Liam Fox: Conservatives must inspire a new generation to reject the fundamentalism of socialism


Delivering a wide-ranging speech at the Centre for Policy Studies on Thursday 13th June 2019, The Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade said:

“The Conservative Party has been the most successful democratic party in the Western world, and the natural party of government in the United Kingdom for well over a century.  It’s worth reminding ourselves of this fact in the periods of self-doubt to which the party is prone.”

“Perhaps it is prudent, even necessary, to have such periodic heart-searching, but it is no excuse for the sort of self-induced negativity that occasionally afflicts British conservatism”. 

“Today, as we embark on the leadership contest that will select a new Prime Minister, we need to remember some of the fundamental benefits the Conservative Government has delivered, like record levels of employment, rising living standards, record levels of exports and foreign investment pouring into the UK”.

On Defence and Security:

“The first duty of any government is to protect the lives, the safety and the property of its citizens. Without the proper resources for our defence, our intelligence services and our police, we are failing in our primary duty. Most politicians will recite the mantra, but too often corners are cut”.

“One of the most basic functions of taxation, and the one most readily accepted, is that defence and security are better and more efficiently conducted at the collective rather than the individual level. All too often, however, when there is a public and media clamour for higher spending in one area or another, it is easy to divert funding away from the less visible defence budget”.

“While it protects our safety and security, the government has another function to perform. In protecting and safeguarding the security of the nation, it also must protect and safeguard the rights and freedom of each citizen. That’s why access to justice and, above all, an independent judiciary are so vital to that most delicate yet fundamental balance: liberty with security”.

On the Economy:

“We have to communicate the ideas that underpin Conservative economic values, never taking for granted that lessons from one generation are necessarily understood by the next. 
One of the great talents of Margaret Thatcher, particularly in opposition and the early years of her government, was to express complex economic arguments in language that voters found easy to understand. I remember how she was mocked for what was condescendingly seen by an overwhelmingly male establishment as ‘housewife economics’”.
“Ideas around sound money and the need for nations, like households, to live within their means resonated at a time when Britain was riddled with inflation and debt – and these fundamental truths remain the same today”.

“We need to make these arguments again and again, especially to younger voters, taking into account the changing economic circumstances in which we find ourselves”.

“For many of us, the economic belief that has shaped our policy pronouncements since the 1980s is the unavoidable truth that there is no such thing as public money – only taxpayers’ money. Yet, at the 2017 election it was disconcerting to find how many young voters, in particular, were seduced by Labour’s promises of increased spending across the board”. 

“Far from being the champion of young voters, a high spending left-wing government would be a toxic curse, leaving them with increased tax bills for the whole of their working lives. It would mean that they, and their families, would be saddled with the cost of Labour’s failure, unable to benefit fully from their own efforts and talents”.

“Indeed, no individual, no household and no country can or should continually live beyond their means. Of course, there are times when we may find that short-term debt may be unavoidable, even sensible on occasions – but a society based on debt rather than savings leaves itself much more open to external shocks beyond its own control, with all the potential consequences in terms of lost prosperity and diminished security”.

“These basic truths need to be allied with other sound Conservative principles that underpin economic analysis. We need to re-emphasise that markets work because they are the combined wisdom of millions of people rather than the applied opinions of the self-appointed political elite. Yet, it is equally important to point out that markets do not work if you reward failure the same way as success”.

On Free and Fair Trade:

“Over the past three years, I have spent a great deal of time talking about the benefits of free trade. Open, free and fair trade, rooted in a sound and relevant international rules-based trading system has repeatedly shown itself to be of huge benefit to both individuals and states; producers and consumers; and in both developed & developing countries alike.
Indeed, as the world’s emerging and developing economies have liberalised trade practices, prosperity has spread, bringing industry, jobs and wealth where once there was only deprivation”.

“According to the World Bank, the three decades between 1981 and 2011 witnessed the single greatest decrease in material deprivation in human history. A billion people taken out of abject poverty in one generation. That is why it is morally unthinkable to reject free and open trade”. 

“Those who genuinely want to liberate the world from the scourge of poverty should support free and fair trade, yet sadly the political left seem intent on pursuing an agenda which sees trade as a vice rather than a virtue”.

On a Conservative Society:

“Immigration can bring many benefits to society and Britain has a proud history of tolerance, integration and cultural assimilation”. 

“On the issue of culture, you may have read recently that chicken tikka masala is now a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences”.

“But, more seriously, immigration can only work if those coming into a country want to integrate with its resident population and culture – and where the host population of the country is willing to allow that integration to happen. When immigration gets out of control, both of these are more difficult to achieve”.

“We also need to understand that, while diversity is enriching for a society, it is also necessary to celebrate and emphasise commonality – the things that unite us. Failure to do so can result not in diversity but fragmentation. Essentially, different is good for a society but separate is bad”.

“In welfare, our basic approach also resonates with natural conservatives. I believe we have an absolute duty to help those who cannot help themselves – and that this is the basis for a decent and caring society. But where there are people with huge talents that for whatever reason are not using them it is important, not just economically, but for reasons of self-esteem and self-worth, that we provide all the necessary incentives and opportunities for those who can support themselves through work to do so”. 

“And there is another fallacy of the left that we must tackle. We must understand that poverty is not simply an economic or a financial issue. It is not just about the inability to afford material goods. The poverty of values, the poverty of aspiration and the poverty of opportunity will debilitate both individuals and society, undermining personal responsibility and sapping that crucial sense of self-worth”.

“That’s why dignity is the partner of responsibility. With dignity comes socially-responsible behaviour. Without the self-respect it engenders, we will never be able to unlock the opportunity that lies within our society”.

In Conclusion:

“Finally, perhaps the greatest difference between conservatives and our socialist opponents is that while we Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity, for all the reasons I have set out, the socialist believes in equality of outcome. While we believe in liberation conservatism, setting free and supporting the talents of individuals to reach their greatest potential, the socialist believes in social engineering to achieve a preconceived outcome that suits their political model”.

“In conclusion, we Conservatives treat people as they are, not as we would like them to be. We understand the motivations and the dreams of our fellow citizens – enhancing their freedom, but yes, requiring responsibility; maximising choice and therefore competition; and appealing to a belief in the possibility of one’s own success. These aren’t merely the ideals of a political ideology, but the fundamentals of human instinct”.

“It is our duty to make this case once again, to inspire a new generation to reject the fundamentalism of socialism, and restore faith in the philosophy of opportunity. Let us speak for those quiet Conservatives – for they are all around us – and ensure that our place in the next chapter of our nation’s history is sealed. Not for our own benefit, but for the prosperity, security and opportunity that the people of our United Kingdom deserve to have”.


For further information, or for media accreditation to cover the speech, please contact the Centre for Policy Studies Press Office on 02039664519 or email [email protected].


  • The Centre for Policy Studies is one of Britain’s leading think tanks, and the home of a new generation of conservative thinking. Its mission is to widen enterprise, ownership and prosperity. This is the first in a series of major CPS events in 2019 addressing the future of capitalism and conservatism.
  • Rt. Hon. Dr Liam Fox MP has served as the MP for North Somerset since 2010 and has been the Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade since 2016.

Date Added: Wednesday 12th June 2019