Nicky Morgan MP: We Are Watching History Play Out
Recently Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough, made a fly-in visit to the University of Birmingham to speak to the Conservative Society. Here’s what she had to say…
Mrs. Morgan began her talk by stating, perhaps a little unnecessarily, that UK politics is in an “interesting place” – it has developed in an unpredictable direction, and that if she were to have a crystal ball it would be very hazy, to say the least – “even the top political commentators don’t know what’s going to happen next”, she remarked.
However, even in such a climate, the day-to-day of politics must plough on; Morgan spent some time explaining her project, the Inclusive Economy Partnership, which envisages an economy where the more affluent “takes everyone with us”. This includes, as some might be relieved to hear, a focus on mental health, as well as a “transition to work” programme that helps young people (students or otherwise) break into an overly competitive job market. In addition to this, Morgan wants to help create an economic atmosphere that drives growth, making an overture to Britain’s world-leading status in the realm of tech start-ups, including scientists’ work on artificial intelligence, and Britain’s incredible film and theatre industry.
On the back of this, Morgan was clear to stress that technology can be a boon and a concern, placing particular emphasis on the question of regulating “certain platforms” to limit its harm on users. No doubt she had in mind Facebook and Twitter, but avoided any nanny-state references to the “video game and violence” controversies.
Morgan, moving on from this, began to talk about Britain’s future role in the world, and the debate that Brexit has unleashed. Commenting, “direct democracy cuts across across representative democracy”, Morgan noted that more voters now identify themselves by the epithets “Leaver” or “Remainer” than by the traditional party allegiances. Despite her own stance as a Remainer before the referendum, Morgan argued that Brexit ought to be a chance to make Britain a “truly international country”, focusing on our soft power abilities, and the fact that cultural links carry on where political talks have maybe failed. Indeed, Britain’s cultural role across the world remains strong, and it is nice to know that even as our political leaders make fools of themselves, Britain remains iconic for many people around the globe.
Concluding her talk, Morgan did take a moment to lament the increased abuse her and her colleagues have experienced online, noting that she personally has had three convictions against online harassers. “I have no doubt that we are watching history play out”, she finished.
Though Mrs. Morgan’s talk was brief (due to the nature of her visit), there was an extensive Q&A session that followed. Below is a select list of those questions Mrs. Morgan had time to answer.
As Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Morgan said she was careful not to pass judgement on the nature of the BBC, but commented that the senior executives in the organisation take their impartiality “very, very seriously”. She also noted that as she has emails from people implicating the BBC is both left- or right-biased, she likes to think that they’re “probably doing the right thing”. Also, she commented, Britain has a fantastic asset in the BBC, given its global standing and reputation, and we need to be aware of that.
The Conservatives are polling low with the under-30s. Is a change of policy, or message, needed more?
Noting that this was a really important question, Morgan made the point that an appeal to popularity alone is often “seen through by the voters”, and that if you don’t have the principles or values behind the policies, then any party policy will be seen as hollow. Therefore, it seems strange, Morgan commented, that the think-tank Onward is showing the under-30s believe in entrepreneurship yet do not support the Tories’ policies, so clearly the message needs to be addressed.
Who poses more of an electoral threat: Jo Swinson or Nigel Farage?
Laughing (no doubt because this is probably a big topic in the party), Morgan made it clear she believes each party (Brexit, and the Liberal Democrats) pose a threat in different areas of the country, but despite this she categorically does not endorse electoral pacts with any other party. Interestingly, Morgan said she believed the Liberal Democrats were not as much of a threat in the South West as they once were – perhaps due to Brexit? It’s hard to say, she remarked.
Would you stand on a manifesto committed to No Deal?
It’s a difficult one for Morgan – she knows that No Deal is a possibility, and accepted that when she took a role in cabinet, but she would prefer a deal. That being said, Morgan commented that her recent discussions with business leaders all reveal the same thing – just get the job done.
How difficult has it been to be an MP in the “Age of Brexit”?
Morgan, who has been involved in politics for thirty years (older than anyone in the room, she quipped), has definitely seen a change in the last three years. As she commented above, the abuse has escalated more than anyone could imagine, but the people she feels most sorry for are the Civil Service. Referring of course to the original deadline of March 29th, and the revised deadline in April, Morgan said “we have marched them up the hill twice, and now we’re marching them up the hill again, and they have been fantastic but it has been very traumatic”. Hopefully, they will get some rest soon.