This is the full text of Lord Frost’s speech at the relaunch of Conservative Way Forward
It’s a great pleasure to be here today at the relaunch of Conservative Way Forward. I’m honoured and privileged to be a member of CWF’s Parliamentary Board and look forward to taking forward our vision for the future of Conservatism.
I say “our” vision deliberately – because, as we have just seen and just heard, what CWF stands for is absolutely in the mainstream of Conservatism and our party. I believe there is more common ground within the Party and its members than many would have you believe. The problem is that the Government has drifted away from where Party members want to be. Away from the centre of gravity of Conservatism. We are aiming to bring it back.
As Steve has just said, we are about creating “a movement for a freer, happier and more prosperous society which people want to be a part of”.
We know very well how to make such a society. We have plenty of experience from history. It is about freedom; it is about an effective state not a big state; and it is about a sense of nationhood and belonging. In the long run a country counts for less in the world if it doesn’t get these things right.
Freedom and free markets are the only way to create prosperity. Those on the left who claim there is some other way are fooling themselves. The British people are more sensible than that. They look around the world and see that the successful countries are those with low taxation and high levels of economic freedom. That’s what supports enterprise, prosperity, and growth.
Unfortunately Britain has got on the wrong path. In the respected Heritage Index of World Economic Freedom, we now have the lowest score since the index started in 1995. Most of that decline has happened in the last two years. By contrast, Germany has increased its score even over the last year and now outscores us.
We need to change that. We can change it. That is why we have launched Julian Jessop’s pamphlet today and why it is so reassuring to see that the level of taxation is so large a part of the leadership debate, with most – if not all – candidates endorsing the need for an immediate change of direction. I certainly believe that myself and I won’t be able to endorse any leadership candidate who isn’t arguing for that in an ambitious and radical form.
But a successful country is about more than just markets. A successful country has effective government. That doesn’t mean a big state – indeed in many ways the bigger the government, the less effective it is. Here too, we need to change the nature of our debate.
Some people seem to think there is no limit to the tasks the British state can effectively perform. I would rather see it performing its core tasks properly. Controlling our borders. Funding defence properly. Not debasing the currency. Getting benefits properly to those who need them, but not to those who can perfectly well support themselves. And managing education and health systems that actually work properly instead of hoovering more and more taxes for less and less output. The ONS released figures last week showing that productivity in the private sector was back above pre-covid levels, but in the public sector it was still below. That is why reform is so necessary.
And finally a successful country is also about a sense of nation. Everyone in this country needs to feel part of one great collective endeavour, to help improve their own lives and those of others. Whether they are in the Red or Blue Wall, in England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland, people want the same things. A chance for themselves and their families. The support of government when they need it, but the right to build their own lives and their own wealth when they don’t.
I voted to Leave the EU, and I worked hard to make Brexit happen and to deliver the biggest and broadest ever free trade agreement, because I believe these things are best accomplished outside the EU. Any future leader of the Party must be unambiguous about that too.
We now have all the levers in our own hands as a country. Conservative Way Forward is going to be a great movement to use those levers to deliver that Conservative vision, and that’s why I am so excited to support it.
Collective endeavour. Prosperity. Freedom. Come and join us.
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