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Shelley Society

Mr Shaun Bailey on ‘The Welfare State and the Broken Society’

The Shelley Society hosted arguably one of the most engaging and charismatic speakers of any society this year. A packed Lower-School was given a humorous yet substantive view of the political and social issues that face British society from a rapidly rising politician in the Conservative Party, Mr Shaun Bailey. He spoke to us on the issue of “the Welfare State and the Broken Society” although he ventured more to discuss the issues of young people’s engagement in politics and the principles that motivate his political career.

Although not a typical speaker for the Shelley Society, in fact he expressed his complete distrust and loathing for Liberals, much of Mr Bailey’s economic thought was liberal in principle. Other liberal aspects came through most as he condemned the interference of the state in the lives of individuals and called for greater equality of social opportunity.

Mr Bailey began by describing the origins of his political career. Born and raised in a difficult environment, he recounted being suspended from school eight times (almost being expelled) and leaving school with very few of even the basic skills. He also mentioned the importance of his grandmother and her Jamaican heritage. These two aspects of his upbringing helped to explain his fundamental belief in the need for hard-work and responsibility to resolve the issues of social degradation and declining morality.

The audience was given an honest and first-hand account of the causes of ‘the Broken Society’. Among the problems, Mr Bailey suggested, was a reluctance to look to the future and a reliance on the past for false reassurance. He described a lack of incentive to work hard as a cause of the dependency culture that he believes to undermine the foundations of society. To resolve some of these issues, Mr Bailey emphasised the importance of removing disincentives and reduce the burdens of taxation on the majority of the population.

Mr Bailey was sincere in describing his issues with the political process. However, a significant emphasis of his talk was on personal responsibility and the duty of the individual to develop the foundations of a just and equitable society. The rhetoric was, paradoxically, typical of the Conservative Party yet revolutionary. The emphasis on the rights of the individual and the relieving of social burdens to allow equal opportunities for achievement was extremely liberal.

It was refreshing to hear much of what is often dubbed ‘common sense’, spoken with such clarity and without reservation. Although, this ‘common sense’ approach seems intuitively appealing and was well substantiated, many of the issues are defined by obscurity. It is relatively easy to identify the problems of society yet the solutions seem much more distant. Despite Mr Bailey’s principles not being entirely liberal, he offered a great change from the accepted view of Conservative politics. The political conviction and strong principles that were evident in Mr Bailey’s talk were something very different to the established norms of party-politics. It was a privilege for all to be present to hear a speaker that will undoubtedly become a significant figure in British politics and will continue to have a profound influence.

Many thanks to all those who attended, to LJP and of course to Mr Bailey.

Rishab Mehan OS (CMJ)


DATE POSTED: 17 March 2009

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