By Chris Grayling MP : –
Our Party is changing from top to bottom. Fifteen years ago, Charles Hendry, David Cameron and I were the last three in the selection for the leafy constituency of Wealden in Sussex. It’s the epitome of traditional Conservative heartland. Then it was almost obvious that it would be a contest between three white men.
Today, things couldn’t be more different. Nus Ghani, the excellent new MP for Wealden, who succeeded Charles in May, is an Asian woman. Down the road in Fareham, my friend Mark Hoban, elected on the same day as me in 2001, was succeeded by another British Asian woman, Suella Fernandes. We now have a great team of MPs from a whole range of backgrounds.
At the election, and particularly at the Conference in Manchester, it was clear that the Party has changed, and for the better. It’s not just that we have role models at senior levels. Priti Patel, Sajid Javid, Sam Gyimah and Shailesh Vara are some of our best examples of this. We also have growing teams of supporters working to build our success in our different communities.
At the Conference I spoke at the events for the British Tamil Conservatives and Conservative Friends of Pakistan. Both are thriving, and played a really important role in the election victory. Conservative Friends of India are making a real difference to us in the Hindu community. Many other groups are attracting new people from Britain’s rich diverse communities to our Party for the first time.
We also hosted groups of young people from different backgrounds finding out about politics, and how they can become part of our future. We need to be encouraging candidates for fifteen years’ time, and not just for the next five.
Reaching out to people from a wider range of communities is one of the great steps forward in our Party of the past ten years. The values to be found in so many of our minority communities should always have made them Conservative – hard work, family, community are all core parts of Conservatism.
Of course we still have further to go. At the Conference the Conservative Friends of Pakistan set themselves the goal of securing another big increase in the vote in their community next time. We should all be supporting them, and our other community groups, in that endeavour.
Labour’s dramatic swing to the left offers us a powerful opportunity to achieve that goal and others. In our minority communities you find an acute spirit of enterprise. It’s what brought many people to Britain in the first place, and there are some amazing business success stories to tell – from major firms like Bestway to the small businesses that prop up so many of our town centres.
And yet this throwback Labour Party is now talking a language that is altogether hostile to business and aspiration, threatening its very future. They want to confiscate wealth, rather than encourage it. They simply cannot understand that hard work and wealth creation are what creates the resources to fund our public services and investments. They seem to think that printing money can do the job instead.
Hard facts show how Conservative policies really make a difference. It is better infrastructure and lower taxes that have helped people create three quarters of a million more businesses helping drive growth and jobs. Employment is up by over two million since 2010, this is no abstract number to the families and communities where these jobs have been created.
The truth is that the values in our rich diverse communities are Conservative ones. Yet seldom if ever has Labour seemed so far away from those values. Now we have a real opportunity to take the hard work, and the successes of the past ten years, to a new level.
(Chris Grayling is Leader of the House of Commons, and MP for Epsom and Ewell)