Conservatives rightly celebrate the progress we have made with employment and in particular youth employment over the last five years. In the run up the election, our mantra of the “long term economic plan” overtook labour’s “cost of living crisis” to become the most instantly recognisable and successful political catchphrase.
Since winning a majority in 2015, our party has presided over a remarkable combination of rising wages and employment. The move to a national living wage currently unerway, combined with the increases in the income tax threshold ensure that the lowest paid are enjoying a substantial boost in their take home pay whilst inflation has stayed close to record lows.
All of which makes it extraordinary to hear some of the misleading arguments from the Leave campaign that membership of the EU somehow holds back our economy, that immigration costs British jobs or that having EU migrants here drives down pay. We have proven as a party that a strong government supporting a vibrant private sector, can make a difference and the UK’s outperformance of other EU economies is not a symbol of submission to Brussels, rather it is a product of our unique ability to set our own course. By acting as a conduit to and from the wider world, the UK benefits from the dynamism of faster growing parts of the world at the same time as accessing the richer, slower growing, continent of which we are part.
The reason so many companies from the US, Japan, India and China choose to invest in the UK as opposed to other European countries is that we have a language, a business culture and a legal system that they respect and understand, a spirit of private enterprise that knows where to set limits on red tape. We have all the opportunities of membership of the single market, one of Margaret Thatcher’s greatest achievements, without the disadvantages of being part of the flagging Eurozone. We are at once active in Europe, the Commonwealth, NATO and myriad other global networks all of which amplify our voice and reach.
Representing a constituency where unemployment has halved since 2010, youth unemployment fallen two thirds, and investment remains strong, I can see that companies from around the world value the UK’s unique position of being in Europe but not run by Europe. They provide the opportunities for people in Worcester to work in rewarding, better paid jobs. The UK Government has helped this process by investing in skills, infrastructure and apprenticeships, cutting taxes on business and setting out to make our country the best place in the world in which to start and grow businesses. It seems remarkable that some people who should know better, rather than celebrating these achievements, seek to turn them on their head to suggest the EU holds us back. Those with real confidence in the UK should be backing us to lead rather than leave.