We need more social entrepreneurs as Tory MPs: Toby Young must do his duty
By Harry Phibbs
Follow Harry on Twitter
The author Toby Young wrote an amusing book, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, which chronicled failure. However he has since become a pioneer in one of the great success stories of the decade, the free school movement.
Mr Young is now contemplating a new career as a politician.
In his Spectator column this week he says he is considering seeking nomination as the Conservative candidate for the Hammersmith constituency at the next election.
He first outlines his understandable reservations but adds:
True, my chances of getting selected and winning the set would be slim, but those are the kinds of odds I like. I’m one of those people who doesn’t really feel alive unless his back is against the wall. I
could go for a safe seat instead, but where would be the fun in that? If the Conservatives are returned in 2015 with an overall majority, and I beat Andrew Slaughter in the process, I would feel as if I’d
contributed to that victory. The satisfaction of having helped keep Labour out would be a source of comfort during the five years in the salt mines that followed.
I won’t pretend the brickbats thrown at me during the campaign wouldn’t hurt, but I’d be a sorry excuse for a man if I let that put me off. I’ve long ago learnt that the best defence against people bad-mouthing you is to continue to behave decently and honourably. You must judge yourself by your actions, even if others won’t. To paraphrase Kipling, don’t deal in lies even if you’re lied about, and don’t give way to hating even if you’re hated.
Finally, and most importantly, I love this dirty rotten country. So what if people have a low opinion of politicians? I don’t want to be an MP because of any special status it might bring. Like the majority
of people who embark on this treadmill, I’d be doing it out of a sense of patriotic duty and the belief that my lot would be better for the country than the other lot.
As I say, a tough decision. And I’m going to have to decide whether to go for it in the next few weeks.
I am a resident and local councillor in the Hammersmith constituency. I would be delighted to wake up on Friday May 8th 2015 to discover that Mr Young is my Member of Parliament.
His credentials could hardly be stronger.
Today saw the opening of the West London Free School Primary. It is hugely oversubscribed as is the West London Free School secondary school which was opened in 2011 by Boris Johnson.
Another free school founded by Mr Young opens in the Hammersmith constituency next year, in the Barons Court area.
It is foolish to enter politics with exaggerated anticipation of gratitude. However when I talk to parents at the West London Free School they often become emotional in expressing their pride at the education their children at receiving, at how transformational it is for their children's life chances.
Would these schools be safe under a Labour Government? Would there be opportunities to start more?
Mr Young tells me:
"My main reason for running would be to protect the local free schools and academies. I fear for their survival if Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister, given how close he is to the unions."
Naturally Mr Young would face stiff competition in the selection. Not least from one or two of my excellent fellow councillors. However I hope it will put his name forward having accepted that it is his patriotic duty.
I also hope that more social entrepreneurs come into politics. It would be a shame if the wrong lessons were learnt over the Conservative Party A-List saga. Certainly having worthy apolitical types floating in does not work. They need to be resolute Conservatives and capable of withstanding the tough battle of a campaign.
Yet those like Mr Young who are both social entrepreneurs and staunch Conservatives should be encouraged.
What about John Bird the founder of the Big Issue, that most famous of social enterprises and most robust champion of self help?
What about Danny Kruger? After being a speech writer to David Cameron, Mr Kruger went on to found a fantastic crime rehabilitation charity called Only Connect.
What about Dominic Llewellyn a leading figure in social finance, using funds from social impact bonds oncost effective schemes to cut youth unemployment? He stood as a Conservative candidate in Newcastle at the last election.
What about James O'Shaugnessy? He was head of policy for David Cameron at Downing Street. Now we read (£) in the Sunday Times he plans a chain of primary schools - free schools and sponsored academies - instilling "grit" and "character."
These are the people the Conservative Party needs to counter the charge the Conservatives are only interested in serving the rich. They are also the people the country needs to have in Parliament. They understand the changes that are needed and how they can be brought about if the state ceases to block them.
So I hope Mr Young puts his hat in the ring for Hammersmith. But I also hope he is just part of a new wave of Conservative candidates across the country.