What kind of society do we want?

Last night I was proud of Wokingham. Churches Together organised an open election platform for all the candidates in the General Election. More than 200 people attended, and asked a series of searching and good questions of us all for two and a half hours. We were each allowed equal and short time to explain our positions and to rebut any allegations on every issue. Collectively we avoided the noisy and repititious exchanges of soundbites and the endless interruptions that so often passes for political debate on the media. It was one of the best election meetings I have ever attended and I would like to repeat my thanks to the organisers and audience who turned up on a Sunday night.

Although it was a meeting organised by the Churches they did not use it to concentrate on the moral and free vote issues like abortion, freedom of religious expression, family and adoption. It was a meeting primarily about the general topics of the election – the debt and deficit, the problems of a hung Parliament, the state of public services, and the kind of society we would like to see. At the end I was presented with an open letter to David Cameron written on behalf of 76 people from the Wokingham and neighbouring constituencies.

I would like to reproduce the summary of their views and my reply here, as the quickest means of responding to them and sharing it more widely as they invited me to do by making it an open letter. They concluded:

“We need an assurance that you (David Cameron) will represent our views, which may be summarised as follows; that our human rights must be protected, that minority views will not be legislated and used against majority views, that true democracy will prevail, that immigration will be examined and curbed;that all immigrants coming here will have to respect British views and not vice versa….That the Christian faith and Judaeo Christian ethic will not be maligned whilst other minority religions are continually promoted in preference. That Europe’s creeping influence will be stopped….We believe it is vital that human rights legislation must be altered or stopped and that political correctness must be eliminated in Britain before it is too late…There should not be any Parliametary privilege to exempt MPs from legal scrutiny…”

I agree that we need to roll back the surveillance society and Labour’s politically correct administration reaching into so many facets of our lives. . I and former colleagues fought to preserve rights of free speech against a couple of Labour’s more restrictve politically correct laws, with the Christian community at the forefront of our minds. We did get some concessions from the government.

David Cameron has made clear his wish to roll back the surveillance society and the politically correct state. In the Conservative Manifesto it says:

“Labour have subjected Britain’s historic freedoms to unprecedented attack. They have trampled on liberties, and in their place compiled huge databases to track the activities of millions of perfectly innocent people, giving public bodies extraordinary powers to interfere in the way we live our lives. …We will scrap ID cards, the National Identity Register, and the Contactpoint database. To protect our freedoms from state encroachment and encourage greater social responsibility we will replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights.”

The Manifesto also promises stricter control of immigration, the end of Parliamentary priviliege for MPs charged with fiddling their expenses, a British sovereignty Act and the negotiation of powers back from Brussels.

I am grateful to the signatories for their kind words about how I have acted as their MP in the past.

Promoted by Christine Hill on behalf of John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU

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14 Comments

  1. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Whatever happened to the separation of church and state? Is that to be confined to America? I recommend reading Barry Goldwater on Religion (just Google it).

    I don't much care for any religion but it is important to separate out which are benign and which are malignant. The Church of England and the more moderate of the Low Churches can be considered as benign. They support the community without ramming religion down your throat.

    Islam and the Roman Catholic Church are (different-expressions of dislike of their aproaches)
    Meanwhile, please note that it is possible to agree with all that the Conservative manifesto says on civil liberties without believing in God.

    A parting shot – should public money be given to schools where it is taught that the world began in 4004 BC?

  2. Ken Adams
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    These are natural conservative areas, the question is why did the people of Wokingham feel it necessary to ask this of David Cameron. It is a wonder to me why the leadership have not pushed the concept of the freedom of the individual, rolling back the incursions on our liberties and the over the top political correctness perpetrated by Labour ect. during the past three terms. It would be nice to have some clear announcements on exactly which bills will be repealed, in the absence of such perhaps we should accept that none is the answer and a conservative administration will be equally authoritarian.

  3. david
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I wonder if you will be commenting on Mr Cameron's hint he would be prepared to look at a referendum on PR, if it came to it.? Your own views on the coming Con/Libdem coalition must be interesting will you be expressing them? If for instance Clegg took over the foreign office, would you be supportive. Still Ken Clarke would be happy, he would be surrounded by fellow Europhiles, they'd get on famously.

    I'm sure UKIP will give you a warm welcome when the time comes.

    Reply:My position is clear. I wouold like a Conservative majority and do not presume to know the electorate's mind before it is made up.Nothing will make me want more EU, regional government and all the rest of the bureaucratic nonsense that Lib dems believe in.

  4. THE ESSEX GIRLS
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    A really excellent example of the community acting maturely and constructively in line with the Conservatives ideals and aims in the next Parliament.

    If we may. we'd like to follow on with our next summary pre- Thursday's important debate. It's our own message to Mr Cameron and his team via your auspices with thanks.

