George’s Views

Post-Election Message

An Election in which the people have spoken: now all of us in Parliament need to listen. And act.

On Election Night, just a few weeks ago, the British people gave the political parties an inconvenient, but nonetheless important, and clear message.  As I said in my acceptance speech in Dereham, whilst it is a huge honour and privilege to have been returned with 59% of the vote, I have heard the grievances aired in this election, and I am absolutely determined as your MP to act on them.

First, that means recognising that although no party got a majority, that doesn't mean dismissing the result. Quite the opposite. It means understanding what the electorate are trying to tell us. And showing that we, as your elected MPs, have heard and will act on it. As I have done in the last three weeks.

What were these key messages?

I believe they were:

  • that the country doesn't think any party deserved a majority on the basis of their campaigns, and is suspicious of a partisan approach to the big challenges we face, whether Brexit, Social Care, Mental Health, school teaching or the NHS.
  • widespread concern amongst those who cherish, work in and rely on our great public services that we have reached 'breaking point' with the model of public sector pay and spending restraint following the Great Crash (2010-2017) which is now too blunt, demoralising and too often results in cuts to frontline services.
  • widespread concern at the rising cost of living, which combined with low interest rates and below inflation pay rises mean many pensioners and those in work are getting worse off.
  • deep resentment from the generation under 40 who are now incurring £30,000 debts to pay for their University education, and then can't afford to get onto the housing ladder, which has become the principle way to build up savings in our economy.
  • real concern at the state of elderly care and the growing pressure on NHS hospital beds arising from a lack of community beds and facilities due to the fragmentation of NHS and Social Care, and disproportionate funding cuts to local government social care.

Good politics means listening, as well as promising, and – as I have always tried to do – putting Country before Party.

That’s why I have decided since the Election to say what I know the majority of my constituents want and to speak out in Parliament and in Government for fresh thinking and policies in these key areas to reassure people that I, as your Conservative MP, and Government ministers, are listening and committed to tackling these grievances.

In the last four weeks I have, in a series of speeches and media appearances, called for this new Conservative Government to changes it approach in a number of key areas:

My article in the Daily Telegraph on the lessons of the Election calling for an end to public sector austerity and a new approach to public services, Brexit and housing

My speech in the House of Commons following the Queen’s Speech calling for a less partisan, ideological and divisive approach to Brexit

My interview on Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ on the impact of the rising cost of living on those on low incomes

My speech to the Tory Reform Group on the need for a new deal for a new post-Brexit Britain

Over the last 7 years as your MP (and previously in my 10-year career working with NHS clinicians) I have got to know many fine people in the public sector, and it’s clear to me that whilst there was initial support in 2010 for the vital belt tightening in the wake of the Great Crash, we now need a different approach. This is not to say we should abandon austerity, but we need to think more innovatively and creatively when it comes to our economy. As I set out to my article in The Times recently I believe we need a new way based on incentives and research rather than blanket ‘caps and cuts’.

As you may have seen, these calls have been widely reported:

The Times and Telegraph excerpts

Over the summer I am organising a group of MPs who feel the same way, and setting up a new non-party political 'Constituency Cabinet' of local public service leaders to help advise me on the local complexities of public spending and service reform.

As I promised when first elected, and when re-elected, for me good politics is about 'People and Place Before Party', and I believe this election is a clear signal that the Conservative Party needs to take a similar approach in Government.

As ever, I can only represent you if I hear your views and those of other constituents so do please get in touch to share with me your views.

By listening, working together, and reaching across party lines to find common ground, here in Norfolk and in Parliament, I believe we can solve some of the very real challenges we face. 

 

DUP Deal

As you may have seen recently, I have been very outspoken about the failures of the Conservative General Election campaign and the need for the Government to reflect on the message sent on June 8th. In particular, I’ve called for a different strategy on Brexit, signalling that we need a more cross party approach that will make sure that access to key markets is protected for all businesses both across the UK and here in Mid Norfolk, as well as ongoing science collaborations to secure the future of our area's world-leading research hubs like the Norwich Research Park.

