Time to shoot down these unfair myths

First published in the Daily Mail on 16 October 2017

Ask anyone what first comes to mind when they think of someone who has just left the Armed Forces and you will rightly hear some very positive things: leadership, discipline, comradeship, selflessness, loyalty, even heroism. (more…)

Annual update on Veterans’ Transition Review released

The public overestimates the extent of serious problems faced by former Armed Forces personnel, according to new research from Lord Ashcroft, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Veterans’ Transition.

New research finds public overestimates extent of mental health and other problems among former Service personnel

Annual update on Veterans’ Transition Review finds progress, but uneven delivery throughout the UK – especially Northern Ireland

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A new era opens for St Helena – but there are still major problems to overcome

This Saturday [October 14], the first commercial passenger flight is due to land at St Helena’s troubled airport fully 20 months after it was originally due to touch down. (more…)

Theresa May’s speech: no “retreat in the face of difficulty”

At the beginning of the week I wrote that most people would be paying even less attention to the party conferences this year than they usually do: with very few exceptions, memorable conference moments are the ones leaders wish had never happened.

Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, we have just witnessed one of those moments. The security implications aside, the so-called comedian interrupting Theresa May with a P45 at the supposed behest of Boris Johnson was a sideshow. But it was agonising to watch as she struggled to regain her voice; the Tory faithful in the hall and the most cynical reporters were at one in willing her to recover.

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My Conservative Conference Diary – Wednesday

As if the conference were not already beset with rivalry and intrigue, we now have the Battle of the Lanyards. Most attendees wear their passes on bright blue cords sponsored by Tate & Lyle, but a rearguard action has been launched by British Sugar, keen to promote their home-grown product with a lanyard of their own, featuring the Union flag. Tate & Lyle are no strangers to the hazards of politics. Gerald Mason, the company’s senior vice president, once promised Liam Fox a lifetime supply of sugar if he could successfully conclude a free trade deal with Cuba, and on returning to the company’s HQ received a stern lecture about the Bribery Act.

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See the October edition of Britain at War for Lord Ashcroft’s new bravery article

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC has had his latest “hero of the month” article published in Britain at War, the country’s best-selling military history monthly magazine.

The October issue of the magazine has a two-page write-up on the life and bravery of Private William Boynton Butler, who was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for outstanding bravery during the Great War.

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My Conservative Conference Diary – Tuesday

An honour to welcome the Prime Minister to the annual ConHome party with the 1922 Committee, which has become a regular feature on the conference agenda. It was especially good of her to turn up on her birthday (what better way to celebrate the occasion?) She was on tub-thumping form, and took the opportunity of reminding the audience that the implementation phase of Brexit (not a “transition period”) would last no more than two years. As well as a rousing cheer she was met with an uplifting chorus of ‘Happy Birthday To You’, boldly led (I can exclusively reveal) by Nigel Evans. The event was generously sponsored by The City UK and Heathrow Airport, whose boss, John Holland-Kaye, she had met only recently: “When Philip and I were flying off on our summer holidays, the chief executive of Heathrow came and told us all about their future expansion.

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My Conservative Conference Diary – Monday

For a party organisation, a snap general election is a bit like an unannounced Ofsted inspection, as Paul Goodman sagely observed at yesterday’s ConHome fringe meeting on party reform. Quite a revealing one, in the most recent case. Many of the conclusions of the party’s election review focus on narrowing the gap between day-to-day operations and a war footing, and this makes sense – “a snap election should be snap for them and not for us,” as someone close to the process likes to put it. The plans for long-term engagement with younger and ethnic minority voters are also welcome, and yet… familiar. The sense of déjà vu comes from 2005, when I distinctly remember arguing that rather than burn through money on expensive and certainly pointless poster campaigns, proper investment should be made in enduring projects like this that would bear real fruit. In politics as in so many things, the seemingly urgent has a way of crowding out the important.

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My Conservative Conference Diary – Sunday

In many years of listening to voters in my political research, the same complaints come up again and again: politicians don’t listen, they always break their promises, that sort of thing. One such theme that used to be a regular but which we have not heard for a while, strangely enough, is “the parties are all the same”. You can certainly argue this is a good thing, in the sense that democracy ought to be about a real choice. On the other hand, it also means we have a principal Opposition party that seems intent on turning London into Caracas. It was heartening to hear Theresa May’s staunch defence of free market capitalism which, for all its imperfections, remains the most effective – indeed, the only – system for raising living standards and bringing a measure of prosperity to billions of people around the world.

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The Conservative brand – and how voters compare the Labour and Tory agendas with their own

Yesterday I set out my two main observations from the research that went into The Lost Majority, my book on the 2017 election that is published this week. One was that while the Conservative voting coalition in June was bigger than the one that elected David Cameron two years ago, it was also different: older, more working class, more modestly educated, more socially and culturally conservative, and more pro-Brexit. Those who switched away from the party were disproportionately likely to be younger, graduates, professionals, and to be more socially liberal, and to have voted to remain in the EU. While drawing more working class voters to the Tories is a significant achievement, the party will need to be able to reach further beyond these dividing lines to win in the future, especially if 42 per cent of the vote is not enough for an overall majority.

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