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In this week’s newsletter:

Britain has a new Prime Minister. This week we set out six areas we think Liz Truss should prioritise, along with some ideas from Onward’s research to guide her thinking.

1) Set out a serious plan for the energy crisis. Liz Truss has committed to announcing her plans on tackling rising energy bills in week one. That’s not a moment too soon. Most proposals to date have either been insufficient, unaffordable, or impractical. Some have been all three. Onward’s emergency plan recommends a balanced package, combining support for families, windfall taxes to raise revenues, steps to reduce demand and measures to diversify and secure supply. The bottom line? The PM will need to think the unthinkable to keep the lights on.

2) Avoid an NHS collapse. With record numbers waiting on trolleys in A&E, the PM needs an urgent plan to ease the pressure on the health service. The quality of the NHS is a top priority for all voters, just behind the economy and cost of living, including those 2019 Conservatives who are now wavering in their support for the party. At the last election, 67% of Tories thought that the NHS needed more funding and that higher taxes should pay for it. The new PM will need to reassure those voters that the NHS will remain a priority.

3) Double down on levelling up. Plans to narrow regional gaps haven’t always been front and centre of this leadership campaign. As the PM turns her attention to 2024, that needs to change. She can rely on Onward research on creating new regional mayors, rebalancing growth-enhancing spending, reviving the high street and boosting technical education and apprenticeships. This doesn’t need to be driven from Whitehall: our work in Oldham and South Tyneside sets out how local leaders can be enlisted to drive progress.

4) Go for growth. The team around the Prime Minister have made clear that they want to be “unashamedly pro-growth”. Given the UK’s woeful productivity record, that’s the right approach. As Onward Fellow Tim Pitt has set out, there’s a rich history of Conservative thinking for the new Treasury team to draw on. A promising place to start would be boosting private investment in science and technology: just over half of UK R&D is funded by businesses, compared to two thirds in the United States, and around three quarters in China, Japan, and South Korea.

5) Bring young people back from the brink. In The Kids Aren’t Alright Onward revealed that over three-in-five under 35s believe that having a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with Parliament or elections is a good way to run the country. This loss of confidence has its roots in detachment from society, driven by narrower social networks, overprotective parenting, the treadmill of modern work and an “always online” culture. The new PM needs a serious plan to give these young people a stake in society and restore their sense of belonging.

6) Tackle rising crime. Law and order is a priority that unites the Conservative coalition across the country – and could be a key vulnerability in 2024. Recent research highlighted that crime was higher in 2021 than it was in 2019 in a third of local areas, invariably those that the Conservative Party has promised it will level up. Pieces in ConservativeHome from Onward Director Will Tanner and Onward founder Neil O’Brien settle on one core priority: driving up the likelihood of criminals being caught and the swiftness of their sentencing.

News and media

Keeping the lights on. Ed Birkett wrote for The Times about our 5-point plan for the energy crisis, which was also covered in The Express, The Mirror and Politico.

Millennial mayhem. Will Tanner wrote for the FT about our research showing young people are rejecting democratic norms. 

Devo on ice? Adam Hawksbee spoke about devolution and levelling up in the MJ

Upcoming events

What are the immediate political and economic challenges confronting the new Prime Minister? How might they address these? This joint event, organised by Onward, UK in a Changing Europe and Resolution Foundation will address these questions and consider what the future might hold for UK politics and the economy. Sign up here.

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