In 1979, after two decades of incompetent state socialism and cynical trade union rapacity, the Tory Party spotted a winner in the theory of small states, free markets and privatisation. It worked brilliantly. But times have changed. Further privatisations are now unnecessary and unpopular, as witness this week’s Learndirect debacle (David Lidington at Justice, please also note regarding the misguided scheme to privatise the collection of court fines, which has all the makings of a PR disaster). And the small state and the free market have, to put it mildly, taken a knock since Grenfell.

Whether they like it or not, complacent Tory MPs can no longer blandly reassure business pals in the Strangers’ Bar that the people are happy for them to sit back and let God and the magic of the market sort things out. They aren’t, and they won’t: and anyone who assumes differently will have his work cut out to avoid handing over his plush office to some mendacious but plausible Corbynista upstart.

A depressing scenario? Certainly not. The Tories have a golden opportunity simultaneously to realign themselves, publicly sideline free market fundamentalism, become enormously popular and leave Labour floundering. Think now. What now gets the goat of their target voters – the little guy on the Hinckley housing estate, or the ambitious young man in the Bermondsey bedsit? Certainly not state socialism: rather, it’s petty interferences with his private life or property, whether coming from faceless companies, employers or state agencies. The Conservatives can, without much trouble, take on the guilty parties. Here is a suggestion for a three-pronged attack on three high-profile targets.

First, the scandal of ever-rising ground rents on residential properties, something that predominantly affects lower-price houses occupied by the “just-about-managing”. The Government rightly stepped in fast with promised legislation to stop this racket for the future. But those already trapped in these contracts also have votes (probably over 100,000 of them, which is a tidy figure). Legislation to allow these rents to be compulsorily bought out for a modest capital sum would be an easy way to garner them. Yes, technically this interferes with business. But it’s not the sort of investment we need to encourage: one need have no great sympathy for nameless investors and hedge funds looking for high guaranteed returns in what most see as a nasty part of rip-off Britain. If the Tories can face these down, it will do wonders for their image.

Secondly, dictation by employers, predominantly but not exclusively public sector, over what ordinary people can say outside the workplace. The London Ambulance Service, Derbyshire County Council and Oxford Brookes University, for example, all have published policies forbidding their employees, even in an entirely private capacity, to disagree on social media with vague corporate values such as inclusivity. It means many views found on TCW, on (for example) fundamentalist Islam or LGBT rights, are placed off-limits for large numbers of people on the basis or corporate fiat. And if you think this isn’t to be taken seriously, or only affects Google employees, just recall the case of the Kent & Medway NHS Trust Director recently fired for admitting that he thought a child best raised by a mother and a father (absolutely necessary to protect sensitive LGBT employees, you’ll appreciate, albeit though most of them probably never encountered him or probably never heard of him anyway).

The Tories could gain approval alike from the young and idealistic, and the middle-aged and principled, were they very publicly to legislate forbidding employers from disciplining employees for opinions expressed in an unofficial capacity, subject to narrow exceptions where there was a genuine conflict (for instance, strong party political opinions from civil servants, or church employees publicly advocating devil-worship). Why not make the Conservatives the party of freedom of cyber-opinion?

Third, protection for conscientious objection in the face or corporate bullying. Despite the climbdown by the RCOG over scruples about abortion, there still remains the case of the Belfast baker held liable for large damages for refusing on conscientious grounds to inscribe “Support Gay Marriage” in pretty icing on a cake (it’s due in the Supreme Court this autumn, but don’t hold your breath). This is, of course, scandalous – is a devoutly Christian jobbing printer really now bound to print advertisements for a festival of Satanism? But it’s not just TCW readers: public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side.

A commitment to change the law, and to provide that the right not to have to say something against one’s conscience overrode discrimination law would, it seems, have no ill-effects and be highly popular. Were it then to become apparent that EU law forbade such a change (which may well be the case as regards the “gay cake” affair), a better case for supporting the Government’s attitude to Brexit would be difficult to imagine.

Just think of it: the Conservative Party dedicated to rooting for the rights of the little man against the leviathans of impersonal business, the equality establishment and the EU. There’s a prospect worth fighting for.

(Image: Alisdaire Hickson)


  1. All the above would be entirely feasible if the country had, indeed, a Conservative government. What we do have however, is Nu Labour 2.0. They appear hellbent on following the path set out by Bliar of ultimately “dissolving the people and electing another.”

    • Yup,got it right there. That is why the Brexit vote was a shock to the poor little elite,the common man was asked a question and the reply did not fit the narrative of the political cabal. I did not leave the Conservative Party it left me to complete the Blairite agenda.

