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.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

"Thinking For The Individual"

After a century of posts under the header of 'Thinking For The People', offering readers a wealth of views on the political and social issues of the day, not to mention a plan for real local democracy in Britain, a strategy to make trades unions the bastions of welfare reform in the twenty-first century, and a proposal that we privatise industry all over again, this blog shall henceforth be known, in true conservative spirit, as 'Thinking For The Individual'.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Take Away Responsibility, And Men Will Become Irresponsible

The fires of poverty and injustice are raging through the suburbs of France this week, and have now made their way to the centre of the city of Lyon, a place which was once the home of a brave resistance, fighting off the distant Nazi tyranny. The smouldering whiff of rebellion courses through the air of a nation founded on the principles of freedom, equality and brotherhood.

We in Britain would be deluding ourselves if we claimed we did not understand the kind of violence that is tormenting the most depressed parts of the French Republic. Since the turn of the century, we've had rioting, which superficially we have concluded was down to racial problems. In Oldham, Burnley, Bradford and Leeds, we have seen violence, all of which we decided stemmed from the issue of race. In Glodwick, two Asian youths quarrelled with two white youths, before a wave of violence tore the last remnants of community in Oldham to the ground. In Harehills, the arrested of an Asian man was the catalyst for a night of violence in Leeds.

Whilst we may not yet have seen violence on a scale that France has endured for the past two weeks, it is still despairingly easy to come to one simple conclusion: our society is in a crisis.

The most deprived communities of Britain, just like the most deprived communities of France, are in a perpetual state of depression. Joblessness, criminality and dependence breed a society of men and women with no hope in their lives, and nothing to live for. Fear is a constant. These communities, often council estates created by government, designed to be the perfect havens for the working men of our nation, are under the thumb of violent youths, drug-dealers and gun-toting maniacs. Nobody can trust one another. People become atomised, destroying any sense of community and responsibility for one's society. This all sums up the dark, shadowy depression that has crept into the poorest parts of both our nations, and which can only be solved through serious change to the structure of our societies.

In France, the rioters and their sympathisers and apologists complain about the high-handed and apparently institutionally racist authorities, ruled over by the tough Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. It is quite possible that they are right. Too often, authority has no respect for the people who must submit to it. This is just as true in our nation, where the police have become distant and something to be quietly feared, even by the law-abiding majority. As they race across the streets of estates in their cars, sirens ablaze, stopping often to tell good people they are doing something wrong, and avoiding the gang on the street corner which looks as though it should be avoided at all costs, it is easy to conclude that they must regain the trust and respect of the most impoverished communities. It is easy for authority to demand respect, but only wisdom can teach you that the two guiding rules of respect are that it must be earned, and it must be mutual.

Of course, in Britain, there is no suggestion that respect will ever be mutual. The poorest people of Britain are ruled over by a distant government which has no respect at all for their wishes or their concerns. When the State takes away responsibility from the individual, the individual will become irresponsible. By removing freedom over all manner of issues from the British people, it has taken away their responsibilities. And now, in the most depressed communities, the lack of responsibility people have for themselves, their families and their communities is exactly what is destroying the very fabric of society.

The State has taken away the freedom and the responsibility of some of the poorest people in the French banlieues, and now the cities are burning. It truly terrifies me to contemplate how near we may be to the same thing in the inner cities of Britain.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Opening Up The Conservative Party

Francis Maude writes on the Platform blog at conservativehome.com, asking how we can become a more open Conservative Party, and how we can ultimately craft ourselves into a stronger campaigning force. My comments on the blog are as follows:

"I think a reasonable starting point would be to find ways of establishing institutions which may not be under the diktat of the Conservative Party, but would have ties to us and would be designed to have influence within the party in return for them offering their time and money and campaigning leverage to the party. These institutions could be based on professions or different parts of the electorate, e.g. 'Conservative Mothers' Alliance' or 'Taxpayers for the Conservative Party' or 'Conservative Teachers'. That way, many distinct parts of the electorate can have influence within the party and can do more for our prospects around the country.

"The reason for this is clear: political affiliation is unfashionable and is unlikely to be made more popular just by changing our leader. However, many people throughout the country do want to have their voice heard and do want to have influence, if only for their own betterment, not just the betterment of their society. By encouraging people from all walks of life to become affiliated with campaign groups which seek to give them a better life, we may be able to attract the vast grassroots army that only the best campaigning organisations have at their disposal."

We're Still United!

"There is no party more united than the Conservatives."

In recent months, I have repeated that refrain again and again. Oftentimes, as leadership candidates have come close to open warfare, this bold statement has seemed fragile and brittle. But when you take a closer look at exactly what the two Davids have to offer we, the people, you will see that very rarely has this party has such a great opportunity to maintain a unified front, gathered around a common cause.

David Davis writes in his manifesto, sent out recently to all party members along with our ballot papers, that we need 'lower and simplified taxes'. David Cameron agrees with him.

Mr. Cameron says 'No to the euro and the constitution'. So does his opponent.

David Davis wants choice and competition in the public services. David Cameron does too.

David Cameron believes in the importance of strong families and in the institution of marriage. So does David Davis.

Mr. Davis talks of 'radically devolving power to individuals and communities'. David Cameron says we must 'transfer powers to local government'.

The Conservative Party has for so long believed in the guiding values of freedom and responsibility: the principle that we should all be free from the State, but that we must never forget that we have responsibilities to our communities, our families and ourselves. Of course, the two Davids may disagree over the odd aspect of policy here, or some minor presentational matter there. David Cameron thinks it's wrong to talk too much about policy. David Davis disagrees. David Davis talks about school vouchers, whilst David Cameron offers 'real foundation hospitals'. And let us never forget that both of them, like all Conservatives, have an unequivocal commitment to the betterment of all people in our society, rich and poor, not just in their pocket, but in their hearts and minds too.

David Cameron and David Davis are two men who, like all Conservatives, believe in building a greater society, not a lesser one: not a society where the government keeps the whip-hand over its people, but where the individual, the family and the community are all free to thrive and excel, and reap the rewards when they achieve.

The question we may ask is which one really means what they say. Or we may wonder which one can present their case best to the British public.

But one thing is for sure: the Conservative Party is fundamentally united. What stronger start to his tenure in office could the next leader of our party wish for?