One Nation Conservatism is now subject to many interpretations since Disraeli wrote of it in Sybil in 1845. It is in danger of losing its source meaning today, which was to draw attention to the national divide of the rich and the poor. He said that we were, “Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets .. the rich and the poor.”
Disraeli was referring to the abject poor. Thankfully, since 1945, we have largely eradicated it after Beveridge identified the 5 “giants” of “Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness”. In 1945 we created today’s Welfare State, free state education, unemployment benefit, expanded National Insurance, achieved equality for women under the law and created the National Health Service.
We have though replaced “abject poverty” then, with “modern poverty” today. The pathways to modern poverty are homelessness, worklessness, family breakdown, educational failure, addiction and indebtedness and The Rt Hon Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP and his Centre for Social Justice have done magnificent work in this by drawing attention to the “bottom 20%” of our society who exist in one or all of its “pathway states”.
“Rule of Law” is a national value, a UK “soft power”, the founding reason for our upholding of the Rules-based International System and provides the very most equal opportunity for our society, by all being equal before it, from Monarchy to those comprising the “bottom 20%” of our society. But without “Equal Access to the Law” its ability to generate equal opportunity, peace, hope and dignity is reduced to an unequal one for those who cannot always access it.
Our society and One Nation Government needs to be aware that we may well have unintentionally become “Two Nations Before the Law” – the prosperous who can access it and many of the modern poor, who cannot. We now have an opportunity to help remedy this and to bring about the inspiration across our nation, that it would, if we equip ourselves with the resources to reform it.
For if Rule of Law is a Conservative and a national value, how can it be just, for only some in our “One-Nation”, to have access to it ?
Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter OBE
Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter OBE is a Conservative thinker and Advisor to the Board of Conservative Progress. A former Greenjacket Officer in the British Army and Chairman of a high exporting manufacturer, Carl works to advance professionalism, performance and integrity in international business and public life. Carl was awarded an OBE for services to business and international trade. He holds an Honorary Doctorate of Science of Durham University and is Professor-in-Practice at Durham Business School. He lives in London and Somerset.