2020 Group and JFK’s ‘New Frontier'

9th May 2016

Having spent fifteen years before coming to Parliament starting new technology businesses, I know first-hand the power of enterprise. Entrepreneurs up and down our country are creating jobs, opportunities and charting new paths of human discovery. Businesses are the beating heart of the British economy. But I also know that good businesses do more than just generate tax revenue and profit: they put something back into society in many small but important ways.

In the last few weeks I have been reminded of a quote which I think sums this up well. It is from Senator Elizabeth Warren, who said: 'There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there - good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for…’

Senator Warren goes on to talk about 'the underlying social contract’ between business and society, ensuring that those who have been successful invest in the next generation and the civic good. It was precisely because I believe profoundly in this ‘social contract’ at the heart of a 21st-century economy that I started the 2020 Group in the last Parliament, basing it around two key themes: how an Innovation Economy can, and must, drive an Opportunity Society. The New Labour model (turning a blind eye to the City, then using the tax revenue to fund an unsustainable spending spree on unreformed public services) ended in the disaster of the financial crisis.

We should no more turn a blind eye to bad business practice than to bad public service. Both need to learn from each other. We need to make our private sector a beacon of civic responsibility, and our public sector much more innovative.

With the need to deliver ‘more for less’ now so urgent, we need to unleash a mission as inspiring as JFK’s ‘New Frontier’, exploring the way in which businesses and the public sector can work together, whether to sequence the human genome, explore space or use public/private partnerships like that between the NHS and McLaren, pioneering digital health.

That’s why, over the next year, the 2020 Group will be looking at ideas about how to achieve this. We will be talking about how to encourage shared values, not just share values. Looking at how enterprise economics is important first and foremost because of its role in accelerating social mobility, not just in increasing GDP. Investigating the notion of contractual rights and responsibilities in our public and private sector with a new Civic Contract and a New Deal for New Businesses. And asking what is the next stage of the devolution revolution, alongside further ideas on monopoly busting. 

The discredited New Labour model has been broken ever since the financial crisis. Having rescued the economy from the cliff edge, it is now vital for all of us on the centre-right to look at how to rebuild that ‘social contract’ to last for the long-term. Along with my parliamentary colleagues in the 2020 Group, we will be setting out the next stage of the progressive One Nation Conservative vision, taking on the mantle JFK and exploring this bold New Frontier.


Big Tent Ideas Festival

Politics is undergoing a tectonic shift. That’s why this year I launched the first-ever Big Tent Ideas Festival, aiming to tackle the most difficult policy challenges we face. Bringing together over a hundred thinkers across the political spectrum, we discussed new ideas on everything from Brexit to intergenerational fairness, centred around three main themes: Politics, Society and Economy.

The Big Tent Ideas Festival is part of the new Capital Ideas Foundation, and will be setting off round the country over the next twelve months as the forum for the best new ideas in public policy. Click below and join us.

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