Written Statement on party unity
|Document type:||public statement|
|Document kind:||Written Statement|
|Source:||The Times, 10 February 1975|
|Editorial comments:||Item listed by date of publication. George Gardiner issued the statement through the Press Association (George Gardiner Margaret Thatcher (1975), p201). The report in The Times includes statements issued by Whitelaw, Prior and Howe.|
|Themes:||Conservative Party (leadership elections), Conservative Party (organisation)|
Four contestants: say why they are standing and what Conservatism means to them
All five candidates in the Conservative leadership election this week, except Mr John Peyton, the darkest horse of all, issued their personal testaments over the weekend on why they are standing and what Conservatism nowadays means to them. Tonight they are to appear in the BBC television programme, Panorama, to make their final appeal and tomorrow the 1922 Committee will vote in the second ballot between noon and 3.30 pm.
Characteristically, Mr. Peyton stayed at his home on the periphery of Regent's Park, London, yesterday lamenting to friends with satiric urbanity that apparently the judgment of the 1922 Committee was expected to be influenced by the abilities of potential party leaders to do household chores or almost anything irrelevant to government that might make a popular television picture. He asked how that could help the party or the country to understand its present peril, and held his peace.
Mr Peyton apart, all the candidates had to recognize that Mrs Thatcher, the front runner they must now challenge, had reinforced her position by the lucky accident of a speech on the economic situation to the Young Conservatives' weekend conference in East-bourne; lucky, that is, unless the acclaim she got is as counter-productive as the support last weekend for Mr Heath.
Mr Whitelaw, markedly her main challenger, replied yesterday with a statement of his reasons for standing and a declaration of what kind of leadership he offers the party. He emphasized his ability to unite the party and then the country, not over the narrow front that he implied Mrs Thatcher had in mind, but over the whole range of domestic and foreign policy. He left no doubt that the Conservative Party is choosing a potential prime minister.
Mr James Prior, who is generally expected to run third in tomorrow's ballot, also published a statement from his Suffolk farm. It was inspired by his belief that, more than Mr Whitelaw, he could unify the party from one wing to the other.
As shadow minister facing Mr Foot, Secretary of State for Employment, he placed his emphasis on the Conservative Party's withdrawal from the appearance of confrontation and divisiveness and the pursuit of a modus vivendi with both sides of industry in which individual freedom and a profitable private sector would have an indispensable place.
Sir Geoffrey Howe, QC, in his statement yesterday also reaffirmed his liberal belief in a free and open society and in the regaining of the initiative for Conservatism against Socialist opponents. He called on the party to make a broader appeal to the people—broader, by implication, than Mrs Thatcher—and the strengthening of that appeal in "the industrial heartland of Britain".
Mrs. Thatcher yesterday pledged herself to regaining Tory strength in industrial areas if she is elected party leader. She stated:
It is true that, as a party, we now have too narrow a South-east base. We must regain the ground we have lost in the industrial areas of the Midlands and North, in Scotland and Wales.
This will be my priority if elected leader, and I am greatly encouraged by the number of MPs from these parts of Britain pledging me their support in this great endeavour.
Mrs Thatcher said that by the end of this week the Conservative Party's fundamental unity would have been strengthened. I believe all the leadership candidates know that, whatever the out-come, we shall be working together. But real unity will not be secured simply by declaring that one will unify. Unity is achieved through involvement.
In opening out our party we must ensure that the wisdom of experience is married with the vigour of youth, and that those with special knowledge of all levels of industry, commerce and the professions, at home and overseas, are brought together to help shape our future policies.
We also secure unity by seeing that the different parts of Britain are represented in our team.
The unity, she said, had to be cemented by proclaiming a message "that is clear, that carries conviction and that is seen to be relevant. We must fight for this together".
Mr Whitelaw stated in a message to constituents:
My objective in standing for the leadership is to unite our party. The Tory party must be united not only at the next election but in the weeks and months ahead. The Labour Government is actively dividing the country, and is passively allowing the nation to lurch towards disaster. We cannot know therefore what duties will be thrust upon the Tory party, nor what tasks we shall have to perform. But we do know that we shall not be able to perform those duties unless we are strong.
In times of peril for the country a strong Conservative Party is vital. Without unity we shall not successfully defend the values and institutions of our free society. Without our own unity, we cannot help unite the country. And we can achieve that unity only by moderation, breadth of vision and generosity.
While we must be ready to serve our country in the deepening crises of the coming months, we must also be preparing ourselves for the next general election, whenever it may be. We must reexamine every aspect of our policies, and probe every part of our organization. In recreating itself the Conservative Party must be as energetic and comprehensive, as thorough and ingenious, as it was in the years after the 1945 disaster.
In this "exciting" activity there was a role for every MP, he said.
Our opponents are paralysed by their paymasters. They are stuck immovable in the stale but very damaging class-war policies of a bygone age. Luckily, we on our side have intellectual freedom and we must use that intellectual freedom to hammer out our ideas and our policies for the recovery of Britain.
It will be the task of the parliamentary party, aided by the party in the country, to produce those policies out of the free play of argument and the clash of ideas. Nobody and no group should have a monopoly of policy making. Every member is needed.
