I’m with Iain Duncan Smith in Washington (we’re off to Ottawa later today for meetings that include a call on Canadian PM Stephen Harper). The interest from American conservatives is at a level I’ve not known before. The combination of Republican woes and Tory strength obviously having a lot to do with it!

Iain Duncan Smith gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom yesterday in which he set out the importance of the social justice message to the Tory recovery.

He argued that the recession made Tory social policies MORE important rather than less so.  That has got to be right.  The next few years are going to be very tough.  The personal cost of Britain’s broken society was always awful but it’s now also true that the taxpayer cannot afford the cost of broken families, worklessness and adult dysfunctionality.  Policies to mend the family, reduce welfare dependency and improve education are even more important than in ‘good times’.  The nurturing of self-sufficient citizens will be crucial to creating not just social justice but the kind of creative and skilled workforce that will ultimately deliver sustainable prosperity.

IDS ended, however, with these words:

"At the end of the Thatcher years Britain was transformed. Europe’s sickest economy had become its strongest. The recipe had been low taxes. Simple taxes. Effective regulation. Privatisation. Free trade. Reform of the trade union movement. Intolerance of inflation.

They were necessary things to have done and I don’t say that lightly. They saved Britain from terminal economic decline.

 But somehow they didn’t create a nation that was quite at ease with itself. Margaret Thatcher knew that herself and used her memoirs to regret that she hadn’t been able to initiate ‘Social Thatcherism’.

As we rebuild our economies from today’s tough times we are going to need simpler taxes and open markets but the lesson of the 1980s is that those things won’t be enough.

When the next period of conservative government ends I want the British people to remember us for other things too. For helping parents to stay together and to spend more time with their children. For a nation where every one has a second chance. For building schools that reinforce the values of the home. For respecting and nurturing the skill of craftsmen. For protecting woodland and other habitats of rich natural beauty. For helping a new generation to understand their country’s history.

That’s the conservatism that will help make my country strong and contented again."

I agree with every word.  Conservatism is about so much more than economics.  In many ways it is the least important component of conservatism.

Download a PDF of the full speech.

Tim Montgomerie