Boris Johnson’s Margaret Thatcher Lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies attracted attention for its remarks about IQ, but the media ignored its central thesis.
The speech is against equality, eloquently so. I date the mental collapse of the Conservatives from the moment in 1995 when Labour’s newish leader, Tony Blair, jumped up in Parliament and asked the Prime Minister, John Major, whether he accepted it ‘as a responsibility of government to reduce inequality’. Mr Major’s simple answer was ‘Yes’. It shut Mr Blair up that afternoon, but it gave him the advantage ever after.
If both parties say government must create equality then the one which promotes more state spending and interference will always look the more convincing. A conservative has to refuse the premise of the question, and talk about what people can achieve by their own talents if only the government will let them. Words like opportunity, freedom and personal responsibility provide the keys. Margaret Thatcher knew this, and stated it early in her leadership, in a speech in New York in September 1975: ‘The pursuit of equality itself is a mirage… Let our children grow tall, and some taller than others if they have the ability in them to do so.’ Boris is occupying the right ground for his eventual leadership bid.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator’s Notes in the latest issue of the Spectator. Click here to read for free with a trial of The Spectator app for iPad and iPhone. You can also subscribe with a free trial on the Kindle Fire.