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« Charles Krauthammer: Civil liberties must be restricted when the threats are great | Main | Clive Davis: America’s new Ambassador to Britain has a massive job ahead of him »


James Hellyer

Britain should fundamentally renegotiate its position with The Conservative Party?!?

Cllr Graham Smith

I saw a different emphasis in his piece, as illustrated by the way he asked, and answered his own question:

'It is time the Tories asked themselves: "Other than providing jobs for politicians, what is the Conservative Party for?"

'My answer is that the Conservative Party is a national unionist party. The English, Northern Irish, Scots and Welsh possess these islands as our national home and have the right to defend them against any who seek to occupy them or restrict our liberty. It is for us alone to decide who may be admitted. At the heart of Conservatism is the belief that, since man is born free, laws can only make him less so. "Human rights" legislation, for example, can only impose obligations.

I have never before seen British Rights set out so clearly and concisely. Surely the right to true self-determination and increasing democratic freedoms within the context of histirical precedent is what has singled our countrymen out from those of other nations?


P.S. I think in your enthusiasm to mention as many national groups as possible you have contorted the name of our country, which is surely the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

P.P.S. The text editor on this blog doesn't seem to recognise tags, so it is impossible to italicise the quotations in this posting.

Peter Littleton

Lord Tebbit's second point makes a valuable observation.

"At the heart of Conservatism is the belief that, since man is born free, laws can only make him less so. "

I don't believe it is entirely correct. For example, a law prohibiting murder should serve to protect one citizen from having his or her freedom encroached upon by another. Nonetheless, the broad point remains that most legislation on the part of the government does reduce freedom - for example the budget removing the right to go out and earn a living without interference.

This does not mean that all most government legislation is inherently bad. However, it does require a responsible government to be aware of it, and it must at every turn be prepared and able to justify it. This would be done with schools and hospitals by suggesting an overwhelming public demand and common humanity that requires communities to act to prevent suffering. Even so, I would argue this mandate is not a blank cheque and should be used with care.

There is little such mandate with Lord Tebbits suggestion that the institution of the traditional family should be propped up by government policy, which inevitably means the introduction of law. To promote the nuclear family has to mean discriminating against other set - ups, some chosen and others occurring as a result of circumstances, who wouldn't be able to benefit from the policy introduced. What justification can Lord Tebbit show for such an encroachment on liberty.

To conclude, I agree that man is born free. In general it is not human beings to take that freedom away, whether they be private citizens or public authorities. Governments must act cautiously in any measure that reduces that freedom, and certainly a government that reduces it out of prejudice is not worthy of our respect or obedience!


James - silly error - up too early this morning. Should obviously have read renegotiate relationship with Europe. Sorry everyone.

Selsdon Man

It is great to see Lord Tebbit on top form again.

I disagree with him one point - that government should provide the currency. Most European countries, especuially Scotland, have had free banking (privately issued currencies) at some point in their history.

I recommend Friedrich Hayek's "Denationalisation of Money" (IEA). There is more on the Mises Institute web site (

James Hellyer

As usual, Lord Tebbit is on the right track. This is a very meat & potatoes view of Conservatism, but none the worse for that.

Lord Tebbit falls into the Conservative trap when it comes to health and education, he stresses structural reforms (with which I agree wholeheartedly), but never stresses the desired ends (which, after all, are the selling point).

Mark O'Brien

Lord Tebbit is really stating the obvious as far as our principles as a party are concerned, even if there may be disagreement within the party over one or two policy issues, like our relationship with Europe or education reform. What's more, he puts our philosophy in terms which nobody can have any qualms with. If the British people merely voted for a party based on its abstract philosophy, with our belief in the freedom of man, against Labour's determination to destroy individual freedom, we would win every election in a walk. Every single speech by a Conservative MP in the next five years must contain the word 'freedom' at least once, so that nobody is in any doubt what we believe in!

