What is the Conservative Party for? What is the purpose of having a Conservative Government? This week Bernard Jenkin, proposed that the Conservative Party should have a mission statement. He rather spoilt it by proposing that it should include “to advance the cause” of “equality”. I’m certainly happy to sign up to equality before the law and equality in the eyes of God. But economic equality? That drab egalitarian formula of equal shares of misery. I’m disappointed that Jenkin sees that as our mission.
Even “equality of opportunity” is nonsense – unless you are proposing some Communist notion of banning parents passing on any wealth to their children. Fighting poverty should certainly be a key Conservative objective – that is a very different matter.
Michael Howard (or probably Maurice Saatchi) produced a pretty good “mission statement” for us in 2004. It had a positive, ambitious tone with a strong emphasis on freedom.
Perhaps Theresa May would like to revisit this initiative. There needs to a sense of purpose – not just identifying problems but our proposed Conservative solutions. However it is understandable that voters will judge the Conservatives on what her Government does. Or at least tries to do.
James Forsyth, writing in The Sun this morning says:
“One of Downing Street’s great fears is that the public ends up seeing this as a “zombie government” – in office but not actually alive. The problem for Theresa May is that the way British governments normally show they are doing things is either by introducing legislation or spending money. But it is hard for her to do either….
“On Tuesday, May’s new chief of staff, the former Tory minister Gavin Barwell, set out to the Political Cabinet how he thought they could avoid looking like zombies. He argued that they should be prepared to bring forward ideas and dare their opponents to knock them back.“
Barwell is right. It is better to lose a few Commons votes than just give up and do nothing. Harold Wilson got a lot of important laws passed in 1974 despite a hung Parliament.
It was also clear that the laws that were being passed were not just an indication of activity. It was not just managerialism. There was a clear direction (in his case, of course, a shift towards socialism).
Elsewhere in the newspapers this morning we are reminded of one important priority for the Conservatives. One bit of any Conservative “mission statement” that few of us would argue with is to uphold the rule of law. Overall crime has fallen and that is an important achievement. But moped thefts in the capital have hugely increased – the stolen mopeds are then used to facilitate more crime. Due to the penalties for carrying knives the weapon of choice is increasingly acid.
The Times this morning says in its leader(£):
“The government should seek to make the possession of acid without clear justification an offence. It should be illegal for teenagers to carry acid to school in water bottles, but it is not. On the same basis retailers should be required to see proof of identification and address from anyone who brings acid to the till. The law already says that if a buyer refuses to show ID, the shop can report the purchase. Vendors should be expected to use every opportunity to put criminals off, and the courts should consider tougher penalties for those who are not deterred.”
Tougher sentencing is also proposed. Given that cleaning products can’t be outlawed, it will doubtless be the case that further restrictions will not eliminate the problem – but if practical measures would help then they should be pursued.
There is another aspect to this (which I wrote about last year.) If the culprit stealing a moped is not wearing a helmet the police are under instructions not to pursue them for health and safety reasons. That needs to change.
A Deliveroo delivery driver working in east London might not spend too much time on textual analysis of Conservative pronouncements. But he needs to be shown that under a Conservative Government law and order is a priority. He needs to be confident that the Government will do all it can to prevent people throwing acid in his face. That must be our mission.