'One Nation Labour' is an oxymoron

Jonathan Waddell

Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different time zones or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by different breeding, are fed by different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws … The Rich and the Poor.

Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil (The Two Nations)

Ed Miliband’s 2012 speech was an interesting one to say the least, and it goes without saying that for many members of the Conservative party such as myself, every time he said the words “One Nation”, a little piece of me died inside. Not just because he so obviously and admittedly stole the term from the Conservatives, not least because he greatly misunderstood the concept but largely because the concept of One Nation, is actually entirely incompatible with his and his parties politics. However, he has managed to continue the front of One Nation Labour on past the 2013 conference and will continue into 2014.

Please now draw your attention to the quote above from Benjamin Disraeli’s Sybil, a book written with the intention of outlining the great problems of working class Britain and the divide between the rich and the poor at the time. This quote is one of the best to outline exactly what he aimed to achieve in his political career and his writing, he explains that not only are the rich and the poor two different types of people, but they have no understanding of each other, no sympathy to each others ideals or lives but perhaps most importantly, no connection to each other. It’s with this that I must stress, there is no vitriol in this statement or message, nor is there malice to the rich or the poor, and for very good reason.

The ideals and purpose of One Nation, is to bring these two nations together, to find that missing connection and make two nations become One Nation. Just look at recent statements by Sir John Major let alone his entire career and compare them to statements Ed Miliband has been making his entire career. The fact of the matter is that while the focus for One Nation Tories is Social Mobility and making the poor richer, the focus of Ed Miliband is to make the rich poorer, to punish ambition and tax success. Social Mobility, in the eyes of One Nation Tories, is the link between the rich and the poor. Opportunity is what it takes to make the Two Nations become One.

Miliband and the Labour party want to attack the well off. Not just those who have inherited wealth but those who have worked for everything they have. That’s not One Nation, that’s class warfare. How does that encourage Social Mobility? How does that encourage someone to work hard, do better, achieve more if once you have achieved more than you ever thought you could, the government take half of your earnings? The simple answer is that it doesn’t, which is why a leftist like Miliband can simply not be a man of One Nation, nor can any leftist party like the Labour party be a party of One Nation. One Nation Labour is an oxymoron. Anyone who wants to persecute any part of society is not someone who subscribes to One Nation, how can they? They don’t see One Nation, they see multiple nations and instead of joining them together, they wish to simply eliminate one of them. Each to their own, but I know I do not want to live in a society that is that way inclined.

Today’s two nations are in fact not as clear as they were back when Disraeli made his observations in Sybil, where it was the middle class factory owners against the working class factory workers. Today we see a society that has wages that spread from the lowest possible to the highest imaginable and everything in between. If we use traditional terms like Working and Middle class, then the difference between them is as little as a Penny on your average wage.

Of course, we also have people who live desperately on the welfare state to get by, and these are now the desperate people in our society who need help. Labour and Miliband think that throwing money at it is the best thing for them, and of course, money will do them well in the short run; it will pay their rent and put food on their table - but what does it do for them in the long run? The reality is that nothing will help them better than opportunity, education, work and social mobility. Ed Miliband’s ‘socialism’ is nothing more than social welfarism, and as much as welfare helps people in the short term, it does little to help anyone in the long run. Today’s two nations is that of people on welfare with little or no way to get into work and young professionals in private sector jobs and working their way up their career ladders. If we wish to see One Nation, we must wish to help those who on welfare make their way onto a path of financial security and social mobility.

If Labour wish to be “the party of the working class” they can have it, because we all know they can’t be the party of One Nation, the party of One Nation has to be a party that encourages hard work, ambition, self-determination and your own path to prosperity, certainly not a party that preaches class-warfare and wants to punish success and ambition. A One Nation party is a party of all classes and backgrounds, not just singling out one and attacking another.

This post was originally posed on the site of Conservative Future Scotland North.

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For a supposed ‘wonk’, Ed Miliband has surprisingly few ideas of his own

James Willby

You might remember that there was a break-in at Labour HQ. The joke was that the thieves had gone in looking for a policy but hadn’t come back with anything of note.

There’s been talk of “predators and producers”, of “the squeezed middle”, but the only clear instances where Miliband has produced anything like a coherent vision were with his use of Disraeli’s one nationism and his proposal for a freeze on energy bills. Then with the intervention of former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major, Miliband thought he had finally struck gold.

“Many people face a choice this winter between heating and eating” he quoted at a despairing David Cameron.  “These are the ordinary people of this country who this Prime Minister will never meet and whose lives they will never understand.”  It was, to quote a boxing term, a straight KO and the Prime Minister returned to Downing Street to lick his wounds. So, should we Conservatives be worried by such a performance? Does it herald the change of fortunes Labour activists have been so desperate to see? Hardly. 