    • The Tory party conference could be “interesting”. Somehow I think the usual stage managed leader lovefest could prove unsuccessful this year given the PMs embarrassingly poor performance during the election. And I’ll get the crisps and chilled beer ready for Hammond’s appearance as well. Here’s hoping!

  2. “…the Conservative Party dedicated to rooting for the rights of the little man against the leviathans of impersonal business, the equality establishment and the EU….”

    having come second at the 2015 election I was the other candidate allowed to speak on Radio Suffolk as the culmination of its election coverage. The interviewer (who rather fancied himself as the next Jeremy Paxman) asked a the end what was the point of UKIP now we’ve won the referendum. I had, of course, anticipated the question and had the answer — Australian points system immigration policy, cut HS2, reduce the foreign aid budget, cancel Hinckley and Sizewell C, tax the windfarms, spend our money in this country where it is desperately needed by a large number of our people who live on the edge — but that’s not what came out. What I actually said was ‘we need to break the two party system where Labour no longer looks after the working classes and Conservatives have deserted the middle classes. They live in the same places, they go to the same parties, their children go to the same schools and universities. They are a political class, both of them the same and it’s time we pulled their snouts from the trough.”

    “rooting for the rights of the little man against the leviathans”? Neither Labour nor Cons are willing to do that.


  3. The Tories won’t do that. Some are militantly PC, some are just dumb, some are both, a few are OK.

  4. Well it’s an admirable aim but I really don’t see a timid nonentity like May making a strong stand for anything.

  5. Not completely on topic, but under the terms of the Equality Act, how would an employer stand if they took exception to the social media output of a prospective employee, and used use such criteria as an effective pre-interview “filter” – and of course, the applicant could somehow prove it?

  6. Unfortunately the Marxist long march through the institutions has gone too far. Conservatives are just as bad when it comes to pandering to PC witness Mrs Mays put down of Trump before she knows any actual facts.
    I still haven’t forgotten that she labelled we conservatives the nasty party. It has hung like an albatross around our necks.

    • All the festering Blairite swamp together. I do not understand why no one cleans out the PC mob from all the quangos but they are all in it together.

      • Yes indeed .In the states on some forums the Republican and Democrat parties are often referred to as the Uniparty because they continue with the same policies and people are noticing. I don’t see much difference here .Even I’m beginning to think we need a dose of Corbyn to collapse everything and start again.

  7. Delusional.

    There hasn’t been anything like a free market in the UK since two centuries ago and it was not even close. Privatisation is not free markets, it’s the use of franchises controlled and regulated by the state utilising private capital- in other words economic fascism.

    The Tories are as from free speech as new Labour-indeed it was always the socialists that tore down censorship until fairly recently. Censorship of the Internet is the Tories latest attack on free speech. Mays remarks on the opened ended attack on ‘extremism’ are a declaration of intent to shut down anything which the state decides is extremism at any time.

  8. I don’t generally like to be disparaging of articles on this site but this article is hopelessly naive, having swallowed far too many “progressive” lies about both economics and politics. The problem of our day is most certainly not “free-market fundamentalism” which, progressive propaganda terminology aside, is nothing more than the strong support for voluntary trade between individuals and the strong protection of private property rights. Grenfell is absolutely not the fault of the “free-market”, because…guess what, we do not have a free-market in Britain. There is no free-market in construction because the government has the regulatory MONOPOLY!!! Everything that happened at Grenfell is the fault of the ideology of progressivism, since they effectively said “free-market, don’t you worry about safety rules and regs, we (the Government) will take care of all that”!

    Equally fallacious is the idea that “big business” is our main enemy. The essential difference between big business doing things I don’t like and government doing things I don’t like is that big business (in the free-market) must please the customer to stay in business whereas government can just compel you and take your money by force to stay “in business”! The examples of business monopolies (Facebook,Google) which do present a problem are actually creations of government intervention and regulation, not the fault of the free-market. You can bet are Facebook and Google are begging (paying billions of pounds) for the Government to come and regulate away any would be competitors to their monopolies.

    The Conservative Party must not adopt a sort of “progressivism” lite to reinvigorate itself. It must return to the classical liberal principles of liberty which the author seems to so disparage.

    • “… is that big business (in the free-market) must please the customer to stay in business”. Really? MUST please the public? Electricity, water, gas, the Railways, telecommunications, especially Broadband… do you not use any of these or read of the horror stories from customers when dealing with them? British Gas about to hike up its prices again, so, what – move to another compnny who will do the same in three months? My current favourite is BT – the most non-communicative communications company in the country when it comes to the customer they “MUST please to stay in business”. They promise, they apologise, they pass the buck- they don’t ring back, they repeat the same mistakes, year after year. Move from them to another equally useless ‘provider’ and get much of the same. My experience does not reflect your Utopia.

