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Friday, August 06, 2004
The Tory role

If anyone is inclined to forget what the Tory mission must be, the reason Britain still needs a Conservative Party, the reason this government is so lousy, so immoral, so shameless, Peter Hitchens' fantastic column in the Spectator, summarising only the last week, should provide the reminder.

On Friday, as the political world broke up for the summer, the government finally disclosed its response to the recent case of a 14-year-old girl given an abortion without her parents' knowledge. The Department of Health declared that this was perfectly all right, and should be standard practice from now on.

On the same day, the 'Department for Education and Skills', as it is satirically known, slipped out figures showing that more than 10 children are expelled each day from English state schools for assaulting either staff or fellow pupils. Another 280 a day were merely suspended for similar attacks. This comes at a time when social radicals continue to dismiss all fears that the growth in the numbers of mothers going out to work, combined with the decline in the number of stable marriages, might be damaging the upbringing of their children.

In the same week we had learnt of yet another serious increase in sexually transmitted disease, and had seen the conviction of a schoolboy for the murder of one of his fellows. Parliament's foreign affairs committee had concluded that both Iraq and Afghanistan, the scenes of our supposedly benevolent interventions in the so-called 'war against terror', were in danger of becoming zones of utter anarchy. This war against terror continued to defy normal logic. An Irish terrorist was formally sentenced to a long term of imprisonment for a foul killing, but everyone accepted that he would soon have to go free under the terms of the 'Peace Process', perhaps the most abject surrender to terrorism ever made by a major state. A ludicrous pamphlet had been published by the Home Office, urging us to store baked beans and bottled water in case of terrorist attack, but actually to encourage an atmosphere of semi-panic, compliance and dependency, as a wholly illogical response to the danger of assault by Islamic fanatics. Those fanatics, meanwhile, were soon to be protected by law against those who criticised their faith. Another committee of MPs had concluded that there were no fundamental objections to introducing identity cards for British subjects.

There are so many fundamental problems inherent to life in modern Britain, from the way our schools, hospitals and police forces so often fail to do their jobs, to the creeping challenge to so many of the values integral to civilised society: free speech, parental authority, the privacy of family life, punishment of the guilty and concern about right and wrong. So far as this Labour government takes a stand on these problems, it is always in opposition to measures that would solve or alleviate them. New Labour has positioned itself on the wrong side in the culture wars, and on the wrong side in the battle to introduce genuine choice and competition into the provision of our public services. By broadcasting that message with confidence and setting out the Tory alternative, we can only be proven right as the months pass and things continue to deteriorate.

Through their own experience and through the news they receive, people generally are coming to accept that this is a bad government, a government that has achieved no real improvements in three quarters of a decade, and cannot seriously expect people to believe that those positive changes are just around the corner. Labour's awful performance in recent elections has been testament enough to this disillusionment. To turn that anger with Labour into votes for the Conservatives, the party must show how different it can be, and how firmly it stands on the other side, in crystal clear opposition to those who are making daily life worse for the decent, hard-working majority.

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