Sayeeda Warsi: Five ideas for David Cameron
Published in the FT, Satuday 30th September 2011
A BIGGER SAY ON POLICY FOR CONSERVATIVE MEMBERS
As a Party, we’ve got to keep listening to our volunteers and give them a bigger role in the political process. Thanks to our new, revitalised Conservative Policy Forum, we’ve now given the grassroots a much stronger voice on policy and we’re going to make sure that voice is listened to and really counts. There’s a huge amount of passion, expertise and thinking going on in our grassroots – after all, most people become party members because they want to voice their views. So I want us to harness that thinking as we look ahead to the big policy challenges of 2015 and beyond.
KEEP REACHING OUT TO BME COMMUNITES AND BROADEN OUR APPEAL
Over the last five years we’ve made big progress changing our party to make it better represent our country. So as well as getting the first Muslim in Cabinet, we’ve tripled the number of Conservative women MPs and more than tripled the number of BME Conservative MPs. But the blunt truth is we’ve still got masses more to do.
There are still whole communities and areas where our support isn’t what it should be. Fixing this has to be a top priority. Look at these communities and you see so many people who could be Conservatives. After all, our values have been their values for years: hard work, responsibility, self-discipline, respect for your elders, support for the family. We’ve got to reach out and bring them in to their natural home – our modern, compassionate Conservative Party.
REAFFIRM OUR COMMITMENT TO THE NHS
One of the truly great things about our country is that we have a health service that is free at the point of use and available to everyone. It means no matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you have, there will always be help when you most need. It’s says a huge amount about our values as a country – and I want David Cameron to stand by our commitment to protect the NHS. I was proud that he made the NHS such a strong, personal priority five years ago and we’ve got to continue that over the next four years. Crucially, that means doing two key things: keep increasing spending on the NHS and make sure it is protected; put patients at the heart of the NHS, with more choice and better value for money.
BE ON THE SIDE OF HARD-WORKING PEOPLE
By far the biggest challenge we face as a government is to fix the feeling that too often life in Britain isn’t fair – that in this country, you don’t get out what you put in. For years it’s been growing and it’s been driven by different things – the something for nothing culture; seeing some people live off benefits without ever working hard for a living; the ridiculous benefit rules punishing people who want to get back into work or encouraging couples to live separately. This is all wrong and I want the Prime Minister to keep showing courage to fix it. It’s a massive task and it means applying a few simple tests in everything: are we encouraging responsibility? Are people getting what they deserve? And as a government, are we backing people who do the right thing?
STICK TO THE COURSE ON THE ECONOMY
Over the next year there will be plenty of people telling the Prime Minister to change economic course or slow down our deficit reduction plan – not least our opponents in the Labour Party, who have now opposed every single policy we’ve put forward to cut spending. But it is absolutely vital we stick a course which the markets, the rating agencies, the OECD, the IMF and the EU have all said is the right one. This is fundamental to our economic future. While other countries have lacked the political will to take action, the coalition in Britain – despite being two very different political parties – have shown leadership and courage to start the hard work of balancing the books. We still have a deficit bigger than Spain, Italy and Portugal, and if we deviate from our path, we could face the same kind of sovereign debt problems those countries have been facing. We need to stick to our course over the coming year.