Andrew Neil grills Jake Berry on economic growth
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Conservative MP Sir Jake Berry has warned that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has a “narrow” path to victory at the next general election. Since leaving Cabinet, Sir Jake has been critical of Rishi Sunak’s Government.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Jake Berry said that Conservative Party members were “furious” at the loss of Boris Johnson as leader.
He said: “If I think about my own members, in Rossendale, they are quite cross about the behaviour of MPs towards leaders of the Conservative Party,
“Starting off with the insanity of the defenestration of Boris Johnson, who is the best collateral asset that the Conservative Party has had for 100 years.
“Then going on to members pretty overwhelmingly selecting Liz Truss, really showing that the policies of low tax – the core Conservative policies – are still popular with our members.
“And then the feeling that colleagues in Parliament moved against Liz Truss… to then Rishi being selected by MPs.”
Sir Jake has expressed concern that, like fellow Tory party members, he was worried about the chances of the Conservative party at the next election.
He said: “There’s a big piece of work to do with our membership to reassure them that we are going to pursue a path that is not just popular with the country, but is also popular within our membership.
“It should be a matter of deep concern to anyone that membership of the Conservative Party has dropped from half a million a couple of decades ago to – numbers vary, but they’re normally under a couple of hundred thousand.
“One of the top priorities I had as chairman – which I think should be the top priority for any chairman – is to get more members of the Conservative Party. That’s been made harder to do by the perceived disenfranchisement of the membership following the downfall of Liz Truss.”
Sir Jake said Conservative Party members were “really angry” about current divisions within the party and that problems would not be answered by “creating more divisions”, and that MPs needed to rally around Rishi Sunak.
However, he also warned that the Government had to lower taxes plus win back their reputation for competence if they were to win the next General Election.
The MP continued: “We’ve always talked about being the party of low tax, that doesn’t cut it if you’re the government of high tax. So you don’t say ‘our values are that we believe in low taxation’ [but we have] the highest taxation in 70 years.
“We have the highest taxation since the Second World War, but it just feels to me like public services aren’t working and to win the next general election, we’ve got to recapture a reputation for competence when it comes to public services.”
Sir Jake also commented on the number of strikes happening right now, with industrial action set to happen every day until Christmas.
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He said: “You can’t get a driving test in this country, you can’t get a passport in a timely manner, you can’t get a hospital appointment, you can’t see your GP face to face.
“We’ve got to wrestle back that mantra of the Conservative Party that we are a highly competent government, under which public services work for you and for your family. And we need to set out a clear path to lower taxation for both families and businesses in this country.”
Sir Jake added that the next General Election will be the “real battleground” for the Conservative Party in keeping the Labour seats that they won in 2019, but the MP added he thinks “it’s all still to play for”.
He concluded: “I can absolutely see a path to victory for the Conservative Party with significant gains in the north of England. But there is quite a narrow path to tread to that victory.
“I think the Government is giving a lot of thought to how you keep on board voters in the South East but at the same time not losing voters in the North.”
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