Adam Afriyie is the Member of Parliament for Windsor and
Co-Chair of the 2020 Conservatives Economic Commission. He was Shadow
Minister for Science and Innovation from 2007 to 2010.
I’m proud of our country and proud to be British. I am patriotic and I don’t mind who knows it. I love our country; I love our energy, invention, resilience and character and value our vibrant cities and bustling towns and villages. For me, Britain is the best place on earth.
Our leaders and people have shaped the world we know today. Our great inventors and scientists, architects and builders, educators and explorers, poets, writers, artists and musicians have contributed to the evolution of industry, global trade, technology, engineering, finance, healthcare, culture, politics, law and the arts. From Isaac Newton’s reflecting telescope and Swan’s electric light bulb to Brunel’s bridges, Aspdin’s cement and Frank Whittle’s jet engine; from Fox Talbot’s photography, the telephone and television right up to the invention of the World Wide Web, Britons have always been pioneers; contributors to all that is best in the field of human development.
We have defended ourselves and others against tyranny and spread freedom and democracy around the globe. We have the mother of all parliaments. Britain is great, and I’m not surprised that so many people want to work here and become citizens. It’s a compliment.
And our Conservative Party has played a defining role in our history. Our values are shared by the majority of British people. We defend the vulnerable, uphold the rights of the individual and family, promote the creation of a strong society, believe in the rule of law, create opportunity for all and will fight, above all, for freedom; freedom from overbearing state interference and freedom to control your own life. We should be proud to be Conservatives.
Being a Conservative is part of who I am and I think, deep down, all people are naturally conservative. They want to be free to make their own decisions and earn a living, secure in the knowledge that their government is defending their interests at home and abroad, whilst keeping out of their way as best it can.
We must stop beating ourselves up about being Conservatives
With the present economic realities, the worries about immigration and the challenges to social mobility my message may sound somewhat utopian. But I seriously don’t think it is. If it does sound a bit OTT it’s because we’ve lost sight of how great it is to be British. Perhaps we just take it for granted. For a very long time we’ve been beating ourselves up – blaming ourselves for every problem and every difficult moment. I think it’s time we Conservatives stopped being so hard on ourselves – and stopped compromising. It’s time the party started looking at what we stand for, at the great things we have achieved in the past and the incredible things we can achieve in the future. We have the power to transform this country and make it great again. All we need is the vision and the will to succeed.
Whether you are first, third or three hundred generation British, irrespective of skin colour, background or heritage, a shared and positive vision of the future is important; one that resonates in every home, in every neighbourhood, across the whole country, north and south – it’s a vision of a future full of hope and optimism. My vision is one that gives us back our confidence in ourselves and our country; it’s one that delivers visible results for the country and its people. It is a vision that does not dither or change tack each time the wind blows; it’s not one that is self-serving or confusing or accepting of failure. It is a clear and bold vision for the majority, not just the privileged few.
A Conservative Britain: Thriving on trade and enterprise
We need a strong enterprise culture, a vibrant business community and a world-leading trading strategy. We need to look outward across the globe in order to compete not just in Europe but on the international stage. We need a low-tax, high-productivity economy built on sound financial foundations; one where expert management of government spending is a priority. We need a business-focused economy that offers proactive help to our winning sectors including manufacturing, engineering, science, technology and the commercial creative arts – and we need as little red tape as possible. I want to see a country and a government that unashamedly loves our wealth creators and welcome businesses from across the globe with open arms – a government that drives through investment-friendly policies and focuses on microfinancing and trade not aid wherever possible. And, we need to radically realign our relationship with Europe or leave the club. Doing nothing is not an option.
Maintaining strong defence
On defence, we’ve slimmed down enough. We need to stop cutting our armed forces budget right now. We need to respect our incredible service personnel, those men and women, soldiers, sailors and airmen, who lay down their lives for us. We must celebrate what they have done for this country and what they continue to do for us. I don’t care if we need to cut money elsewhere to do this – surely we are smart enough to find the most appropriate waste of cash and make cuts there instead, so we can have a strong, properly equipped modern fighting force with the capability to expand when necessary.
On immigration we need to stop giving away British citizenship like it’s a right not a privilege and dedicate ourselves to reducing net migration on a much more ambitious scale. It’s our country and we should decide who comes here, stays here or leaves.
Smaller government and social mobility
And when it comes to our overlarge government machine, we must make it more accountable to people by acting in a business-like way and appointing temporary ministers for distinct projects. I want to see us building a new meritocracy, one that ruthlessly encourages social mobility. I don’t want people to be promoted on anything other than the skills they have and the potential they show.
Coalition is failure
Coalition is the unwanted result of a failure to win an election. The reality of Coalition doesn’t mean we need to act like we’re pleased about it. This Coalition has taken us further away from our core grassroots policies than I ever thought possible. It has sidetracked us and caused confusion for the public, upset for our loyal voters and huge disappointment for our dedicated party volunteers and candidates. Because of the Coalition our communications have been muddled and poor; we cannot get our simple messages across and there is a sense of a lack of self-belief in what is said and done.
We had no real choice but to form a Coalition for the good of the country and to secure our short-term fiscal and economic future. But Coalition cannot be used as an excuse for inaction. Right now we must focus absolutely on our own values, on Conservative policies for a conservative country. We must do everything we can to ensure the electorate knows what a majority Conservative government will do and understands that we can help them build a bright future for themselves and their families. The Conservative party is the party of the people
We need a clear sense of direction
What we need right now is a clear sense of direction. We must start acting like leaders, not followers. We need to reassert ourselves; believe in ourselves; be proud and hold our heads up high. We have nothing to be ashamed of; we have everything to gain. If we stick together, get behind our core values, go out and tell everyone who will listen just what we stand for and what it means for them then we will can the next election – but only if we are united and strong. Starting today, we must fly the Conservative flag, each in our way, and make the people proud of our country, heritage and future once again.
We can succeed. We can win. We can rebuild our nation with a wholly Conservative government. The Conservative party I know and love has the courage and the strength to fight and win the next election. We only need an injection of enthusiasm and vision to reignite our self-belief. We have everything else.