I am often asked why I am a Conservative. It is a good question with no simple answer but, ever since I began being interested in politics as a teenager, I have felt a closer affinity with the Conservatives than any other political party.
Above all, Conservatism reflects my general outlook on life. I want to see a country in which people are free to achieve all they can because freedom is held dear. But I also want a country with a strong civic life that offers mutual support. To me, Conservatism offers a society in which individuals value their independence but are rooted in strong communities.
At a more detailed level, there are three key reasons why I am a Conservative. The first is a deep interest in history. I first realised I was a Conservative through studying history. I was attracted by the fact that Conservatives have so often been on the right side of past debates. Disraeli showed how important it was to tackle social problems and to strengthen civic life so that industrialisation would bring benefits to all. Churchill held the country together at its most dangerous moment and helped to stop western Europe falling in to the hands of a tyrant. And Margaret Thatcher was fighting to save the British economy and to retain our place in the world while Labour were pushing for EU withdrawal, advocating unilateral nuclear disarmament and publishing a manifesto described as ‘the longest suicide note in history’.
Although I was already a firm Conservative, the true importance of Conservative values was brought home to me most vividly when I worked in Romania during 1992 – I saw the horrors perpetrated by the Communist regime, but I also sensed the joy felt by people who were enjoying their first taste of freedom. To me, this was powerful confirmation that we were right to maintain our values through the Cold War.
The second reason why I am a Conservative is that I have had many advantages in life, including a good education and a strong family. I have always felt that the opportunities I have had should be available to more people and that public service is the best way to achieve this. To me, Conservatism should reflect all that is best about human behaviour: individual aspiration; a social conscience; and a sense of reciprocity. Our political opponents too often propose policies that would, in practice, pull up the ladder of opportunity from those who come behind.
Thirdly, and most importantly, I am a Conservative because Conservative principles and policies seem to offer the best answers to the big challenges of the future. The recession is deeper and more damaging as a result of Labour’s massive public debt. We need greater fiscal responsibility. Disadvantaged groups, like the million young people not in education, employment or training, are facing bigger barriers than ever before. We need new opportunities for them. We are falling behind other countries in terms of education. We urgently need more good school places for children of all ages. Across the board, Conservatives seem to me to be offering better solutions to the problems of our day.
Many years ago, a Conservative MP declared: ‘The Socialists can scheme their schemes and the Liberals can dream their dreams, but we, at least, have work to do.’ That sentiment rings truer than ever today.