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Smaller government, strong defence, traditional values

Political principles

I disagree with most of Tony Benn's opinions. One of the few exceptions is his view that politicians can be divided into sign-posts and weather-vanes: a sign-post is guided by principles, a weather-vane by political fashion and expediency. A politician's priorities and policies should be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances. However, if their actions are not rooted in principle, politics becomes little more than an exercise in self-promotion.

The essence of my politics can be summarised as smaller government, strong defence and traditional values, three principles which are closely inter-linked.

Smaller government

The Conservative and Labour parties have fundamentally different views on the role of the state.

The Labour Party has great faith in the abilities and prowess of bureaucrats and politicians. If there is a problem, the state should fix it. Hence Labour's past micro-managing of the economy and society. Their multitude of taxes, benefits, credits and incentives. Unfortunately, however, our civil servants and politicians have a poor track record. Government IT projects run massively over-budget and are scrapped. Overpayments of family tax credit drive people on low incomes into debt and despair. Billions are poured into the NHS yet hospitals face a financial crisis, wards close and jobs are lost.

The Conservative Party places its faith in the ability of each individual to organise their life, bring up their family and spend their own money. We believe that parents and teachers, patients and doctors - NOT politicians - know best. The state may provide certain fundamental services and finance others. However, the objective of such activities must be to provide a framework in which the individual can flourish. Any assumption by government of additional powers and responsibilities should be challenged. And politicians should learn that money is best left in the pockets of those who earn it.

Government will be smaller and taxes lower under the Conservatives.

Strong defence

A politician's primary responsibility is to defend the person and the property, the freedoms and the liberties of the individual.

Threats to these interests will come from external sources - foreign countries, international terrorist organisation. A government has a duty to maintain armed forces capable of responding to or pre-empting such threats and to conduct a foreign policy focused on defending the interests of its people. Alliances with other governments and powers should be determined pragmatically according to whether they serve this objective.

Threats will also come from internal sources. A government has a duty to maintain police and intelligence forces capable of keeping crime in check and to deal effectively with criminals when they are apprehended. The causes of crime should be addressed. And politicians must also be watchful and prepared for unexpected threats to an orderly society, including natural disasters and disease.

Increasingly, however, the interests of the individual are threatened by the growing powers of government itself.

On the pretext of defending our freedoms and liberties, these freedoms and liberties are being undermined by identity cards, increased intrusion by bureaucrats into our homes, the spread of CCTV cameras and longer periods of detention without charge.

In business, years of de-regulation and privatisation are being reversed. Investors and employees in banks, utility companies and miners are threatened by arbitrary political action as governments seek to plug budget deficits by raising taxes and improve their popularity by attacking soft targets. "Political risk" is no longer just a concern in developing countries.

Conservatives must defend the individual not just from traditional external threats but, increasingly, from the threat of over-powerful government as well.

Traditional values

I have a strong respect for the traditional values of our country. Not because I have an irrational fondness for the past. But because ideas and institutions that have been tried and tested over time are more likely to provide a reliable and effective foundation for our society than the whims of a particular individual or political fashion.

Defining the traditional values of our country has caused problems for politicians in the past. My definition encompasses:

  • our unwritten constitution, incorporating the monarchy, parliamentary democracy, the Act of Union, the established church and the common law;
  • our traditional pursuits and pastimes, ranging from our sports and food to our architecture and literature;
  • the institution of marriage, the most effective structure for bringing up happy and successful children;
  • our morality, with its roots in Judaeo-Christian religion and its emphasis on tolerance, forgiveness and self-restraint; and
  • the practices of civic responsibility, originating with the philanthropists and reformers of the Victorian era and continued by the social entrepreneurs of modern Britain.

Politicians with a respect for our traditions and historic institutions are more likely to provide effective government.

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With the Mayor of London
With the Mayor of London
Listening to pensioners' concerns
Listening to pensioners' concerns
Meeting younger members of the community
Meeting younger members of the community
Visiting Guy's & St Thomas' Hospital as a Governor
Visiting Guy's & St Thomas' Hospital as a Governor
With Oliver Letwin, Chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum
With Oliver Letwin, Chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum
© Edward Heckels 2007-2019
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