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« Grayling, O'Brien, Heald, Laing and Greening back Liam Fox's emerging leadership bid | Main | Tim Yeo calls for one centrist candidate to emerge »


Donald Burling


There are two main streams in Conservative thinking. One regards success as a virtue, failure as a vice. According to this view support for the poor and needy should be kept to a minimum, while the rich should be free to exploit their advantage to the full. Upholders of this line are exclusively upper or middle class.

The other stream, influenced by Judeo-Christian principles, recognises that we all have a responsibility for the welfare of others. A prominent advocate of this in the 19th century was Lord Shaftesbury, a committed Tory who worked endlessly for the interests of the poor. This viewpoint has a strong appeal to a minority of working-class voters.

Unfortunately during the latter part of the Thatcher/Major administration, the success-oriented stream came to dominate the party. Thus we saw a drastic reduction in the highest rates of income taxation and a freezing or phasing out of allowances at the lower end. This led to a culture of greed, where company directors feel entitled to pay themselves six or seven figure remuneration while holding down "inflationary" pay demands from their workers. New Labour has largely inherited this culture, so that no party is now standing up for the interests of the working class.

Iain Duncan Smith made a valiant but largely unsuccessful attempt to move the party to a more compassionate stance. He is now pursuing his objectives independently of the party through the Centre for Social Justice.

Unless the Conservative Party can rediscover its roots as a "One Nation" party, we have little chance of regaining the respect of the large number of working-class people who used to vote Conservative, and whose support we desperately need. Margaret Thatcher's great strength was that she did not shrink from reversing the policies of some of her predecessors. Let us hope the new leader, whoever he is, will have the courage to reverse some of hers.

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