The "greatest" Conservative quotes of all time

Which is your favourite?

In bold defiance of David Cameron's recent claim that "too many twits might make a twat", the official Conservative Party Twitter feed is canvassing users of the fashionable micro-blogging site for their "favourite Conservative Party quotes from history". So many to choose from! Here is a compendium of "favourites" from the NS office. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments thread.

 

"The balance of our population, our human stock is threatened." Sir Keith Joseph, speech at Edgbaston, 19 October 1974

 

"People are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture." Margaret Thatcher, in a Granada TV interview, January 1978

 

"If higher unemployment is the price we have to pay in order to bring inflation down, then it is a price worth paying." Norman Lamont, Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1992

 

"One shark turned to the other to say he was fed up chasing tuna and the other said, 'Why don't we go to Morecambe Bay and get some Chinese?'" Ann Winterton MP, making a joke about the deaths of Chinese cockle pickers, at a dinner party in Whitehall in February 2004

 

"There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families." Prime minister Margaret Thatcher, in an interview with Woman's Own magazine, October 1987

 

"We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre." Enoch Powell, "Rivers of Blood" speech, April 1968

 

"I feel I have had a very interesting life, but I am rather hoping there is still more to come. I still haven't captained the England cricket team, or sung at Carnegie Hall!" Jeffrey Archer, convicted of perjury in 2001

 

"He's a good, brave and honourable soldier." Norman Lamont on ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, January 1999

 

"I'm also very much aware that it is you who brought democracy to Chile, you set up a constitution suitable for democracy, you put it into effect, elections were held, and then, in accordance with the result, you stepped down." Margaret Thatcher, speaking to Pinochet, 1999

 

"My dad didn't riot. He got on his bike and looked for work" Norman Tebbit, speaking in the aftermath of the Brixton and Toxteth riots, 1981.

"If gay marriage was OK ... then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog." Boris Johnson, in his book Friends, Voters, Countrymen (2001)

 

"The only solution is to kill 600 people in one night. Let the UN and Bill Clinton and everyone else make a scene - and it is over for 20 years." Alan Clark MP, on how to deal with the IRA

 

"My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds." Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister, September 1938

 

"I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes." Winston Churchill, war office departmental minutes, 1919

 

"The General Strike has taught the working class more in four days than years of talking could have done." Arthur Balfour, 1926

 

"We have to give some satisfaction to both the upper classes and the masses. This is especially difficult with the upper classes - because all legislation is rather unwelcome to them, as tending to disturb a state of things with which they are satisfied. It is evident, therefore, that we must work at less speed and at a lower temperature than our opponents. Our bills must be tentative and cautious, not sweeping and dramatic." Robert Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury, in a letter to Lord Randolph Churchill, November 1886

 

"We had to fight the enemy without in the Falklands. We always have to be aware of the enemy within, which is much more difficult to fight and more dangerous to liberty." Margaret Thatcher on the miners' strike, July 1984

 

"Hang Mandela." campaign slogan of the Federation of Conservative Students during the 1980s, during which time its chairman was John Bercow, now Speaker of the House of Commons

 

"Bastards." John Major, prime minister, on his cabinet colleagues, July 1993

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Martin Whitfield
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Labour MP for East Lothian Martin Whitfield: "I started an argument and ended up winning an election"

The former primary school teacher still misses home. 

Two months ago, Martin Whitfield was a primary school teacher in Prestonpans, a small town along the coast from Edinburgh. Then he got into an argument. It was a Saturday morning shortly after the snap election had been called, and he and other members of the local Labour party began discussing a rumour that the candidate would be an outsider.

“I started an argument that this was ridiculous, we couldn’t have a candidate helicoptered in,” he recalls. He pointed out that one of the main issues with the Scottish National Party incumbent, the economist and journalist George Kerevan, was that he was seen as an outsider.

“I kept arguing for an hour and a half and people started gently moving away,” he jokes. “About two days later I was still going on, and I thought enough’s enough.” 

He called Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour veteran, who interrupted him. “He said, 'Right Martin, are you going to put up or shut up?’ So I filled in the forms.

"Then I had to have a very interesting conversation with my wife.”

One successful election campaign later, he is sitting in the airy, glass-roofed atrium of Westminster’s Portcullis House. Whitfield has silver hair, glasses, and wears a Labour-red tie with his shirt. He looks every bit the approachable primary school teacher, and sometimes he forgets he isn’t anymore. 

I ask how the school reacted to his election bid, and he begins “I have”, and then corrects himself: “There is a primary four class I had the pleasure to teach.” The children wanted to know everything from where parliament was, to his views on education and independence. He took unpaid leave to campaign. 

“Actually not teaching the children was the hardest thing,” he recalls. “During the campaign I kept bumping into them when I was door-knocking.”

Whitfield was born in Newcastle, in 1965, to Labour-supporting parents. “My entire youth was spent with people who were socialists.”

His father was involved in the Theatre Workshop, founded by the left-wing director Joan Littlewood. “We were part of a community which supported each other and found value in that support in art and in theatre,” he says. “That is hugely important to me.” 

He trained as a lawyer, but grew disillusioned with the profession and retrained as a teacher instead. He and his wife eventually settled in Prestonpans, where they started a family and he “fought like mad” to work at the local school. She works as the marketing manager for the local theatre.

He believes he won his seat – one of the first to be touted as a possible Labour win – thanks to a combination of his local profile, the party’s position on independence and its manifesto, which “played brilliantly everywhere we discussed it”. 

It offered hope, he says: “As far as my doorstep discussion in East Lothian went, some people were for and against Jeremy Corbyn, some people were for and against Kezia Dugdale, but I didn’t find anyone who was against the manifesto.”

Whitfield’s new job will mean long commutes on the East Coast line, but he considers representing the constituency a “massive, massive honour”. When I ask him about East Lothian, he can’t stop talking.

“MPs do tend to say ‘my constituency’s a microcosm’, but it really is Scotland in miniature. We have a fishing industry, crabs and lobsters, the agricultural areas – the agricultural soil is second to none.” The area was also historically home to heavy industry. 

After his first week in Westminster, Whitfield caught the train back to Scotland. “That bit when I got back into East Lothian was lovely moment,” he says. “I was home.”

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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