Press Conference launching Federation of Conservative Students’ Free Enterprise Campaign
|Document type:||public statement|
|Document kind:||Press Conference|
|Venue:||Conservative Central Office, Smith Square, Westminster|
|Source:||Thatcher Archive: CCOPR 1041/76|
|Editorial comments:||1015-1045. Only MT’s opening statement appears to survive.|
|Themes:||Conservative Party (organisation), Conservatism, Economy (general discussions)|
I can imagine no more heartening development in politics than the decision of the Federation of Conservative Students to launch this campaign in support of free enterprise—unless, indeed, it is the growing strength and influence of the Federation itself.
It is clear that the Conservative Party is closing the generation gap.
Look at the facts.
The Federation is now the largest political student group in free Europe. Its membership stands at more than 10,000; and has risen by sixty per cent in recent years. There are more than 170 affiliated organisations, represented in all sorts, shapes, and sizes of institutions of higher education throughout the country. A recent public opinion poll suggests, moreover, that Tory strength is waxing, not waning, among the young. And, to cap all this, the FCS has decided, in courage and confidence, to fight its next battle on the high ground of politics, where the armies of freedom and the armies of Socialism clash.
The significance of this decision will not escape anybody concerned for the future of our society.[fo 1]
The battle for freedom is not one that occurs now and then. It is not the kind of battle that can skip generations. It is happening in my time. It will happen in my children's time. And it will happen in their children's time.
The immediate form it now takes is one of economic systems. We know, of course, that no freedom is possible without economic freedom. But, under the disguise of beneficence, those who propagate the idea of increasing control of the economy by the state insist that no prosperity can be assured, no social welfare guaranteed, no gentleness, or kindness or charity in our society maintained, unless the control of the economy is taken out of the hands of the individual, and given over to government.
Against that view, I, my party, and the Federation of Conservative Students have set our face.
Here are some more facts.
—Free Enterprise, not controlled by the state, not dominated by Government, provides ninety per cent of our exports.
—Free Enterprise, not controlled by the state, not dominated by Government, pays more than three thousand million pounds in taxation every year. Without it, what social services could we provide.
—Free Enterprise, not controlled by the state, not dominated by Government, provides nearly three quarters of all jobs in Britain. And when a Socialist government has caused the number of unemployed to rise to 1.6 million we need every job we can get.[fo 2]
You would think that, with such a performance, any government which wished its people well would be encouraging rather than discouraging free enterprise. Alas, it is not so.
Under the influence of Socialism the free enterprise system is being drained of its life's blood.
How heartening it is, therefore, that an increasing proportion of our young people should be coming forward and refusing the dreary future a state-dominated economy and a state-dominated society offers them.
I do not say that we have won the battle; but we are most certainly winning the argument.
And the Federation of Conservative Students are making sure that free enterprise and freedom itself are being assured a chance of victory.