      • Well I certainly sympathise with your frustration! That said, it seems like you didn’t really read through my rant (I know it was a bit long!) particularly “is absolutely not the fault of the “free-market”, because…guess what, we do not have a free-market in Britain.”

        • I did read your piece, and again just to make sure I didn’t err – and I hadn’t. I took issue with your contention that big business must please the customer to stay in business – that’s the theory, certainly, but in practice – as with my BT/ equally useless and expensive other ‘providers’ example – the ‘choice’ is illusory, ditto gas, electricity, water.

          Have you noticed some the much vaunted banning of charging separately for landline and broadband that prices across the board have increased? The ‘all-in-one’ packages are ALL more expensive. BT broadband used to be had for around £22 in the ‘slit charge’s days, now it is a whopping £29.99. We are being ‘had’, literally, ‘left’, ‘right’ and ‘centre’ financially and politically speaking.

          • Thanks for clarifying Johannes. When you say “…that’s the theory, but in practice…” you are making the point I was making. I do not believe that in practice (in most cases) big business is “staying in business by pleasing the customer”. My point is that this is not the fault of the free-market but rather the result of past and present government meddling. All those industries you mentioned have in the recent past been state-controlled industries and as such their markets and the markets they link to have all been distorted. Government intervention, in almost all cases, is not the cure to an ailing free-market but rather the cause of the ailment itself!

  9. Take Charlotteville, the spark is the civil rights movement to de-demonise the past by eradicating symbols of the past. This gave the supremacists a rallying point. Then their legal rally was then denied and reinstated by the courts. That was the local council jumping onto the virtue waving bandwagon.

    Trump knows was is going on and will not kowtow to the political pressure. But the media snowball is against him, so he is wrong. May goes along with it. Yes, free speech is under threat, as Sarah Champion has just found out; state an inconvenient truth and if the media tide is against you, do not expect a fair hearing.

    • Not sure why Theresa May was sticking her nose into US politics, of which she knows nothing, other than a “look at me, I’m all virtuous”, especially as she was wrong. It was an event which was “allowed” to happen by the local politicians telling the police to stand down. Anyway she is not remotely friendly with the President, look at their body language at the G20 and G7 meetings in photos, she won’t waste an opportunity to get her “digs” in. The politicians have their group “rightthink” regardless of what group they are in they all seem to think the same way and if you disagree you get the wrath of everybody in politics plus the media descended upon you.

      • If the media spent half the resources and time on delving into, and reporting on, our politics as they do with the U.S.A., we’d all be better informed and politicians likely to be held more accountavle. The BBC, in particular, is obsessed with U.S. politics to the point of nauseum.

    • Mrs May is a very silly woman. I just wish she would keep out of issues that are so obviously created to cause confusion by so much of the media. She should be supporting Mr Trump and in fact as PM of the UK she should be calling out Jeremy Corbyn for his ridiculous attitude to Venezuela.

      • She has been PM long enough to make the reasonable assertion ‘she is not up to the job’. The 1922 must have known that at the time, she seems to have got through as someone, not controversial that the party would coalesce around. They would not take the gamble on a up and coming MP; they were too conservative.

        • The party was in such a mess after the Brexit car crash that she was the least absurd option.
          And that’s saying something.
          Trouble is, Labour is run by equally big idiots.
          She has Jeremy Corbyn and Len McCluskey to thank for her job !

      • She’s either very ignorant, a fool or a liar who thinks the public is stupid &/ or walks around with its eyes shut. Or some combination of one or more of these.

      • LOL, May is a fu**wit. Proven as home sec and now as prime minister. She is a nodding dog, trying to feel out public opinion through the media and going along for the ride. The trouble is the public, who’s opinion she is mostly wrong with in general, wouldn’t spit on her if she was on fire. Welcome to the Tories 2017. They may as well re brand as New Labour and be done with it.

  10. Yes Andrew! I’d vote for that, all of it.

    Isn’t it frustrating how none of this on offer though?

    I have a dark little conspiracy theory about this: the left, in true Gramscian fashion, have infiltrated the Tories. People like Justine Greening and her bonkers law on transgender people. And whoever it was who came up with the idea of banning all petrol and diesel cars. Pure leftie, eco-loon nonsense.

    Never has the difference between the elected and electors been so stark.

    I hope someone can reverse this trend but I just don’t think it will happen. And that’s properly depressing.

