Simon Chapman was a barrister for 12 years and now works in the voluntary sector for a leading national charity. He stood in High Peak in the 2001 General Election. This piece is his own view and has not been seen by the Fox campaign.
Talking about the Conservative Party’s need to change is very easy. Actually changing it is rather harder. It’s the difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. One candidate, Liam Fox, has done it. He has used both his campaign and his job as Shadow Foreign Secretary to challenge perceptions of what it means to be a Conservative, and to change the Party for the better.
He has put Human Rights, democracy, fair trade and the rule of law at the heart of Conservative foreign policy. He has established the Conservative Human Rights group, demonstrating that commitment to Human Rights is not the monopoly of the left. He has set out a fresh and optimistic vision for Britain’s relationships within the EU, pledging himself to build alliances with emerging politicians in New Europe and promising an end to the Conservative attachment to the EPP – a grouping which has been entirely inconsistent with settled Party policy. He is global in outlook and has urged the EU to look beyond its boundaries to the rest of the world, supported Turkey’s accession to the EU, spoken out for the oppressed people of Burma, called for long-term structural reform in Africa, and made a well-received speech on the opportunities and challenges posed by China’s emerging economy. He has reaffirmed Conservative Atlanticism.
In a few months he has transformed Conservative Foreign Policy, an achievement which has been recognised and applauded across the Party and beyond. Whatever job he holds after the leadership contest, he has built a legacy which I hope will shape Conservative and Britain’s foreign policy for a generation.
As a leadership candidate, he has spoken directly to the British people, understanding that the electorate is entirely disenchanted with the spectacle of Conservative politicians talking endlessly to themselves about their need to change-and-reach-out, without ever getting round to doing it.
His vision for our nation stems from a Conservatism that combines his cheery optimism and love of this country with a rigorous and unflinching analysis of the challenges and problems that face 21st century Britain and a burning compassion for the people and communities that have been so damaged by long years of failed social policy.
His decision to make Britain’s “Broken Society” a key theme of his campaign shows that he realises that conservatism must be and always has been about more than merely economics. He has started to create a new language for conservatives: “broken society” is the most vivid and memorable phrase of this contest. His speeches on domestic violence and mental health (a long-standing concern of his), push the Party well beyond its comfort zone, and make casual stereotyping of his politics impossible. When it comes to economic policy, he is unabashed about promoting a clear prosperity agenda. His body of speeches this summer, and not least his conference speech, have been the most substantial of any of the 4 leadership candidates. He was the only candidate to launch his campaign outside the Westminster village.
Liam combines youth with experience. He became an MP at the age of 29. By the age of 34 he had served as a whip and a junior minister in the Foreign Office. He has been in the Shadow Cabinet since 1998. He is an excellent communicator, and has won approval from many media commentators and papers, including such diverse papers as the Sun and the Independent. He is still only 43.
Leadership is above all about character. I have touched on Liam’s already. He is warm-hearted, cheerful, generous and optimistic. His conduct of his campaign has demonstrated that he is principled, courageous, and passionate to make Britain a better place in which to live, work, bring up a family, and grow old. He has integrity, perseverance and vision. He has the intellectual clarity and self-confidence of a man who values ideas, has thought deeply about his beliefs, and is comfortable in his own skin. Under his leadership the Conservative Party will re-discover its self-belief, without which it will never return to power.
Liam’s campaign has been substantial and impressive. He has defied expectations, broken new ground, and won fresh admirers – just as the Conservative Party needs to do. He has led by example. It is a campaign I am proud to have supported. He deserves to win, and I believe that he will.