Parliament is our only hope
The principles of the Tory Party laid down by Disraeli were still valid today, Mr Norman St. John-Stevas, Under-Secretary for Education, told Finchley and Friern Barnet Conservatives on Saturday.
He was speaking as a guest at the local association's annual dinner in Selborne Hall, Southgate.
“A country's greatness only falls when the people cease to understand how and why institutions were created,” he said, saying that although there was much criticism of the Parliamentary system there was no proof that a better system had been devised.
Parliament was the centre of our national life and it was up to the Tories to defend this system. “If the Conservatives fall there will be not only a crisis in economic affairs but no future for the Conservative Party or Parliament,” he added.
After referring to this country's role in Europe Mr. St. John-Stevas turned to economic matters. “No one suffers more from marginary [sic] inflation than those who have the least means of defending themselves,” he said. Inflation is a moral problem and the first priority of the Prime Minister was to check inflation. “What we require is not criticism but standfast courage and resolve,” he ended.
Replying to Mr. St. John-Stevas ' speech, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, Minister for Education, emphasised the importance of public opinion.
She spoke of the changes in attitude adopted by people who felt they had the right to disobey a law passed in Parliament. It was only public opinion that allowed a government to get a law accepted, she said.
Commenting on the trade unions, Mrs. Thatcher said that they had “had a go” at the Labour Government and won. “They are now having a go at us and so far we've held. We've passed new laws and they have tried to flout them,” she said, adding that the Conservative Party had tried for two years to get the unions to co-operate but this had failed.
“The only thing now which will stabilise this country from inflation is the support of public opinion behind the Government,” said Mrs. Thatcher.
Association chairman Cr. Norman Sapstead thanked both speakers. He then congratulated Mr. John Drinkwater for his 13 years' service to the association as treasurer and Mrs. Thatcher presented Mr. Drinkwater with a clock. [end p1]
(2) Finchley Times, 2 February 1973
‘Inflation is a moral problem
Nothing must stand in the Government's way as they do their best to fight inflation.
Mr. Norman St. John Stevas, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education, said this to members of Finchley and Friern Barnet Conservative Association on Saturday.
He said: “Inflation is more than an economic problem. Inflation is a moral problem.”
Mr. St. John Stevas was proposing the toast to the association at a dinner dance held at Ye Olde Cherry Tree, Southgate.
He referred to the principles of the Conservative Party laid down by Benjamin Disraeli— “the greatest party leader” —more than 100 years ago.
He listed them as preserving institutions, advancing the Empire, and elevating the condition of the people.
Mr. St. John Stevas added: “We might not phrase them in the same way today, but the thoughts and principles expressed are still valid.”
He had no patience with people who criticised the Parliamentary system.
“It is not perfect,” he said. “But it is better than any alternative yet devised in the history of the human race.
“Countries of greatness only fail when they cease to understand their institutions.”
And he pointed out that anyone who felt he had been unjustly treated could still raise his voice, through his Member of Parliament, “in the highest assembly of the land.”
He added: “Parliament is at the centre of the nation's life and a heavy burden of responsibility falls on the Conservative Party to defend that system.”
He warned that if the Tory Party failed, the future of the Parliamentary system would be threatened, because nobody could envisage the Labour Party taking over the government of the country.
Mr St. John Stevas explained Disraeli 's second principle “the advancement of the Empire” as lying at the root of Conservative policy towards the Common Market and Europe.
Now that the Empire and Commonwealth must be practically recognised as gone, another forum was needed for Britain's actions.
By entering Europe, Mr. St. John Stevas said, the Prime Minister has safeguarded the standard of living in the next decade and maintained Britain's role in the world.
Peace and stability, for the benefit of the whole human race, were worth striving for in Europe.
One Disraeli 's third principle—elevating the condition of the people—Mr St. John Stevas referred to inflation, and described it as a problem undermining our political, social and economic future. As the Prime Minister had said, it was “our primary duty to meet this problem.”
Mr. St. John Stevas said that the Conservative Party were also going through a difficult period.
“But I would rather be sailing on Morning Cloud towards tomorrow than towards sunset on the Scillies,” he said.
“The essence of Conservatism is enjoyment. If you are unhappy and disgruntled, you tend to be a Socialist.”
Mrs Thatcher told the audience: “I cannot remember a time when public opinion has been as important a factor as now,” she said.
She explained that there had been a time when, if a law was passed, everyone assumed it would be obeyed because it was the law.
“Now we have gone through a protest movement where a number of people thought it right to disobey,” she said.
Mrs Thatcher described this argument as “bogus” and said that the only weapon the Government had left was public opinion.
“The only thing that stands between this country and inflation is the support of public opinion,” she said.
English people understood the evils of unemployment because we had experienced them. The difference between Germany and England, Mrs Thatcher said, was that Germany had experienced the other factors of inflation—starvation and total disruption of the economy.
“If you want to take away the independence of people, the classic way is to debase the coinage,” she said.
“We are determined not to have this in this country.”
Mrs Thatcher felt that public opinion was with the Conservative Party on their new Bill to fight inflation. “But people doubt whether it will work. They doubt because others have failed,” she said.
“More hinges on the next year than probably ever before.”
Mrs Thatcher said that the three things needed were “confidence in ourselves, confidence in our Edward Heathleader and confidence in our aims” —all of which she believed the Conservative Party had.
“Ours is a varied, individualistic society where we use our own abilities to benefit for ourselves and the nation as a whole,” she said.
Mrs Thatcher ended her speech: “I know Finchley and Friern Barnet Conservative Association, together with many other associations, will support our aims, see us through the next year and to success in the next election, and ensure the Conservative faith and its part in the future of the country in the years to come.”
Mrs Thatcher presented Mr John Drinkwater with a clock in recognition of his service to the association during 13 years as honorary treasurer.
During his speech, Mr St. John Stevas referred to Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Finchley's MP and Minister of Education, as “the universal pin-up” .
He said that Mrs Thatcher, who is his superior at the Ministry, had come through a difficult time, had kept to her principles, and was now getting her reward.
“The great White Paper will be a permanent Monument to the Secretary of State, because it will affect education for many years to come,” he added.