However, given the task ahead of us, I believe that it is vital that we have a Government that can successfully deliver those Brexit negotiations. As the Party which won the highest proportion of the vote and the most seats in Parliament, the Conservatives are therefore the only party able to do this.

Whilst I have some very real difficulties with some of the DUP’s history and heritage, in Parliamentary politics where there is no majority, these sorts of deals are the only way to get Government business done.

As you will have seen, the Conservative Party have previously had a strong relationship over many years with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and I think it is right that the Prime Minister has finalised a deal which means key votes will be able to pass through the House of Commons at this most crucial of times in our nation’s modern history. It’s important also to recognise that this is very much only a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement – not a Coalition.

However, please be assured that I do very much appreciate that there may be concerns on a number of issues regarding this deal. On the question of social policy, I think it is crucially important to stress that as your Member of Parliament I will continue to promote and champion equal rights. The Prime Minister and the Conservative parliamentary party have always been very clear that the DUP’s views on a range of social issues play no part in the deal that was signed last week.

On the issue of the Northern Ireland peace process, I know from my discussions with Ministers that the Government is absolutely committed to re-establishing inclusive, devolved government in Northern Ireland. The approach and objectives as set out in The Conservative Party Northern Ireland manifesto remain unchanged, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland continues to work to restore a Northern Ireland Executive as soon as possible.

One thing is certainly clear for the next two years: Brexit is our most important foreign policy challenge since the end of the war. Ensuring we get a deal that works for Norfolk - protecting jobs, securing ongoing research collaboration, while establishing our own immigration policy that commands the support of the electorate - is a task that will have repercussions for decades to come. It is vital that we get it right.

By finalising this deal with the DUP, the Government has ensured that vital legislation can continue to pass through the House of Commons and that Brexit negotiations can go ahead as planned.

However, rest assured, I, along with many other Conservative MPs, will continue to raise all concerns with Ministers, and keep a close eye for any signs of inappropriate wider policy influence.

 

Grenfell Tower

This was a truly horrifying event, and my thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and survivors of this devastating national tragedy.

The fact that something like this could happen in one of the richest countries in the world in the 21st century is beyond belief and, unquestionably, serious questions must be asked. The initial political reaction was far too slow. I fully support the Government's work in setting up the Grenfell Tower Recovery task force in the aftermath of the tragedy to ensure a coordinated response. The task force is chaired by the Prime Minister and includes representation from a number of government departments. The Government is also working with the local authority to ensure that people who lost their homes in the disaster are rehoused in the local area as well as with housing associations, fire and rescue services, and fire safety experts to ensure that all similar buildings are checked. A new £5 million Grenfell Tower Residents' Discretionary Fund has also been made immediately available to help those who had to flee their homes and I understand that the fund will be kept under review.

It is clear to me that that this tragedy raises a series of very important questions about social housing, fire safety regulations, Kensington and Chelsea Council and local authority civil contingency planning. Furthermore, it cast a light on the very real problems presented by housing shortages in many parts of the country – which have led to dangerous overcrowding.

It’s for these reasons that I fully support the Prime Minister’s decision to order a full, judge-led public inquiry to get the answers we need about how this happened, and urgently consider the lessons, failures, and policy implications.

Rest assured, I will continue to work with parliamentary colleagues across all parties to find the answers we need. One thing is clear: we must never allow something like this to happen again. The events at Grenfell Tower were a terrible day for all of Britain, and we must work tirelessly now to learn the lessons of what happened.

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Publications


George Freeman: New technology can save the NHS

21st September 2015 There is a truth in our society that we can no longer ignore. With a rapidly ageing population, the UK faces a new demographic reality. | ConservativeHome



George Freeman: How technology will transform care and debate about our NHS

18th January 2015 The technological revolutions which have transformed so much of our economy and society are about to transform healthcare. | ConservativeHome


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