James, you note that Tebbit stresses structural reform of the public services, but not the desired ends. I would argue - and this is merely an issue of presentation for an electioneering oppostion - that as structural reforms would devolve responsibility for health and education, politicians are not the ones who can talk about the desired ends of policy (if by 'desired ends' you mean promises that cancer treatments are treated quicker or more students taking A Levels). If I'm misunderstanding you, and if you mean by 'desired ends' the benefits of structural reform, rather than the uncertain effects of reform, do forgive me.

James Hellyer

Mark, my point is that the elctorate aren't interested in "means" like school vouchers, what they are interested in are "ends" like access to better schools for their children. To sell them the "means" they need to be persuaded that they will deliver the desired ends.

Mark O'Brien

That's fair, so long as we don't get dragged into giving promises that we can't live up to. We all know that school vouchers by themselves will not make education in Britain great for everyone. For the most part, that requires a lot of dedication for a long period of time. But if Labour start promising to get every child with three vowels in his surname five top GCSEs, no advocate of the school voucher can respond in kind. Of course, vouchers do give access to better schools, but they do not necessarily bring better education by themselves. We've got to be careful when making promises about what school vouchers can achieve. Education should only be slightly affected by government policies. The rest is down to parents, teachers and students.

Derek Buxton


Thanks for the heads up, I had not picked up your article at the time. It does contrast with the Rifkin article on Sunday which was pro EU, this of course was never mentioned in the election run up.


John Bercow MP, one time aide to Lord Tebbit, and now one of the party's most prominent modernisers has written a letter to The Telegraph about Lord Tebbit's article:

"Lord Tebbit is right to criticise the Conservative election campaign, which was lamentable. However, he is wrong to suppose that a return to unadulterated Thatcherism would offer salvation.

Instead, the party should make a determined pitch to reclaim the mantle of one-nation Conservatism. We should set out a positive Tory vision of economic efficiency and social justice; develop a new agenda for the state, which includes delivery of high-quality services to all within a responsive public sector; and demonstrate that Conservatives champion equality of opportunity, irrespective of race, colour, country of origin, disability or sexual orientation.

That is what the electorate wants, although it might not have been of this view in 1987, when Norman Tebbit last stood for Parliament."

James Hellyer

What does Bercow mean by "develop a new agenda for the state, which includes delivery of high-quality services to all within a responsive public sector"? Does this mean commiting ourselves to the services we have as they now, and at most tinkering with them? I can't see how that would work.

The story of NHS reform under both Conservatives and Labour is everything has unintended and bad consequences. Our supply side reforms failed because the state sector seems incapable of negotiating contracts with private firms. Labour's attempts to provide specialist private clinics (for cataracts, for example), simply deny hospital Doctor's experience of treating that ailment.

What does he mean by "social justice"? This buzz phrase is increasingly used and ill defined. Does he mean what Labour thinks it means?

And why does he say this: "and demonstrate that Conservatives champion equality of opportunity, irrespective of race, colour, country of origin, disability or sexual orientation"? Nothing Lord Tebbit said equate to "bash the gays" or "be nasty to immigrants". However that is just the implication of Bercow's tagline: "That is what the electorate wants, although it might not have been of this view in 1987, when Norman Tebbit last stood for Parliament."

Do we really need Labour to say we're prejudiced when their useful idiots in our ranks do it for them?

Simon C

Glad you have posted this Editor. I spotted it this morning and intended to if you hadn't. I thought Bercow had been uncharacteristically silent. On this evidence, it is a shame he did not remain so.

Is this truly the most inspiring vision and language he can offer the country? Bercow used to deploy robust language himself, so I am sure he won't mind me describing this offering as meaningless pap. Thanks to James Hellyer for doing the donkey work to explain why that is so.

Once again, Bercow reserves his real fire for his own Party - a pity he hasn't taken to heart Cameron's excellent advice that we should stop trashing our brand.

Sean Fear

One Nation Conservatism, as Bercow seems to mean it, had run its course by October 1974.

