Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty – Closing Update

Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty 2014 5


The Margaret Thatcher Conference on Liberty 2014 is now wrapping up at London’s Guildhall.

Semi-Partisan Sam is live-tweeting the event here, previewed the conference here, and summarised developments here and here throughout the day.

It has been a very insightful day. Tim Stanley put it well when he observed that many of the old Thatcherites in attendance, though advancing in years, often spoke with more energy and enthusiasm than the focus group-approved, cookie-cutter young politicos filling the ranks of the main political parties today.

Here is a round-up of highlights from the afternoon sessions:

A resounding result from the poll on funding of the BBC. Fully 70% of respondents said that British taxpayers should no longer fully subsidise the organisation.

A stern warning from John Howard to the British Conservative Party on electability: “The worst way to try to win office is to pretend you’re not too different from your opponents”. Will David Cameron’s Tories heed this advice once freed from their LibDem shackles in the 2015 general election campaign?

The roots of the financial crash were analysed, and John Howard pushed back on the increasingly popular idea that it was a crisis of capitalism: “US legislators flung money at people who had no ability to repay housing loans”. That sums it up quite well.

The debate on immigration missed the mark a bit, with US/Canadian speakers and those from Europe talking past each other, not really understanding the huge differences thanks to the EU’s common market and free movement of people.

The seeds of an interesting new angle on immigration by John Howard, who described himself as a “multiracialist, not a multiculturalist”. Howard explained that this meant welcoming all races and ethnicities in the immigrant community, but expecting everyone to assimilate. Could this be an effective way for political parties to express a civic view of Britishness?

Rousing words from Toby Young, saying that the British right wing was ideally positioned to claim the mantles of free speech and equality from a tired left wing that is all too eager to “turn a blind eye [when minority groups] do not stand up for equality in their own communities” – citing the treatment of girls in the schools implicated in the Birmingham school trojan horse scandal.

More Toby Young on free speech: “The left has surrendered free speech to those of us on the centre right. We saw this in the Leveson affair”.

Fighting back against the Thomas Piketty phenomenon, Toby Young declares “They [the left wing] have promoted the idea that there is fundamental antagonism between free market capitalism and inequality”.

Property rights came up, and John Howard called for US-style laws on mineral rights: “Mineral rights should belong to landowners, not government”. If fracking is to become widespread in the UK, it is only fair that affected homeowners, rather than the Crown, should reap the benefits.

Jonah Goldberg’s excellent joke when he suffered a Marco Rubio moment – “excuse me, I smoked a huge amount of pot before I got here, I have terrible dry mouth … That joke worked better on college campuses. And in Colorado” – crashed and burned in the hall. CPS delegates need to lighten up a bit.

Jonah Goldberg gives some sound words of advice – that we should all become happy conservative warriors. “Nothing annoys a liberal more than a conservative who smiles … Our tradition of liberty is the best guarantee enabling people to enjoy life”, he says.


Stay tuned to @SamHooper on Twitter for final live-tweets from the CPS conference, and to this blog for review and post-game analysis of the conference once it concludes.

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