In a risky situation, pragmatism should prevail over ideology
It is important to have strong ideas and rooted principles, but these should never override common sense.
In these unprecedented times, Conservativism faces a series of immense challenges in governing the country. As a party, we have to recognise both the value of timeless Conservative principles in forging our way out of this crisis, but also be pragmatic in seeking solutions to the unique issues we face.
Our decision to go into lockdown was not one any Conservative would take lightly; the great levels of borrowing and extensive government support schemes are not typical hallmarks of a Conservative government. In normal times, Conservatism makes the case for small state spending, reduced government interference and light-touch regulation. The immediate risk to public health and the overwhelming pressure on the NHS meant that such policies were not on the table and the government has wielded the full apparatus of the state to tackle the pandemic, including some forms of control over the general population. This has stirred a debate among my colleagues, with a range of different opinions – yet another demonstration that our party is a broad church.
I agree wholeheartedly with the Conservative ideological pillars of a responsible fiscal policy aimed at stimulating the economy, of little state intervention in the life of citizens, of the respect of rules and support for our police and the Armed Forces, Queen and country.
Conservatives, including those like myself who won Red Wall seats, are part of a patriotic party, proud to be British and of our union; big believers in the strength and the potential of our nation. We share the same ideas from Land’s End to the Shetlands, we are proud of most of our history and confident in our nation’s future. We believe that our country’s sovereignty is worthy of protection, and our four nations can thrive united.
We have pulled together as a party and as a nation
My constituency in Morley and Outwood is one of the most patriotic in England, as can be witnessed by anyone attending our St George’s Day parade, or any day of the year with the Union Jack or the Yorkshire Flag flying proudly on our historic Town Hall.
I believe that lockdown has enhanced this character. We have pulled together as a party and as a nation, trying to support our doctors, nurses and key workers, setting up volunteer group, shopping for our elderly neighbours, arranging Zoom calls with friends living on their own, finding more unity as families.
It has been hard, and it is still not easy to find the right balance between the need to support the economy and safeguard public health. I believe the research of this balance is in itself a Conservative act, with the understanding that one’s livelihood is as important as health and that the full, prolonged closure of businesses can be as deadly to many in the long term as a virus.
Conservatism is also about pragmatism. It is important to have strong ideas and rooted principles, but these should never override common sense. I believe that, in a risky situation, pragmatism should prevail over ideology.
Since the start of the outbreak, the government has been following the advice of the UK’s leading scientific experts, proving that it is willing to find a way out of this pandemic. Thanks to our community spirit and our willingness to come together, we will prevail.
Andrea Jenkyns is the Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood.