those who back Gloucester, who see the changes of the last few years and know what is coming up. They can see the speed at which new homes going up on Brunswick Road, Blackfriars and Worcester Street, know the footfall in the city centre is already increasing sharply and have analysed the positive implications for retailers.”

The MP congratulated Phil Vickery, whose successful Raging Bull brand has now set up shop right outside the Cathedral, just as the HLF funded improvements of the Cathedral’s Project Pilgrim take real shape: “Phil said he’s ‘unbelievably proud at all the developments going on at the moment’ and this is another of them – a really positive investment in our city centre by a great sportsman and successful Glosterpreneur.”

GRH Volunteer Dave

Dave is 80. He once ran the Leisure Centre and was super fit, doing an early Iron Man Triathlon. Recently he’s had some health issues but his working day is pretty active and includes working as a volunteer in the GRH stroke ward (6A). What does he do and why?

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