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WEEKEND WEB: ‘Faith in politics’ meeting gave me time to reflect

Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May


All Party Conferences can become preoccupied with gossip and gamesmanship.

Happily, as a Government Minister, I was able to avoid low politicking at the Conservative Party Conference last week, spending much of my time discussing the future of transport policy, skills and investment – from road and rail spending, to the implications of Brexit on shipping and the exciting opportunities which lie ahead for the space industry.

But perhaps best of all, I chaired the annual meeting of the Cornerstone Group, at which our guest speaker was the Democratic Unionist Chief Whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

Away from the routine concerns of public policy, our panel discussion – “Faith in Politics” – gave time to reflect on the deeper values and beliefs which motivate each of us, and underpin our communal way of life.

For me, Christian faith and politics have always gone hand in hand – for where the doctrines of the far Left and far Right are overbearing, spiteful and self-serving, surely the approach we ought to adopt should be gentle, generous and humble:

Gentle because we know that all that came before us – our vast shared inheritance as a society – is bound to exceed anything we might think or invent in our own brief lifespan; generous because we should care most about what comes next and so about what we can pass on; and humble because we recognise that mankind – with all our faults – can only hope to lessen the excesses of the brutal state of nature through a shared sense of identity and our common endeavours.

All conservatives – from Thomas Aquinas to Roger Scruton, from Edmund Burke to Stanley Baldwin – have known all this to be true.

But, as the meeting discussed, a selfish and individualist secular liberalism is now common in academia, the media, the legal establishment, and Parliament. It champions individual rights, but fails to acknowledge that our best purpose is the pursuit of the common good.

Small-minded, managerial politics is just not good enough, yet too often, this is precisely what we have been left with by politicians too timid to say or do more.

Making the case for a more ambitious political vision is my resolve, as it has been for all of my political life, so I left the meeting last week confident and hopeful.

Perhaps the most damaging of all the Marxist and Whiggish myths is that idea that the future is predetermined; that there is an unalterable course of history; in which we are merely like actors, reading from a script written for us.

This is simply not true. There is no unalterable course of history.

The future belongs to those most willing to shape it, and so the shared inheritance which we pass to our children can be every bit as magnificent – just as fathomless – as the communal habits, culture and customs which our forebears passed to us.


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