How to fight and survive
It is easy enough today to feel depressed about the outlook for our country.
With a Socialist Government whose programme seems to consist solely of plans for nationalisation and vindictive attacks on industry and private property, it is hard to see how we can escape either economic disaster or bitter social divisions.
Yet I refuse to believe that the British people, who have surmounted so many crises in a thousand years of history, will prove incapable of meeting the present challenge to their survival as a great nation.
A time of challenge is not a time for gloom. The mood of those who are determined to see Britain through her crisis should be one of excitement as well as hope. The challenge itself should be enough to rouse them.
We may not have a Churchill now—but the instincts and traditions on which Churchill founded his appeal to the nation to fight and to survive are very far from dead.
This month could mark a turning point for Britain. For too long there has been a gulf between politicians and people which has now to be bridged. This should be the task of the Conservative Party in 1975.
The present leadership contest is not a disaster for the Tories, as some have gloomily asserted, but the start of a new political era. I have found that the reaction of people outside Westminster to our multiple election is very different from what the pessimists predicted.
They find it both interesting and exciting. They are delighted to discover that the Tory Party is once again alive and kicking, publicly debating its ideas, its policies and its views on the required style of political leadership.
What could be healthier? And whoever is elected leader, there will be no difficulty about uniting the Tory Party. What unites a party in Opposition is the consciousness that it has a valid and appealing message for the British people. And this I am determined we shall have.
The party will unite itself. What I want to do is to unite the country.
By this obviously, I don't mean that I expect to be able to persuade every trade unionist and every floating voter to become a Tory. But I do believe it is possible to unite the majority of sensible people in a determination to get ourselves out of the mess we are in now.
This will not be done by vague appeals for “national unity.” Still less can it be achieved by a mish-mash of compromises designed to try to please everybody. That would only get us deeper into trouble.
The job of politicians is not to please everyone—which is impossible—but to do justice to everyone. This means, certainly, showing compassion to those who are in need of help. But it also means offering a fair chance of success to those who are best able to help the country to survive and be prosperous.
You do a poor service to the weak by depriving the community of the efforts of the able and enterprising. Success is the prize in which all can share.
Surely the basis of unity is common sense, a quality with which the British people are abundantly endowed. No policies will succeed unless they pass this test.
I am normally a very patient person, but my patience has been sorely tried by recent attempts to drive a wedge inside the Tory Party between those who are alleged to represent “middle-class values” and those who—presumably—stand for something quite different.
Common sense—like patriotism—is the prerogative of no class or section of the people. And surely the message of common sense, appealing to people in all walks of life, is clear.
First, inflation is the enemy that menaces the living standards of everyone. It simply has to be slowed down or there is no escape from our present crisis.
People know in their hearts that prices, wages and salaries cannot go on for ever leapfrogging at the present rate. Inevitably that would lead, sooner rather than later, to economic breakdown and mass unemployment.
Again, people know that no one can now expect to be paid more in real terms for producing no more than before.
Yes, common sense tells people that these things are true. But if some sections of the community decide to grab what they can for themselves, will others be willing to hold back?
Only if they believe the Government has a comprehensible plan for halting inflation, and that its measures will be broadly fair to all. Yet it is futile, as well as dishonest, to pretend that inflation can be checked without sacrifices and inconvenience.
There must be a slowing down of the rise in public expenditure, national and local. That means postponing or reducing the scope of otherwise desirable projects. Ultimately, I would hope that public authorities will need to do less—and interfere less—so that people can choose how to spend their own money instead of having it spent for them.
Next, unemployment. No Government deliberately creates unemployment. But equally, politicians should not be hypnotised by dubious statistics into subsidising the wrong things.
We can't go on for ever propping up inefficient firms and ailing industries. It's not fair to the workers in them, who could be found greater security and higher earnings elsewhere.
And, if it is folly to subsidise inefficiency, it is sheer lunacy not to encourage the able, enterprising and efficient—whether firms or individuals.
Mr. Healey 's penal tax proposals do exactly the reverse.
I want a tax system that encourages and rewards not only saving and investment but risk-taking and hard work. And I want a system of social services that provides generously for the old, the sick and the needy without giving the slightest encouragement to the workshy.
These policies are based on common sense, aren't they? I am sure they would receive general assent from all sensible people.
But, of course, the mood of despondency and frustration that afflicts so many of our citizens is caused by more than Britain's economic troubles. I do not believe, as some have asserted, that there is a crisis of morals in this country.
We are as moral a country, still, as most. There is, however, a crisis of morale. People have resigned themselves to putting up with things because they see no hope of getting them put right.
The threats to law and order are widely resented, and there would be massive support for a determined effort to deal both with the causes and with the overt threats.
Truancy, indiscipline, and falling educational standards in many schools worry parents in all walks of life. Practical common sense—which does not include destroying some of the best schools in the country for the sake of Socialist dogma—could give our children a much better chance than many are getting.
Finally, there must be something wrong with the morale of a great nation which acquiesces in the running down of its defences at the expense of its allies, and allows itself to be blinkered in its approach to the European adventure by niggling arguments about the price of tinned fruit.
There is nothing wrong with Britain which cannot be put right if our people are determined enough to survive and prosper.
I think I understand what is worrying the people of Britain. I also think they underrate their own capacities. If they were encouraged to use their common sense and to believe that politicians had some common sense too, they could surprise the world—and perhaps themselves as well!