This is a transcript of the speech given by Richard Tice, leader of Reform UK, at the party’s conference in Manchester on Sunday.
SOME of you may be former comrades. You might be disaffected Tories and you’ve popped along down the road. You are enormously welcome.
You may be Brexiteers, you may have voted Remain. This is the future. And we’re all now reformers.
We all know that the United Kingdom is an amazing nation. It’s got such an extraordinary heritage, incredible history. We’re so proud of that history. We are patriotic, we love our country. And we are led by the inspiration of the Queen. When I think of Britain in the UK, I think of Churchill. I think of the British values, known all around the world of decency, of welcome, of hospitality, that sense of cricket and fair play. And we have so much potential to be unleashed after Brexit. I mean, goodness me, we know that it wasn’t easy. We got there in the end. I’ve still got the scars on my back. But this amazing nation of ours — and it’s all of ours — we are being let down. We are a nation of lions and lionesses led literally by donkeys.
Isabel [Oakeshott, a previous speaker] talked about the lack of trust. It is truly shocking, truly shocking how they can say one thing one day and within a week you know that, if you believe the opposite, it’s more likely to happen. They cannot be trusted, and they are absolutely incompetent. And let’s remember, the slogan of our conference is so true. This is our freedom. It’s our future. It’s not the Government’s to lend that to us.
You may have heard me rename the Conservatives. So I now call them the ConSocialists. Because it is now another party of high tax, high regulation, nanny state, and all of that leads to low growth. And we didn’t do Brexit for that. We didn’t do Brexit to become a highly taxed, highly regulated, boring European social democracy. We did it to become a dynamic, bold, ambitious, lowly taxed, smartly regulated turbo of a nation that is the envy of the world.
I’m an optimist, the glass is always half full. It’s never half empty. And what we now need for this great nation of ours is we need big, bold, brilliant reforms. It’s absolutely vital. Because this government has taken away our freedom, and our future. And we’re now the new brand. And people are hearing us, this growing awareness, you can see it in the polls. People are saying, ‘I like what they say. That’s basic common sense. They tell it as it is.’ Unlike, as Isabel said, this government that is simply not honest with us. And I think that the amazing line-up of speakers that we’ve had and we’ve got this afternoon is testament to that. And I would emphasise that some of the speakers are independents who like what they’re hearing and they are coming to share their thoughts, their views.
Now be under no illusion, when the next general election comes — and I think our base case is it could be 2023, that’s about 20 months away — we will be standing 600 candidates, give or take. We will be one of only five parties standing that many candidates. We’ve already got around 300 vetted, approved, literally being trained as we speak. By Christmas we’ll have 400. I know many are here today. I know many are thinking about it. And what I would say to you is, if we want change, please, I know it’s tough. It takes courage. It’s not easy, raising your head above the parapet. But come with us on this journey. Tell your family, tell your friends, tell your friends’ friends, tell your work colleagues, because together we can really shape and influence change.
And we have to.
We are not standing down against these ConSocialists anywhere.
A few things that I think that this next election will be fought on. And the first is the economy. We’re the only party standing with a proper economic division of growth. Because it’s only by growing that we can get our way out of this crisis, post-Covid. You can’t tax away into another version of austerity. The current two main parties are literally out-bidding each other. The Tories, they literally just imposed the highest tax stake for 70 years. Unbelievable. We’ve a nation where the tax-take of our country now is about 35 per cent of the size of our economy. And yet we’ve got the lowest growth forecasts. The way out of this is to grow our way out of it. And you do that with our economic vision, the details of which are on our website. But the summary is this: we need to cut taxes hard for the least well-off, the lowest paid. We want to free up 6million of the lowest paid by raising the threshold of income tax from £12,500 to £20,000.
That’s real money. That’s almost 30 pounds a week. That makes a real difference to families who are struggling with high energy bills, with inflation. What do the Tories want to do? Rishi wants to drag another million of the least well-off into paying income tax. I think that’s morally reprehensible.
We’re going to free up well over a million of the smallest businesses from paying any corporation tax at all, by lifting the threshold from £0 to £100,000, so they can invest in more growth, more software, more people, more equipment. Because you and I know that an individual or a small business will always spend a pound in their pocket and get more value, better value, more productivity, than some bowler-hatted civil servant on your behalf when they’re working from home.