    • I think you’ll agree that the gap between the elected and the electors was also massive on Brexit and one of the reasons why we doubted we’d get a referendum or that Leave could actually win the damn thing. Other than that, I agree with you and am heartily sick of the ‘Green crap’ and the gender identity crap. If the Tories want to win big in the future they will have to forget about London and look at the rest of the country which wants this kind of manifesto.

    • It’s up to us all to remove them through the ballot box and, in the case of the Cons., to stop their being selected for elections. Until people are prepared to vote with their feet – or to vote for another party or candidate – we’ll be stuck with the clowns.

      In a way, it’s our own fault for being to scared to vote for change. And yes, I know that phrase has been used before by certain, unmentionable, people…

  11. i genuinely can’t see any politician standing up for free speech – they really don’t like free speech and are constantly trying to restrict this on twitter and whatsapp etc

  12. Just what do the Conservatives believe today anyway? May seems to be a principle free zone. The backsliding and watering down ok yes betrayal over Brexit continues apace.

  13. The elite are predominantly against “Free Speech” as it would open them to some well deserved verbal abuse for their stupidity.

  14. A good article, Andrew. There’s a clear distinction between small-medium size businesses which are genuinely entrepreneurial, innovative and wealth-creating and fat cat corporations which engage in semi-monopolistic practices, extract public funds and seek to avoid taxes. Conservatives should be increasingly sceptical about the latter.

    The free speech thing may be tougher. As others below suggest it involves being able to challenge key aspects of the system’s ideology.

    • The Railway system personifies that. Billions in government, i.e. OUR, monies for those ‘private’ companies, some of which are actually, de facto, ‘state run’, it’s just that the ‘states’ in question are German, French, and Belgium. I believe even China and Japan are getting in on the act.

  15. “..…Further privatisations are now unnecessary and unpopular,… Rubbish. De-nationalising education would be very popular and is more necessary than ever to remove the dead and in-doctrinaire hand of the State. Next the Nationalised Health Service.

    And “…publicly sideline free market fundamentalism..” No such thing. There is no creed or intervention or philosophy in ‘freedom’ and ‘markets’. These things just are and emerge wherever men settle to trade. It is precisely the adoption of weasel words and phrases like ‘free market fundamentalism’ that distorts the argument. Liberty is Liberty.

      • Indeed. But only because those advocating such an action are either (a) lefties seeking special privileges and power or (b) too young to remember the totally rubbish service provided by these those things when nationalised, their over-manning and their perpetual clamour for more subsidy.
        The ‘free speech’ bit well help communicate the failure of state planning and services more easily. Which is why the left try and shut it down.

      • yes it can be done ref the Welsh water board, is an organization run purely for the customer on a non profit basis where all extra monies generated from water bill tariffs are ploughed back into the company. It can and does work.

        • In Wales I pay nearly £80 a month for water and sewerage.

          When we get really heavy rain raw sewage flows out of the manholes in the lower part of the village. There are no plans to rectify this but of course they are fully signed up to blah blah blah…

          Still think it is good idea?

          • Yes. The problem – or part of it – lies in the definition of ‘non-profit’; ‘BUPA’ is ‘non-profit’, my wife used to work for it, and as far as salaries, perks, expenses, and ‘tax write-offs’ and much else is concerned, it’s ‘treble gins all round!’. A nationalised service could be run on a ‘cost plus’ basis to allow for re-investemnt. By all means pay decent salaries, and bonuses – IF targets, peer reviewed and not simply ‘gimme’ targets, are met. I don’t even mind paying a small tax surcharge to ensure we get cheaper utilities all round. The current system is a costly mess.

  16. Very naive because the Tories are as much into this as the other establishment parties. What is the difference in social outlook between Osborne, May and Blair and Abbott? Yes they may disagree about the rate of income tax (big deal) but all are absolutely on the same side when it comes to the main elements of the social liberal order.

    • Absolutely correct. It’s like the saying the man is going to die whatever the merits of it, however many disagree or agree with it, whether it is a good or bad thing, how it will be done, the only sure thing is, as with the social liberal order agenda, it SHALL be done.

  17. Good grief, no logical, coherently sensible human being would advocate the tories even if
    the will was there which it plainly isn’t, as being sufficiently able
    to offer any solution to the litany of baleful woes inflicted on the nation particularly us Britons.