The Labour leader’s use of Disraeli and Major, whilst good politics, illustrates his Party’s fundamental weakness – simply put, it has no idea who it is or what it’s for. From free schools to referenda, from reducing the taxation on the poorest to green investment, everything that is fresh and exciting is coming from the ongoing tussle between the Coalition parties. The fact Miliband is forced to rely on the words of former Conservative Prime Ministers in his battle with Mr. Cameron shows just how bad the situation has become. Nineteen months from a general election and Labour’s ideas factory is a wizened burnt-out old husk.

Despite endless internal reviews and conversations, it has produced nothing of substance and Miliband’s tenure has seen him hop from bandwagon to bandwagon in a vain attempt to capture the public mood. Chris Bryant’s attempt to get tough on immigration blew up in his face. Tristram Hunt is now floundering over free schools, first backing them then seemingly veering away, and on HS2 I doubt anybody within the Labour Party knows what their policy actually is.

In laying claim to Disraeli’s one-nationism and Major’s compassionate conservatism, Miliband invites us to judge him by their principles. Does his opposition to deficit reduction chime with Disraeli’s observation that “Debt is a prolific mother of folly and of crime”? If he becomes Prime Minister, will he seriously be able to claim that Labour “inherited a sick economy and passed on a sound one” as Major did?  Perhaps we can best sum up Labour’s dilemma by paraphrasing Thatcher. You see Ed; the problem with ‘Milibandism’ is that eventually you run out of other people’s ideas. It might be time to get some of your own. 

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The TRG: The Home of ‘One Nation Conservatism’

David Cowan

There are many strands of thought which flow through the Conservative Party’s rich history and have contributed to it throughout the centuries, but none have done as much to define it as One Nation Conservatism – and it has found its home in the Tory Reform Group for over thirty years.

One Nation Conservatism can trace its roots back to Edmund Burke, who emphasised the organic nature of society and its reliance on social and political institutions, and Benjamin Disraeli, who imbibed this vision with a social conscience. Since then it has influenced many of the party’s greatest statesmen, such as Lord Randolph Churchill, Stanley Baldwin, Winston Churchill, R.A. Butler, and Harold Macmillan. As a political compass, rather than a rigid set of rules, One Nation Conservatism helped pave the way for Britain’s transition towards embracing the welfare state and universal suffrage without compromising the fundamental social and political institutions our society depends upon.

When the TRG was founded as the modern home of One Nation Conservatism, Peter Walker put it very well when he said ‘My objective as a Tory was to get the correct balance between efficiency and compassion. The trouble with compassion devoid of efficiency was that it never provided the means to exercise compassion. The trouble with efficiency devoid of compassion was that it created a society so divisive that efficiency itself was destroyed’.

During Margaret Thatcher’s premiership the TRG lived up to this mission by supporting the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, with its 1976 publication supporting the sale of council houses to tenants; Geoffrey Howe’s 1981 austerity budget; Michael Heseltine’s Enterprise Zones and Development Corporations; and Ken Clarke’s budgets which helped deliver low debt, low inflation, and high growth. It was crucial that the failed socialist experiment be scrapped without undermining the state’s ability to help the most vulnerable in society.

Their example has continued to inspire senior Conservative figures, including both David Cameron and Boris Johnson! Today in government One Nation Conservatives are helping deliver the Coalition’s much needed public services reforms at a time when the finances are once more in dire straits because of Labour misrule. As a party we are now having a vibrant and dynamic debate about how to change the state so that it is more economically efficient and more socially compassionate. In this exciting political climate it is the Student Tory Reform Group’s aim is to inspire the next generation of Conservatives to explore the One Nation tradition and to take it into the future so the vision of Burke and Disraeli can live on.

If you want to learn more about STRG or get involved then please feel free to join our Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/studenttrg/, follow us on Twitter at @ToryReformGroup, or email me at student@trg.org.uk. You are also more than welcome to come to our events later this year, which includes our Student Reception at this year’s Party Conference in October and our Autumn Reception with Michael Heseltine in November.

This article was originally published on Conservatives Student.

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'Winning with the Coalition': full text of Stephen Dorrell's speech to the TRG

Nik Darlington 7.19am

Full text of the Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP’s speech to the Tory Reform Group in Parliament yesterday evening.

WINNING WITH THE COALITION

The TRG has always had a soft spot for Disraeli. His most ardent admirer couldn’t describe Disraeli as an unbending man of principle. (He had a more obvious – though often no less flexible – competitor for that accolade). But he was a supreme practitioner of the art of politics – and he can lay a better claim than anyone else to be the founder of the modern Conservative Party.

