Where next for Conservative Renewal?

3rd October 2017

The Conservative party currently stands at a crossroads. The General  Election demonstrated the speed at which politics is changing and showed in the starkest terms how we must change with it.

A recent report from the Resolution Foundation shows the scale of the task clearly:  33% of millennials would rather have grown up in their parents’ generation, while 53% think they will be worse off than the previous generation. Voters under 40 now view capitalism as more of a threat to their life chances than socialism.  The Generation shaped by the wealth distributing effects of QE have seen a massive transfer of wealth from the young to the old, and markets like housing no longer working for them.  Brexit is in danger of being the final insult.  

The challenge is clear.  If we allow the Conservative Party to be the party which presides over the economic and cultural alienation of a generation under 40, they will never forgive us.  We need to make Brexit a moment of electrifying domestic policy renewal that inspires rather than betrays the next generation.  

To do this, we have to be bold. The time for tinkering is over.  The scale of the structural deficit has ripped up the intergenerational contract at the heart of the idea of National Insurance.  We need to think boldly about a New Deal for the Next Generation based on helping them acquire an affordable home and build up a nest egg of assets and a stake in our economy.  Why would you support Capitalism if you have no chance of acquiring any capital?

We also need to signal that we are reaching out beyond traditional Party politics to engage this generation.  That’s why I took the leap last month and established the first ever Big Tent Ideas Festival. We convened two hundred leaders of grassroots renewal from across the country to start a new conversation about fresh approaches to the great policy challenges of our age.

The topics were ambitious, and rightly so. To survive as a political party, the Conservatives need to own the 21st Century. A Party of the North, the Cities, the Public Sector, the dispossessed, those left behind and, above all, of the Next Generation.

Most urgently of all, we have to show we are not a vehicle for retaining power for the sake of tribal victory, but in the name of a deep movement based on shared values as much as share value. 

Too often in Conservative politics the choice is represented as an either/or: rural voters versus urban voters. Liberal Tories vs the traditionalists. Modernisers vs the old guard. Too frequently, the Conservative party seems to veer between trying to appeal to one or the other, torn between panic and complacency.

The truth is, the Conservative Party only truly succeeds when it is generous enough to accommodate all those distinctions.  

To win a majority again we must be the party of One Nation: uniting the young and the old. North and South. Of England and Scotland. Of the private sector and the public sector.

That is what the Big Tent project is all about, our mission statement contained in the name. As I announced at the Festival last month, together with the Big Tent team I and a team of entrepreneurs have launched the Capital Ideas Foundation. The Foundation is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, pro-enterprise movement of entrepreneurs to support and lead the renaissance of new thinking and innovative approaches we so urgently need. 

Over the coming months, CIF will commission major research into the key areas of Conservative renewal, developing policies around our three major themes: political, economic and social renewal.  Finding policy solutions and catalysing the new partnerships and social enterprise approaches  to the most urgent challenges of our age: housing, tuition fees, opening up cosy utility markets to new entrants and new technology that empowers savvy consumers, and looking at how to give millennial voters a stake in the capitalist system.

Through the umbrella of the Capital Ideas Foundation, my hope and goal is that the Big Tent Ideas Festival returns as a major annual event. Our aim is to take it around the country each year - with cities and counties ‘bidding’ to host it - to celebrate and cultivate around all parts of our country the values of enterprise, responsibility, mutuality, philanthropy and active citizenship. The ‘spirit’ of 21stC Conservatism. 

The Prime Minister set out the challenges for this new generation of Conservatives in her electrifying speech on the steps of Number 10 when she entered office. It is the job of all of us to take that mission forward, helping build a New Generation Enterprise Conservatism we can all be proud of.

If it means being mocked by some for staging a ‘Tory Glastonbury’, or targeted by the fake news industry of the hard left, then so be it. Let us be in no doubt: the decisions we are making over the next few years will impact the lives of millions of people for decades to come. Future generations will ask who stood up to be counted. Now is no time to close our eyes and fail to act.  Comrade Corbyn is waiting. We need to show we have the ideas to inspire the next generation with a Conservatism and a Capitalism worth fighting for.


25th August 2017 We Tories must shake off this hostility to business and embrace entrepreneurial capitalism by George Freeman | The Telegraph

18th August 2017 Introducing the Big Tent Ideas Fest by George Freeman | Reaction

6th July 2017 Enterprise in the public sector is the way to end austerity. by George Freeman | The Times

12th June 2017 Where is the mandate now? In Parliament. And why we need a Government that shows it’s listening... by George Freeman | The Telegraph

29th September 2016 Theresa May's big thinker - an interview with George Freeman. by George Eaton | New Statesman

5th July 2016 It’s all about economic confidence and leadership now, so I'm backing Theresa May to be Prime Minister. by George Freeman | The Telegraph

22nd June 2016 Jo Cox was the flag carrier of a new generation of MPs. by George Freeman | The Times