David Cameron wants 2014 to be the year "Britain rises"

Answers on a postcard if you know what he's talking about.

David Cameron has delivered his New Year message, and with it a slogan we will no doubt be heartily sick of by February: Britain is on the rise. 

He writes in the Times that the "difficult decisions" he has taken since forming a government in 2010 are now beginning to pay off. "After three and a half years, it’s time for the next phase of that plan - 2014 is when we start to turn Britain into the flagship post-Great Recession success story. A country that is on the rise."

Later, he adds: "During the recession I insisted that we were all in it together. As we recover, let me be clear: we are still all in it together. The question now is how we move forward and make sure Britain and its people rise."

He then claims that Labour's policies - "more borrowing, more spending and more debt" - would be catastrophic (perhaps, following his earlier logic, people might sink? Perhaps Britain as a whole might sink?) and instead advocates a five-point plan.

1. Continuing to reduce the deficit, and "help keep mortgage bills low" - although how far he can control the latter, when the Bank of England sets interest rates, is questionable.

2. Continue cutting income tax, raise the personal allowance and freeze fuel duty. 

3. "Backing small business".

4. Capping welfare and controlling immigration.

5. A new national curriculum and a commitment to "deliver the best schools for every child".

Cameron concludes: "We’ve come a long way already. Let’s make 2014 the year when Britain really starts to rise."

The article distils the key messages we are likely to hear from the Tories until the next election: cautious optimism, budget responsibility, plus hard lines on immigration and welfare. As Mark Wallace writes at Conservative Home: "This article is the crib-sheet to [Cameron's] campaign plan – now we must see whether he sticks to it, and if it survives contact with events and the enemy."

Also noteworthy is the unsubtle dig at France in there - "If you doubt how disastrous a return to Labour-style economics would be, just look at countries that are currently following that approach. They face increasing unemployment, industrial stagnation and enterprise in free fall".

In recent days, Francois Hollande's flagship policy of a top tax rate of 75 per cent has been approved by France's highest court. This will no doubt lead to more protests from football clubs, showbusiness stars and business leaders in the coming months, although it has popular support. Hollande's personal polling is dire, so expect to see more attacks linking him and Miliband. 

David Cameron. Photo: Getty

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.