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: Getty Images
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I'm far from convinced by Cameron's plans for Syria

The Prime Minister has a plan for when the bombs drop. But what about after?

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister set out a powerful case for Britain to join air strikes against Isil in Syria.  Isil, he argued, poses a direct threat to Britain and its people, and Britain should not be in the business of “outsourcing our security to our allies”. And while he conceded that further airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to beat Isil, he made the case for an “Isil first” strategy – attacking Isil now, while continuing to do what we can diplomatically to help secure a lasting settlement for Syria in which Assad (eventually) plays no part.

I agreed with much of David Cameron’s analysis. And no-one should doubt either the murderous barbarism of Isil in the region, or the barbarism they foment and inspire in others across the world.  But at the end of his lengthy Q&A session with MPs, I remained unconvinced that UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria was the right option. Because the case for action has to be a case for action that has a chance of succeeding.  And David Cameron’s case contained neither a plan for winning the war, nor a plan for winning the peace.

The Prime Minister, along with military experts and analysts across the world, concedes that air strikes alone will not defeat Isil, and that (as in Iraq) ground forces are essential if we want to rid Syria of Isil. But what is the plan to assemble these ground forces so necessary for a successful mission?  David Cameron’s answer today was more a hope than a plan. He referred to “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters - principally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Isil”.

But it is an illusion to think that these fighters can provide the ground forces needed to complement aerial bombardment of Isil.  Many commentators have begun to doubt whether the FSA continues to exist as a coherent operational entity over the past few months. Coralling the myriad rebel groups into a disciplined force capable of fighting and occupying Isil territory is a heroic ambition, not a plan. And previous efforts to mobilize the rebels against Isil have been utter failures. Last month the Americans abandoned a $500m programme to train and turn 5,400 rebel fighters into a disciplined force to fight Isil. They succeeded in training just 60 fighters. And there have been incidents of American-trained fighters giving some of their US-provided equipment to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Why has it proven so hard to co-opt rebel forces in the fight against Isil? Because most of the various rebel groups are fighting a war against Assad, not against Isil.  Syria’s civil war is gruesome and complex, but it is fundamentally a Civil War between Assad’s forces and a variety of opponents of Assad’s regime. It would be a mistake for Britain to base a case for military action against Isil on the hope that thousands of disparate rebel forces can be persuaded to change their enemy – especially when the evidence so far is that they won’t.

This is a plan for military action that, at present, looks highly unlikely to succeed.  But what of the plan for peace? David Cameron today argued for the separation of the immediate task at hand - to strike against Isil in Syria – from the longer-term ambition of achieving a settlement in Syria and removing Assad.  But for Isil to be beaten, the two cannot be separated. Because it is only by making progress in developing a credible and internationally-backed plan for a post-Assad Syria that we will persuade Syrian Sunnis that fighting Isil will not end up helping Assad win the Civil War.  If we want not only to rely on rebel Sunnis to provide ground troops against Isil, but also provide stable governance in Isil-occupied areas when the bombing stops, progress on a settlement to Syria’s Civil War is more not less urgent.  Without it, the reluctance of Syrian Sunnis to think that our fight is their fight will undermine the chances of military efforts to beat Isil and bring basic order to the regions they control. 

This points us towards doubling down on the progress that has already been made in Vienna: working with the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states, as well as Russia and Iran. We need not just a combined approach to ending the conflict, but the prospect of a post-war Syria that offers a place for those whose cooperation we seek to defeat Isil. No doubt this will strike some as insufficient in the face of the horrors perpetrated by Isil. But I fear that if we want not just to take action against Isil but to defeat them and prevent their return, it offers a better chance of succeeding than David Cameron’s proposal today. 

Stewart Wood is a former Shadow Cabinet minister and adviser to Ed Miliband. He tweets as @StewartWood.