We’re asking a New Generation for passionate Conservative solutions
Why we are launching a major project to showcase the talent, energy and the ideas of the centre-Right
Politics is a battle of ideas. And at the moment, the wrong ideas are winning. The British people think that business can’t be trusted. That the free market isn’t working. That the rich get richer, and the rest get screwed. That is why, rather than being terrified at the prospect of a hard-Left government, many of them actively welcome it – to the point where at the last election, Jeremy Corbyn was only 2,227 votes from power.
For Conservatives, it can be tempting to blame this situation on a particular politician, or a particular manifesto. But that would be wrong.
Ever since the financial crisis, anger and frustration have been on the rise. Voters who have never known a pre-Thatcher government, or even a pre-Blair one, are concluding that they will never have it as good as their parents – just higher debt, stagnant wages and precious little chance of getting on to the property ladder.
Those younger voters, who do not remember life in the 1970s, will not be swayed by our pointing out how bad things were back then, or listing all the many ways in which Conservative ideas have made Britain a far better place over those years, under a succession of prime ministers.
They want to be inspired – to be told how their problems will be fixed, even if at the back of their minds they know that Jeremy Corbyn is far from a messiah.
On entering Downing Street, the Prime Minister spoke brilliantly about the need to build a country that works for everyone – to combat inequality, injustice and unfairness. It was an inspiring vision that any Conservative would be proud to endorse.
Yet many on the Left insist, increasingly loudly, that the free market, and capitalism, work only for the rich. That Labour are the goodies and the Tories the baddies. That the energy and ideas are now on the Left, while the Right are the defenders of a discredited status quo, a party of book-keeping rather than inspiration.
This phenomenon is not just present in Britain. This political culture war is raging across the West. So how do we fight back?
The answer is that we’ve done it before. In 1974, Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph founded the Centre for Policy Studies to accomplish, as she put it, “the revival of the philosophy and principles of a free society”. The task was not just to propagate the right policies – which it did – but to secure their acceptance. To make the case for a state that would be the servant of the people rather than its master.
Today, many things have changed. Rather than untrammelled union power or unaccountable nationalised industries, the great economic challenges are to do with automation and globalisation. In some areas, crony capitalism has become as much of a problem as big government. It is deeply ironic that the most pressing issue facing the younger generation, the housing crisis, is often described as a case of market failure, when in fact the housing and planning system has never allowed a well-functioning market to operate in the first place.
The challenge facing the CPS, and others, is to meet the challenges of the 21st century with the same zealous spirit that Joseph and Thatcher did back then. To show the public that we know how to fix the problems they face. To explain why Conservative solutions can help. To come up with solutions that are as appealing, and encapsulate our principles as perfectly, as the sale of council houses back in the 1980s.
That is why we are launching a major project, “New Generation”, to showcase the talent, the energy and the ideas on the centre-Right.
We are asking the MPs of the 2015 and 2017 intakes – and other fresh voices – to give us their own ideas for making Britain better. Even as the Government is engaged in the monumental, and necessary, task of steering Britain through the Brexit process, these new voices will be coming up with the fresh thinking to move the political agenda forward into the 21st century, rather than backwards to the 1970s.
Already, we have been extraordinarily encouraged by the variety of ideas, and the passion with which they are being put forward. Following the launch tomorrow, at which Amber Rudd will be the keynote speaker, we will be rolling out a series of reports and events. Rishi Sunak has produced a pre-Budget proposal on how to make it easier for small businesses to access the capital they need to invest and expand. Chris Philp is publishing a detailed, extensively researched paper on how to increase both house building and home ownership – a topic on which many other members of this New Generation have an awful lot to say.
Maria Caulfield – who combines her work in Parliament with shifts as an NHS nurse – will be channelling a career’s worth of experience into her work on health. Luke Graham will be writing about how Holyrood and Westminster can make devolution work better for Scotland.
Bim Afolami will tackle the obstacles to growth. Matt Warman, Alan Mak and others will be addressing the ways in which technology is transforming our society and economy. And that’s before we even get on to Ben Howlett’s plan to make Britain the centre of the genomics revolution.
If we are to save Britain from a Corbyn government, the case for the market needs to be made once again. Not just with slogans, but by the kind of concrete, practical, aspirational policies that these politicians, and the many others who are engaging with this project, are producing.
Conservative ideas and Conservative policies have helped make Britain a better place. Now is not the time for us to lose faith in our beliefs – but to show why, and how, they can meet the challenges of this turbulent era.
‘If we are to save Britain from a Corbyn government, the case for the market needs to be made again’
Lord Saatchi is Chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies. Graham Brady is Chairman of the 1922 Committee and Deputy Chairman of the Centre for Policy Studies