High wages, high skills, and high productivity: PM's optimistic message

Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Man

Boris Johnson gave an optimistic message at the party conference, says Tom Hunt - Credit: PA

This week I’d like to reflect on the Prime Minister’s contribution to the Conservative party conference, where he set out his vision for a high wage, highly skilled, high productivity economy.

Optimism and confidence exuded from Boris Johnson’s plans to exploit the new freedoms Brexit has wrought, to create growth and opportunities, as well as the scope of levelling up to unleash the potential of regions which have been ‘left behind’ for too long.

Boris Johnson acknowledged in his speech on Wednesday that a change in direction is long overdue, and that his government has the guts to pursue the high wages and prosperity that British workers deserve. While every Labour office has left unemployment higher than when they came to office, the low tax climate and Brexit freedoms are designed to foster an environment ripe for economic growth: for businesses to flourish, and wages to rise.

The eight new free ports nationwide exemplify this new freedom; without the overbearing restrictions of the EU, the UK is free to encourage hubs of manufacturing, economic activity, and job creation. The free port planned to bring industry and growth to Felixstowe promises a significant economic uplift for the surrounding area, including Ipswich; the new jobs created will source workers from across the region, creating opportunities for employment and investment in skills and infrastructure.

The Prime Minister’s mantra has become “skills, skills, skills”, with a “high wage, high skill, high productivity” landscape on the horizon. Boris Johnson has outlined the path to achieving this productive and prosperous future – and the answer is not uncontrolled immigration, which supresses wages, but to control immigration and facilitate highly skilled individuals contributing to our economy.

Food imports from the European Union now face inspections when arriving at the Port of Felixstowe

Freeport status in Suffolk with the Port of Felixstowe as its focus will boost the economy - Credit: PICTURE COURTESY OF THE PORT OF FELIXSTOWE

Levelling up the UK relies on investing in skills, and opportunities – it does not come from uncontrolled immigration filling domestic jobs. I am proud to see the Prime Minister promising investment in British workers, their skills, and the necessary facilities and infrastructure to ensure higher productivity.

As such, illegal immigration must be stopped, Boris Johnson told us on Wednesday. I am pleased to see the strong position adopted by the government regarding the despicable people trafficking, which forces the most vulnerable and needy to turn to criminals for passage across dangerous waters. The exploitation of illegal immigrants is inhumane, and it must be prevented, which is only possible through the Border’s Bill.

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Current inequalities demonstrate wasted potential – levelling up means unlocking potential across the regions, offering hope and opportunity to areas which feel left behind. While the government wants to level up the UK, Labour are committed to ‘levelling down’.

Levelling up relies not only on taking advantage of the new opportunities Brexit offers, but also in prioritising skills and education. As a member of the education committee, I was particularly pleased to hear the Prime Minister’s new policy to address teacher retention in the schools which most desperately need high-quality educators. A premium payment of £3,000 is hoped to attract the best teaching talent to level up education, especially in maths and science, in the institutions which need them most: investing in the education and skills of our youth is the foundation on which to build back better.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt - Credit: Archant

“Some of the most brilliant, most creative, and best paid minds in Britain did not go to university: we need to give people the options, and the skills, which are right for them.” Following recent discussions with educational professionals on panels across fringe events at the party conference, there is a consensus that high quality pathways for post-16 education require attention, particularly the technical routes.

We shouldn’t focus so much on the statistics of students entering university, but prioritise offering pathways which allow every student to pursue the route which is right for them. While academic courses have the potential to be a transformational experience and pathway to success – and one which should be an achievable ambition regardless of background – it must also be acknowledged that this route might not be helpful for every student. To enable all young people to fulfil their potential, we should prioritise offering high-quality pathways which respond to a variety of aspirations – improving the quality of technical teaching in higher education will not only produce a workforce with the relevant skills to engage positively in the labour market, but will encourage students to aspire to the pathways that appeal to them.

Our uniquely effective and efficient vaccine rollout has enabled our economy to open up, and thrive, ahead of other major economies around the world. As a result of the government’s vaccine rollout success, the UK is now the fastest growing economy in the G7.

It is imperative that we continue to support and enable wealth creators, importantly facilitating significant investment into research and development – as demonstrated by the fantastic achievements of the UK producing a Covid vaccine in less than a year. Vaccinations have saved lives, as well as enabling wage growth for lowest incomes. While Starmer, dubbed Captain hindsight by the PM, opposed stage 4 of the roadmap and would have kept us in lockdown, the government’s successful vaccine rollout has opened up the country.

Boris Johnson hailed “Science, innovation, capitalism” as the centrepiece of the UK’s prosperous future, founded on the premise of levelling up. As well as investing in skills, our people, and our infrastructure, levelling up means fighting crime - “toughening sentences” and giving the police the powers they need. It is with a hint of ridiculousness that the Labour party even claim to be a party of law and order, while simultaneously voting against the police, courts and crime bill. This bill embodied a desire to implement tougher sentencing for the most heinous crimes as well as additional powers for the police to aptly deal with disruptive protesting. Although disappointing, it is unsurprising, given that Starmer’s party stood on a platform which advocated scrapping shorter prison sentences altogether.

The Left’s disastrous misunderstanding of the danger of drugs is demonstrable; driving for decriminalisation of drugs is a stance derived from the social elites in North London, who are blissfully unaware of the detrimental, criminal impact of drugs on the rest of the country.

This government has shown strength and resilience on law and order; it was great to hear Boris Johnson offer words of support for tougher sentences for pet theft, a campaign I have been working on – I couldn’t agree more with the Prime Minister’s statement that “if you can steal a cat or dog then there is no limit to your depravity”, and look to the pet theft bill to ensure that sentencing is proportionate to the severity of such a crime.

A few weeks back, I wrote about the Battle of Britain and the spirit of Churchill, who only 20 years ago BBC audiences voted the best Brit of all time. It’s incredibly heartening to hear the Prime Minister stand up for the courageous and pivotal figure who carved out the path of British history, defeating a regime which was characterised by vicious racisms. While the Left want to rewrite our history and denigrate our past, the Conservative government is committed to, in the words of Boris Johnson, defending “our history and cultural inheritance”.

In calling upon the last wisdoms of Churchill - “never be separated from the Americans” - Boris Johnson illustrated his commitment to the cultural heritage of Britain, and the importance of maintaining strong relationships with age old allies, as the government continues to succeed in with AUKUS. The Prime Minister also drew upon Churchill’s final observations, that “Man is spirit”, demonstrated in the resilience of NHS nurses, and innovation and drive of British entrepreneurs. I for one was pleased to hear the patriotic tone of the Prime Minister’s speech. While there are significant obstacles along the path, I concur with the Prime Minister’s optimistic sentiment: that the spirit of our nation, and of our town, is demonstrably able to rise to the challenges ahead.

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