The rot in the Tory Party goes deep. The Labour Party now have 600,000 members, whereas the Conservatives have 150,000 as of 2014.
I believe there is no youth group of the Conservative Party as it was closed down due to a bullying and suicide scandal. The only reason the Conservatives won a majority in the 2015 election was because of, I suspect, large donations and bussing people into constituencies, a dubious policy that fell under examination by the Electoral Commission. They were cleared, but the real question is why was it necessary in the first place.
When the latest election results became clear, I rashly tweeted that the young people, in voting for Labour, were not idealists wanting a better world, but were just after the free stuff.
In truth, this is the not the whole story. Labour voters did make a value call. They believed that by voting Labour they are being moral and doing their bit to improve their country. We know that Corbyn’s policies would do the opposite and destroy the economy, jobs and the livelihoods of families, but that message did not go through.
In fact, the genius of the Labour message is that they can combine freebies with morality – voting for lots of services to be ‘free at the point of delivery’ is sold as a moral decision.
What the Conservative Party needs is a moral message of its own. Modernisation has failed. It is true that one of the reasons Cameron secured his majority in spite of austerity is that they sold austerity as a morally good policy. They convinced the populus that the public finances were in disarray and it would be morally wrong to saddle future generations with huge amounts of debt. They are right on this and that is one of the reasons they won. But it was a small majority bought by offering a referendum on Brexit – something the Cameroons bitterly opposed.
Tory modernisers, having demonised people like Iain Duncan Smith, believed that ditching social conservatism was enough to make them look nice and not nasty and is part of their moral message. This will not be enough and I believe has been damaging to the party grassroots and will destroy the party in the long run. There is nothing moral or kind about promoting social leftism (liberalism is slightly different).
Now we see a drift to the left on economic matters. May’s manifesto was left-wing for a conservative and it did win over more working class voters, but it was not enough to counter Corbyn’s youth vote. The only way to save the market is by Tory MPs (and the commentariat) advocating the morality of the market.
Capitalism – not the crony kind – and a (relatively) free market are a moral good. Write that down and turn it into a meme or a hashtag or whatever. It is a moral good because it is based on the consent of the parties, not state coercion.
Yes, you can point out all the nasty things that happen and unforeseen negatives that occur when you have state control or over-interference in markets – but you also need to point out that that markets ultimately respect human dignity. State coercion does not: that is why the bodies piled up in their millions in communist states. In contrast capitalism has been one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever seen, lifting billions out of poverty.
This is also why it is silly to say this election was run on values over economics – value decisions are economic decisions. Some people think it is morally right to tax people and redistribute it to someone else under state coercion, and others think it is morally wrong to do this excessively as it crushes liberty and personal responsibility. In other words, it is bad for both the person whose labour is confiscated (obviously) but also for the recipients, as it destroys their dignity by receiving something they have not earned.
However, I believe redistribution tied to work can be justified in some circumstances. All European states have some form of redistribution and the UK is no different. I don’t believe it is imperative for the Conservatives to oppose all redistribution, as there is a Christian duty to help those less fortunate to you. Therefore, the move towards tying benefits to work was a morally worthwhile one. This was IDS’s vision and it is why it had such huge public support.
Conservatives should, of course, make the moral case for low taxation – families are best placed to spend the fruits of their labour – not the State. It is indeed draconian, nasty and authoritarian to suggest otherwise, as the Left wants.
Finally, we need to see a return to social conservatism. It is foolish to think social conservatism can be separated from economic conservatism; the two are interdependent as we have explained time and again.
It is morally wrong, for instance, not to advocate and explain that marriage is the best protector for children and improving marriage rates would improve social mobility. This is different to moralising and it is worth pointing out that the elite – especially the elite on the left – get married and for good reason. So if we look at what they do and not what they say, we can see the elite get married because it is in their child’s best interests. What is morally wrong is for the Left and the modernisers in the Conservative Party to hoard that privilege for their own kids.
It is morally wrong, for instance, to set up a tax, benefit and childcare system that forces mothers of young children to use childcare when they don’t want to. I think separating mothers from their toddlers is pretty nasty so the system should be neutral and left for families to decide.
There are plenty of other social issues where the conservative position is the one that best protects children and other vulnerable people. This is conservatism – not compassionate conservatism – just conservatism. It is inherently compassionate – you don’t need an adjective before it. And until those in the party understand this, they will never do well electorally.
(Image: NCVO London)