I bet I’m not the only Conservative whose blood boils when they hear the Labour Party talk about the NHS. No matter how much money the Conservatives put into the NHS it is still being ‘cut’ according to Labour. In every single election since the 1950s they have accused the Conservatives of ‘privatising’ the NHS. Somehow, it miraculously still exists and is providing treatment to more of us than ever. But the most infuriating comment has to be when they claim, ‘we created the NHS so of course we are the only party who will look after it’. Remember when Ed Miliband wanted to ‘weaponise’ the NHS during the 2015 General Election? Put simply, the Labour Party think they own the NHS.
As Conservatives there is an easy way to respond to this arrogant assumption that because the Labour Party created the NHS they ‘own’ the issue. We simply have to remind everyone of our own record on social reform. The Conservatives in government gave the working-class the vote. Do we own the working-class? The Conservatives gave equal voting rights to women. Do we own women? The Conservatives in government oversaw the creation and development of the BBC. Do we own the BBC? The answer, of course to all three, is a resounding no. Because that is simply not how we think. But we need to take on Labour and show that no political party ‘own’ an institution or a particular reform.
Another great claim by Labour, is that they are the only party who believe in equality. Us Tories are all nasty, elitist toffs who believe in perpetual inequality and entrenched privilege. Conservatives do believe in equality – equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. But for all the talk of ‘equality’ from Labour let’s look at some facts. As stated above, it can never do us harm to remind people it was Conservatives in government who gave the working-class and women the vote. Let’s not forget the great suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was a member of the Conservative Party and was selected as a candidate to stand for parliament. Even before this period who was the man who dedicated his life to end slavery throughout the British Empire? It was the Tory, William Wilberforce.
Turning to modern debates on equality, it is the Conservatives who have had two female leaders and prime ministers, the first of which was elected as leader 44 years ago. Even if Labour do manage to elect their first female after Corbyn, it will have been near enough half a century after the Conservative Party. Who was the first Muslim cabinet minister? The Conservative, Sayeeda Warsi. And who is the first Muslim to be in one of the great offices of state? You guessed it, our current Home Secretary, Savid Javid.
This defence of the Conservative Party’s record on both individual and institutional forms of social reform is not as starry eyed as it seems. In many circumstances we have often been behind the curve and have needed to catch up with the rest of British society. This article is simply a reminder to fellow Conservatives that the Labour Party do not own these issues and we have many proud achievements that we should not forget.