Saturday, 2 February 2019

"The things we share" - a message for Conservatives

Last night I spoke to about 30 Conservatives in the upstairs room at Bingley's Brown Cow where we'd enjoyed a curry (a proper home-cooked one courtesy of my colleague Naveed). This is the gist of what I said.

I promised myself I wouldn't use the 'B' word and although some people thought I meant Bradford, I intend to stick with not using the 'B' word. Instead I want to talk about the values, ideas and principles we have as Conservatives regardless of which side we took in the 2016 referendum. There will come a time when we look back to the debate out there now and recall with shock the manner in which it was conducted.

So what do we share? This isn't in any order or structure, just the things that came into my head when thinking about what to say tonight.

Modern isn't always good or better. As Conservatives we want to preserve the things we have now, maintain institutions that have served us well. Just because something is shiny and new it doesn't mean it is automatically better. Conservation, preservation and tradition matter to us as Conservatives

Conservatives have a strong sense of duty, of personal responsibility. We do not believe you can sub-contract caring to the state, we don't believe that the first answer to every question is more government. And we feel that we are responsible for our own lives and for doing what we can to live those lives well.

Conservatives have a real sense of belonging, of place and of identity. This is what we mean by patriotism - not a sort of jingoist, unquestioning worship of flags or monarchs but rather that this is our place and we will stand together to protect it and work together to make it better.

As Conservatives we believe in the idea of business, of hard work and enterprise. Too often business men and women are portrayed as the bad guys - wouldn't it be brilliant to see a peak time drama where the hero is a businessman or businesswoman rather than a lawyer or doctor or policeman. It's not that we've anything against doctors and policemen - not sure about the lawyers - but rather that the contribution of business people is every bit as important as the contribution of doctors, nurses, policemen and social workers.

And Conservatives believe in community, in the idea that we should look out for eachother. In the principle I've spoken of before - that we start with fixing the things we can see from our front doorstep. If everyone did this - even seemingly small things like Tony here fixing stone walls - if everyone made where we live just a little bit better, the whole world benefits.

Finally - although there may be many other things - as Conservatives we don't think the man in Whitehall knows best. One of the things about government - especially the EU (but I promised not to speak about that) - is that for many people it is, physically and psychologically, a very long way off. What does the man in Whitehall know about the mum in a terraced house in Denholme? All he can see is what somebody puts in a briefing or some numbers in a spreadsheet. And that young Mum - or the old gent in the supported housing over the road from her - has no means of influencing or effecting the decisions being made that affect her, or his, life.

Regardless of what we get as an outcome from the 'B' word, we will still be Conservatives and we will still share these values and principles - community, duty, responsibility, care - as well as the objective of making where we all live a little better than it was before us. Let's not spoil this with fallings out, arguments and rudeness, and let's not lose sight of the truth that our values - Conservative values - are not shared by our opponents.

Those opponents do think the man in Whitehall knows best. They do think it's OK to sub-contract personal responsibility to the state. They hate business and business people. And they believe personal, voluntary initiative - acts of caring - are a failure not part of what makes society work.

So let's keep these things we share as Conservatives in mind and do what we've always done, make where we live a little bit better, looked after the good things already here, maintain traditions and look after friends, family and neighbours.



Etu said...

If you really don't think that Whitehall knows best, then why don't you work to reverse the centralising power-grab by the Thatcher governments from local authorities?

Why don't you give local democracy some real teeth?

Is it because the people of some places, as Sheffield once did, might set up some measure of local socialism? And furthermore, that it might become apparent that folks were quite often happy with that?

It was ironic, that the arch centralisers were the first to claim that the worst aspect of the EU was, that it dared to do that too, even after due parliamentary consideration and Treaty agreement.

Anonymous said...

But there is an inherent conflict in your position - enterprise results in new things or doing old things in different ways, yet you maintain that conservatism involves 'preserving the things we have now'. You can't have it both ways.

Conservatism should be about values, about why we do things and how we create opportunities and reward enterprise to make the things we value better for all of us.

Curmudgeon said...

Very good - I can't find anything much to disagree with there. But it's a pity that such principles are so often discarded by Conservative governments when in power in favour of nannying and economic dirigisme.

@Etu - no problem with some measure of local socialism provided there is no obligation on central government to bail it out when it fails, as it inevitably will.

Curmudgeon said...

@Etu - didn't you say last year to Simon that you would never darken his door again? What has changed?

Curmudgeon said...

@Anon - no, conservatism doesn't rule out any change, just implies that it is approached with a certain degree of caution. Recreating society from the ground up is always a recipe for disaster.

Anonymous said...

Curmudgeon - I agree and that's the point I was trying to make, but Simon seems to think it's all about just 'preserving the things we have now' (in aspic, one assumes).

Etu said...

If you believe in communities, then surely that means implementing a properly-enforced taxation system, local and national, to provide the public services and the infrastructure needed to support them - to whatever degree our democracy resolves that they should be supported.

Sadly, Simon, your party has reportedly been among the foremost in Europe, in resisting steps which would otherwise ensure that the super rich and powerful, both individuals and corporate, paid what they ought.

This Is A Colleague Announcement said...

Fine words, Simon, but what does your party actually do on these points? Its actions - which speak far louder than words -suggest that its values are something else entirely.

James Higham said...

Do wish I’d been there.

Etu said...

How does removing EU Regional Aid, which has transformed many parts of the North, South Wales etc. "make these places where we live a little bit better" Simon?

Before you say "but it's only our money coming back anyway" are you seriously claiming, that your party would have dedicated the same money to that purpose?

Curmudgeon said...

Ah yes, the familiar Remainer argument of "we are so crap at running our own country that it's better for us that someone else spends our money on our behalf and charges us a fat fee for doing so."

Isn't that basically like being a colony?

Etu said...

I seem to have been met with a Straw Man, a response to a point that I did not raise, Simon, so let's consider this then.

How does it "make these places where we live a little bit better" to have central UK funding to local authorities cut, under the May government's continuing austerity, leaving councils, such as Conservative Northampton, in complete financial disarray?