The Conservative Party has always been a ‘broad church’- espousing the views of a very broad spectrum of opinion and all kinds of people across Britain. Indeed we are at our best and most successful when we are pragmatic and non-ideological. But we do coalesce around six broad principles which, at a time like this, I thought it might be worth reiterating.
We believe in freedom – freedom of the individual to do whatever they like, so long as it does not impinge on other people’s rights and freedoms. We dislike regulation, bossiness, the nanny state. People should be allowed – and encouraged - to ‘get on with it.’ We trust people and institutions to do the right thing, relying very often on good manners and sound common sense rather than rules and regulations. Socialists, of course, believe the opposite- that the state knows best and should boss us about in every possible way.
We believe in a free market economy; in capitalism and the pursuit of profit. Profit is a good thing, which incentivises people, and attracts investment. Without it (and growth) capital will head for more profitable hills. Central to a free-market economy must be a taxation regime which is fair, but as low as it can possibly be. We should allow people to make up their own minds about how they spend their own money. People need decent jobs and a fair level of pay. Socialists, of course, hate profit, hate the markets, and still believe in State ownership if at all possible. They believe in high taxation to pay for all sorts of giveaways and promises. The state should do less, and therefore need less money to do it with.
We believe in keeping our people safe - in society and from overseas threats. That’s why we accept the rule of law but expect it to be as ‘light touch’ as possible. We expect our Armed Services, and our Diplomatic service to have the resources they need to protect our shores, (resources which in my view are currently too small).
We believe in supplying those essential services which the citizen deserves - the NHS, schools, roads – but recognise that we cannot devote the whole of our national income to those things, and that therefore compromises in the level of service must be made. People need and deserve excellent education for their kids, long term care for their old folks and a decent house to live in. But the State should be a workmanlike Ford Fiesta, not a Rolls Royce. We encourage people to find alternatives or supplements to the State. 615,000 pupils currently attend the 2600 private schools in the UK. 7 million of us have private healthcare insurance. Some roads and bridges which would not otherwise be provided by the State have tolls to enable them to be built. Private investment in public goods is welcome, not to be discouraged as would the Labour Party.
We believe in looking after those who are not able to look after themselves - the sick, the elderly, the unemployed, disabled people. Society provides a safety net; the only discussion must be how high that safety net should be and what part the private, voluntary and charitable sectors should play in that caring function, thereby relieving the state and making better provision than HMG might afford.
We believe in respect - for our great old institutions - the Royal Family, Armed Services, Churches, Universities, Parliament and politics. And we respect people of all kinds - our elders and our betters; and people of every possible description, every race, every religion.
Those six principles are at the core, the very heart of what it means to be a conservative; and it is my view that they chime with the instinctive core beliefs of the British people as a whole. We must return to them; and then the people will return to us.