The next General Election must be a battle of competing visions, with our post-Brexit future at its heart
The need for a General Election is perhaps the only thing all Parties can currently agree on – although ours is the only one brave enough to throw down that gauntlet.
The Conservative Party can win that election, and win it handsomely, but to do so requires us to double down on our commitment to deliver Brexit and fulfil the promise made to the people when the referendum was first called. But the pitch we make to the public must also extend beyond Brexit. We have to articulate a positive vision for the future of our country, both in the short term, and in the years to follow Brexit.
If the 2017 election taught us anything about our opposition, it is that Jeremy Corbyn cannot be underestimated. His campaign successfully painted a vision for the future of our country, albeit one I wholeheartedly disagreed with. He described what this country would be like under Labour in a manner we struggled to match.
We cannot fight this with personal attacks alone – we know from last time that this just does not work.
Instead, we need to be ambitious and positive in how we define and campaign around our own vision for the future of this great country – one grounded in opportunity, hope and optimism. A package of both domestic and global policies which will make people’s lives richer, safer, more prosperous and more secure in a post-Brexit future.
This has to be about more than just money. Spending pledges are essential, and several have been announced in the past few weeks, but to most people, banding around eight figure sums without context really doesn’t mean much. Our policies and campaign language have to be distilled into the sum of their parts, spelling out how each step we take, and each promise we make, delivers a material benefit to individuals, families, businesses and communities.
Most importantly, our manifesto must be crystal clear that Brexit will be delivered at the earliest opportunity, and all candidates standing for Parliament under the Conservative banner will be expected to honour that.
We cannot allow the next election to simply become a second referendum on Brexit, it needs to be bigger than that, a coalescence around a new vision for how Conservatism can make a positive difference in people’s lives, and this starts with a realisation that we no longer need to define ourselves by the choices we made in a referendum which took place over three years ago.
Brexit has to happen – and there must be no doubt that, under a Conservative government, it will. But the labels we have attached to ourselves, of being Brexiteers and Remainers, must now be shed and replaced with a far more important badge of association – that of being a Conservative. A believer in free markets, free people, social justice, law and order, and our nation’s ability to move forward as an independent nation and thrive in a new and challenging global environment.
It is this message of hope and optimism, grounded in a compassionate and ambitious conservative agenda and a bold manifesto for the future of our country which will lead us to a majority at the next election, and more importantly, a unified and ambitious Party which can continue to drive this country forward.
Nabil Najjar is director of Conservative Progress, Deputy Chair of Salisbury Conservatives and writes in a personal capacity.