One Nation

Indeed so attractive is Disraeli’s combination of humanity and purpose that Ed Miliband is the second Labour leader in 20 years to attempt to cloak himself in Disraeli’s clothes. Like Tony Blair before him, Miliband is attracted to the slogan “One Nation” but, also like Blair, he faces the problem that his party cannot reconcile Disraeli’s aspiration with its own inherited prejudices.

Does Miliband celebrate success, or does he envy it? Does he embrace excellence and challenge others to emulate it, or does he regard it as evidence of injustice? Does he want to empower the innovators, the people who get there first, or does he prefer to preserve the appearance of equality by moving at the pace of the slowest?

In short does he believe that human progress is powered by disruptive individuals who challenge the societies in which they live, or does he believe that progress is a collective endeavour?

Disraelians have clear answers to these questions. They draw on the traditions of Burke, Pitt, Canning and, ironically, Peel. They know that successful societies evolve and that inherited institutions provide continuity and stability; but they also know that they must be constantly changing in response to new challenges and that it is the interests of every citizen to ensure that individuals are responsible for their own actions and, critically, encouraged to test out new ideas.

As David Cameron puts it – “There is such a thing as society; it’s just not the same thing as the state”. When Ed Miliband can repeat those words to his party conference and receive a standing ovation he will have earned the right to speak of One Nation.

England does not love coalitions

But it isn’t that aspect of Disraeli’s legacy on which I want to focus this evening. Instead I want to address directly his famous dictum that “England does not love coalitions”. This observation is often quoted to challenge the present government – and to suggest that it is somehow abnormal for politicians with different personal and intellectual roots to work together to create a stable government.

Such people misunderstand both the historical context of Disraeli’s remark and, more importantly, the conclusions which he and his successors drew from it.

It is ironic to reflect that until Disraeli lost office to Gladstone in 1868, his only experience of stable single party government was the government of Robert Peel which he worked so hard to destroy during his first parliament as an MP.

Seen in this context, his observation about coalitions was less an observation on the normal state of mid-nineteenth century politics, and more a statement of a problem which is faced by all leaders in an open political system.

If a government is to achieve results which endure, it has to give itself the political space to achieve substantial change. It needs authority – what the Romans called auctoritas – and that cannot be achieved if the survival of the government itself is always subject to negotiation in the shifting sands of parliamentary politics.

It was his experience of those shifting sands in the 1850’s which encouraged Disraeli to build the foundations of the modern Conservative Party in order to provide himself with a stable Parliamentary majority – and with it the political authority he needed to carry through the social reforms for which his government of the 1870’s is remembered.

He understood that his generation would never form a stable Parliamentary majority solely on the basis of its traditional support from the landed interest. He therefore challenged his party to reach out beyond its comfort zone and win support in the fast growing cities of Victorian England.

He repeatedly declared it to be his central purpose to “improve the condition of the people” – and he went on to organize and mobilize them to give him the authority to deliver on that pledge.

Salisbury and Chamberlain

Furthermore, and perhaps even more surprisingly to his party, Disraeli’s successor, Lord Salisbury, a representative of the landed interest if ever there was one, continued Disraeli’s work by attracting into the Conservative Party the Chamberlain Liberals – who became the foundation of the “Birmingham” tradition which played such an important role in the Conservative Party during the first half of the twentieth century.

There are, therefore two key lessons for us in the story of Conservative politics in the second half of the nineteenth century.

First, the whole point of the Party organization which Disraeli created was to reach out beyond the party’s core constituency and create a basis of support for Conservative politics among people who would never previously have thought of themselves as Conservatives.

Second, Salisbury’s alliance with Chamberlain introduced into Conservative politics the radical, non-conformist spirit of Birmingham which ensured that the new party organization was able to express the ideas and aspirations of the new voters whose support it was seeking.

Cameron and Clegg

The fact that Disraeli adopted the name Conservative for his new organization was part of his political art. He would have understood the absurdity of Blairite rhetoric about Britain as a “young country” – and he would undoubtedly have been memorably sarcastic about it – but he also understood something which is ultimately more important.

If a political party is to secure sufficient authority to allow a government to govern it has to reach beyond its comfort zone. It must challenge itself to broaden its appeal. It must learn to articulate the ambitions and aspirations not just of its established supporters, but of those whose support it seeks.

Disraeli was not interested in creating an instrument for the complacent defence of self interest; he sought to maintain the trust of the traditionalists while reaching beyond them to embrace a changing world.

Our challenge is, as it always is, to do exactly the same.

That is why David Cameron was so right to lead the Conservative Party into coalition with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, and why the record and programme of the Coalition Government are so deserving of the support of all Conservatives.

