Robert Leitch is 21 years old and in the third year of a
distance-learning politics degree from the LSE, and has been working in
Parliament for a Conservative MP. He is also a party activist in
I recently happened to stumble across the latest figures relating to cocaine use in Britain in a newspaper. Specifically, these figures charted the rise in the number of under-18 year olds who are being treated for addiction to the drug.
The statistics make for grim reading and provide yet another snapshot of how broken Britain truly is. According to the National Treatment Agency (NTA), the number of young people being treated for cocaine addiction has doubled over the past four years with 745 children seeking treatment in 2009 alone. Furthermore, the NTA believes that the figures relating to children have yet to peak – this sad and worrying trend is consequently predicted to continue for some time to come.
Disturbing examples such as this pose significant questions and should prompt us to think about the bigger picture – the future of our creaking society and how we must now attempt to address social deprivation and breakdown in the UK.
Some may claim that the above is somewhat overly-dramatic, but I think that it is difficult to argue against the existence and impact of Britain's social problems. Whether it be rising levels of alcohol abuse, the frequency of family breakdown, growing drug dependency, frightening youth crime or our destructive welfare cycle, one does not have to look far to identify some of the causes of Britain’s fractured society.
Yet, acknowledging that such problems exist should reaffirm our commitment to the political approach of compassionate conservatism. After all, compassionate conservatism recognises that politicians alone cannot bring about fundamental change in our society. Rather, it accepts as a starting point that we can only facilitate such change through the implementation of local, responsible, flexible and individual-focused policies. Individuals' behaviour and attitudes will not change because any government tells them to, but rather by responding to the environment and encouragement that surrounds them.
Indeed, from this premise flow so many of our most identifiable and exciting polices. For example, supporting the family unit by offering tax breaks to married couples will in turn encourage much needed stability in Britain's homes and better protect the increasingly absent family values in the fabric of our modern-day society (despite the events of the past few days it is essential that we now categorically commit to this). Likewise, our radical plans to reform Britain’s education system will offer local parents and communities greater input and control over the running of local schools – helping to tackle youth crime and anti-social behaviour whilst ensuring that the highest standards of education are finally restored.
In addition, our plans for a complete revamp of the welfare system will provide new opportunities for the further extension of asset ownership, offering individuals in our very poorest areas a chance to take control of their situations and futures once again. To replace dependency with aspiration will be a tough test but key objective of any incoming Conservative administration.
Meanwhile, protecting key NHS services and cutting the costly bureaucracy which undermines them highlights that compassionate conservatism supports those who truly need assistance. In a similar manner, implementing the recommendations of our Military Covenant Commission will ensure that our current servicemen and military veterans receive the care, respect and reward that their courageous and dedicated service deserves.
The compassionate conservatism blueprint has so much to offer. We must not become cynical, sceptical or tired of it. Labour’s shallow rhetoric of feeding the hungry, educating the children and healing the sick et al has not yet been sufficiently discredited nor its arrogant hold on social justice fully exposed.
We must continue to champion compassionate conservatism and cement it as the cornerstone of our platform. We are the true party of social justice, with the policies, ideas and desire to tackle the underlying brokenness in our society.