Nicky Morgan is Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, a former Education Secretary, and MP for Loughborough.
Why is it that certain politicians need to test their theories to destruction? We had New Labour testing to destruction the idea that throwing money at a political problem will solve it. Now we have the EU ideologues in the Conservative Party ready to hold out so firmly for their theoretical version of Brexit that they may actually end up destroying the Party.
This sort of ideology has no place in the Conservative Party. It doesn’t impress the vast majority of the British public, it doesn’t win or hold marginal seats, and it won’t help us to stay in Government.
Yesterday’s Sunday Times reported that in a snap poll 42 per cent of voters back the Conservative and Labour parties co-operating over Brexit, with 27 per cent opposed. Conservative, Labour, Remain and Leave voters all backed the talks by significant margins.
This sort of realistic approach to public policy is what the Conservative Party is best known for, when we remember how to do it. We are at our best when we show a pragmatism and flexibility to deal with the world as it is, not how we would like it to be.
Given everything going on it seems an opportune time to remind the Conservative Parliamentary Party, and those who might aspire to lead the Party in the near future, about this essential strand of our thinking.
That is why I recently formed the One Nation caucus of Conservative MPs with a board consisting of Amber Rudd, Damian Green and Sir Nicholas Soames. We have MPs joining us all the time.
A bit like defining Britishness, a definition of One Nation Conservatism isn’t easy to arrive at. But at its heart is a desire to bridge divisions in our country, caused by industrialisation (now better called globalisation) and inequality. When our country has never been more divided, this couldn’t be a better time to remind our fellow citizens that there are Conservative MPs who want to heal the divisions and not to perpetuate them.
That is why we are asking MPs to sign up to a Code of Conduct about the language we are using in the current Brexit debate. When the police have to ask politicians to temper our language then we should know, in our hearts, that something has gone seriously wrong in our politics. Respectful and generous debate in the public sphere is something MPs should be able to do without blinking.
One Nation Conservatives want everyone to have the opportunity to flourish. We want to reinforce the ties that bind us – the reciprocal obligations between citizen and state and to support local, civic and voluntary structures and institutions. We believe in the market economy and the virtues of free enterprise. Our values should be defended by an independent legal system who are treated with respect and never described as the enemies of the people.
We do not want to appeal to popular nationalism but we are patriotic and believe in nation states and the union of nations in our United Kingdom. We believe in country before party and an active internationalism. The UK should be at the frontline of tackling global challenges.
The One Nation caucus is not a party within a party. We don’t operate a parallel whipping system. Those who want to be part of the caucus have to make up their own minds on issues and policies. We aren’t ambivalent about the Conservative Party’s future, we want it to win.
So we will call out those of the New Right who have hijacked the Conservative Party and are making it less and less governable and able to govern by the day. One Nation Conservatism should be the future of the Conservative Party if we are serious about winning in the future.