    I can’t quite believe that any reasonably astute being, either man or woman attuned, observing to the grievous, shameful publicly ie legally sanctioned effort some rightly name ‘rip off Britain’ where the law abiding population is sat and s*at upon from a great height and all of it with no redress. Blimey it is a thing, that, anyone could claim that the tories will make even some of it [big state policy lunacy] to go away.

    the tories are the party of EUrope, and bonded to statism, crony capitalism and much more besides, the specious lies*[1] relentlessly glibly, effortlessly roll out off the tongues of the cultural Marxist popinjays sitting on the government benches – charlatans and led by a politically correct crone who ineffably puts mad Hattie harperson in the shade and……………… answers? There came only silence or, empty headed platitudes.

    For, until the liblavcons go away, our troubles will continue unabated and going down the tubes unchecked is the only direction of travel.

    *1 try these lies out for reference and the green miasma of lies to which may’s government is more engaged to and daft on [merkel orders?] , than was cameron’s lot: – see what they did?

    But it’s car drivers who get it in the neck…………..

    • The great problem with the current set- up of our system of democracy is that it militates against the true representation of the people.

      People who despise the Tories but who think that New Labour and its fellow travelling parties are even worse, will vote for the Tories simply to keep the opposition out.

      Ditto on the other side,

      Thus the situation is that these two main hollowed-out parties support each other like two scarecrows in a field; two drunks thrown out of a pub; two sick people….

      Enough people won’t vote for a minor party because they think it will be a wasted vote. They will risk voting for them in secondary elections like local elections or for the European assembly, or as they did in the referendum on a specific issue where they knew their vote really counted.

      The electoral system in this country suits the entrenched political parties which are more interested in serving themselves than the people , so it is unlikely to be improved any time soon, as it badly needs to be.

      • “…it militates against the true representation of the people”. Indeed; here’s a example. Those who voted for Cameron on the back of the then manifesto suddenly find themselves confronted with a indecent rush to force through civil same-sex partnerships. Job done, no consultation at grass roots level, here’s your ‘fait accompli’ to put in your pipe and smoke. How many might not have voted for Cameron had this appeared in the maniifesto – enough for him to lose the election? Ditto, though it was later retracted, bundling in the fox hunting repeal when everyone knew the last election was ‘Brexit driven’, about ‘Brexit’ and little else.

      • Good points well made, I am truly not sure of any answer to this great conundrum, what I will say, something which could be to the betterment of all our lives – the ‘our administration’ government needs paring down to about > ⅖ of its current size.

  18. Back in the early 1990s a friend said there was no different between a middle manager in a large private company and an apparatchic in the communist system: they do what they are told to do. Another use is that people in large companies are not quickly punished for failing the customer. What helped to make the RN was the execution of Admiral Byng: failure was punishable by death, especially for admirals.

    Someone said what increased honour in the City prior to 1987 was that merchant banks and , stockbrokers were owned by partners who risked their own money. Also bad behaviour resulted in social black balling; no invites for the wife.

    The Tories need to bring back responsibility and freedom of speech. A captain of ship is responsible for any mistake by a member of the crew: the same needs to be applied to the directors of all organisations,be they companies, police, hospitals or schools.

  19. This is a bit ‘off topic’, but not completely. ‘The Conservative Woman’ banner reads ‘Vive la difference’; given that Conservatism is about conserving things, holding to traditional values and so on, isn’t that a oxymoron? Isn’t that the problem, that the Conservatives and Conservatism have, to use current parlance, ’embraced’ ‘difference and are blind or uninterested as to the havoc it is wreaking? it seems to me that conservatives continue to vote for a party that is no longer conservative.

  20. “The Tories could gain approval alike from the young and idealistic” Hmm. Not so sure about that. I’d like a definition of what the author believes is ‘young’, but assuming it is those of teens-age, this is too important to be left to either the young or the idealistic.

  21. I have previously commented, but what I should like to know is: Are we all debating, commenting about, the same ‘free speech’. Does that mean the freedom to say anything, anywhere, at anytime? Or is there restrictions; moral – because of sensitivity, politeness, and much more? Now, I am aware people can think a thing and not need to articulate it, but should it be a free-for-all without any restrictions?

    • Free speech is just that. As long as it is not threatening or endangering others persons or property it is our right as citizens. Take that away and the state gains far more power than it deserves.

      • So, not totally ‘free’, then? And where there is your exception, might others demand their’s?

          • I wrote ‘your’ exception, but should have made it clear I meant the exception you highlighted.

            It can hardly be truthfully described as ‘free’, then, unless the definition of ‘free’ has been changed. This why I asked the question; we all bang on about defending ‘free’ speech but how many fully realise what is they they are actually trying to protect?

            Do you believe you could stand in a public place and declare you think certain tenets of Islam are contrary to British culture and values? That is not ‘threatening’ nor ‘endangering’ persons or property, but that ‘law’ of which you write would descend on you quicker than a lighting bolt on a tree.

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