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Last month, I announced that I’m stepping down as Chief Executive of Bright Blue. I do so very happy and grateful. Thank you to all the people who have supported the organisation: staff, fellows, members, donors, partners and supporters. Together, we have built a small superpower.

You have to know when you’ve done your bit. When it’s time to let someone else have a go. All organisations need fresh leadership and vision from time to time if they are to continue to flourish. I will, however, step up to Chair this important and impressive think tank later in 2023, supporting my successor to make it even bigger and better.

I’ve been lucky these past eight years or so to have worked with amazingly talented people, together securing significant successes. Broadly, under David Cameron, our work helped improve education policy, especially on childcare and universities. Under Theresa May, we secured consequential changes to environmental policy. Under Boris Johnson, we helped make the post-Brexit immigration system for workers and students more effective and popular.

I believe deeply in a fundamental conservative principle: to build and maintain what is good, and to pass that on so it can be enjoyed by the next generation. The centre-right is at its best when its main mission is to ensure more of the public, especially from less advantaged backgrounds, can access and benefit from the best institutions in life: strong families, excellent educational establishments, a house of your own, business ownership.

Over the past twelve years of Conservative Governments, there has been progress on employment, educational and environmental policy, of which the latter two in particular will support future generations. But for my generation – millennials – if they do not have middle-class parents to support them, then I am afraid that my conclusion is they have largely been failed by public policy. The result is a marked decline in overall homeownership and the birth rate, which should send shivers down the spine of any conservative.

I worry too that talented young people are turning away from politics as a profession, believing they can create more good and have a more fulfilling, enjoyable career by working elsewhere. Some of this is to do with the behaviour of a small minority of those in politics. But it is also to do with the way a small minority of the public treat politicians. The truth is that it takes guts and hard work to be an MP. Those of us who have worked in or around politics should think hard about how we make it a more esteemed and meritocratic profession to attract a pipeline of young talent to serve the public good.

These are precarious economic and political times. Young people are getting a rawer deal than they deserve. Austerity has returned. Bright Blue really is needed more than ever. There needs to be a loud and respected voice for liberal, open, democratic and meritocratic principles on the centre-right of British politics. I think public life really is enriched from our thoughtful and credible environmental, educational, social and employment policymaking.

Bright Blue has always used the strong relationships and respect it has to meaningfully influence government policy, but has also always been unafraid in using its platform to speak truth to power. In 2023, I hope our new Chief Executive works tirelessly to ensure the centre-right offers a much more inspiring vision and better deal for the young.

Thank you for engaging with and supporting Bright Blue’s work in 2022. I very much hope you continue to do so in 2023 as we start an exciting new chapter for this think tank.

I hope you had a lovely Christmas period surrounded by family and friends. Happy New Year!

Ryan Shorthouse is the Founder and Chief Executive of Bright Blue.  [Image: Photoholgic]