Written by Jonathan Cummings
Whenever I talk to people, particularly young people about the Conservative party I’m often greeted by the same response; “they’re in it for their rich friends” and “they’re all toffs!” being the most common responses, but these are simply misconceptions and as a member who joined because I believed in the modernisation project, I know that conservatism is something greater than that, and always has been.
The Conservative party and modern conservative values reflect common human ambitions and therefore transcend race, gender, class and other demographics that usually serve as political dividers. These values are simple; the belief that if you work hard and get on you can succeed, social mobility in its purest form, and a modern conservative party that believes in a smaller, leaner and more efficient state delivering tax cuts for ordinary people right across the social spectrum can deliver it. Why does this matter to you? Currently the average wage in the UK is £26,500 and the average wage for a couple with two children is £44,200: enough to take your typical family into the 40% tax bracket. This puts a squeeze on the incomes of average working families and is by far their biggest outlay. Imagine going to work every day knowing that for 40% of the work you put in you will receive no monetary reward. This is the situation many of your parents face, the effects of which you see in their ability to fund anything from your university education to your first car, and that you in the future will face if the public finances are not brought under control and tax cuts are not delivered for families up and down our country. A leaner and more efficient state doesn’t mean the demolition of public services, but the belief that the government doesn’t own a penny and that it has a duty to provide these essential services using as little of your money as it possibly can. This leaner state and the tax cuts it can bring will allow families in particular to keep more of what they earn and in turn raise their standard of living, a kind of social mobility that the left simply doesn’t offer.
This belief in the power of social mobility is also reflected in the moderniser’s view on education; the return of grammar schools will once more offer the chance of social mobility to those who possess a natural flair and academic intelligence, regardless of social status. However this must also be combined with greater provision for those who want a more vocational route, whether that be through the arts or through apprenticeships, something that is becoming a more popular route for many young people. My belief is that this should be delivered through a combination of the grammar school and comprehensive system, with those who would like to take the purely academic route going to grammar schools, and those who want a more vocational option going to comprehensives before heading to specialist arts or technical colleges for Post 16 students, of which there are not nearly enough at the moment. This offers the power of education to everyone, and offers a real choice to young people to pursue a diverse range of careers. At the same time though, as a modern conservative, I can see the power of sex and relationship education in schools and I’m of the firm belief that this, along with basic political education, should be a statutory duty for all schools, regardless of whether they have academy status or are still under local authority control.
These are examples a couple of areas in which a modern conservative party can use traditional conservative values by applying them to a modern context in order to deliver for Britain, but where the most change has happened in the minds of conservatives between the old style and the modernisers is through social policy. It is my firm belief that the Conservative’s social policy should reflect modern Britain and not return to the dark days of intolerance we have witnessed in the past and still witness in UKIP. As a Tory who is broadly pro- European, who believes in gay marriage and equality of the sexes, and who believes that immigration is a broadly positive thing for our country, I don’t accept that modern social liberalism doesn’t couple with fiscal and economic conservatism, and believe that this is the direction in which the party should go.
These are all values and ideas that I believe not only appeal to all demographics and backgrounds, and therefore make the party more electable, but are vital to Britain’s future both in sustaining a strong and robust economy based on a belief in enterprise and reward for hard work and in ensuring a free and tolerant society. However, the rise of UKIP has seen the compassionate conservative vision that David Cameron took office within 2010 eroded, particularly in the areas of Immigration and Europe. In order for modern conservatives like myself to win the long term battle for the strategic direction of the party, we need people who share these common beliefs and values not to be afraid to say they’re a Tory, and to make their voices heard because a modern conservative party is not only vital for the electoral future of the party, but for the future of our country.