    THE FINAL DEBATE – Monday’s contrbution

    First of all a fashion comment. Well done Sam if you dressed your man in that dark well-tailored shirt and pants over the weekend.
    Just the right impression – casual but authoritative..modern but inoffensive. We girls know these things are important! Gordon had an Elvis from his late, podgy, downhill period but David looked like the sleek Elvis of his 1968 Comeback Tour!

    Next a piece of relevant background if we may.
    One of the Essex Boys told us that back in 1970 as a young marketing manager his employers, the Imperial Group, sent him to train for a tv-style interview with Stanley Hyland, an ex-Panorama producer and a Yorkshireman who had coached Harold Wilson in tv techniques.
    From a shakey start, he says he very soon learned from Stanley some golden rules as follows:

    1. Always look alert and attentive.
    2. Look the interviewer or the camera in the eye – whichever is most relevant for each point.
    3. Don’t smile too much if you want to look authoritative unless you’re responding to humour.
    4. You’re only as good and interesting as your material – quote firm facts and precise figures to illustrate your point. Most listeners will take them in if presented simply and clearly.
    5. Use the kind of everyday and colloquial language you would talking to your chums in the pub not as though you’re writing a memo to your MD or staff.

    Apparently the improvement and end results for the ex-PM, and our chap, were amazing – particularly the communication and confidence resulting from the man-in-the-pub language. That’s why the Essex Boys and Girls have banged on about DC finding the right slogans and terms that ordinary folk use in their everyday lives to sum up a message in very few words. This weekend he made good progress and we really hope this carries over to the final debate.

    A blog from the Boys 18 months ago suggested cosying up to the Lib-Dems as far as possible as they would likely take Labour seats in the North and the Conservatives elsewhere. That’s looking the way it may well be and we think it would be wrong to overtly attack Clegg (let Brown do that again) but instead to box him in on policy particularly his achilles heels of:

    a) Immigration/amnesty – the widely respected Frank Field’s comments yesterday should be used as well as the authoratitive 1.1m number coming to light, doubling to 2.2m if a relative of pardoned illegals is allowed in too under Lib-Dem proposals.

    b) Defence of the realm – the nuclear deterent. We didn’t win WW2 or in the Falklands (nice reminder of Maggie!) by not having the most modern weapons available, even if not all deployed. However we see no sense in fighting to exclude Trident from the full defence review.

    c) Finance – their inaffordable £17m tax cut proposal and their plan not to start cutting waste immediately as any businessman or household would. Vince Cable looked distinctly shakey and flakey we thought following his mauling by Andrew Neil earlier in the week!
    However we do think that the £10,000 tax threshold is a desirable objective by the end of the first term but only if it eliminates swathes of HMRC beaurocracy. Incidentally one of us ladies has worked in the local tax office for 20 years and knows what a big percentage of time is taken up with claims and refunds to those earning less than £10k pa – so major streamlining is absolutely achievable.
    (Incidentally Alex Salmond used a good line today that he’s about ‘cutting the things that DON’T matter not those that do’. WE have said we must eliminate things that may be ‘nice’ to do and do just what is essential until the mess is sorted.)

    d) The EEC.

    Hopefully we’ll have the chance to add to these comments as this critical week unfolds. We’re still convinced that an outright Tory majority is achievable. As Ben Brogan says…’Mr Clegg has impressed as a spokesman for an alienated electorate, not as a prime minister in waiting’.

    However we shouldn’t burn our Lib-Dem bridges yet awhile, including serious consideration of a commission on electoral reform and perhaps a referendum down the track.

    • Acorn
      Posted April 26, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      Essex Girls, please send pictures, I think I am in love.

    • Ian Pennell
      Posted April 26, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      Dear John Redwood

      I certainly agree that David Cameron’s idea of a Big Society with volunteers and charities involved at local level in dealing with issues such as education, unemployment, homelessness and of helping the most vulnerable in society. It is much better than the top-down statist approach that Labour have used over the years, all to little avail. Their response to social problems has been to set up a new quango or initiative, with the result being that we now have hundreds of these quangos along with bloated Government departments that bleed the taxpayer white; the resources never get spent effectively on the ground. And that is why we need a new approach to running our Public Services.

