Opposition is a time for reflection, as an integral part of redeploying the Party for a return to power. Defeat at the polls, particularly when it reflects a substantial decline in the party's share of the vote, is a bruising experience. But nothing is a better test of a party's seriousness and fitness for office than the way it addresses itself to the causes of its setbacks while in office and its electoral defeat. Temptation to blame fate and the electorate is strong. But this can only leave faults undisclosed and weaknesses unrepaired. By contrast, bold re-examination of our ideas and practices in the perspective which experience alone gives, will armour us for battles to come.
John Biffen 's six thoughtful speeches constitute a contribution to this endeavour. They do not necessarily represent party policy. But that is the whole point of discussion among ourselves. The Conservative tradition itself is one of many strands, that is one essential characteristic of Conservatism.
Mr. Biffen's handling of political economy is an object lesson. He uses economic theory as it should be used, as an instrument for appraising ever-changing facts, not as a source of ready-made answers. He traces the interplay of economic and political forces with a sureness born of experience well considered.
A former opponent of Britain's entry into the European Economic Community, he offers constructive criticism which the Community's most impassioned supporters could welcome. His analysis of the national question: ‘A Kingdom United’?, will be novel to many readers and perplexing to some, but a valuable exercise in political logic for all.
At the eve of our Party's conference this collection of essays will provide further proof of our party's intellectual vitality and capacity for reasoned courteous discussion. It deserves a wide circulation.