We need to abolish a raft of unproductive, expensive-to-collect taxes that actually act as a burden, a hindrance, a block, a barrier on growth. We need to be putting the accelerator on growth, not taxing our way back into austerity. With higher growth, you get higher wages, and that leads to higher tax revenues. It’s a basic economic model that the Tories seem to have forgotten, the Treasury officials seem to have forgotten or lost the manual. And the evidence is clear. Take Australia. If we had matched the growth of the Australian economy in the last 15 years, our total tax revenues every single year would be an additional NHS. Just imagine if I gave you another NHS tomorrow. That’s the power of growth. That is why we have to grow our way out of this crisis, not tax our way out of it.
Whether it is the US or Singapore, the evidence is clear. Lower taxes means higher growth. And we all know that. And yet we’ve got the longest tax code in the world. It’s so long at over 20,000 pages, our friends at HMRC have no idea how long it is. In fact, I can tell you, it’s five times longer than the combined works of Harry Potter! And nothing like as much fun.
Let’s remember, this is our freedom is our future. And it’s better off with a growing economy.
And then to health. We genuinely have a healthcare crisis in this country. And of course, we want to thank the frontline consultants, surgeons, doctors and nurses for their commitment, their hard work. The NHS and healthcare in this country must always be free at the point of delivery. But we have to be honest, it may be the most loved healthcare system, but no one’s claiming it’s the most efficient, or the least wasteful or the best managed. And we have to also be honest about outcomes. The truth is, sadly, we have some of the worst cancer outcomes across the whole of Europe. You’ll never hear another politician tell you that. But it’s time we told the truth.
I’ll give you an example of the waste: it’s a sad one to me personally. When my mother passed away just over two years ago, and she’d been on a cocktail of drugs and pills for a few months. And so there were still many left over, unopened seals left intact. And when the nurse came to pick them up, I was in tears, she was in tears, because she says not only could they not be reused in this country, they couldn’t be used in any developing nation around the world. We couldn’t put them in the bin, no, no. We had to pay to incinerate them. Where is the common sense in that? And that’s just one tiny example. If you multiply that across the whole NHS, you know that the waste is legendary, and doctors and nurses will tell you that. And David [Dr David Bull, deputy leader] will talk this afternoon, powerfully, on this. But the truth is that it is badly managed and we have to do better. And we have big, bold vision for the NHS. No one else is talking like us. But it’s very simple. It’s three words. Zero waiting lists. Why do we accept being brainwashed that we have to have waiting lists? Most other Western nations don’t have waiting lists! They literally look at us and think, what on earth are you doing? What on earth are you doing accepting for 4, 6, 12 months to get an operation? We can get zero waiting lists. David and I think we can get them in 18 months. You’ve got to put the patient in charge. And we’ve got a bold voucher scheme that we know would transform healthcare in this country.
If we have zero waiting lists, the benefits to people’s mental being, our wellbeing, our productivity, our confidence would be fantastic. It really would. That brings me on to a rather topical subject: energy and the environment. We all care about the environment. We all want cleaner air. And David and I were actually leading the way unlike many other party leaders and politicians—both of us have got 100 per cent electric cars. And let’s celebrate the success of what the UK has done in the last 30 years. We’re actually a world leader, we’ve cut emissions by over 40 cent. But the truth is that climate change has existed for thousands of years.
And it will for a thousand more years, and there are multiple reasons for that, most of which, actually, we don’t know that much about, and we can’t do much about. But we can do things about manmade emissions, and we should do things about that. But we need to do it in a way that is strategic, that is affordable, and is proportionate. Now this afternoon, Patrick [Benham-Crosswell] will go into the detail. But let’s be clear about the Tory policy. It is not Net Zero. It is Net Stupid. It is delusional, it is not achievable, and it will impoverish millions and millions of the least well-off.
Their policy will literally send hundreds of thousands of decent British jobs to China and elsewhere, tens and tens of billions of pounds of our money to China and elsewhere. It costs families hundreds and hundreds of extra pounds on top of the increases we’re already receiving. And then there’s their boiler ban. Well, the only thing that will do is freeze your gran. And that’s why we put on our double decker bus – as of now it’s driving around Manchester to annoy the Tories – and on the side it has the slogan: ‘The Tory Boiler Ban Will Freeze Your Gran’.
Why would we trust these Tories with the future of our environment and our energy policy when they mismanaged it so catastrophically in the last decade? We were a net exporter of energy when they came to power, we’re now exposed to Putin. We’re exposed to dodgy bits of electrical connectors in France. And we’ve outsourced all our gas storage, our emergency gas storage, to the Netherlands; you couldn’t make this stuff up. When at the same time, we’ve literally got over 50 years’ worth of cheap, affordable, accessible energy literally under our feet. It’s unbelievable. The Tories promised in 2017 in their manifesto that they would create a shale gas industry in this country. And then at the first sign of a of a couple of smelly eco-bullies, they bottle it. That is no way to run an energy policy in this country.
