UK Politics

My party doesn't care enough and I want to change that - Tory MP

Phillip Lee

The Conservative Party has stopped caring about serious policies and is only interested in chasing "easy votes", a former minister has said.

Phillip Lee, who quit the government to campaign for another EU referendum, said the party was "distracted" by Brexit - a "single issue".

And it was time to reclaim the "centre ground" and reconnect with voters.

Launching a post-Brexit manifesto to heal a "divided" nation, he called for sweeping reform of the tax system.

Among his ideas to create "a fairer society that encouraged work" were:

  • A "progressive consumption tax" - that could replace part of the income tax system and be focused on curbing "unfettered consumption"
  • Wealth taxation - possibly in the form of a Land Value Tax
  • Getting rid of corporation tax - and replacing it with "taxes on negative externalities such as a carbon tax"

He also called for action to "change the nation's mindset about lifelong learning", with tax breaks and time off for training courses.

And he said immigration was needed to "underpin" the economy and provide services for an ageing population - but "unfettered" immigration led to problems with integration.

"Living in a society that respects the rule of law, condemns corruption, and values the equal position of women may require behavioural change.

"We need to empower our communities to take the lead in confronting the behaviours that would damage our society," he said.

The speech, in Room 101 of Birmingham's central library, might have been interpreted as a leadership bid by a more high-profile politician.

Mr Lee said it was born out of his experience as a prisons minister, which left him believing the Conservative Party was not interested in tackling the root causes of problems.

He said the party was failing to "look beyond the easy vote, the easy policy" and to do the "hard graft to get under the skin of issues".

"I have come to the hard belief that my party doesn't seem to care that much any more," he told the Respublica fringe meeting.

He confessed that he had not run his ideas past Conservative colleagues and that the details still needed to be worked out - but he hoped they would spark a debate in the party,

He also ruled out joining any new "centre ground" party that emerged at Westminster - something he predicted would happen "on the Labour side" in the next 18 months.