It is worth reminding ourselves about the choice that Cameron faced.

He could have relied on the ideological certainties of the comfort zone. He led the largest party in Parliament so he could have formed a minority government drawn from a single party which had been supported by 36% of the electorate and set out to deal with the most serious economic recession since the 1930’s on the basis that every important vote in the House of Commons would have required him to negotiate a new coalition of support.

It would have been to re-create, almost precisely, the circumstances which led Disraeli to make his remark about coalitions – it was made at the end of the budget debate in 1852, just before a critical vote which brought the government down as a result of a parliamentary deal on the opposition benches.

The alternative course was to learn from the experience of Disraeli, Salisbury and Chamberlain. They demonstrated the importance of looking beyond parliamentary deals and creating a stable government based on a parliamentary majority which reflects popular support.

The Coalition Agreement of 2010 has provided the basis for a government which has a parliamentary majority of 78, drawn from parties which were supported by 59% of the electorate.

Coalition succeeding and retaining public support

Sceptics argued at the time that the Coalition Agreement would not hold and that the government’s authority would prove to be illusory. They said that ministers would be unable to work together. They were wrong about that. They said that the Government’s parliamentary majority would prove to be unstable. They were wrong about that. They said that party members would not support the Coalition. They were wrong about that too.

In fact the Coalition has so far confounded the sceptics on virtually every count. They expected it to be a weak government which was unable to confront the key issues facing our country. In the event it is proving to be an effective government which is carrying through necessary but uncomfortable changes across the full range of government activity – and retaining remarkable levels of public support as it does so.

Mid term opinion polls can usually be relied upon to produce lurid headlines for governing parties – and voter support for both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats has certainly fallen since the General Election. It is however worth noting that despite these mid-term doldrums, Labour has been unable to establish even a minimal lead in public opinion over the combined votes of the coalition parties.

Voters are well aware that our country faces major issues and they would rightly be unforgiving if they felt that their government was absorbed by the machinations of parliamentary politics. In fact, while they don’t like everything it does, they see a government which has secured and is using the political authority necessary to address the challenges we face.

Economic change

From the day it was formed, the most urgent challenge facing the Coalition has been the need to restructure our economy to allow us to compete successfully in the global market place. Meeting that challenge requires the Coalition to address two issues, both of which are work in progress.

First, it was essential from the beginning, and remains essential today, that the government has a credible plan to bring its own budget under control.

You don’t have to believe that the banking crisis was “made in Downing Street” (which it wasn’t) to recognize that the scale of our government deficit was the result of decisions made there – by, among others, Ed Balls and Ed Milliband. Despite their protestations of political virginity, the two Eds were in it up to their elbows. They spent when they should have saved; they ran deficits when they should have run surpluses.

The result was that the Coalition inherited a structural deficit in our public finances which qualified us for life membership of Club Med and threatened Britain with a crisis of confidence in financial markets.

The fact that Britain has retained its triple A rating and, more importantly, is able to borrow at roughly German interest rates despite running a government deficit comparable with Greece, is due to the fact that the Coalition has demonstrated that it is willing to take the steps necessary to put our public finances back on to a sustainable basis.

The broad basis of its support is key to its political success. Some elements in the Coalition would have preferred sharper spending reductions (for example on overseas aid spending, or possibly on health); others would have attached a lower priority to holding down the tax burden. But none of them would have been able to carry their policy either in the House of Commons or, more importantly, with the public because they did not command sufficient public support.

The Coalition exists because none of its members believe, like the two Eds, that the solution to excessive debt is more borrowing. The electorate took a decisive step away from that approach in 2010, and the Coalition has agreed a deficit reduction programme which commands the confidence of the financial markets in part because its broad political base enhances its credibility.

The two Eds continue to argue that we need to borrow more – indeed it is an interesting intellectual speculation to wonder in what circumstances they would acknowledge the need to borrow less – but the fact of the Coalition has made it impossible for them to win that argument.

Growth

But economic policy is not just about deficit reduction. When governments borrow too much they undermine the stability of an open economy which destroys the opportunity for growth. Having established a credible programme of deficit reduction, the Coalition has also recognized the need to ensure that the engine of growth is reignited.

Growth is not created in Whitehall. It is the result of businesses meeting demand for goods and services at prices which consumers can afford to pay. It is a process of continuous product, service and process enhancement driven by new insights about a changing world.

Furthermore it takes place in markets which are always changing, and where the pace of change is quickening all the time. Continuing technical advances, instant communications and the continuing process of globalization, represent unprecedented forces for economic change which are generating new growth opportunities, in particular in emerging economies, which, in turn lead to new challenges and opportunities for western economies.

