Britain is changing but we CANNOT abandon our towns, says ANDREA JENKYNS
WHEN I got my first job in a Greggs bakery at 16, I would have never thought that I would have been elected to Parliament one day.
Back then, unless you were a Labour candidate pushed by trade unions, the working class struggled to find representation in Parliament, particularly in the Conservative Party. Margaret Thatcher started a revolution for me and many of my colleagues, practising what she preached. In a speech at a Young Conservative Conference in 1975, she said: “I believe we should judge people on merit and not on background. I believe the person who is prepared to work hardest should get the greatest rewards and keep them after tax”.
This was what my dad, a lorry driver who went on to launch his own business, taught me since I was a child.
He said: “It doesn’t matter where you come from in life, it what you do in life that matters. Reach for the stars”.
From that bakery, I continued to work in retail, getting up the social ladder to management level.
The same sector that once thrived in what Napoleon called our “nation of shopkeepers” is now struggling, threatened by colossal competitors online, chocked by oppressive business rates, unable to keep the pace with a changing consuming habit.
The high streets of our towns are becoming a collection of charity shops, betting agencies, extortionately-priced parking, chains and fast food.
These were once market towns, where every week, traders from the countryside all around would come to sell their goods in testimony to good capitalism.
A time when children didn’t get all they wanted, but they got pocket money for doing their bed, so they could understand the value of work and be rewarded with real, physical money to be exchanged for goods – usually sugary ones at the nearby corner shop.
Andrea Jenkyns, MP for Morley and Outwood (Image: Andy Stenning/Daily Mirror)
These times and their economic dynamic will not come back, but the ethic pillars and values that our past has laid at the foundation of our nation, are still the same.
Last year, I launched my campaign “Towns of the Future”, supported by the Minister of the Local Growth with the aim to cut business rates, to introduce attractive features to the high street and keep the roads safe and to guarantee free parking for consumers, and I hope that the Government will consider these ideas.
Blue Collar Conservatives have to fight to make sure that social mobility is working effectively.
That regardless of your background, your skin colour, religion or gender, hard work pays off. That those who risk all they have to start a business are not strangled by red tape.
A Conservative Government for the working class, like the one who just smashed Labour’s red wall, must level up the geographical inequalities in our country.
Our towns can’t be dormitories for commuters who work in the nearest city, with no services and no opportunities.
Our young talents shouldn’t have to move to London, Manchester or Birmingham to find their dream job. In the age of 5G, it should be possible to grant equal opportunities to everyone around the country, boosting our infrastructures to reach every corner of Great Britain.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (Image: House of Commons/PA Wire)
During the recent election campaign, many of my constituents working in factories or former miners, even trade unionists, voted Conservatives for the first time in their lives.
They did it in part for Boris’ charisma, in part for Corbyn’s lack of appeal. But, most of all, they did it because they recognised that only the Conservatives can bring real change in this country.
Because they have seen Labour MPs in the north taking working-class votes for granted, pursuing ideas that were often unattractive or too promising to be true, being unable to recognise that patriotism has nothing to do with bigotry.
The same old “My parents voted Labour” has become “I’ve voted Labour all my life, this time I can’t do it.” These people lent us their votes, we can’t betray them, and we have to deliver the real change they asked for.
A change made of investments in their areas, of job opportunities that enable them to fulfil their dreams, of houses accessible to first-time buyers, of a caring NHS free for all and near their homes.
This election has demonstrated that the working class can be conservative and will be if we keep our promises. It is up to us to make Blue-Collar conservatism the norm and not the exception.