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.