Thinking For The Individual

Formerly known as 'Thinking For The People', this site offers some reflections on the state of British society and her people from the perspective of a libertarian Conservative with a passionate belief in the pillars of freedom and responsibility.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The recipe for a Conservative renaissance

The last few days have been taken up by talk about where the Conservative Party will go under a new leader. Articles have been written, interviews have been given and speeches have been made by potential leaders. Some say that we need to denounce Thatcherism. Some talk of a liberal naissance for a Tory Party hoping to be modern and cool. Others want us to follow the tack of this last election by talking about the issues that matter to people in their daily lives.

People have been nagging themselves silly, worrying that we need to have a fundamental change in our underpinning philosophy. I disagree. Now more than ever, the Conservatives need to trumpet their principles of small government, the freedom of the people and local empowerment. Our belief in families and communities stands in stark contrast to Labour’s inexorable move towards a powerful Whitehall. Our belief in enterprise stands in contrast to Labour’s treatment of small businesses, especially their disdain for the self-employed – which became apparent when they wanted to ignore them in statistics for average income. Our belief in rewarding hard workers stands in contrast to Blair’s Britain, where a man earning the minimum wage must pay twenty pence for every pound instantly to Gordon Brown, and then usually at least another twenty pence if he buys a four-pack of Carling or twenty Lambert & Butler’s.

My party does not face the same challenge that Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair tried to overcome in the eighties and nineties, when Labour was a party full of foolish thinking and loony left madness. The Conservatives have a strong founding philosophy which we must never be afraid of trumpeting. We need to change only three things. We need new people at the top. This has already been going on under previous leaders. There is a tonnage of capable figures in our shadow cabinet and on our backbenchers, ranging from tough, strong right-wingers like David Davis, to liberal, more homely chaps like John Bercow – to name only two. I firmly believe that the Conservatives are the best equipped party in the House of Commons with Members of Parliament who have all the qualities that the people seek in their leaders – charisma, charm, intellect and strength. All of these people must be in the public eye when our new leader – however popular he or she may be on their own – is elected.

Then we need new policies. We have fought a successful election campaign with a decent strategy that has paid off. But we can not simply win the next election by playing up to populist fears about immigration, disciple in schools or cleanliness in hospitals. Thinkers on the centre-right have a mass of ideas which will propel the Conservatives into power one day with a huge popular mandate. We should not be afraid to put forward radical plans for the future of Britain. We should not be afraid to speak about empowering parents in the way we fund schools, or giving patients the opportunity to spend their money at hospitals of their choice. We should not be afraid to talk about a massive relief in the burden of taxation and an immense lessening of the role of this part-Napoleonic, part-Stalinist State of ours. There is a wealth of ideas, from school ‘vouchers’ and social insurance for healthcare to a flat-rate of income tax and elected commissioners for public services, that we should discuss readily and eagerly and which will one day be part of a radical Conservative manifesto.

Finally, with our star team and our radical programme, there is only one other challenge we need to face up to. Across Britain, particularly in the forgotten inner cities of the north which I have written about recently, people are flocking away from their traditional Labour allegiance by the million. They are fed up with the champagne-drinking, Mercedes-driving, dinner party lovers who reign on high in the Labour Party. They don’t like the memories of the war in Iraq, but what they really don’t like are politicians who are all talk and no action, who only want them for their vote once every four years and then for their money all the rest of the time. What this last general election tells us is that we need to make a breakthrough in the inner cities, because unless we pull back our support there, the Liberal Democrats will be the beneficiaries of a Labour decline, not the Conservatives. With a four-year campaign starting the day the new leader is elected, promising honesty and virtue, offering salvation from the misery and depression which is sadly commonplace around the country, we will win the next general election with a colossal popular mandate.

These guidelines must be followed to the word whoever the next leader of the Conservative Party may be. With a strong team of leaders, a radical manifesto for government and a strategy which refuses to brand any part of Britain a ‘no-go area’, we will become the true party of government once more. Thanks to Michael Howard’s successes in the Midlands and the south, that task has been made easier. The next Conservative leader, with a mediocre share of the vote nationally, has a challenge ahead. But it is one worth fighting.

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