Chris Grayling is Leader of the House of Commons, and MP for Epsom and Ewell.
There’s nothing that Jeremy Corbyn and Labour want more than a good old-fashioned battle between capitalism and socialism. They want the opportunity to squeeze the rich until the pips squeak. They want to load taxes onto major corporations. They want to renationalise industries. They want the state back in the driving seat.
Margaret Thatcher fought and won those battles 30 years ago. She defeated an ideology that had brought Britain to its knees. She championed what we as Conservatives passionately believe in – a low tax economy, that encourages wealth creators, because these in turn create jobs and prosperity for all; that supports the family, because it is the bedrock of a stable society, and that gives people the freedom to look after their own affairs and to keep and use as much of their own money as possible.
The vitriolic attacks by the Left on David Cameron in recent days should worry us all as Conservatives. Since when has it been wrong to build a successful international business that brought wealth back to the UK, and tax payments to the Exchequer? Since when has it been wrong for parents to plan their affairs to help their children? Since when has it been wrong to plan your finances to keep your tax bill as low as possible within the rules? Since when has it somehow been wrong for anyone in public life to have come from a prosperous background?
As a Party, we have long believed that those who build wealth in our nation should be able to enjoy the fruits of their labours, and also to pass on those fruits to their children and grandchildren. Why else did we fight the election on a platform of lifting the burden of inheritance tax, and why else are we now delivering that change – offering very large numbers of families the chance to pass on the family home, tax-free, to their children?
We’ve also championed the cause of low taxation as a way of driving economic activity and creating jobs, wealth, and the resources to fund high quality public services. Under Labour, we watched Ireland with envy as it attracted international businesses with a low tax regime, while Tony Blair and Gordon Brown kept taxes here high. In office we are steadily bringing down the taxation on business, and in doing so we have seen strong international investment in the UK, and a huge drop in unemployment.
Our financial services sector has been particularly important to us in achieving that. Despite the troubles in the banking sector, the City generates huge amounts of money for the Exchequer, and makes many of our public services possible. Without the City we simply could not afford them. It invests money around the world, funds infrastructure, shipping, enterprise, provides legal and insurance services. It is crucial to all of us.
David Cameron’s father was a successful figure in the City. He helped set up businesses around the world, brought money back to the UK, and in doing so helped support his family and our nation. He provided a good education for his children, made sure that they had a good start in adult life, and when he died, made arrangements to pass on money to his family. His widow has done the same. Since when would we as Conservatives regard such a man with anything except respect?
All Conservatives need to understand the challenge we now face. The crowds of protestors who gathered outside Downing Street this weekend are the same people that have taken over local Labour parties, who want to deselect moderate MPs, and who want to bring hard-line socialism to Britain. Corbyn and John McDonnell are their heroes. It was telling yesterday that Tom Harris, a former Labour MP whom I respect greatly, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the Prime Minister has done nothing wrong. He is absolutely right.
However, the reason for backing our Prime Minister in these difficult days for him is about more than simply rallying round our Party leader. It is about standing up firmly for our principles as Conservatives. The Cameron family has done nothing wrong by being successful, and by supporting its different members. It’s what most families aspire to do in a Conservative Britain. But the new face of the Labour Party wants something very different. We must defend our values robustly. And we must never ever give them the chance to turn their vision into a nightmare reality for our country.