With the Labour Party in disarray, UKIP in a new leadership void, and the Lib Dems struggling to influence even the smallest policy, all eyes fall on the Conservatives to lead Britain forwards. Theresa May is still being labelled as our ‘new’ Prime Minister four months into the job, meaning this week’s party conference provided her with the opportunity to lay out her vision for the future of the country, and really take hold as our leader. But with hours upon hours of footage to sieve through, tackling the Conservative Party Conference is not an easy job, and may appear incredibly daunting. So look no further for a summary of what took place, and what it means for our country.
it was made clear that [Brexit] will be happening by March 2017.
Brexit – As probably one of the most frequently-used words in the news this year, it was no surprise that this was a key topic of discussion. Despite the fact that it is still impossible for our leaders to clearly outline the state our country will be in following our exit from the European Union, it was made clear that this will be happening by March 2017.
Theresa May professed a true passion and respect for democracy as she outlined that the “quiet revolution” of the British people in voting for Brexit demands change. She emphasised that she is prepared to negotiate for the British people and quelled many concerns that the Conservatives would only be looking out for the upper classes. It would appear that if successful in her negotiations, Britain may really be on course for a fairer and brighter future.
All eyes thus fell on Brexit secretary David Davis, whose full confidence in the Prime Minister is reassuring. He emphasised a crucial point that the campaign between ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ is over and that Britain can only move forward if both sides come together to accept the result and achieve the best plan moving forward. Despite common frustration that it is not being made clear exactly what our negotiations will consist of with the European Union, Davis’ plans highlighted that with immense planning, and determination, Britain will be able to capitalise on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change. It will be fascinating to see what happens.
Immigration – For most foreign students and workers living in Britain, any changes to immigration policy could have major impacts on their lives. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, therefore had a massive task. How can Britons concerned about job loss and overcrowding due to immigrants be reassured, with the country at the same time continuing to attract talented and skilled workers from abroad?
The key point which came out regarding immigration is that targets of tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands of immigrants per year, are still the goal. The Conservatives are determined to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, a plan clearly backed by the people, as it was a key fuel for triggering Brexit. But with this in mind, the government is not turning their backs on those in need, promising to do their best to help child refugees, such as those in Calais.
However, in contrast to previous cabinets, Ms Rudd gave clear policies which will be implemented in order to achieve this change. From December, landlords renting property to illegal immigrants will be committing a criminal offense and could be jailed. This is combined with mandatory immigration checks for taxi licensing and banking services. By cutting off potential income sources for illegal immigrants, this does have clear potential in reducing their numbers. Additionally, plans will be made to encourage British businesses to invest in training British workers, rather than simply hiring from abroad.
The worry lay in the fact that this could create a hostile environment in Britain for foreigners, whose work in many different industries is crucial in stimulating our economy and keeping up global links. Ms Rudd did address this, emphasising Britain’s wish to continue attracting the “brightest and the best”. However, this does not feel like enough to prevent foreign talent from going elsewhere, where they may feel more welcome and less alienated in politics, society and the media. It almost seems as though our immigration policy is moving towards those of the BNP or UKIP, which could deny Britain the foreign attractiveness it needs to succeed.
Trident and Security – A subject which caught the attention of the media earlier this year, as the plans for the renewal of the Trident submarine programme were debated. Despite Jeremy Corbyn arguing that Trident should be abandoned, Theresa May made clear that it was essential for the security of our country. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon reiterated this point, emphasising that the renewal of Trident highlights Britain’s determination to defend itself and to support its allies.
It was made clear that investment will be made in planes, troops, cyber security and other defensive mechanisms, paid for out of the growing defence budget. Fallon’s clear policy outline leads to no debate over the government’s prioritisation of security, an important worry among Brits with growing internal and external terrorism threats. Whilst many disagree with strengthening our forces, without them we would leave ourselves vulnerable, and unable to help those around the world who need us.
Education – Frequently attacked by the media, our current state education system does not seem adequate on a world stage. Whilst we do have plenty of exceptional schools, the divide between the rich and the poor prohibits many bright students from obtaining the highest levels of education. Previous Conservative policy has failed to dramatically influence this issue.
The government have announced six ‘Opportunity Areas’ in England (Blackpool, Norwich, Derby, Oldham, Scarborough and West Somerset), where social mobility will be promoted through targeting schools and providing better links to employers. This will soon increase to ten, with £60 million shared amongst the areas to “level up Britain”. Grammar schools are also being presented as a solution to providing higher level state education. Whilst this is definitely an improvement, it is hard to see how the country as a whole can be made fairer and equal when only select locations are being given the means to improve.
In addition to these four areas, the conference can also be seen to have promoted unity between Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland within Britain, as speeches were heard from the Secretary for each region.
It seems overall that the Conservative Party Conference has offered more positive announcements than negative.
It was also announced that £100 million would be invested in training new doctors within the NHS. Whilst this sounds positive, there are again more questions to be asked, such as where is this money coming from? However, if this project goes through, this could majorly improve our healthcare quality, reduce doctor shortages, and thus mean that more appointments could be available in the long run.
It seems overall that the Conservative Party Conference has offered more positive announcements than negative. Theresa May’s vision of a fairer Britain is inspiring, and it seems unlikely that any strong challenge to this party will emerge in coming times. Whilst immigration and education policies are questionable, time will only tell how Britain will emerge through its coming tests, and it does appear we have strong leadership to guide us.