John Redwood MP writes:
Conservatism promotes the freedom and opportunity of individuals and families. We incline to trusting people more and believing in governments less. Conservatives are always willing to harness the power of the state and the collective purse to help those in need, to relieve poverty, tackle a disaster or defend our freedoms against external attack. We do not want government to rule and ruin the lives of the many who can take their own risks, earn their own living and build their own futures without the state. Whilst we accept that the state can do good, it can also impede enterprise, blunt self reliance and undermine prosperity. If it presumes to itself too many decisions and pre empts too much of the total wealth and income of the society it is meant to serve it will get in the way. It will not then pursue happiness for the greatest number.
Conservatism has been punished where it adapts too far and too fast to the fashionable left of centre global consensus. On the continent of Europe we have seen most of the Christian Democrat centre right parties swept away or much diminished, the more they have trimmed to the globalist winds.
Today we are gripped by a titanic struggle of ideas. The fashionable left of centre establishment who control the main international bodies and many of the world's governments believe in a post democratic consensus of themselves and those they feel at home with. They wish to pass crucial decisions about interest rates and credit which influence economies to independent Central Banks. They wish to place trade policy under the control of international bodies and Trade Treaties. They develop a large environmental agenda to direct policy on everything from energy to transport and water from a Treaty based system orchestrated by large international conferences. They encourage substantial migrations of people and capital to make global government more necessary. They back the EU as an essay in the kind of international rules based technocratic government they favour, gradually removing national Parliaments and governments from the main decisions over laws, budgets and economies. They seek global regulation of everything from employment to communications and from industry to tax . They work closely with a limited group of large multinational companies who reinforce their messages and world view.
As more is decided by international conference, Treaties and law courts, so less and less is settled by national democratic debates. Voters become more despairing of their domestic democracies when they see their elected politicians cannot break out of the global straightjacket of policy. They claim the parties are all the same, or their apparent differences are not about the big issues people want to see debated and altered. This is most acute in the Euro area, where centrally driven policies leave high unemployment and low growth in many countries in the zone, but voters cannot change that however they vote.
Democracy is a precious flower, but also a strong one with an ability to survive in hostile climates. We have just witnessed a wave of so called populist challenges to the established global order. In eastern Europe parties got into power in disagreement with the consensus that they should allow free movement of people into their countries, and in disagreement with human rights legislation they are meant to obey under European law. Hungary and Poland have been in the global sin bin for saying wrong things.
In the USA President Trump was elected on a ticket of putting America first and disagreeing with the global dogma on a range of issues from migration to trade and tariffs. His programme to "make America great again" riled the left establishment. He both claimed their world had not worked well for blue collar and Rust belt America, and asserted things could be better if US legislators and governors made decisions popular with the voters who elected them.
In the UK some Conservatives split off from their party's position of support for membership of the EU, secured a referendum from their party leadership and helped bring off a victory for leaving. This ushered in an extraordinary four years when the establishment hit back, seeking to dilute, delay or overturn the results of the country's biggest ever poll. The public were made to vote again for their dream of laws and budgets settled in the UK by people they elect. In a decisive General election in 2019 the voters thundered to the disbelieving establishment that they meant exactly what they had said. They wanted to leave. The voters showed they were serious about leaving this most perfect example of the globalist's technocrat world, and were resentful at the disdain shown by the officials who thought the voters had not understood. In time honoured EU manner the voters were told to vote again until they gave the answer the establishment wanted.
Today Conservatives need to be proud of our beliefs. We do want to increase the freedoms of individuals and families. We do want people to keep more of their own money to spend on their own priorities. We want more to be owners. We want people to have the chance to work for themselves, to build their own businesses, to own shares in companies they work for and to own their own home. We want most to be able to choose the colour of their front door, to change the windows as they like and to feel secure from authority as they enjoy their private lives at home. We do not wish to tax them off the road, take away their personal mobility, tell them what they must think, accuse them of being too rich or successful or control how they spend their time.
We recognise that the greatest societies with more prosperity and freedom are the ones with limited government and free debate about what laws and taxes should apply. Great countries come from free peoples who control rather than fear the state.
We need to stand up for free speech, as many now are cowed by political correctness, preventing them from voicing legitimate concerns. There is a feeling on the right that the left can behave badly as much as it likes, but a right of centre protest will be dealt with more severely. Thought crimes are now often seen as more serious than physical crimes, and strongly tackled by leftwards inclining authority. You can tear down a statue in wokeish protest, but not make a reasoned case for reduced economic migration.
Conservatives do need to hear the mood of those they serve, and to understand what is sensible in the expert consensus. Conservatives are not Luddites, and we do not scorn well based learning and expertise. Nor are we slaves to poor science or to a set of academic views that are more propaganda than well based research into an uncertain world. Conservatives need to expose the follies of some expert fashions, from the Exchange Rate Mechanism to the banking crash theory of risk in the case of recent past economics. We need to challenge one sided expert opinion when there is good reason.
Conservatives as our name implies do wish to conserve what is best in our landscape, tradition and history. Conservatives are by definition green. We wish to protect the great landscapes. We encourage husbandry that protects the soil and is based on generations farming the land and passing it on to those who follow. We want to enjoy clean air and water and ensure we do not pour concrete over the best of our natural environment. We appreciate the right of animals and birds to co exist with us, and condemn animal cruelty.
Conservatives are suspicious of the grand government project to reshape our lives and direct us in ways that do not at first appeal. If something is better it will take off thanks to the commonsense of the many. It did not take subsidies or laws to get people to buy smartphones and computer pads or to switch some of their purchasing online. Other great global projects to change the way we live are up against a reluctance of people to buy in to them. People tell pollsters they are greatly concerned about climate change but only a small minority wants to buy or can afford to buy an electric car and even fewer want to rip out their gas boiler. These two policies are the current preoccupations of the fashionable globalists.
Conservatives want prosperity and freedom for the many. That means government should be helping and supporting where needed, but not hectoring and demanding changes people do not want to make. Populist politics is a cri de coeur from the many who do not benefit from the policies emerging from the global world government of the technocrats. It will not go away, as people will wish to defend or recreate their own local democracies. Take back control is a winning slogan. People will go on voting for it until it actually happens.
We need to take back control of the levers of government and take back control our language. We need to be free to discuss what matters without fear of reproach for our choice of topic. We need to be served by a government that is free to act in our interests. You cannot tax people into prosperity. You cannot legislate people into a single way of thinking. The precious flame of freedom burns in too many hearts.