Article for Sunday Express ("We shall reward the workers and declare war on the wreckers")
|Document type:||public statement|
|Source:||Sunday Express, 22 April 1979|
|Editorial comments:||Item listed by date of publication. The article was accompanied by a Cummings cartoon of a grim Mick McGahey-like figure (labelled "Militant Union Power"), holding a collection tin with the Prime Minister’s face on the front while trampling a judge’s wig labelled "The Law". Reproduced with permission of Express Newspapers plc.|
|Themes:||General Elections, Labour Party and Socialism, Economy (general discussions), Energy, Conservatism, Religion/Morality, Trade unions, Strikes and other union action|
WE SHALL REWARD THE WORKERS AND DECLARE WAR ON THE WRECKERS
In his broadcast after the House of Commons withdrew its confidence from his Government, Mr Callaghan argued that the Labour Party now stood for continuity and that it was the Conservatives who wanted to change things.
I pass over the fact that behind Mr Callaghan are Leftist forces within his party which are determined to transform our country utterly and violently.
What strikes me is the shameless appeal to voters to accept our national decline as inevitable, and simply to make the best of it. Labour's campaign slogan should be: "Coast downhill with Labour"
For that is exactly what we have been doing. And the decline is accelerating. For more and more of us the ominous march of the statistics which record it is now the stuff of common observation.
The full magnitude of our decline has been concealed by North Sea oil. Here was an astonishing and unrepeatable piece of good fortune. It should be husbanded and deployed in long-term investment.
Instead, it has so far been treated like a win on the Pools, an invitation to "Spend, spend, spend!"
The Government has used it to hide the collapse of our industrial competitiveness and an excuse to postpone the painful remedies. But what happens when the coasting has to stop?
One of the strengths of Conservatism is that we don't live just for the present. We honour the past, and what it has to teach; we look to the future and prepare for it.
We see this long continuity of history in human terms. Those of us empowered to act now have obligations of respect and gratitude to our forebears, and duties to our heirs.
If I had to sum up Conservatism in a phrase, I would say: "A sense of responsibility."
It is precisely our sense of responsibility which leads us to reject the supine "Let's go on as before" invitation of Mr Callaghan.
I cannot, in good conscience, say to retired people: "I have no plans to change the economy which every single year reduces the value of your savings by at least a tenth."
I would be ashamed to say to my children and grandchildren: "Our society may not be much good, but it is the best we can do. Be grateful it isn't worse."
Yes: we do want a change. We wish to restore security to the old and give hope to the young. We long to put Britain back into the international race, by reviving the motives and principles which once made it such a formidable contender.
Being Conservatives, we see this process of restoration as the work of individuals. Each one of us must assume our own responsibilities. We must not take refuge behind collective decisions.
There is no such thing as collective compassion, collective energy and collective ambition by Act of Parliament. What we get, and become, depends especially on our own efforts.
What is the true dynamic society? It is the desire of the individual to do the best for himself and family.
How is society improved? By millions of people resolving that they will give their children a better life than they have had themselves.
There is absolutely no substitute for this elemental human instinct. The very worst a government can do is to deaden it by providing[fo 1] collective substitutes. They will not work and they destroy something precious and invigorating in the human spirit.
The true role of government is to unleash the natural dynamic of Man. That means restoring a wide degree of freedom to the forces inherent in human society.
We are re-learning one of the oldest lessons of history that freedom is indivisible. If economic freedom is denied, political freedom dies.
What use is freedom of speech and of the Press in a Closed Shop world? What value has a vote if all the real decisions in our lives are taken for us by government?
The fundamental error of collectivist philosophy is to teach that ambition is necessarily and wholly selfish, and that the acquisitiveness of the individual must therefore be replaced by communal benevolence.
But what is more heartless than the all-powerful State? And do not the industrious and farsighted benefit the community as well as themselves?
Charity begins at home: but it does not end there. The urge to save and the propensity to invest are powerful and natural engines of wealth creation, which work silently and efficiently for all of us, if only we will let them.
The truth is that man is individually creative and collectively profligate. Give the State control of 60 per cent of what we produce—as we have been doing—and wealth is dissipated. Tilt the balance back towards individual freedom of choice, and the wealth-producing process starts up again.
Freedom, then, but freedom under the law. The greatest gift government can bestow upon its citizens is the rule of law. No government can ensure equality: the road to authoritarianism is paved with such fallacies. What government can provide is equality before the law and thereby justice.
Trades unions have an important part to play in the process of industrial recovery. But under Labour their privileges have been so extended that a "militants' charter" has been created.
One man's privilege can be another's injustice: we have learnt that bitter truth in recent months. There is no justification for a framework of statute and policy which not only bears harshly on the creative but actively encourages the destructive elements in our society.
The same political climate which frustrates the energetic and inventive gives another kind of person instant power to close a school, take ambulances off the streets, wreck the routine of a hospital, cover our pavements with rubbish, paralyse factories, shut down newspapers, TV programmes and theatres, and halt lawful traffic on the highway.
Nobody, not even the most hardened Labour apologist, can wish to see a repetition of the cruelty and callousness of this winter. None of us can be content with a society where such things happen without check or penalty. In that sense I am a reformer and I am offering a change.
As Conservatives we are under no illusions about the liability [sic] of government to transform the moral climate of society, let alone bring it about quickly. But what human folly can destroy, human wisdom can restore.
Quite modest legislative changes, and still more the conduct and example of government, can tilt the balance back towards the creative and away from the destructive elements in our midst.
The first we shall encourage and reward; the second we shall pursue with relentless unremitting hostility.