During Conservative Party Conference, Onward held a series of events both inside and outside the secure. Below are the highlights of remarks by our keynote speakers.
The Gender Voting Gap – Sunday 29th September
Age aside, our research highlighted striking differences between male and female voters, including that women are considerably more pessimistic than men, particularly when considering financial security, and around twice as worried as men about the fortunes of the next generation. Indeed, more than half of women think the next generation will be worse off or much worse off than their own generation.
At our “Gender Voting Gap” panel, Rachel Maclean MP, gave remarks in which she focused on the need for women to be present in policy discussion, and how women have more experience with front-line public services which makes them a top policy priority.
At our “Gender Voting Gap” panel, Minister for Tourism Helen Whately MP, gave remarked on the success of the Conservative government on their record of policies for women, including decreasing the gender pay gap and bringing in anti-discrimination legislation.
Healthy Growth – Monday 30th September
The productivity gap between the North and the South of England is fast becoming politically and economically unsustainable. As studies have shown, the gap currently stands at £4 per person per hour worked – a considerable difference which entrenches the existing regional imbalances in the economy. As the OECD have demonstrated, regionally imbalanced economies are more productive: the UK is the most imbalanced in the developed world.
At our “Healthy Growth” panel, the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, gave remarks in which he quoted Disraeli, “the health of the people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness depends”.
At our “Healthy Growth” panel, Mary Robinson MP, drew attention to how discussions of ‘untapped potential’ almost always refers to economic factors but rarely considers those who have poor health.
Setting Places Free – Monday 30th September
If localism has been effective in the last few years, it has been in democratising public services and decentralising accountability from Whitehall to communities. On the other side of the ledger, in local economies and labour markets, the record is patchy at best. Local enterprise partnerships have struggled with weak governance, poor buy-in from local people and a lack of serious funding. The industrial strategy has focused heavily on sector but not on place. And even the most ambitious mayoral deals have included few levers for driving local growth.
At our “Setting Places Free” panel, Eddie Hughes MP, spoke about his optimism and enthusiasm around regional regeneration, and that we have significant resources across the country which can help rebuild left-behind areas, all that is needed is the political will to ignite this investment.
At our “Setting Places Free” panel, James O’Shaughnessy, remarked on how Conservatives have a core mission to improve local communities, and that the next election will be won and lost not in glittering cities, but in hard-up towns.
Iain Dale In Conversation with Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP
Taming Tech – Monday 1st October
4.4 billion people worldwide are now connected to the internet and 90% of people in the UK are online. The growth of social media, connected devices, smartphones and ever faster computing power means that much of our lives are now spent online. But there remains a manner of harmful content online. The regulatory frameworks for policing the internet are unfinished and the responsibility for enforcement is often unclear. Moreover, technology is changing faster than policymakers can respond. The Government has recently published the Online Harms White Paper to correct this imbalance.
At our “Taming Tech” panel, the Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP, Minister for Immigration, remarked on the relationship between new technology and security and how to deal with changing crime in a tech world.
At our “Taming Tech” panel, the Matt Warman, Minister for Digital, spoke about his optimistic about the future of technology, and his thoughts on the Online Harms White Paper.
Responsible Capitalism – Monday 30th September
As Onward’s polling and research has shown, people increasingly view the economy in ethical as well as financial terms. They want employers to look after their workers; companies to fulfil their duties to consumers; and corporate governance to reflect not just shareholder interest but those of supply chains, employees and wider society too. When firms misbehave – whether in failing to pay their fair share of tax or exploiting vulnerable customers or workers – voters are increasingly keen to see them punished. The Conservatives must always be the party of business, but it should also be the party of good business, by championing those that act responsibly and challenging those who do not.
At our “Responsible Capitalism” panel, Jesse Norman MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, remarked on improvements in business practice, in particular the need for the private sector to create a productive business environment not just for shareholders, but also for employees, consumers and society at large.
At our “Responsible Capitalism” panel, John Penrose MP spoke about the need for balance between an active market and a secure and well-regulated business environment that acts as a leish to market forces
At our “Responsible Capitalism” panel, Gillian Keegan MP, spoke about how the next generation will demand a different deal from employers, and drew on her personal experience as an apprentice.
The Future of Work – Tuesday 1st October
The development of new technologies has opened up new working patterns and challenged accepted standards in the modern labour market. As a result, the opportunities and the way in which people choose to work has changed significantly. It is estimated that roughly 4.7 million employees work in the gig economy in the UK and platform models have clearly found our employee protection frameworks wanting. At the same time, we must ensure that the flexibilities desired by both employees and employers – and which make our labour market so attractive – are maintained. The Government has made clear it wants to modernise working practices and employment law to keep up with this rapidly changing nature of work, including reconsidering the division between employment and self-employment and asking employers to take greater responsibility for contractors.
At our “The Future of Work” panel, Thérèse Coffey MP, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, gave a wide-ranging speech on the labour market, including how “AI and automation could add 10% of GDP to the economy…It’s important that we grow the economy around the country. We can’t continue to rely on an overheating London and South East“.
At our “The Future of Work” panel, Bim Afolami MP, remarked on how the link between work and prosperity has broken down because of a lack of career progression, and that the future workforce will be more self-employed than ever before.
Connected Growth – Tuesday 1st October
The internet has helped the world become more connected than ever before. 4.4 billion people worldwide are now connected to the internet and 90% of people in the UK are online. The economic impact on the UK from the digital economy is profound, attracting considerable investment, creating jobs, boosting productivity and supporting businesses of all sizes. But there still remains a disconnect between government policy and the tech sector.
At our “Connected Growth” panel, George Freeman MP, Minister for Transport, gave remarks on how the housing industry is one of the final industries to go through an industrial revolution.
How do we house the generations of the future and give them a stake in their community? – Tuesday 1st October
Homeownership has been in decline for fifteen years and younger generations are now renting for longer than ever before. In the last two decades, the private rented sector has doubled in size, with more than 20% of homes, or 4.7 million households, now rented privately. Younger renters pay a greater proportion of their living costs towards rent per month than any previous generation. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority want to own: nine in ten people prefer home ownership over renting. 65% of 18–40-year-olds who currently do not own a home hope to do so one day.
At our “How do we house the generations of the future and give them a stake in their community?” panel, the Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, Minister for Housing, gave remarks on how the housing industry is one of the final industries to go through an industrial revolution.