The work of the Centre for Policy Studies normally concentrates on economics – what is known as Thatcherism. Like Margaret Thatcher, our founder, we believe in the small state, low tax, free markets, independence, self-determination and the kind of policies that bring widespread and deep-rooted prosperity.
But as Mrs Thatcher knew, there can be no prosperity without security – both economic and physical. People need and want good jobs. But also need and want to be able to go about them free from the shadow of terrorism and war, of violence and tyranny.
Today, the threats to the security of Britain and the West are arguably graver than at any time since the end of the Cold War. In the last few months alone, we have witnessed a series of murderous attacks by Islamist extremists on unarmed civilians in London and Manchester – as well as a wicked act of reprisal outside Finsbury Park mosque. Abroad, Russia once again threatens the integrity of its neighbours, and is stirring up trouble wherever it can – not least in Syria, where it has played a signal part in the agonising suffering of that country’s people. There is instability in Africa, turmoil in the Middle East, and a nuclear-armed dictatorship in North Korea. The shift from physical to digital also creates new vulnerabilities for our militaries, our economies and our citizens.
The duty of our governments, today as always, is to provide the security their citizens crave. But providing that security is not just about money. It never has been.
Margaret Thatcher delivered wealth, jobs and growth. But she also worked tirelessly to defend Britain from its enemies both at home and abroad – containing the threat from the IRA, defending British citizens in the Falklands and working with President Reagan to end the Cold War and bring down the Berlin Wall.
That policy was informed, like everything both Reagan and Thatcher did, by their ideals and values.
Many people have claimed, over the years, that the sinew of war is infinite money. But President Reagan would disagree. When he addressed both Houses of Parliament, he explained that “America must never allow itself to be put in a position of moral inferiority”.
It is a view shared by many of the generals whose statues stand proudly along Whitehall. General Slim, who commanded the British Army in Burma, famously said: “You cannot win a war unless your troops believe you are fighting for a noble object.”
And when Napoleon was asked late in life what makes the difference between victory and defeat in war, he replied that the answer was “one part physical, three parts moral”.
In the tragic aftermath of the Manchester attacks, Theresa May stressed the need “to take on and defeat the ideology that often fuels this violence”.
Yet in her recent manifesto, she argued that “rigid dogma and ideology” are “not just as needless but dangerous”.
To which I would respond: how can we confront an ideology without an ideology of our own?
Today, at the Guildhall in London, the Centre for Policy Studies – CapX’s parent organisation – will be holding the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Security. I strongly encourage you to follow proceedings online throughout the day.
At the heart of the conference is that idea of Western values – what they are, and what they mean. We want to explore the security challenges facing the West, but also the ethical challenge facing us: the way that turning inward to address our own domestic problems can leave a moral vacuum for others to fill.
We are especially proud to have Dr Henry Kissinger as our keynote speaker. There are few people on the planet better qualified to address these issues.
And I am particularly grateful for the support of our hosts at the City of London Corporation – and moved by the way that they stepped in to help in the aftermath of the dreadful fire at Grenfell Tower, by buying 68 flats in Kensington for those made homeless.
As Margaret Thatcher famously remarked: “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well.”
Mrs Thatcher promoted the aspiration and dreams of all citizens who seek a better life – a more prosperous life, yes, but also a more peaceful and secure one. Delivering that vision is the continuing mission of the Centre for Policy Studies. And it is, or should be, one of the great moral challenges for all of us in Britain today.