So why did you join the Party?

When you’re up to your armpits in alligators, it may help to recall why you started to drain the swamp in the first place.  So why did you join the Conservative Party?
 
In my case, it was a dawning realisation that governments are there to serve the people, and not vice versa.  A perception that market solutions generally work, whereas top-down bureaucratic initiatives frequently fail.  I had seen the disasters of successive prices and incomes policies.  I saw the wisdom of Milton Friedman’s assertion that inflation is a disease of money.  I believed that our economic and social structures had to go with the grain of human nature.  I understood that self-interest, properly channelled within the rule of law, was a driving force for growth and prosperity.  The Marxist maxim "From each according to his ability; to each according to his need" seems self-evident, compassionate and ethical; but it fails in practice because we imperfect human beings are hard-wired to put the interests of ourselves and our families ahead of some remote general good.
 
As usual, Marx got it wrong, while Adam Smith got it right.  It was a moment of pure epiphany when I first read his killer quote: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest".
 
Yet too often in today’s Conservative Party, we seem to leave our core values stashed under the bed, while we rush off in pursuit of false prophets and fashionable fads.  And we end up taxing Tesco’s car-parks, and alienating voters.  If you believe that Goldsmith and Gummer are the guilty men, I will not argue with you.
 
One of the many reasons I love to work with American conservatives is their unashamed enthusiasm for conservative principles, which contrasts so sharply with our own grudging and intermittent approach.  They call them Jeffersonian principles, and they quote them and refer to them constantly.  They test policy proposals against them.  At a recent conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council (www.alec.org) in Philadelphia, a Conservative MEP colleague, there for the first time, said "Roger, I’ve heard more about Conservative principles in an hour here in Philadelphia than in ten years in the Conservative Party".
 
And what are these Jeffersonian principles?  Liberty with responsibility.  Enterprise and free markets.  Low taxes and limited government.  Family and nation.  And of course most Conservatives — the members and activists out there in the country, not the strategists and spin doctors in Westminster — immediately recognise these values.  These are our Crown Jewels.  These are what we are about.  Of course we should interpret them and adapt them and present them for the 21st century.  But we abandon them at our peril.
 
It is because of these values that I was delighted and proud to be invited, earlier this year, to become Honorary Chairman of The Freedom Association (TFA).  TFA is a membership organisation that campaigns on just these issues (www.tfa.net).  It also sponsors the Better Off Out campaign (www.betteroffout.co.uk).  I passionately believe in the principles which TFA campaigns for, and from my personal point of view, my Chairmanship gives me an opportunity to take the message of conservative values to a wider audience across the UK.  I use a lower-case "c" for conservative here, since TFA welcomes members and supporters from all parties and from none, provided only that they agree with our core principles.
 
To hear more about conservative principles, and about the TFA, please come to our two fringe meetings at Parry Conference next week in Blackpool:
 
The Freedom Association.  "Where’s Our Referendum?". 

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007. 1:00pm – 2:30pm.   Main Stage, Grand Theatre, Church Street, Blackpool 

Speakers:

MICHAEL ANCRAM MP (Former Shadow Foreign Secretary)
PHILIP DAVIES MP (Shipley)
ROGER HELMER MEP (Hon. Chairman, The Freedom Association)
IVO STREJCEK MEP(Czech Republic)
PHILIP HOLLOBONE MP (Kettering)

Admission: Free.  Contact: mail@tfa.net

 

The Freedom Association.  "Cool Thinking On Climate Change"

Monday, October 1st, 2007. 5:30p.m. – 6:30p.m. The Studio, Grand Theatre, Church Street, Blackpool

Speakers:
ROGER HELMER MEP (Hon. Chairman, The Freedom Association)
IAIN MURRAY (Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute, DC)
RUSSELL LEWIS (Former Director General of the IEA)

Admission: Free. Contact: mail@tfa.net

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