I would suggest that Norman Tebbit (as usual) has a far better grasp of what the centre right section of the electorate wants than John Bercow has.

Bercow of course, is much more closely in tune with people who wouldn't vote Conservative if you paid them.

Daniel Cowdrill

I agree with most of what Lord Tebbit had to say about what the purpose of the Conservative Party is, except for one point. He claims that "there cannot be a multicultural society". Well, there is. While there are a set common values and institutions that every individual can subscribe to, which include liberty, and democracy, there have always been smaller cultures within society that groups of people subscribe to, such as religious cultures or cultures which surround certain types of music or hobbies. The truth is our society is a patchwork of different cultures, and it follows that we all support values such as liberty and democracy because they defend the individuals right to live their own way of life. I see the Conservative Party as the defender of liberty, which by its nature can embrace widely differing cultures. Indeed the Conservative Party will have to if it is to connect with younger voters. Don't forget that the Conservative Party's narrow victory in the 1979 election was based on the votes of under 30s.

James Hellyer

Michael Howard says that multiculturalism "means so many things that it is capable of being championed or challenged by people who may largely agree with each other about what they really want. And on that fundamental point, I believe there is widespread agreement."

I think he's right. The point Lord Tebbit is making is against the prevalent reading of multiculturalism, where differences between cultures are what are emphasised and celebrated, rather than the core values to which we should all subscribe. It's much the same point that Sir Trevor Phillips makes when he calls for integration, not multiculturalism.

Daniel Cowdrill

I read Lord Tebbit's point quite differently. He clearly states that "society cannot embrace widely differing cultures. Hence there cannot be a multicultural society". This is wrong. The common institutions we can all subscribe to including parliament, democracy and the rule of law, exist to protect individual liberty so that we can live our lives the way we wish. As a result our society is made up of many different cultures, and it is precisely because of our common institutions and values that this is possible. As the Conservative Party is the defender of our institutions and of the liberty those institutions protect, then I would expect the Conservative Party to recognise our multicultural society.

If Lord Tebbit had wanted to say that the values we can all embrace should be celebrated rather than multiculturalism, then that is what he would have said.

James Hellyer

The key words are "widely differing". If cultures are "widely differing", how can they be said to share core values?

Daniel Cowdrill

We all subscribe to parliament and to values such as the rule of law, democracy and liberty. This is why they are common values. However, my point is that there are many cultures within society and they can be widely differing, but nevertheless everyone still shares the core values that underpin the state as they allow people to live their own way of life.

Michael McGowan

I would have thought it fairly clear from the events of the last two months that there are small, but significant minorities within the UK who do not share the core values that underpin liberal democracy. Indeed they loathe and detest those values. How does Daniel Cowdrill propose that we deal with such sections of society?

As for John Bercow, after his serial disloyalty in the last Parliament, I simply cannot take him seriously as a Conservative MP. If Howard Flight can be ditched, Bercow should have been out on his ear long ago.

Mike King

As ever, most of what Lord Tebbit said was correct but by his comments on multiculturalism he did what so many Tories have spent the last decade or so doing - gave our opponents a soft goal.

I'm married to a black woman & we have a mixed race child. Many of our friends are West Indian & Asian.

As soon as they hear comments like Lord Tebbit's they fear its the back door to forced repatriation & don't hear any thing else he said.

And yet anyone who knows any West Indians or Asians should know they are natural Tories, with the same beliefs on marriage, sexual orientation etc as Lord Tebbit.

If he kept off the multicultural issues they might actually listen to him & find they agree with him on most other things.

George Bush has shown it is possible to get people of colour to vote Republican & its maybe time the Tories really tried the same tactic.

After all, there are a lot of people from ethnic backgrounds in crucial constituencies like the West Midlands.

K Wells

Most legislation from this government, and also unfortunately from the Major government has fallen to the law of unintended consequences which is as reliable as Murphy's law.
All new legislation from the next government must be subjected to rigid examination to escape that fate.
So far Cameron's ideas do not pass that test.

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