For virtually every business this combination of circumstances creates a demand for radical change. The challenge for our society is to ensure that our political and social structures reflect the sense of urgency which this relentless process demands.

That is why the Coalition has introduced a wide range of measures to target investment funds at priority areas and reduce regulations which restrict the ability of businesses to respond to the demands of their customers. It is also why the House of Commons will tomorrow be considering further changes to the planning system to reduce its ability to constrain economic development.

Once again the Coalition is able to draw strength from the breadth of its base. Economic change is uncomfortable; it impacts on the daily lives of every one of us. It requires us to surrender the familiar and trust in our ability to conquer the unknown. It requires us to unlearn the old lesson about “holding on to nurse, for fear of finding something worse”.

That is why it is important to engage people in the process – to demonstrate that growth is not motivated by a desire to pour more concrete on green field sites in order to pay higher bonuses to bankers. Growth provides the means to deliver environmental objectives, housing improvements, as well as improved job prospects and improved public services. But growth can only happen if businesses are able to change in response to the demands of their customers.

Establish a Growth Commission

An idea was suggested to me recently which I believe the government should consider as a way of further reinforcing electoral and political support for this process of economic change. It is based on the experience of Sweden in the 1990’s, when they faced some familiar economic challenges – unsustainable public finances coupled with an uncompetitive private sector.

The Swedes established an Advisory Commission, independent of government, which performed the dual function of challenging government to make changes which were necessary to allow their economy function more effectively and – by making the case for such changes in public from outside the political world – help the government win public and political support to carry them through.

It is not unlike the system of independent advice, publicly given, which John Major’s government established after Black Wednesday to improve the quality of policy making on interest rates in the days when they were determined in Whitehall. No-one argues for a return to “political money”, but the Swedish precedent provides an interesting option for maintaining, and further reinforcing, the Coalition’s core commitment to build a more open and competitive economy.

Reforming public services

No political priority is more sensitive than the requirement that all public services, and in particular health and education, must deliver equitable access to services which meet high quality standards as well as high standards of efficiency.

This sensitivity arises because we are all involved both as funders through our taxes and as actual or potential service users. If the whole community feels itself to be affected by decisions taken about these services, it is inevitable that the  politicians will also take an interest in those decisions – indeed the politicians would be taken to task by voters if they did not.

For example the changes which are currently faced by health and care providers are as fundamental as the changes faced by any global trading business. Our hospital sites may now look relatively modern following the substantial investment of recent years, but the system in which they work is fundamentally ill-suited to the times. In healthcare, as in every other sector, consumer demands and developing technologies are driving a ferocious pace of change.

But the changes which are required – which will lead to a smaller hospital service and much greater emphasis on community-based services – will challenge public perceptions; people will be asked to transfer their trust from visible structures to largely invisible systems, which experience has so far taught them are often unreliable. They will be inclined to believe that service levels are being reduced – although all the evidence actually points to significant improvements in outcomes if the system is refocused towards early intervention and prevention.

Health and Wellbeing Boards will have the ability to prepare the way for these changes by looking beyond the silos created by history and re-imagining a care system built around the needs of the patient. Their roots in local communities will strengthen their ability to carry through radical change, but it is also – once again – the breadth of the political base of the Coalition which offers the opportunity to carry through fundamental change.

Public services need to be open to disruptive new ideas. Closed systems are too easily convinced of their own excellence; mediocrity goes unrecognized and shiboleths go unchallenged. We need to encourage challenge in a system which instinctively distrusts newcomers.

But if we are to maintain public confidence during this process we need to demonstrate both nationally and locally that changes are being implemented in order to improve the quality of service delivered – not simply to save money. It is a task to which the Coalition is singularly well-suited.

Europe

The final issue on which I want to touch this evening is another which, contrary to general perception, I believe the Coalition is well placed to address.

Most observers will tell you that they have been pleasantly surprised that Coalition minsters have been able to agree policies on deficit reduction, student fees, planning and civil nuclear power, to name but a few, but they go on to say that “they’ll never agree on Europe”.

In other words, we have been wrong every time so far, but we are right this time.

In fact the Coalition parties have a broad measure of agreement about Europe.

No-one favours joining the Euro; nor does anyone favour joining the economic union which it is increasingly clear that our continental partners intend to create.

Those are decisions made, but the debate in Britain continues to muse about the likelihood of the failure of the Euro and the “threat” of a developing superstate.

The real issues we need to face are quite different.

The developing economic union is our largest overseas market. It would be odd if it were not – it is the largest market in the world and it is on our doorstep.

It is sometimes argued that we run a trade deficit with the economic union and that it therefore has more at stake in its relationship with us than we do with it.

