I have just gotten back from a three-day alcohol induced blackout in Birmingham. Whilst I don’t remember an awful lot about the evenings of this year’s Conservative Party Conference; the mostly sober daytimes were equally as jubilant. There was a real sense of arrogance and victory in the air, and who can blame us? The opposition is near inexistent and its looking like the Tories can look forward to many years of a strong majority in the House of Commons. It has to be said, it felt a lot more like a celebration of a future of general right-wingery and as some were saying, a welcome return to the age of Margaret Thatcher.
‘So then, here’s to the new age of Thatcher and a more liberal and free Britain’ we all exclaimed as we downed one glass of prosecco after the other. The speeches on the first few days were a lot like the evenings that I have trouble recalling. Exciting, optimistic, and debauched in their approach to our new found glory as our electoral enemies floundered. Even the Journos, who are normally less excited due to their normally sceptical nature were hedonistic on a Roman scale; there was something I the air. Our new Prime Minister is a woman, we’re dominating in the polls, we’re leaving the European Union, and party membership is through the roof. What is there not to celebrate?
Like all roaring highs, a screaming, pulsing, and always surprising hangover follows. On Wednesday it seemed like there wasn’t a sore head in Birmingham. It also felt an awful lot like we had lost anything to celebrate. For all our boozing and singing we had not noticed May’s tone throughout the week. After hers and Rudd’s speeches, the rose tinted shades came flying from our faces. On Wednesday the Conservative party changed notably. It sold out.
Amber Rudd’s speech on the 4th went largely unnoticed at the conference. Amber Rudd herself has spent her political career largely unnoticed by anyone other than her sponsor, Theresa May. At the time it was only journos from outside the secure zone that commented on it. Amber Rudd just seems so nothingy; no one at the conference took her seriously. Sobering up the next day I, amongst many others, realised that it was more than just rhetoric. May has been grooming Rudd for some time. The anti-immigrant posturing was part of a wider plan, masterminded by our new leader, to sell out our virtues and values for wider electoral success.
As if Rudd’s rhetoric-led heist on UKIP’s voter base at the expense of an intelligent, open, and common sense led post-independence Immigration system wasn’t enough wasn’t enough to make us all shiver; I woke up to a very worrying Guido Fawkes Facebook post. I thought I was still drunk. ‘May to attack Libertarian Right’. I was incredibly surprised. The so-called “Libertarian Right” made up a attendees at the conference.
The fringe events were packed with more free-market think tanks than you could shake a stick at. Conservative Way Forward and Conservatives for Liberty were all over the place. The Institute for Economic affairs even has their own venue. That’s what was really so surprising about May’s denouncing of free markets and a small state; that is just simply not where the party is right now. The party membership is very much in the fellowship of Gladstone and Peel, not of Disraeli. So why would May say this? Because to her an insanely large majority is more important than actually living up to our values and doing what is best for the country.
Theresa May has decided to go for total domination, an unsustainable and populist approach to politics. There is no need for May to do this. All the polls suggest that if she was to call an early General Election, the Tories wold have a more or less unstoppable majority in the Commons. She already has the mandate; now is the time to act in the best interests of the country, not the party. She can’t seriously claim that Brexit is a good opportunity for the economy when she plans to totally ignore the benefits of a free and open market. As a party, we have enough of the people behind us. Let’s not get greedy and leave our values at the wayside. They’re important to the country’s post Brexit future.
I attended a fantastic event put on by Chrissie Boyle (a fellow and proud Monmouthian) of Conservative Way Forward about the future of Conservatism. Someone there said something very important about the party, claiming that for the party not to lose control of itself and go down the misleading folly path of state intervention like the Republicans have in America, intra-party groups will be more important than ever.
I think Conservatives for Liberty will have to lead the charge as the most libertarian group in the party. CfL is now more relevant than ever. We need to act as shepherd to our party’s policy makers. We need to be the party that repealed the Corn Laws in 1847 under Peel. Nothing less. Let’s make Britain a freer and more prosperous place to live in.
Nathan Friend is the Chairman of Conservatives for Liberty Wales
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty