Now is the time for the Government to show that we are truly a different type of Conservative Party, which must ensure Treasury orthodoxy is not allowed to frustrate efforts to do what it takes to get this country through COVID-19, argues Andrew O'Brien

All our thoughts and prayers are with Boris Johnson, his fiancée and his family as he recovers from Coronavirus. We all hope that he has a speedy recovery.

Since last year's spectacular triumph in the General Election, a lot has been written ? rightly ? about the "Boris factor" in driving the political success of the Conservative Party. Boris has proven himself to be the "Heineken Tory" who can reach parts of the electorate, others can't.

But less has been written about the values and philosophy that Boris has articulated since taking office. His "One Nation" mantra has helped to reset the political debate and given assurance to the whole country that he is leading a different type of Conservative government. It has given him the honeymoon which every government needs to articulate its vision. Before COVID-19, Whitehall was rapidly formulating plans to "level up" the country and deliver the PM's "Boosterism".

Understandably, COVID-19 has shocked the system and a lot of things that were planned have been put on hold.

The danger for this new government is that this crisis could end up sinking the very communities which were won over by the PM's "One Nation" agenda and built a powerful electoral coalition.

The failures of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme have now been well documented. Thousands of small and medium sized businesses are being rejected or seeing delays in getting access to support. I have heard daily from good businesses as they have struggled to access support. These are the backbone of the UK's economy and will be critical for boosting growth and productivity in the regions.

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Social enterprises, businesses which trade to help society and employ thousands of vulnerable people at also at high risk. Together, these businesses employ 2m people and thousands are concentrated in the "Red Wall" seats where there will be extra pressure on the government to deliver. Like the country's charities and voluntary organisations, these businesses have been ignored in the Treasury's orthodoxy.

The Treasury appears to have frightened itself through the provision of billions of grants and loans to the commercial sector. The Chancellor said at first, he would do "whatever it takes" to help the economy through this crisis. Now the Treasury, in typical style, appears to have qualified that to "whatever it takes, providing it doesn't cost too much". This approach could put a hole under the water to the Prime Minister's "One Nation" vision.

Although there is a lot of focus on the medical response, the government will not only be judged on its health response to COVID-19 but also on its economic and social response. The Prime Minister has created an expectation that this is going to be a compassionate One Nation Conservative government.

If this crisis sees SMEs, social enterprises and charities go to the wall due to a lack of support and yet banks and big businesses in the cities make it through relatively unscathed, then the government will lose the public's confidence.

People are also going to ask why certain groups were prioritised over others. Why, for example, was immediate support given so swiftly to restaurants, but the local community centres have closed down? How comes Tesco and Sainsburys have got billions in business rate relief, but local social enterprises and small businesses have had to close down? Every action and every decision not to act will be measured against the government's "One Nation" rhetoric.

If the Treasury orthodoxy is allowed to drive the government's agenda, the Party may find that once COVID-19 crisis has passed that the public have changed their mind on this government. The promise of a different type of Conservatism will have been transformed into an allegation of betrayal of communities and the regions.

The Prime Minister needs his Chancellor and his Cabinet to set up to be the guardians of this One Nation agenda. They must ensure that civil servants are not allowed to frustrate efforts to do what it takes to get this country through COVID-19 in a state that enables levelling up possible in future months. Whitehall needs a vision for the future of what this country needs to look like after the crisis has passed.

Now is the time that the Government must show that we are truly a different type of Conservative Party. Otherwise its COVID-19 response will be used as a stick to beat the party over, for the rest of this Parliament and beyond.

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