Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Opportunity Society

More details from DD's Opportunity Society speech at the ippr this morning.

'I deliberately link opportunity and welfare, because we need both, and we are more likely to get one with the other. The British people are generally fair, kind, and generous, if they are allowed to be successful individually they will be happy to save for their old age, to support their own family and to assist charities for those in need all over the world.

So the Opportunity Society will enable us to enjoy a Welfare Society. This is modern Conservatism. Not just taking Blairism and removing the objectionable elements, but changing the way we live. The state has a place, but the state must know its place. That place is not to play the role of the family, or the community, but to help individuals and families to realise their own dreams.

I don’t measure compassion by the amount of taxpayer’s money spent; I measure it by the change we make to people’s lives. Effective compassion means decentralised public services, local involvement, instinctive national solidarity in times of trouble, an extension of the power to choose.

A lifetime in business and then politics has taught me that you need to be tough to get results. But the results I want will demonstrate that the practical application of Conservative principles will benefit everyone, not just a privileged few.'

This is the Davis we need- ideals and compassion, tempered by a gritty determination to get practical results.

He fleshes out his vision with 'six practical priorities for the next Conservative Government’s strategy to strengthen our society:

  • rebuild a low tax, low regulation, free enterprise economy
  • strengthen the forces of law and order, to reduce the fear of crime and to punish criminals effectively
  • those things which government really has to do should be done as close as practicable to local communities
  • public services must be reformed by empowering individuals, widening choice, breaking monopolies, cutting back targets, and encouraging competition, so as to drive up standards
  • the central role of the family in society must be recognised in both the tax and the welfare systems
  • welfare dependency must be tackled anew'

Clearly much of this picks up the policy agenda developed by DD/Nick Herbert's Reform thinktank, along with the localism proposals put forward in this summer's Direct Democracy manifesto. It is the right agenda for us- classic Conservative principles applied to the issues confronting Britain today.

But the exciting thing about this speech is DD's insistence that our opportunity agenda is not something we should be ashamed of. Far from it. This is about attacking privilege and transforming the lives of our poorest and most disadvantaged citizens.

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