      And this brings me back to Thursday’s TV Debate on the economy, which Sir David Cameron has GOT TO WIN! Talking of quangos and initiatives that need the chop I suggest you MAKE David Cameron take along this list so that when Gordon Brown says (AS HE WILL!) “Now David Cameron, WHAT SERVICES ARE YOU GOING TO CUT?…BE HONEST WITH THIS AUDIENCE!”, Sir David Cameron can say (AS HE MUST), the following:

      “No, Gordon, your Government has WASTED a lot of money on stuff that DOES NOT go to the front line. Here is a list of the QUANGOS and BUREAUCRACIES we will cut. This will release £50 billion a year by the third year of our first Parliament in order to pay existing Conservative Policy commitments and to cut the huge Budget Deficit that YOUR LABOUR GOVERNMENT HAS RUN UP: They are:

      ” 1: EXISTING COMMITMENTS to curb excessive spending as proposed by the Conservatives, NAMELY:

      “a) A one-year pay freeze for Public Sector workers earning over £18000.
      “b) Abolishing the national Child Trust Fund for families earning over £50000.
      “c) Cutting the cost of politics.
      “d) Bringing forward rises in the State Pension age, raising it to 66 years old for men in 2016 and for women to 65 years old in 2020.
      “e) Cutting the cost of Whitehall by a third by reducing bureaucracy and back office efficiency savings
      ” and f) Putting a £50,000 cap on Public Sector pensions.

      “These proposals already announced will save over £7 billion a year immediately.

      “2) IN ADDITION these are the QUANGOS we would slash altogether.

      “a) The British Potato Council
      “b) The Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (or LACORS, for short). It is a waste of space!
      “c) The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
      “d) The NHS Confederation, another waste of money.
      “e) The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), -WHAT do we have doctors and nurses for?, we don’t need a quango!
      “f) The Connecting For Health IT Programme.
      “g) Parenting Early Intervention Pathfinders.
      “h) Primary Strategy Consultant Leaders- how about a few more teachers instead?!
      “i) Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning Resources (SEALS for short)-another waste of space!
      “j) School Improvement Partners.
      “k) The Secondary National Strategy.
      “l) The September Guarantee- what do we have parents and teachers for? To make sure their kids go to school at the start of the new term!
      “m) Pathfinder Partnerships- WHAT has this got to do with Education?!
      “n) Education Improvement Partnerships.
      “o) Every Child Matters Programme.
      “p) The Cross-Government Safeguarding Programme Board-the WHAT?!
      “q) Local Safeguarding Childrens Boards.
      “r) Apprentice Ambassador Network.
      “s) Youth Matters.
      “t) The Trust Schools Toolkit.
      “u) The Numeracy Taskforce.
      “v) The London Challenge.
      “w) Care To Learn. Another waste of space!
      “x) Chartered London Teachers.
      “y) The Sixth Form Presumption- WHAT DOES THAT DO, Gordon??
      “z) The Framework For Personal Learning and Thinking Skills- maybe some more teachers would be cheaper and more effective than this stupid quango! Audience, do you think we could pay down some debt by removing this little waste of space?
      “and Alpha) Every Child A Reader.

      “3) ALL remaining Quangos will be reduced to two-thirds of their current sizes by reducing their budgets by 15% a year. We will encourage delivery of this with our excellent Conservative policy of having every item of Government expenditure above £25000 published online for the public to see. Since YOUR GOVERNMENT Gordon spends £120 billion a year on quangos I am confident we can find the extra £43 billion, making up to £50 billion to fund our commitments.

      “So, there you have it. £50 BILLION of WASTE perpetrated by your Government. So GORDON, DONT YOU DARE TELL PEOPLE THE CONSERVATIVES WILL CUT VITAL SERVICES TO FUND THEIR POLICIES. YOU HAVE BEEN FOUND OUT!!!”

      And that is what Sir David Cameron MUST SAY, Sir! He has to use this vital opportunity. All this Government Waste is identified in David Craig’s book “Squandered- How Gordon Brown Is Wasting Over One Trillion Pounds Of Our Money” published in 2008 and the Taxpayers Alliance “The Bumper Book Of Government Waste:P 2008”. These are vital resources that must be used to the full. Gordon Brown has presided over colossal amounts of borrowing, spending and waste and he should be nailed for it!

      Our Leader, Sir HAS NO EXCUSE! You, Sir can give him this script to use, to take along to the TV Debate on Thursday. Our only guarantee of winning the Election is for Sir David Cameron to wipe the floor with Gordon Brown. If Gordon Brown wipes the floor with Sir David Cameron we are stuffed, we may as well prepare for another period of Opposition and watch Gordon Brown (with or without Nick Clegg) irrevocably weld Britain to the EU Superstate and cause more (and lasting) damage to the economy!

