Dr Liam Fox delighted the ConHome tent, crammed full to over-flowing, with a call to Conservatives to throw themselves with unrestrained conviction into the ideological battle against socialism.
It is vital, he said, that Conservatives proclaim the superiority of conservatism: “If we do not believe our values are better, why should anyone listen to us?”
Dr Fox preached “liberation conservatism”: a creed for “a Britain strong and proud and free”. For while Labour wants equality of outcome, which leads to intolerable mediocrity, Conservatives seek equality of opportunity.
Under Margaret Thatcher, “freedom for the sterile self-serving Labour fiefdoms” was “never fully accomplished”. This now is the task: for “it is disempowering for individuals to be locked in the addiction to welfare.”
Conservatives understand that “real prosperity can only be supported by genuine wealth-creation”, which in turn means “we must be the champions of the risk-takers”.
This kind of conservatism is profoundly meritocratic. It has nothing to do with class or gender or religious affiliation. Dr Fox recalled that when he joined the Conservative Party in the late 1970s, under the leadership of Mrs (as she then was) Thatcher, all that was required to be “one of us” was to share the same beliefs.
He added that this form of conservatism “must never be a vehicle of personal ambition”, but instead entails the proclamation of a deeply held philosophy. When a questioner asked whether “we need to engage more” with the predominantly left-wing intellectual world, Dr Fox replied: “Absolutely. Why are we so afraid to take on the conventional political wisdom?”
He added that “most of what Tony Blair did was a disaster for our country” (applause) and there is now “far too much about political tactics and the short term”. Conservatives should spend “less time worrying about what Polly Toynbee and John Humphrys and the Guardian think”. The 1979 Conservative Manifesto had not contained much detail “but what it had was a vision”.
Another questioner wondered how Dr Fox was going to reach the wider public. The speaker revealed that he will soon be launching “OMF”, which stands for “One Minute Fox”: a series of short films to be posted on YouTube in which he will present his ideas on subjects such as immigration in “little bite-sized chunks”.
Dr Fox added that “government is very inefficient”, “mismanagement across government is ridiculous” and “the answer to that” is to “have less government”.
Why, he was asked, are people going to UKIP, and what can be done about this? Dr Fox replied that “we need to have a better narrative on immigration when we go into the general election”. He wants to see “an open and shut system”: open, that is, to wealth-creators, who should be admitted under “an Australian-style points system”.
We must, he urged, bring back a proper sense of national pride: “The people I really loathe are the revisionist historians who want to apologise for everything,” and who allow “post-colonial guilt to cloud our genuine achievements”. Conservatives should be “the natural repository of pride in our country’s achievements”.
Dr Fox said he “was never a great fan of our forced marriage” with the Liberal Democrats. He described the Lib Dems as “economically incompetent”, Labour as “economically incontinent”, and said that for Ed Miliband even to be considered as a potential Prime Minister “shows we truly live in an opportunity society” (laughter).
When asked how we can ensure that our values prevail against ISIS, he replied that we must believe in the superiority of those values and “we each have to be a political missionary”. ISIS “will have to be confronted by military force”: to those who wish our forces to be used only for peace-keeping, he points out that “sometimes that peace has to be fought for”.
[Image: Liam Fox event]