Teresa May’s Conference Address
The Prime Minister gave the final address at the Conference which can be seen on line courtesy of the Conservative Home blog: “WATCH: Theresa May’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference – in full”.
Mrs May’s address was very much an expression of “One Nation” Conservatism but it was also more than that: It was also an expression of the tenets of Christian Democracy.
It’s a long time since we have heard a speech like this at a party conference and it bodes well for the country in many respects.
The Telegraph has this by Tim Stanley: “Theresa May has closed the liberal era. Bring on Christian democracy” in which he speaks of the essence of the Teresa May approach:
“Cameron thought One Nation politics meant being nice to gay people while cutting benefits. This, I’m afraid, is the cold hearted logic of contemporary metropolitan liberalism – it leaves people to their own devices, sink or swim. May, by contrast, has a provincial, WI, prayer book, round table, civic conservatism that is parochial but also instinctively compassionate.”
With every respect to Mr Stanley, one needs to understand the real meaning of Christian Democracy and this Wikipedia entry may be of help. The principles originate in the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas and are expounded in a whole series of papal encyclicals beginning with the 1891 Rerum novarum encyclical of Pope Leo XIII (which condemned the misery of workers suffering unbridled exploitation) followed by Quadragesimo anno, by Pope Pius XI in 1931, Populorum progressio by Pope Paul VI in 1967, Centesimus annus, by Pope John Paul II in 1991, and Caritas in veritate by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.
The principles expounded in those texts have been adopted by other branches of Christianity and by people of other faiths. Anglo Catholics, particularly those who, like Mrs May’s father, trained for their ministry at Mirfield College with the Community of the Resurrection, generally consider that the principles of Christian Democracy are an essential part of good government. They are about the state ensuring that all the actors in civil society act fairly, the one to the other.
There was once much in common between “One Nation Conservatism” and the concept of Christian Democracy.
The disconnect between the two began with the rise of the “greed is good” policies so beloved of Reagan in the USA and, sadly, of Baroness Thatcher in the UK which brought about the deregulation of business, the progressive dismantling of the welfare state, the privatisation of nationalised industries and the diminishing of the trade unions in order to reduce labour costs.
To the extent that Mrs May is returning her party to “One Nation Conservatism” and introducing respect for principles of “Christian Democracy” that is the very best defence against both the extreme right and the extreme left.
The next months are not going to be easy. But a return to One Nation Conservatism and to the principles of Christian Democracy make for a good start.