Only in this way will we be able to take full advantage of all the vitality and ability of the party, and only in this way will we be able to produce policies that will be accepted by the whole Conservative Party in Parliament and in the country.
Party unity was essential for winning elections and for uniting Britain, Mr Whitelaw said. Our policies will not be successfully implemented unless the country can see that they are the out-come of very wide and intensive discussions and that they possess the widespread support and sympathy of a united party.
He said he would make it his business to see that the Armed Forces were not starved of men, money or equipment.
Our party is naturally divided after two defeats, and Britain is naturally divided by the socialist Government. If I am elected, my aim will be first to unite the party, and then to go on to unite the country.
Mr Prior, in a statement to his constituents in Lowestoft, said:
I do not think there are great doctrinal splits between us. For the most part it is a difference of emphasis and personality that separates us.
I would accept the leadership in the high hope that I could help to guide the party towards victory in the next election. I believe I know what has to be done. The people of this country do not really want the mean drabness of socialism, but they have temporarily lost sight of the true meaning of the Conservative alternative. In latter days it has been too easy for it to mistake us as a party of confrontation and divisiveness.
I am not pretending that harsh truths must not be faced. At the present time the country is in a serious crisis and tough measures will be needed.
As I look at the state of our country today it is surely not too hard for Conservatives to plot their course. We see a Government that is set on extending, state control over more and more of our personal lives. Takeover of this, interference with that. The scope for private enterprise, profit initiative, even private choice, is being drastically reduced. We are being moved nearer and nearer to a faceless society in which individuals and minorities count far less. It is a time-honoured Conservative principle to stand up for the individual. It is in the name of the individual and individual freedom we must now do battle against our increasingly impersonal society.
We must not simply stop further encroachment by the state. We must find ways of restoring to the individual citizen more say in his own affairs. The power of the bureaucrat should be diminished.[fo 1]
Instead of assaulting the virtues of family responsibility and thrift, we should reward the efforts of those who work hard and enhance the opportunities for people to own a home and even a share in the company or organization for which they work.
In our new deal for the individual, we must create opportunities for the many socially disadvantaged people in our community to enrich their lives. We must promote the concept of neighbourliness between one person and another, for individual care is of greater importance than state aid. When we look at the immediate practical difficulties of industry and the economy which stand in our path I can only say that we have to establish a new form of consent between management, unions and government. If we tackle the problems which genuinely worry employees, such as the fear of unemployment, low pay, and poor communications in his firm, I think we can get a more common acceptance of the need for profit and efficiency to get Britain advancing again. Without such consent we shall continue to be bedevilled by "them and us" attitudes which have done much to undermine our purposes.
I shall encourage Conservatives to play a full part in community life and make new contacts with different industry groups. We will demonstrate afresh that we are a national party … .
Sir Geoffrey Howe in a message to the chairman of his East Surrey constituency said that the battle for the Conservative leadership must be made shorter and simpler in future. Sir Geoffrey, one of the contenders in round two of the contest, said:
The present prolonged public contest for the leadership of our party is, I know, causing disquiet among our supporters. I share this feeling. In future the process of selecting a leader must be made shorter and simpler. But it is right that there should be an open electoral procedure.
There should be the widest range of realistic candidates. That in itself confirmed that there was a diversity of talent in the party and obliged candidates and MPs to think clearly about the policy and style of leadership needed.
"I have allowed my name to go forward not for the sake of tactical personal advancement", he added. "I am standing because I believe I have the qualities that would enable me to lead the Conservative Party in the direction it wants and needs to go."
If the party was to reestablish itself as the naturally governing party with wide support two things had to be done.
First, we must restate our Conservative principles and philosophy in self-confident, convincing and contemporary terms. In the past we have perhaps concentrated too much on trying to solve specific problems and have allowed our opponents to mould the climate of opinion. It is time for us to regain the initiative.
We must convince the voters of the value and realism of our beliefs and ideals. Our philosophy, effectively restated, is more credible and more in line with the aspirations of the British people than are the envious, levelling, restrictive tenets of socialism.
We need to reaffirm our belief in a free and open society. Much current discontent and frustration arises because people feel they have lost the power to influence their own lives.
We should champion this desire to restore freedom to families and to individuals. And we must make it plain that all our political freedoms, as well as our prosperity, depend upon the existence of a free economy. Democratic liberty and democratic capitalism stand or fall together.
On Saturday Sir Geoffrey said in Bristol that the welfare state had drifted into several blind alleys.
The really needy are being sacrificed because their share of the takings is too insignificant to be meaningful. So the poorest are becoming poorer.
Indiscriminate distribution of little dollops of cash and subsidies had camouflaged many of the basic problems.
We have often dished out the aspirin but failed to diagnose the real illness. In doing so, we are destroying the British quality of self-reliance and undermining the dignity of the individual.
Sir Geoffrey gave a warning that inflation was ripping through resources of the welfare state. Two sections of the community were particularly in need of help, the disabled and the single-parent families, whose incomes were often below supplementary benefit level.