It’s a quote that was popularised by the former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, that
“If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain.”
But what if conservatives have been too ready to concede the moral high ground to the left-wing? What if the most legitimate example of compassionate policy is most closely aligned with conservative values and policy?
The time of an election can be one of high emotions, often good amounts of confusion and always immense frustration. While I cannot claim to be able to defend every policy enacted by like-minded politicians, I can set out why I’m a political conservative. In a nutshell, it’s because I think good conservative values are those which best lend themselves towards dealing appropriately with the biggest challenges of the future.
There is a widespread sentiment across the British political discussion, that for too long, politics has favoured the rich at the expense of the poor. That politicians have stood up for the interests of the wealthy, while failing to show compassion, to the poorest and most vulnerable. But could it be that policy which encourages aspiration, rewards wealth creation, promotes individual responsibility and independence from the state, is actually policy which is the most compassionate, natural and humane?
For too long, the left has claimed a monopoly on compassion and have dominated language of a moral high ground. The sense of moral superiority on the left is as repulsive as the born-to-rule arrogance sometimes found on the right. The left have no moral high ground, but broadly speaking the public hasn’t realised it yet:
- Global free trade is the driving force of worldwide poverty reduction, but is treated with hostility by the left. Trade liberalisation offers more benefits for the poorest than any other sustainable global development strategy.
- The moral implications of the intergenerational consequences of national debt have been treated with apathy. We are literally stealing from the next generation.
- Politically motivated and unsustainable welfare states are defended, despite failing to help move people out of poverty.
- Avoidance of the promotion of the two parent family in public policy is contributing to greater social and inequality problems. No social power can count for more than the love of parents for their children.
- A damaging and old-fashioned view of the role of the public sector is hindering progress in healthcare and education. The same-old homogenised monopoly of soulless industrial-scale factory-styled public hospitals and schools is embraced by Labour and is leading us down a path of stagnant innovation, little choice, low levels of care and an increasingly unbearable public burden. Communities need localised human-scale community-shaped services and choice.
- It is poverty rather than inequality that kills, but the left embrace anti-inequality policies that increase unemployment and poverty. Higher taxation of the wealthy is destroying the livelihoods of the poor. Nor is it reducing inequality.
- Tolerance of uncontrolled immigration is having serious implications for British low-skilled workers, suppressing wages and reducing job vacancies.
- Hostility to faith-based or unconventional forms of fighting poverty. The State can never love your neighbour as well as you can.
In contrast to the failings of the often well-intentioned left-wing policies, are the conservative values of enterprise leading to innovation and job creation; optimism about the future; belief in the virtues of moral citizens as a basis for democratic capitalism and respect for the desire for intellectual and financial independence. Small-state conservatism nurtures and promotes the family as the fundamental unit of a local community and its responsibility to look after itself.
Conservatism, is not however purely libertarian. Conservatism adopts a minimum income for those who can’t help themselves; builds a nation of second chances and is pragmatic, rather than either socialist or libertarian.
In the words of the late Reverend William J. H. Boetecker, which have been captured by The Good Right movement and which articulate the greatest summary of conservatism:
YOU CANNOT BRING ABOUT PROSPERITY BY DISCOURAGING THRIFT.
YOU CANNOT STRENGTHEN THE WEAK BY WEAKENING THE STRONG.
YOU CANNOT HELP LITTLE MEN BY TEARING DOWN BIG MEN.
YOU CANNOT LIFT THE WAGE EARNER BY PULLING DOWN THE WAGE PAYER.
YOU CANNOT HELP THE POOR BY DESTROYING THE RICH.
YOU CANNOT ESTABLISH SOUND SECURITY ON BORROWED MONEY.
YOU CANNOT FURTHER THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAN BY INCITING CLASS HATRED.
YOU CANNOT KEEP OUT OF TROUBLE BY SPENDING MORE THAN YOU EARN.
YOU CANNOT BUILD CHARACTER AND COURAGE BY DESTROYING MEN’S INITIATIVE AND INDEPENDENCE.
AND YOU CANNOT HELP MEN PERMANENTLY BY DOING FOR THEM WHAT THEY CAN AND SHOULD DO FOR THEMSELVES.
It’s a peculiar assumption to make that when the successful are rewarded, the poor lose out, but in the long term it seems that’s not the case. A government which nurtures global free markets, deals with unsustainable spending plans, creates jobs for the unemployed, encourages aspiration, rewards hard work and promotes the life-long two-parent family, is one which creates the best conditions for reducing the number of people in absolute poverty.
There are changes that Conservative policy has to make. We need more housing, suitable jobs for the disabled, a higher minimum-wage, increases to the income tax threshold and more investment in northern infrastructure, but these can only happen in a sustainable way if we prioritise a long-term strategic economic plan. There’s no compassion for the vulnerable in spending more than we earn, pushing away potential wage payers or refusing to push those who can to pay their own way.
It’s time conservatives stopped being afraid to claim the moral high ground and let the left get away with it. Conservatives must be proud and positive about what their values have and can do for the poor and vulnerable long-term, and lead the public discussion about how to create a society which rewards work, nurtures innovation and enterprise and looks after the most helpless and needy without question.
I’m voting for the Conservative Party, not because they are the flawless implementors of conservative values (some of their policies I can’t defend), nor because they can solve all our problems, but because their values, policies and intentions most clearly align with those that are required if we are to appropriately face the big problems of the next generation.