That is vainglorious nonsense on two counts. Firstly we are a significantly smaller share of their total trade than they are of ours; secondly, and much more importantly, it ignores completely the biggest shared economic interest of all between Britain and the economic union which lies in the City of London.

London is quite simply the world’s premier financial market. It is hugely in the interests of both Britain and our partners that Europe as a whole is able to benefit from the opportunities that London’s pre-eminence creates.

Financial services may not be the fashionable theme of the moment, but sometimes in life it helps to be uncool.

London’s financial services sector is part of our national competitive advantage. We should nurture it and promote it – and we should understand that to allow it to be separated from its natural economic hinterland is simply absurd.

Absurd from the UK point of view – but equally absurd from the point of view of an economic union which badly needs access to all the capital resources and trading opportunities it can create.

In other words I believe the European argument has changed fundamentally over the last decade. Our partners have decided to create an economic union and we have chosen not to be part of it. It is a decision made. On both sides. Job done.

It will be for our grandchildren to decide whether we were right; they will write the history, not us. Our job is to make our decision work.

And that is where the role of the Coalition is so important.

Different parts of the Coalition will express this analysis in different language, but there is a shared understanding of the importance of the endeavour. Just as the broad basis of the Coalition helps it to win authority to tackle difficult issues of economic and social change, so I believe it can be the ability of the Coalition to reach beyond the comfort zone of a single party which creates the opportunity achieve a real change for the better in our relationship with the rest of Europe.

Conclusion

And so we are back to Disraeli.

He built the Conservative Party as a permanent coalition between the landed interest and the Victorian cities. His coalition was further broadened when Chamberlain made Birmingham a Conservative slogan.

That coalition held office for two thirds of the twentieth century, but towards the end of the century it ignored Disraeli’s challenge and retreated into its comfort zone.

In 2010, David Cameron challenged both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to leave their comfort zones and face the realities of office in a Coalition that has the right to speak for the majority its compatriots.
In doing so the Coalition has demonstrated both its ability and its willingness to face issues which other governments have regarded as too hot to handle.

The Coalition Agreement is David Cameron’s answer to Disraeli’s challenge.

The issue for the future is simple.

The Coalition Agreement comes to an end.

Disraeli’s challenge does not.


ENDS

The Tories Must Not Dither Over Immigration

David Cowan 2.51pm

Immigration is one of those topics politicians would rather avoid. But last Saturday in the Daily Mail, Nicholas Soames, a TRG patron, co-wrote an article with the Labour MP Frank Field about the dangers of current levels of immigration.

Their concerns centre on the pressures of large scale immigration on social services - and housing in particular. The population is set to increase from 62.3 million to a staggering 70 million over the next fifteen years.

The immigration debate is often reduced to a mundane battle of statistics. Though just focusing on the economic aspect of immigration does not do nearly enough justice to the scale of the problem.

The non-economic arguments are primarily social and cultural, which is why it has been such an emotive issue for so many years. It is also why politicians are reluctant to address it out of a fear of alienating the BME (black and minority ethnic) electorate. Yet the problem of socially fragmented and culturally segregated communities arising from such rapid levels of immigration has to be addressed.

Unfortunately there are many examples that demonstrate how this social fragmentation and cultural segregation is happening. In Tower Hamlets, women who refuse to wear a veil frequently receive death threats, while homosexuals are openly attacked in the streets. Sharia courts are operating across the country despite the fact that our laws do not allow special privileges to be granted to any one group over another. Even so-called ‘honour killings’ are on the increase, according to the Guardian. We should also not forget that the perpetrators of the 7/7 atrocities were born and bred in Britain and that the problem of home-grown Islamist extremism is still very much with us.

All that notwithstanding, many immigrants are decent, hardworking people just trying to make a living for themselves and their families in a new country. Britain should be a welcoming and tolerant country in which people can come to work and live in peace.

But there is a point at which mass immigration does become socially unsustainable. As David Cameron said in a speech last year:

“Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream.  We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.  We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.”

The Tories must offer that vision. To take pride in Britain as a country is not just a subjective whim, as valueless as the postmodernist doctrine of state multiculturalism - or rather cultural relativism as it should really be called. To take pride in one’s country is an objective expression of a sense of belonging and a love for a place we call home.

Yet patriotism has been hijacked by nationalist extremists and dismissed as an embarrassment by the leftist intelligentsia. Tories must separate patriotism from the vile doctrine of nationalism in order to make a robust case for more socially sustainable levels of immigration. No one has done that more successfully than the self-declared ‘Tory Anarchist’ George Orwell, whose definition of patriotism in ‘Notes on Nationalism’ probably cannot be beaten:

“By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life. A patriot believes this country to be the best place in the world for himself but has no wish to force his ideas on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally.”

