Sir John Redwood is MP for Wokingham, and is a former Secretary of State for Wales.
As I listen to people on doorsteps, and read the views that come into my website, there is passion neither for Sir Keir Starmer nor for Labour policies.
Indeed, those voters who backed us in 2019 but say to the pollsters they do not want to vote Tory often want us to be more conservative, not less.
They are not clamouring for Labour’s higher taxes; they do not want intensified and accelerated bans on petrol and diesel cars; nor mandatory heat pumps. They do not like Labour and Liberal Democrat councils that make it more and more difficult for anyone to get to work by van or car, or get to the shops and park easily.
They are not asking for an attack on private schools, driving more people to compete for places at the better state schools. They do not want a larger bureaucracy in the public sector. They are not preoccupied by the culture wars that consume the political left.
They do dislike the highly-regulated (and in part nationalised) energy, water, and railway industries, and want someone to sort them out to provide better and cheaper service. They want cleaner rivers, no water rationing, more reliable and affordable trains, and reliable electricity at sensible prices. They are more concerned about outcomes than how it is done.
Yet there is an eerie disengagement about all the main political parties. As the tax squeeze intensifies on working people, Conservatives have fallen in the polls – but there is no enthusiastic rush to the parties of the left that want to make it worse.
People understand that Covid-19, lockdowns, the war in Ukraine, and the energy price spikes were external events that hit all advanced economies – unlike the self-inflicted exchange-rate-driven recession of the 1990s or the banking crash of 2008.
It means the present government, unlike those of John Major or Gordon Brown, has an opportunity to win people back.
The main thing to get right is the economy. The Prime Minister recognises, this with his twin aims of getting inflation down and getting growth up.
But he seems to have accepted the wrong Treasury advice: to get inflation down first, by stopping growth, and only then try to warm the economy up again to produce some growth and start to make people better off.
That is bad economics and even worse politics: there is not time enough to bring inflation right down with no growth or even a shallow recession, and then to pick things up again in ways that people will feel and appreciate.
Fortunately, growth and lower inflation are not enemies. The secret to both is to put more capacity in, so more is made and grown at home. This creates more jobs and incomes, and provides more supply to lower price rises.
This is why the Treasury are so wrong. We need a lower business tax rate, not a 31 per cent hike in Corporation Tax; to copy the Republic of Ireland, with their 12.5 per cent rate. As a result they have far more investment per head, higher GDP per head, and more business tax revenue per head than we do.
We need to drive hard for energy self-sufficiency to cut our dependence on unreliable and very expensive imported energy, the source of much of last year’s inflation. That requires an end to price controls, subsidies, and windfall taxes.
If we added substantially to our gas and oil output to replace imports, we could get a big boost to tax revenues – without windfall taxes, which are a major drag on investments.
If we got on with producing small modular nuclear plants, and developing ways of storing renewable energy to smooth out its delivery, again we would boost growth and, in due course, provide some downward pressure on prices.
We need also to be far more supportive of the self-employed and small business. Lockdowns and the new IR35 tax arrangements have seen self-employment fall; we need to expand it again. Return the tax system to the rules of 2017, when self-employment was growing well.
Raise the VAT threshold for small business from £85,000 to £250,000 too; that would give an immediate boost to output across many sectors where entrepreneurs limit their turnover to avoid the need to register.
We cannot keep on adding so any additional people to our population without providing more basic services like water. People do not want to be lectured on using less, and told there is a hosepipe ban as soon as it gets warm and dry for a few weeks.
The industry should be required to put in more clean water capacity; the Government is seeking an investment explosion to build the infrastructure needed to avoid sewage discharges into rivers – so the pricing formula and tax regime has to make this feasible, at a lively pace.
While the railways are busy running near-empty trains on much of the network at various times of day (when it is not on strike), investment is grossly inflated – and distorted HS2, hugely expensive, much-delayed, and which will not bring us any revenue or benefit for most of this decade.
Ministers need to refocus, and extend the timetable for this investment to make room for more worthwhile projects to boost capacity on busy routes now, and to provide an attractive offer for the modern commuter (who may only wish to go the office two or three days a week).
Digital signalling, with on board train systems to match, would allow safe closer running to other trains on existing tracks, could boost capacity at a fraction of the cost of a new line.
On farming, we need to switch the system of subsidies away from wilding to supporting more domestic production of eggs and apples, tomatoes and meat. People would like more local food with fewer food miles; we lost a lot of market share during our years in the Common Agricultural Policy and need to catch up.
The public would warm to a government that went for growth in this way, and showed that Britain can now make and grow so much more of what we need.
Our EU years were dogged by huge balance of trade deficits as we lost market share in everything from chemicals and fruit to steel and energy; reversing this would be good for jobs, help lower inflation, and generate more tax revenue.
It does need lower tax rates, less lecturing consumers, and more working with business to deliver the capacity we need. It needs revision to regulations such as the emissions trading scheme and carbon tax, which penalises domestic producers and favours imports.
In the Second World War the country was told to dig for victory, putting more land to work to grow food. Then we needed to make our own ships, tanks and planes to feed the war machine. It all worked very well, and great feats were achieved.
Today we need to make more of the cars, household goods, and food we want for a decent life. That will make the country more prosperous – and shift the opinion polls.