Every week the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of the Young Britons’ Foundation, Donal Blaney, explains one of Morton Blackwell’s Laws of the Public Policy Process. Morton Blackwell is the Founder and President of the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia.
There can be little doubt that Margaret Thatcher won the battle of ideas in the 1980s. France and Germany continue to languish and stagnate while Thatcherism rescued and ultimately liberated the British economy (and indeed the British people). And yet while the Conservative Party won the battle of ideas, and appealed to the elector’s head, it never succeeded in appealing to the elector’s heart.
Economic policy – as well as such areas of social policy such as housing, health, education and law and order – continue to be arenas in which conservatism leads the way. Other than Gordon Brown (and I personally believe that even he would admit in the privacy of Downing Street that conservatism is right), nobody surely honestly believes that throwing money at a state-run NHS, education system, social security structure or pensions system actually delivers the results that those who pay for those services deserve.
Since the days of Margaret Thatcher – through to the darker days of Major, Hague, Duncan Smith, Howard and now Cameron – we have won the argument for less state intervention in the lives of individuals, families and businesses. And yet we have won those arguments by appealing solely to the head, not to the heart.
I do not dispute that winning arguments in this way is important. Indeed it is imperative. Arguments that appeal solely to the heart, without having any rational basis, are usually based on vacuous appeals to base human instincts (most usually selfishness, jealousy and greed).
But to engage vast swathes of electors, conservative ideals need to be able to appeal to the heart too. David Cameron has started to do this on environmental issues. But we should also give examples of businesses strangled into submission by burdensome regulations. We should make the moral case for low taxation and smaller government. We should point to examples of lives blighted by crime, day after day. And we should make it damn clear why the so-called jewel of the NHS is a bankrupt evil sham.
I write from the heart. My mother has this week undergone 13 hours of cancer-related reconstructive breast surgery at an NHS hospital in East Grinstead. Because breast cancer was seen as a pre-existing condition, she was unable to get private health coverage. She has had to rely on the NHS to treat her. Her surgeon was, by all accounts, skilled, magnificent and thorough. By contrast conditions on the NHS ward are a shambles. Even the Peebles Hospital in the British Virgin Islands was in better shape than the Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead. There are wholly inadequate levels of nursing care. Those few nurses who are on the ward barely speak English. They exhibit utter disinterest in the condition of their patients. Their lack of attentiveness borders on the callous. When my mother experienced severe chest pains less than 24 hours after her operation, it took over 90 minutes for a doctor to attend to her. We are increasingly highly taxed and what on earth for? Can someone please explain it to me because, frankly, today I have no idea.
This is the reality of today’s NHS. This is why we have a right to be furious at the level of care provided by the NHS. This is why a state run (as opposed to a state funded) health system is morally wrong. It affects people’s lives for the worse. It is unacceptable and it is by raising real life concerns that conservatives can finally stop apologising and can start making a case for private provision in healthcare.
Passion. Belief. Showing that you care and that you will actually DO something about the problems the country faces. That is what the electorate is crying out for. Not platitudes, spin and insincerity. People just want a home, access to decent and affordable healthcare, the right to keep what they earn, safe streets, dignity in old age, secure borders, the ability to change their nation’s laws. If this is not what conservatism is about then what are we doing here?
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