This evening, the Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, came to Croydon to speak at a dinner organised by Croydon Conservatives' Community Link. I am pleased to say that the venue was packed out and we were rewarded with a really passionate speech about Baroness Warsi’s work both as a Cabinet Minister and in seeking to reform the Conservative Party.
Croydon Conservatives' Community Link was established a few years ago to encourage people from all of Croydon’s diverse communities to get involved in the Conservative Party. It is really important that Croydon Conservatives represent all parts of the community we hope to serve - the north and the south of the borough, the young and the old, people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. Labour, with the exception of the Blair period, sees its role as championing the working class against the middle class. It believes in labelling us by our gender, our sexuality, our ethnic group. But dividing society one against another is not the way to solve our problems. The Conservative Party - at its best at any rate - is not there to champion a narrow sectional interest. It is a one nation party, open to all - rich and poor, young and old, black and white - who share a belief in the values of responsibility and fairness and the institutions like the family which bind our society together.
This is partly about making sure our elected representatives reflect the community we serve. We've made progress on that front in recent years but we've still a way to go. But it is also about building links with communities, making sure we are aware of the particular issues they face whether it is the lack of green space in the north of the borough, the need for a more flexible planning policy to provide new places of worship or the views of young people about how the youth service budget should be spent. It's important work for the Conservative Party but it's also important for the communities concerned. If you feel you can only vote for one of the major parties, that they're the only ones who understand your community and care about your issues, then sooner or later that party is going to start taking you for granted. A community that has a choice is a community empowered.