Freer Launch Party speech (As delivered)- 19/03/2018
When I first became an MP in 2010, the revolution had been fermented in the town houses of Notting Hill.
It is interesting that it’s places, the industrial cities, the port cities of this country - where we’re seeing the call for freedom coming most.
So, we’ve got Ben Houchen, who is working on setting up a free zone in Tees Valley.
We’ve got Eddie Hughes – who’s talking about bringing digital currencies, to his part of the world in Walsall.
We’ve got a whole group of people who recognise that their parts of the world want to, to quote a phrase, “take back control”.
They want control of their own lives, they want the ability to shape their own destiny, and they don’t want to be told what to do or what to think. And that is incredibly important I think in this modern age.
I’m somebody who never liked being told what to think. Mark (Littlewood) will refer you to that from my days at university.
I started early, arguing against my socialist parents, in our left-wing household.
I joined the Conservative Party in 1996, when it was distinctly unfashionable, and I set up the Free Enterprise group with my colleagues in 2011 - just when people were saying the battle had been won and we didn’t need to talk about this anymore.
But we do need to talk about this, and I’m delighted today to be joined by reinforcements, in the shape of some really exciting new colleagues from the 2017 intake.
It’s always a bit galling when there are people out there who are more gritty, more hungry and more northern than you… I call that a compliment…
I think what it shows is that the claims that are made about young people today that somehow they’re all mollycoddled, they all want protection, they want to be in safe spaces, they’re obsessed with virtue signalling - just simply isn’t true.
In fact, the people growing up in our society have had more freedom than generations before.
Freedom of obtaining information, freedom of getting about, freedom of exchange, freedom to post pictures of themselves on the internet.
They have had all of that freedom - and they’re not going to be willing to give up that freedom any time soon.
I think this represents a massive opportunity for the Conservative Party to win over that generation, but also, to make a better future for our country; a future that is –
Britain open for business, Britain open for freedom and Britain open for fun as well.
How do I think we should do that?
Well, of course, Freer is going to be coming up with new ideas which I hope we can use.
I’d start by saying we need to open up our markets.
Now, I’m not just talking about pork markets in Beijing, and we obviously have been very successful in the export of pig's trotters, but I’m also talking about the towns and cities across our country that want a part of the action.
They see the capital that’s flowing into London, they see the opportunities that are abound and we need to make sure those opportunities are available everywhere.
Things like technology and peer to peer lending give us the ability to do that.
Secondly, we need to celebrate our money makers.
We need to celebrate the people who take a risk, who’ve got skin in the game, who make our country great.
We need to be proud of people that make money.
Of course, that means that they have to make it legitimately, but we are I think too often squeamish about talking about money.
As Conservatives, we need to be talking about where wealth comes from, how you get ahead in life, how you take control of your own destiny.
We also need to take on the blob of vested interests.
Too often, people who are starting out in life whether that’s trying to get on the housing ladder, whether that’s trying to get into work, can find themselves restricted by barriers that those already who’ve climbed up the ladder put up.
Whether that’s through the planning system which we’re reforming, whether it’s through occupational licensing stopping new people entering professions.
We need to open up those opportunities so that everybody feels they have a chance and they have a stake.
We also need to be the type of parents to the next generation, making sure that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed in what is a competitive world and a global world.
But that doesn’t mean, just because we’re asking you to be a type of parent to those who need help, that we should insist on parenting those who are free adults.
I think there is a huge opportunity to give people more freedom who are capable of using that freedom well.
Finally, and this is my job as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, we do need to keep control of the size of the state.
Under Labour, the state was allowed to grow to 45% of our national income, and that crowds out businesses, it makes it harder to recruit people, and it takes away the individual endeavour;
The ability for people to get reward of their own hard work and the ability to control your own money.
We all believe freedom is important.
It wasn’t until I got into university and I studied Economics and I began to understand that control of your own money is one of the most important freedoms of all.
Because without that, you don’t have independence, you don’t have the wherewithal to forge your own future – that’s the argument we’ve got to make.
I think we can make it resolutely.
I think we need to be Tories with attitude.
We are facing one of the most ridiculous opposition parties in history.
A bunch of humourless, po-faced, hat-wearing socialists who insist on lecturing everybody else but exercise restrictions.
They want to control, not just members of their own party but they want to control society at large.
I find John McDonnell’s proposals for a state on steroids incredibly scary, because what he’s talking about is taking the economic decisions for people in Tees Valley or Bloxwich want to make and making them himself.
But he’s also talking about freedom of speech, because that’s certainly not a commodity that’s valued within the Labour Party today.
Ultimately, Labour want to present people as victims.
They want to say that people are victims of the patriarchy, or the capitalists, or the plutocracy.
I think that is incredibly damaging, when we know that people are the best possible agents of their own future and they’re the people that can deliver a forged change.
I don’t think the people of Britain agree with Jeremy Corbyn’s analysis.
So, I don’t buy into this stuff that we hear from a lot of commentators: that the left is winning the battle and that the people of Britain want nationalisation and that they want more regulation and that they want higher taxes.
I don’t think that’s true. I think there’s a deep yearning for freedom right across the country.
We saw it in the vote for Brexit, we’ve seen it in subsequent discussions that have taken place across our country. And it’s so exciting that we’ve now got Freer, out there, making the case for freedom, making the case for people controlling their own lives and their own destinies.
And I’m really looking forward to seeing what things get produced over the next year or so.