Today, I joined the How can Conservatives win elections in a multi-racial Britain? panel at the Conservative Party Conference, hosted by British Future, the Black Equity Organisation, and Conservatives Against Racism For Equality.
I was proud to take part in the event, having chaired CARFE and having written a forward for Bright Blue and British Future’s An Agenda for Action: Reducing Racial Inequality in Modern Britain.
On this occasion, I thought I would once again share that forward.
I remain convinced that neither bitter culture wars nor the force of law offer credible solutions to the problems of disharmony in society. We can only move forward by serving the best interests of all, by delivering a more hopeful path based on the equality and dignity of the individual.
My full contribution can be read below:
The murder by a police officer of George Floyd caused a global political earthquake. It was of no consequence that UK members of Parliament have no authority in the United States. The cry was “Black lives matter!” and we were compelled by practical politics to answer justified public outrage.
Social media today can make what would once have been a local, regional or national issue propagating slowly into an instant global phenomenon overwhelming public attention. While that is widely known, planning ahead for the social and political consequences of reasonably foreseeable circumstances seems to elude us, together with securing meaningful change.
Moreover, an unstoppable shift in worldview from the modern to the postmodern is happening. Fomenting bitter culture wars cannot stop what has been generations in the making. Neither can legislation: ultimately, force of law cannot change people’s hearts and minds. And yet postmodernism offers the tantalising possibility that a majority of the public may be ever more concerned about the condition of their fellows and willing voluntarily to act to improve their lot.
Over many years, Conservatives have seemed at best complacent about race relations. Every MP is overwhelmed by issues and demands, acting as we do as the complaints department for everything. Unless an MP represents a diverse constituency as I do, I observe a tendency to insist that this is not a racist country, especially by international standards, and that we treat people equally, dismissing concerns about racism today as ideological. In my experience, that attitude is unequal to the demands of the people we represent in the context of new technology and changing worldviews.
Even worse, Conservatives have not understood the implications of outrageous historic campaign slogans on our reputations individually and collectively. I simply had no idea of some of the most egregious examples of long past racist campaigning until deep into my Parliamentary life. I was and I remain appalled and ashamed by, and heartily sorry for, what has sometimes, lamentably, gone before. As a party, we ought to recognise how we can be perceived and change.
We must ask ourselves to whom we are listening and speaking and to what end. Replying “All lives matter!” may be satisfying to white British voters who are certain they are not privileged and rightly demand equality, but that response to justified grievances seems vanishingly unlikely to satisfy those kind hearted souls whose family and friends suffer everyday racism. Not everyone who takes the knee is a Neo-Marxist ideologue; indeed, I suppose very few who declare “Black lives matter!” support the ideology on which the eponymous campaign is founded.
I therefore congratulate British Future and Bright Blue on this important and necessary project. It is time we proudly elaborated a conservative and classical liberal conception of equality which hears and sees the lives of our friends, colleagues and neighbours and delivers policy and culture which heals division. If we insist on the moral equality of every person, their consequent legal and political equality and the equality of opportunity which must follow, then we may have the beginnings of a doctrine around which we can unite.
We need a new moral high ground which serves the best interests of everyone, attracting them to a more hopeful path based on the equal worth and right to dignity of every person. The alternative is to continue down the path of outrage, disengagement, condemnation and polarisation into a hell of ceaseless conflict arbitrated by an exploitative political class.
We need a new beginning, founded on goodwill and a determination to move beyond the hurt of the past and live together in right relationship, creating a better future worth celebrating. This project deserves all our support.
You can access to entire essay collection through the PDF below: