Tom Richmond: The MP who could help Tories to win back Britain's working class

MP Robert Halfon.
MP Robert Halfon.
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NOT only is Robert Halfon a remarkable politician who overcame disability – he was born with cerebral palsy and suffers from osteo-arthritis – to make it to Westminster, but he’s a top Tory who understands the language of working class politics.

It was his single-minded campaign that forced the last Government to scrap planned increases in fuel duty and the MP has written a brilliant article in which he challenges the Conservatives to show that the party is truly on the side of compassion – and blue collar workers who traditionally vote Labour.

Echoing the themes of this column last week, he notes: “Compassion, Poverty, Rights, NHS, Social Justice Society, Welfare, Workers, The Poor, Underdog. They are always associated – powerfully and positively – with the political Left.

“What about these ones? Austerity, Brussels, Cuts, Hard-nosed, Economy, Privatisation, Sovereignty, Traditional, Tax Cuts, The Rich. They are always associated – powerfully and negatively with the political Right.”

This, he says, is a narrative that needs to change. He says Jeremy Corbyn’s election slogan – ‘For the Many not the Few’ – was inspired because it reflected the country’s discontent while the Tory ‘strong and stable’ mantra, he notes bluntly, said nothing and explained little.

He’s also right when he says the Tories should be on the side of strivers: “A Workers’ Party is not left-wing, as some on the un-thinking Right may think it. A Conservative Workers’ Party is one that supports the living wage, backs lower taxes for lower earners and invests in apprenticeships and skills.”

What a breath of fresh air – and all the more baffling that this former Tory vice-chairman, and the then Skills Minister, was sacked by Theresa May in her post-election reshuffle. “The Prime Minister has to make these decisions, I wasn’t really given a reason,” he said diplomatically.

Just what was Mrs May thinking? Was it because Mr Halfon’s mentor was George Osborne, the former Chancellor? For, from what I can make out, Mr Halfon is precisely the type of individual that politics – and the Tories – needs and I look forward to following his new career as chairman of the Education Select Committee. Mark my words, he will make a positive difference.

SPEAKING in the context of the sex grooming scandal, and her exit from Labour’s front bench, Rotherham MP Sarah Champion made a profound point when she said: “London is not representative of the UK.”

She could also have been speaking in the context of Brexit. If David Cameron and his government had understood the concerns here about immigration and integration, he might have realised that he was on a hiding to nothing in the June 2016 referendum on EU membership.

If Theresa May and her government had understood this region’s misgivings about creaking public services, she might not have taken the North for granted during this June’s election. And if Jeremy Corbyn and Labour understood the mood of the electorate here, they might realise that there’s little desire for a soft Brexit. After all, it was Gordon Brown, the former PM, who raised the notion – 10 years ago – of ‘British jobs for British people’.

If Ms Champion’s intervention persuades the London political elite to think again, whether it be on sex crimes, Brexit or any other issue, she will have performed a very useful public service.

THANK you to regular readers for pointing me in the direction of the latest non-job being advertised by the jobsworths at West Yorkshire Combined Authority at our expense.

This Communications & Engagement Advisor – salary £26,402 to £30,571 – will be part of a wider team looking to deliver “ambitious cycling and walking projects”. Key requirements include “creating and delivering innovative, multi-channel marketing and behaviour change campaigns with proven results”.

Hang on a minute. Isn’t it the job of local authority planning departments to look after the interests of pedestrians and cyclists and, seriously, is there a need for “high-impact marketing, communications and behaviour change campaigns” as the job description specifies?

After all, this area is already home to a trailblazing organisation which already regards itself as the de facto HQ of British Cycling. It’s called Welcome to Yorkshire.

IN response to a Bedford MP, Theresa May claimed at Prime Minister’s Questions that her government “recognise the importance of rail services”.

Really? Perhaps Mrs May could tell Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, the man who ran her Tory leadership campaign, after he pulled the plug on

pre-election plans to electrify two routes in the region before having the temerity to tell the North to sort out its own problems.

If Ministers think their deception will be forgotten before the Tory conference in Manchester, they are mistaken.

WHAT a shame that John Humphrys, presenter of the BBC’s Today programme, chose not to ask Chris Grayling about his broken rail promises in the North when he questioned the Transport Secretary on Tuesday. I venture that he would have done so if there was a threat to one of London’s Crossrail schemes.

I HAD to laugh when the secretary of a local authority chief executive phoned up this week asking to speak to my PA to book an appointment – they didn’t

seem to realise that the organ grinders have to answer their own calls in the private sector.

Welcome to the real world.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk