Speech at the Freer Social Freedoms Month Launch Party

Well it’s brilliant to be here tonight for the launch of FREER’s Social Freedom Paper, and it’s brilliant that we’ve got so many fantastic Conservative MPs and others that have written essays: Ben Bradley, Luke Graham, Rebecca, on issues from vaping to medicinal cannabis and to more generally how we can all live freer lives. So it’s also great that we’ve now got 30 MPs in the Parliamentary Party that have signed up to freedom. I hope that if there are any of you in the room who haven’t yet committed to economic and social freedom that you want to do that – because we are a nation of freedom fighters. And I think the younger generation in particular are Air BnBing, Deliveroo-eating, Uber-riding freedom fighters and we have seen the statistics that show that younger people are more in favour of lower taxes, they want to control their own lives, they want to run their own businesses: they don’t want to be told what to do. And we now have more information at our fingertips, we’ve got a better educated population, we should be able to make those decisions for ourselves. And I believe this is going to be a major battle ground in British Politics between those people who believe the role of Government is to tell other people what to do, to micro manage their lives and those people (many of whom are in this room) who believe in a bottom-up world, a world where we make our own decisions, we make our own mistakes and our own successes and we all benefit from that. 

Regrettably we are living in an age of the Neo-Puritans. The new found Cromwells, who patrol our streets and our underground lines. And in his day Cromwell banned actors, he banned plays and he banned Christmas, no doubt if we was around now he’d be banning the internet! But we don’t need Cromwell because we’ve got the Neo-Croms like Sadiq Khan – he has banned advertising butter on the Underground, he’s also banned advertising strawberries and cream. You know we’ve got other people who want to tell us how big our pizza should be or how many sweets we should eat. We’ve got Nicola Sturgeon up in Scotland who’s put in place a minimum alcohol price.  I am pleased to see the Scots have put two fingers up at that and have started drinking more alcohol as a result!

It seems to me that the more new ways we find of enjoying ourselves whether it’s going online, whether it’s drinking alcopops, whether its drinking a mojito on the tube – the more ways we find of enjoying ourselves, the more people there are who want to stop us doing that. They want to go into politics to basically tell other people how to live their lives. And I came into Politics because I didn’t like being told what to do and I don’t like other people telling other people what to do. And we need to fight tooth and nail that tendency of many well-meaning people who overstep the line into trying to micro manage people’s lives. 

Now of course there are people who need to be protected. So I am not advocating getting rid of rules on under-age drinking children who are growing up do need protection, they aren’t fully able to make decisions that adults are.  But, if you are a grown up, if you have a good education, if you have the ability, if you have the capability as every citizen does in modern Britain then you should be able to make those decisions for yourself. You shouldn’t be told what to eat and what to drink – you need to be able to drive your own future.  And we are all seeing a tendency to crack down on the internet. So for example in countries like Singapore or Australia we are seeing attempts to curb internet freedom. This has been a huge boom to many people’s lives. 83% of people in Britain say the internet has improved their life and yet again it’s another new thing, it’s new way of people expressing themselves it’s a new way of people putting their view across that the authorities just instinctively don’t like.  Because it takes power away from centralised authorities and gives it to the people and individuals.

I believe in a free society. I think there are things I don’t like. I’m not a vaper myself, I’ve got no intention of becoming a vegan. But I fully respect that other people want to do that and they want to live the lifestyle they see fit. And I want them to be able to do that because I think that makes our country better. I think it makes it more exciting. I think it makes it more interesting and I think it makes it more successful. Because only by allowing people to have success, to make mistakes, to drive their own futures, to control their own destiny, are we going to be successful.

And as Chief Secretary to the Treasury I’ve been doing a tour of the country on the Spending Review and we are setting budgets, we’re going to be setting budgets for the year 2020 through to 2023. And not one single person of the workforces I’ve met in factories and places like Bolton and Tadcaster in Newcastle, not one single person said we want the government to spend more money on regulating our life. Not one person has said we want more government money spent advertising what to eat. People want their money on core public services, defence, the police, education. They don’t want to see the government encroach into every aspect of their life. They know they’re capable of deciding whether or not to eat a burger or a salad. They know they’re perfectly capable of whether to go on a walk or not to go on one. They know that if you eat too much you probably are rather likely to gradually get fatter. They know that stuff already. And I just think it’s an incredibly patronising that we think that somehow people need that level of control exercised over them. And we’ve got a big opportunity this year as we leave the European Union about what type of country we can become. And there’s all sorts of navel-gazing about what sort of country Britain should be in the future.

I think it’s simple. I think we should be the most free country in the world. I think we should be the country that allows its citizens the maximum freedom to live their lives as they see fit. To control their own money, to control their own futures, to make their own decisions and to enjoy life as much as they possibly can. I think that’s where our future lies: being a beacon of freedom across the world and I hope all of the people in this room are going to help make that happen. Thank you.