That is how Tories must defend British patriotism. After all, it is for this very reason why Benjamin Disraeli is one of the greatest figures in the Conservative party’s history. As Lord Salisbury said of Disraeli, “Zeal for the greatness of England was the passion of his life”. This instinct goes to the very heart of Toryism, which is in character a social and political doctrine rooted in the patriotic experience, not in the abstraction of economic theory.

Britain has historically proven herself very capable of absorbing different groups. But as Nicholas Soames and Frank Field have rightly said, we are now facing the biggest wave of immigration for hundreds of years. It is in the face of this challenge that Tories should make a stand and defend what it means to be British and support social cohesion. An effective process of social cohesion can only take place when immigration has reached socially sustainable levels and the misguided project of state multiculturalism has been dismantled.

If today’s Tory reformers fail to succeed in this task then we will only see the continued social fragmentation and cultural segregation of British communities.

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The delusory demonisation of Conservatives

David Cowan 10.59am

There are many young Conservatives in Britain. But many do not dare admit it. Young Liberal Democrats, Labourites, Socialists and Marxists are lauded as idealists who care about the injustices of the world, whereas young Conservatives are seen to be unpleasant, reactionary and self-interested individuals with no capacity for compassion (pace unpleasant publicity here and here).

Yet this perception has very little to do with the facts and has everything to do with the Left’s need to discredit a party which has done so much for this country, especially for the most vulnerable in our communities. Sir Robert Peel’s Factory Act 1844, Benjamin Disraeli’s Artisan’s and Labourers’ Dwellings Improvement Act 1875 and Public Health Act 1875, Rab Butler’s Education Act 1944, Harold Macmillan’s housing programme, and Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy initiative are just some of the Conservatives achievements which have improved the nation as a whole.

The current debate over the coalition government’s spending plans has been the latest cause for demonising the Conservatives, but the truth is that eliminating the budget deficit is saving £1,000 for every family in the country by decreasing borrowing costs; taking £5,000 off every family’s mortgage interest bill by keeping long-term interest rates low; helping people to pay off their credit card bills; and getting lending to small businesses going again.

Britain’s national debt is having a harmful impact on everyone, especially the poor. There is nothing progressive about spending £47.6 billion on debt interest repayments instead of schools and hospitals.

Despite the current economic hardship, the Conservatives have still managed to protect the schools budget and increase NHS spending every year in real terms. They have also embarked on an ambitious programme of reform to modernise our public services and to tackle poverty at home and abroad.

Welfare benefits are being simplified so that being in work will always pay more than being out of work. A rehabilitation revolution intends to get criminals out of the vicious cycle of reoffending. A new Troubled Families Team will provide ‘action plans’ for dysfunctional families to help turn their lives around.

The Conservatives are also dealing with global poverty by increasing international aid to 0.7% of GNP by 2013 so we can train 190,000 teachers, immunise more than 55 million children against preventive diseases, and give 15 million people access to clean drinking water.

Most Conservatives are motivated by a strong sense of duty and responsibility. They believe that there should be a link between effort and reward, that everyone should have the opportunity to be successful, everyone should have the freedom to make their own decisions and choices in life, and we should always help the most vulnerable in our communities.

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This article first appeared on The Cambridge Union Society’s Huffington Post UK blog

Boris Johnson and the Angel in the Marble

David Cowan 10.15am

Boris Johnson is the darling of the Tory grassroots. From the pulpit of his Telegraph column he has hurled bread to his Tory base. His support for tax cuts, higher police numbers and his stance on Europe reveal a populist streak. He has earned the affection of ordinary Tory voters in a way no other Conservative politician, including David Cameron, has managed.

That is not to say Boris Johnson is a Tory ideologue. He is a very much a Tory pragmatist who has tried to appeal to the liberal metropolitan London electorate with substantial increases in the London Living Wage, criticism of housing benefit reform, and support for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Appealing to the outer suburbs will not be sufficient for a successful re-election campaign. Getting out the vote will be his first priority and that means he has to appeal to a very broad range of people.

This approach has risked making attempts to identify Boris Johnson’s political philosophy like nailing jelly to the wall, but his appeal to the traditional Tory base and the wider liberal metropolitan electorate has been reconciled by the man himself:

“I’m a one-nation Tory. There is a duty on the part of the rich to the poor and to the needy, but you are not going to help people express that duty and satisfy it if you punish them fiscally so viciously that they leave this city and this country. I want London to be a competitive, dynamic place to come to work.”

This is reflected in his impressive record as Mayor (see my earlier blog here), with greater investment in public infrastructure, falling crime rates, and the freezing of council tax. But Boris seems to lack a singular, large achievement that people can easily identify.

