Sayeeda Warsi: International Democrat Union Conference speech 2011
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Your excellencies, my Lords, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s an honour to host you. A pleasure to welcome you to London. And a privilege to open this historic meeting of the International Democrat Union.
“The International Democrat Union girdles the Earth. It is not an empire. But it will become a great dominion of mind and spirit.”
Not my words, but the words of a great leader.
A champion of the values that you and I hold.
One of this country’s greatest Prime Ministers:
Those were her words 28 years ago, when the IDU began, here in this very city.
Look back at what she said then – and it’s true.
The IDU has indeed become a ‘great dominion’.
More than 100 parties.
Covering millions of people across the world.
And as I look around this room, I know that today we are still flying the flag for our common values…
…democracy, freedom, justice, responsibility.
These values have no stronger champion than our chairman, John Howard.
John, you have given great service to your country.
And I know that everyone in this room is incredibly grateful that you are now giving the same service to the IDU.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very special moment for me.
I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say.
I wanted to talk about the journey I’ve been on.
The journey our countries are going on.
And the journey the IDU is on today.
When I looked at the list of nations coming here – from Albania to Tunisia, Uganda to the USA – I thought about what it is to be a democracy.
One thing often strikes me when I go overseas:
How shallow sometimes the political debate still is in too many countries.
Too often, it’s not about philosophy, it’s about personalities.
It’s not about what path you’re taking the country on; it’s about whose tribe you’re from.
It’s not about what values you stand for; it’s about what family you are from.
Over time this truly weakens their democracies.
But here in the IDU, we have political parties built on strong values.
DEFENCE OF MARKET CAPITALISM
The ideals we share – they transcend time and geography.
We agree on so many things.
We know that strong economies rely on free markets.
We believe in giving people power and control in their lives.
The state should be your servant – never your master.
And private enterprise is the best way to bring about growth and prosperity.
But today, as we meet, our values are being challenged.
Around the world, our market economy is being questioned.
Occupy Wall Street has spread beyond New York.
The protestors have amassed in Amsterdam, Dublin, Miami and Sarajevo.
Even down the road from here, there are protestors outside St Paul’s.
Of course I understand that people are frustrated.
I know people want answers to all the things that have gone wrong.
They say that bankers have had excessive bonuses.
I agree with them.
They say that some directors have behaved irresponsibly.
I agree with that.
But I do not accept that this means that our market economy is wrong.
Capitalism has been one of the great forces for progress across the planet.
Let me give you one example:
My own personal story.
Without our values, without the private sector, without the opportunities that capitalism has given my family, I wouldn’t be standing in front of you today.
Fifty years ago my father came to this country with very little in his pocket.
He worked double shifts in the Yorkshire mills.
He did every job going.
He was a bus conductor, a bus driver, a cab driver.
I was born in a small house, a very small house.
But my dad wasn’t prepared to accept that this was where my family of seven should stay.
He inspired me.
He instilled in me the values we celebrate here today:
Hard work, fair play.
Equality of opportunity.
The chance to set up your own business and achieve success.
These are values that encouraged me to fulfill my full potential.
These are values which allowed me to travel on the journey I’ve been on to date…
…from an immigrant millworker’s daughter to the first Muslim to serve in the British Cabinet.
But it’s not just my story that demonstrates the strength of capitalism.
It’s the positive, progressive changes that centre right ideas and market economies have brought to so many of your countries.
Look at the liberation capitalism brought to Germany when the Wall came down.
Look at the extraordinary changes our ideas are bringing to China, to India and the Far East.
And look at the opportunities the Middle East has as freedom spreads across the region.
My point is that it’s our ideas, our values, which have transformed millions of lives.
And all modern history justifies me.
Look at the world since communism ended.
Poverty rates went down.
Income gaps narrowed.
People are freer and their lifespans have increased.
But of course – we’ve still got to make capitalism work better.
And businesses need to be responsible too.
And that brings me to the last point I want to make.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL
I have seen it in this country, and I have seen it around the world.
Our centre-right parties, with our centre-right values – we’re great at managing economies.
We are expert at clearing up the mess left by socialist parties.
But too often we get labelled simply as parties of the economy.
And wrongly so.
Here in Britain we have slipped into a cycle.
The centre-left overspends.
We clear up their mess.
They break the bank; we balance the books.
And our challenge today is to show we’re not ‘subcontracting compassion’ to other parties.
Because our values are as much about building strong societies as they are about building strong economies.
And, in government, we are proving it.
In health, we’re taking care of the most vulnerable by protecting health spending even during a tough economic climate.
In education, we’re broadening opportunities by giving parents and charities the chance to set up new schools.
In politics, we’re devolving power with more elected mayors and new elected police commissioners.
And in welfare, we’re restoring fairness and making sure that work always pays.
And we are doing all this while we clear up the financial mess.
My point is that social and economic issues are not mutually exclusive.
We need strong economic foundations – where borrowing is stable and business is secure – to build a better society.
We need a better society – where everyone who can pays their way, and pulls their weight – to create a stronger economy.
Society and the economy.
The centre right can do both. And we are doing both.
And this is what we need to convey to the world.
So my message to you is clear.
This political philosophy.
The one which helped my father and inspired me.
The one which is needed to build stronger economies and bigger societies.
The one which is under fire but we know is right.
This is the ideology we need to spread throughout the world.
Whether we are in government or opposition.
Whether we are at home or abroad.
Whether we are with friends or opponents.
Whether they are listening or they aren’t.
We need to say: this is the way.
Nearly three decades ago, Lady Thatcher ordained this, the IDU, ‘a new union for democracy‘.
‘Strong in belief, resolute for action.’
Three decades on, we retain that strength and resolve.
Let us use them to show the world our argument is the right argument – for society, for the economy, and for the countries of the world.