The reform plan is what I call net-smart. It’ll keep British jobs in this country, it’ll keep our money in this country and reduce people’s bills by hundreds of pounds every year. That is a smart policy. The Tory policy is Net Stupid.
And there’s a reason why our energy bills are so high. The Tories sold off all our utilities over decades. The majority of our utilities now are owned overseas, and what I’ve discovered in recent research is that it looks like Chinese investors are the largest single owner of British utilities, and I think that is wrong.
We are strategically exposed. They can literally – when you remember that every Chinese company has to do what the Chinese Communist regime says – they can literally turn the lights off in London, the gas off in the West and the taps off in the north of England. That is absolutely foolish. The United States do not allow overseas ownership of critical national infrastructure, nor does France, and frankly, nor should we.
And some of these overseas investors, these Chinese investors for example, they’re making unbelievable returns. Twenty per cent a year on their money invested. Unbelievable returns at our expense. We are being ripped off. That’s the reason why our bills are so high. And it’s the same with the renewable sector. The Government asked private equity money, very often, again, overseas private equity money, to invest in renewables. They will want returns on the money of 15 per cent. UK pension funds only want returns — long-term returns — of three, four or five per cent. So again, we’ve been ripped off.
So our solution is a genuine win-win. And we know it polls well, we know this is what the British people want. You can have a win-win solution, where we get the benefits of private sector management with 50 per cent of our utilities owned by UK pension funds, and the other 50 per cent should be owned by us, the consumer, the taxpayer, the public. That way, we get the best of both worlds. When utilities have a good year, we the taxpayer save money. That is the right solution, not the Tories’ solution of outsourcing the ownership, very often overseas.
And don’t let any Tory tell you we can’t afford it. The Government’s balance sheet can afford it. Easily afford it. They would be buying assets and earn money from day one.
Isabel talked about the damage that our children have had over this Covid crisis. The most number of school days lost, I think, almost anywhere in the world. University students ripped off: online degrees, no discounts, no compensation. It’s unbelievable. We’ve got to reform the student loan system. Our plan is they should have zero interest as opposed to the very high interest of 4 per cent that they pay at the moment and instead of paying it back over 30 years they should pay it back over 45 years. That’s a much fairer way. What does Rishi want to do? He wants to make students pay back more loans, with that vast interest even faster, again, targeting those who can least afford to pay. This is our children’s future. It’s our children’s freedom. And it’s not safe in the hands of the ConSocialists.
I’m going to be talking this afternoon about keeping Britain safe and secure in so many ways. But I do want to touch on the amazing, brave, committed men and women who serve in our armed forces. They are an inspiration to us all, and didn’t they do us proud in the desperate, desperate times as we evacuated people who have helped us, recently from Afghanistan.
We need to look after our armed forces better whilst they’re serving and also after they have left service, and our veterans. We need to protect them from the vexatious legal claims that despite this Government’s promises are still going on. And let’s look at what the military have done for us just in the last 18 months. Thank God for the military, because it was the military that organised the logistics for the Nightingale hospitals. It was the military that organised the logistics for the vaccine rollout. And now, with the fuel crisis, who do we turn to? The military. I think it’s fair to say that their commitment, their skills, their hard work, their can-do attitude, rolling their sleeves up, getting a job done, frankly is something that many civil servants could learn a great deal from, and they should get back to the office.
There are so many areas of Reform. The BBC, I mean where do you start and where do you finish?! I don’t need to say much more. The House of Lords! Well, if you thought Cameron and Theresa May had done a good job filling it with their friends, Boris Johnson has taken it to a whole new level. His brother, his personal donors. His mates that won big contracts. The list goes on. Only the last week, he stuffed in another big personal donor and gave him a ministerial appointment as well. You can literally buy peerages with Boris Johnson.
The Civil Service, it used to be the envy of the world. But I don’t think we can say that any more. We know that it needs better leadership, stronger leadership. We always focus on solutions to the problems that we face. Let’s say for example the cladding scandal. It’s a crisis that is affecting hundreds of thousands of leaseholders. We came up with a simple three-point solution that 100 per cent protects the leaseholders. We’re the only party to come up with that. This government seems quite happy to see thousands and thousands of people forced into bankruptcy. Because they don’t focus on the detail. They don’t focus on real people’s lives.
We’re an amazing nation, ladies and gentlemen. We can do so much better. We have so much potential, but it needs real reform, it needs real leadership, strong leadership, principled leadership, to ensure that we have more freedom and a better future.
Thank you very much.