By contrast, Ken Livingstone has developed his own narrative by attempting to transform the Mayoral Election into a referendum on ‘Osbornomics’.

Boris Johnson’s personal popularity and impressive record may be enough to secure a second victory but it will do very little for the Conservatives in London. Polling puts the party well behind Labour. This may well mean that the Conservatives will lose the London Assembly but, more seriously, it will also mean a lack of support in the London constituencies that are needed to win the next General Election in 2015, such as Hammersmith.

Boris Johnson must use his time in power to see the Conservative voter in the London electorate as a sculptor sees “the angel in the marble”, as the Times claimed Benjamin Disraeli once did. There are limitations to the Mayor’s powers, but the key to establishing a wider Tory base could lie in his ‘One Nation’ vision.

One of the basic foundations of ‘One Nation’ conservatism has been the ‘property-owning democracy’, as popularised by Anthony Eden and first made a reality by Harold Macmillan’s ambitious 1950s housing programme. Boris Johnson could take this one step further by establishing a new generation of property-owners, and therefore more likely to vote Tory, by implementing a Right to Own scheme, as proposed by five Conservative MPs in ‘After the Coalition’.

Under the Right to Own scheme tenants of social housing would have an automatic share in the equity of the property which they could then choose to sell onto the open market. The equity owned by the tenant would then be used to help pay for a new private property and thus begin to climb the private property ladder. The rest of the money from the sale of the property would then go to the new ‘mayoral development corporations’, which will replace the London Development Agency, and be invested into new modern social housing to meet ever increasing demand in London. This would drive down housing prices and open up access to private property in London’s deprived areas, thus increasing the number of property-owners in London.

Coverage of this year’s mayoral election will inevitably focus the personalities of Boris and Ken. But Conservatives cannot lose sight of the long-term future of the party in London. A new generation of homeowners, supported by efficient infrastructure, effective policing and a prudent City Hall would provide a new Tory base in London from which to secure an overall majority in 2015.

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The Government says we’re all in it together. We must prove it.

Jason Frost 6.00am

“In one of the biggest surveys of the British public, Lord Ashcroft concluded that the ‘party of the rich’ label is still the biggest barrier for the Conservative’s target voters. There is a north-south divide gap too. The Tories are doing less well in Northern England than they were when Margaret Thatcher was elected. Mr Cameron cannot be blamed for this but….he is responsible for recent decisions that have begun to recontaminate the brand. Voters, for example, are most anxious about jobs and incomes but the Coalition spends much time talking about the deficit.”

So wrote Tim Montgomerie in the Times recently (£). Some people feel betrayed by the Government, and consequently the painstakingly reconstructed brand of Conservatism is again beginning to slide back to being just the uncaring ‘party of the rich’.

This can only result in electoral oblivion and historic irrelevance. Such a prospect has of course threatened before. The former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli wrote in Sybil (1845) of:

“Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by different breeding, fed by different food, ordered by different manners and are not governed by the same laws. They are the RICH and the POOR.”

Many a commentator would do well to hold these words in hallowed reverence, for their meaning reflects all too well the perceived social and economic climate of today.

And yet, it is in these words that could lie the Government’s, but more importantly Conservatism’s, potential salvation.

These ‘Two Nations’ must once again be reforged into one; One Nation under the trusted leadership of the Government.

How? Our modern ‘Poor’ must once again be understood by ‘the Rich’, but in a respectful, as opposed to paternalist, sense of mind. This ‘Rich’ - as the Government puts it, those with the “broadest shoulders” - must offer hope and leadership in all areas, and a good starting place would be financially, as Mr Montgomerie quite rightly suggested.

"When tax cuts become affordable, low income households should be at the front of the queue. Lower petrol duty and National Insurance must come before a cut in the 50p tax rate…. The tax system needs rebalancing… Extra taxes on high-end properties should fund emergency tax relief for families hurt by inflation.”

Through such acts ‘the Rich’ will have shown some element of dutiful, and very responsible, sacrifice in these times. It would demonstrate the Government’s changed, moral priorities.

In addition, the Government should bring forward and champion some of the measures they have already floated but are yet to implement.

The appointment of worker representation to the management and remuneration boards/committees of leading companies. This would subject decisions to greater accountability and improve industrial relations through more direct contact between shop-floor and boardroom (in contrast to the mediated contact through Trades Unions).

There must be more active encouragement of individual, as opposed to corporate, endowments to universities, e.g. scholarships or sponsorship, contributions to hospitals, and even to the funding of apprenticeships and enterprises in the private sector by individuals.

The coalition’s mantra, ‘We are all in this together’, is exactly the right call to the nation. It stresses our united nature. But it is time it was backed up with actions.