  5. moulin à paro
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    "….minority views will not be legislated and used against majority views" sounds very much like a recipe to roll back all the legislation there has been to protect minorities from discrimination and oppression. I am 65 years old, I'm lesbian, for most of my life I had to hide that fact out of fear for my job security and out of fear of societal disapproval, only now (and I'm not a Labour supporter) do I feel a sense of near-equality in this country. So the legislation those people obviously hate has come for me only in the twilight of my life but younger gay people will be able to live decently and proudly. The "New Statesman" article on today's "Sharecrazy" refers to the growing influence of the Christian right-wing in and on the Conservative Party, something of which I've also become aware. Taken together, all this sounds very much like a drift towards a British (or English) version of the Republican Party in the US. The Conservatives would become unelectable, a refuge for greying England, yearning for that straight-laced England of fifty years ago. With respect to the 76 people who presented you with that document, Mr Redwood, societies do change and we may not agree with the changes but changing societies are as much an expression of democracy as unchanging ones. For all its faults – and there are many – the more just, more humane society we now have is preferable to the one the people writing to you are obviously nostalgic for. Perhaps the major achievement of the last thirteen years is in such social legislation and I believe that the vast majority of the electorate recognise that and approve of and support the fairer society we now have as a result. For The Conservatives to attempt to roll back this legislation or to become a prisoner of the Christian right-wing would be to seal its death warrant.

  6. Acorn
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    I want a society where the government balances its budget to its income. I want the government's income to be no more than one third of the nation's factor cost GDP. There should be a law that says that this must be so.

    I want a society where the government is NOT the "purchaser" and the "provider" of a service deemed, by the government, to be one that the private sector can't supply. (Health and education: NO. Defence and Law: YES).

    I want a society where about three hundred state organisations can't knock down my door, in the name of the law.

    Please, can I recommend to Redwoodians, that they have a good read of the latest ELMR report from ONS. There are some goodies in this. For instance, did you know there are 6 million persons classified as disabled – Table 1 on page 33.

    Then, have a look at "Gross domestic product: by category of expenditure" at page 61. This shows that our nations GDP at "market prices" is £1264 billion, (that is £1.264 trillion in the modern parlance). The ONS is reluctant to advertise the "factor cost" GDP, (eliminates all tax and subsidies), because it is not flattering to the government.
    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/elmr/04_10/downloads

  7. Martin
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    I don't agree with your comments about equipment in WW2 or the Falklands. ITV did an excellent Television History of World War 2 which i might refer you to. Some of the history documentary channels on $ky have covered the Falklands in depth well. (I'm sorry if these don't tally with the jingoistic tabloid view that some have.)

    Trident – I don't understand the supporters of Trident who shrink the Army, Navy and Air Force to next to nothing. That is surely what a defence review that excludes Trident is about. We end up with armed forces that consist of Trident and a few guards at Buckingham Palace.

    Regarding Europe – I disagree with many on here.
    However maybe Mr Cameron should do what Mr Harold Wilson did in 1975 – have a referendum to get his party (Labour) to calm down!

  8. Mike Stallard
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Is this a first?
    Gratitude? Very rare in politics: always has been always will be. So very refreshing to see it here.
    Christianity? Outrageous. An outmoded superstition and the Pope a laughing stock (yawn) – hey, wait a minute, that isn't what you are saying!
    So, two firsts!

  9. Nicholas Legg
    Posted April 27, 2010 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    What sort of a society do I want to live in?

    I want to live in a society:

    that recognises the rights of the many and not just the rights of the individual.

    in which consideration for others is rewarded and the lack of it is punished.

    that controls its destiny and recognises the need to prepare for the future and not borrow from it.

    that is tolerant of its diversity, but is aware of intolerance to it and prepared to act to defend itself.

    in which the word "fair" is not assumed to mean what any politician wants it to mean.

    that wants to do mutually beneficial business with the rest of the world.

    that is honest to itself, realistic about itself and what it can and can't do.

  10. Ken Adams
    Posted April 27, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    “I want to live in a society:
    that recognises the rights of the many and not just the rights of the individual.
    in which consideration for others is rewarded and the lack of it is punished.”

    To be frank this sounds like something Tony Blair would have said; I totally disagree! the importance of the rights of the individual are paramount when it comes to the power of the state which after all is the only organ which can legally use force, it is the individuals rights against the use of that force which are imperative.

    For instance – Blair said we have the right to be protected from terrorism – but that is actually not a right, we do not really have a basic human right not to be attacked, only to defend (or we should have). It is a government basic responsibility to protect its citizens but it is also a government’s basic responsibility not to destroy the individual’s freedom. What Blair has done is to use the government responsibility in one area (to protect us from attack) to remove the individuals rights of protections from the state.

    As it turns out the rights of the many (as established) by New labour can and have only been attempted at the expense of individual rights we have in fact lost a lot of our protections from the state apparatus for no real gain. Also those laws introduced under the cover of ensuring the majorities rights to protection against terrorism or big crime syndicates have been and are being used in ways never intended, they are an extension of police powers beyond that which I find unacceptable.

  11. ffxiv gil
    Posted May 11, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    There is obviously a lot to know about this.

  12. Dofus Kamas
    Posted May 13, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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