We deserve more choice than the hard left of Corbyn or hard right of Farage

9th May 2018

We are living in turbulent times. Battling the post-crash demands of the public finances, juggling the Brexit negotiations and witnessing the rise of insurgent candidates like Trump and Macron. Make no mistake. This is a new Battle of Ideas: between the extremes of Left and Right versus a mainstream centre-ground establishment bewildered by the demise of the old order.

Among that, there is the rise of a New Generation looking for a fresh vision and bold cultural lead. Following the General Election meltdown, we can be in no doubt of the challenge we face as a party and as a country.

That's why last year I set up the first ever Big Tent Ideas Festival. Many predicted it would be a disaster. Indeed, the omens didn’t always look good. An event set up in a matter of weeks. Talking about grand ideas in the middle of a field. No one thought it could be achieved. And, to be honest, sometimes neither did I.

But, thankfully, the critics were proved wrong. Hundreds of people turned up in the glorious sun to spend a day talking about the most cutting-edge policy ideas.

Which is why we’re delighted to announce today that the second Big Tent Ideas Festival will be held on Saturday 8th September at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.

This year will be on a very different scale. We’ll have many more tents showcasing the latest ideas and the newest technology, thousands more guests and many more speakers. We’ll also be opening up to the general public. To people of all political persuasions, and none. Crucially, this is not a party political event. (Whilst in my work as Chair of the Conservative Policy Forum, I'm helping shape the renewal of Conservatism for the 21st-century, the Big Tent is for people and places beyond party politics.)

The Big Tent is about renewing the grassroots of mainstream politics. Our mission statement is in our name. That means the conversation will be big. But it will also be a tent not a fortress – broad and inclusive. It will centre around bold Ideas, but outside of the cauldron of Westminster.

We’re not another think tank, but rather an incubator for new thinking. Through the Capital Ideas Foundation we launched at last year's event, we will be funding the conversion of big ideas into policies, developed through the best think tanks in the centre-ground.

The challenge we face now isn't new. We’ve faced moments of national crisis before: 1905, 1945 or 1975. But each time the crisis has become a new opportunity, revolutionising our country as fresh ideas take hold.

The same must be true this time around. We simply cannot afford to wait until all the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed on the final Brexit deal. If we don’t ask these questions now, we’ll miss our chance.

Brexit is the biggest change for this country since 1945. Back then, William Beveridge and others began shaping our future while the bombs still dropped from the skies. If they could do it, so can we.

Most of all, we need to move beyond the stale divisions between left and right. The Big Tent isn’t leading a revival of the right-wing, but of the right way. A politics that is decent, practical and humane. We believe there must be more than an arid choice between the hard Left of Jeremy Corbyn and the hard Right of Nigel Farage.

So Big Tent will be insisting on place as much as profit, culture as much as corporations. Praising new models of innovation, but prizing our heritage too. Championing the free market, but always criticizing its failures. Optimistic about the future, but never naïve. And proud of our past, but not imprisoned by it.

The Windrush scandal has been a wake-up call for us all. But, really, it’s part of a much wider problem. There is a design flaw at the heart of the status quo. The EU Referendum has polarized our country. The side-effects of social media have divided us. And, if we’re not careful, we risk delivering a Brexit that doesn’t work for business, that ignores 48% of our country, and that leaves us less united than ever before.

Our country needs a new big message. A message that defines our nation’s belief in enterprise but champions our values and our culture too. That shows the country that our political system is equal to the moment.

Yes, the challenge we face looks overwhelming. But only if we try to solve big questions with small answers. The endless diet of day-to-day announcements from Whitehall is not speaking to the public yearning for a bigger vision beyond Brexit.

The world’s mightiest economies don’t think like tiny islands. And when small islands like Hong Kong, Ireland or Elizabethan Britain think big, they can go global. To do that, we must embrace radical ideas. Building an Innovation Economy. Increasing our soft power in emerging markets. Championing public sector enterprise. Looking at post-welfarist models of social justice. And developing a new contract of post-Brexit citizenship.

This is our chance to inspire a New Generation, showing that all of us in Westminster are engaging with the questions of the future rather than the rivalries of the past. We need a #BeyondBrexit political vision and policy programme which is capable of uniting people behind Britain again instead of dividing them over Brexit. 

This is the big conversation the Big Tent is starting. It's a non-party crucible for national renewal. Sign up today, join us on Saturday September 8th and be part of it.




The Times

Big Tent Ideas Festival

Politics is undergoing a tectonic shift. That’s why I launched the Big Tent Ideas Festival, aiming to tackle the most difficult policy challenges we face. The Festival has now run for two years. This year we hosted our first-ever Leaders’ Summit and brought nearly 2,000 people together for the main Festival across fifty events and eight different tents, discussing ideas to reform our politics, our economy and our society.

The Big Tent Ideas Festival is part of the Capital Ideas Foundation, founded by a group of entrepreneurs to campaign for renewal in the radical centre-ground. Over the next year, we will be setting off round the country as the forum for the best new ideas in public policy. Click below and join us.

Read more:

Big Tent Ideas website


We are in the middle of a Brexit civil war. What is clear is that the existing options will not unite our country.

Chequers has been dismissed by Brussels and is roundly rejected by the ERG. The Canada option was also not designed for the circumstances we currently face. We are a European nation already heavily reliant on the single market - wanting ideally to retain access to the single market without being in the 'political' union.

That’s why I believe ongoing membership of the European Free Trade Association is now the obvious route. It would give us off-the-shelf access to the single market, allow us to take back control of our fishing and farming industries, control free movement and let us negotiate our own trade deals.

Unless we stand up and fight for a sensible moderate Brexit, we risk enduring a #HardBrexit. There is an alternative that we can embrace now. It is time to embrace EFTA.


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8th September 2018 Without a positive vision for British renewal, Brexit will fail | Daily Telegraph

7th September 2018 People are sick of partisan political civil wars | The Times

19th August 2018 George Freeman: It’s time to choose between a Conservative Brexit or a UKIP one | ConservativeHome

4th July 2018 The 5-year Land Supply is beginning to undermine public trust | PoliticsHome

9th May 2018 We urgently need to turn the NHS from being a barrier to technology to being a champion | The House Magazine

13th June 2018 The time to reform Britain and tackle the generational divide is now, not after Brexit | Daily Telegraph

9th May 2018 We deserve more choice than the hard left of Corbyn or hard right of Farage | The Times

8th May 2018 How to fix the burning injustice that is Britain's housing market | CAPX

18th March 2018 Conservatives need to be as economically bold as Margaret ... | FT

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