Getting back to the basics

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Though I spend much of my time working on a pamphlet concerning the legal liability of volunteers in the sport and adventure fields, the balance of my time is spent interacting with the staff at the Centre for Social Justice. The environment in which I work is very inviting, quite different from the distance I sense from typical Londoners.

The down-to-earth atmosphere of the Centre for Social Justice is due largely to the fact that the CSJ's energy is comitted to charity. That energy is to extend compassion to everyone. You may ask yourself, how does a person who is a committed Republican fit into this organization?

In the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party is a distant, yet connected descendant of the Tory Party. The modern Conservative Party's practical beginning can be traced back to Tory Prime Minister Arthur Wellesley. He is credited with removing restrictions on Roman Catholics in the18th century. Prior to him it is Tory MP William Wilberforce who is credited with beginning the anti-slavery movement in Britain.

In America, it was John Fremont who credited the phrase "Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men" to the Conservative Party. Soon thereafter, under the Republican banner, President Lincoln emancipated the slaves.

Unfortunately, recent scandals have left a bad taste in the mouths of voters here with respect to conservatives. In the United Kingdom, this has resulted in the Labour Party being the verge of winning a majority of seats in Parliament for a third term.

Fed up with the bureaucracies of politics, former party leader Iain Duncan Smith organized the Centre for Social Justice in an effort to bring the party back to it roots and truly help those in need. He began by finding a suitable and inspiring location at Hawkstone Hall (the tower of which was donated by the family of Abraham Lincoln). Further, it was the location of many anti-slavery meetings in the early 19th century by William Wilberforce.

The wonderful atmosphere is further enhanced with the addition of staff who have committed their lifework to improving the quality of life of others less fortunate. This is bolstered by the support of Conservative MPs throughout Parliament -- most notably David Willitts (Shadow Cabinet Member), Oliver Letwin (Shadow Cabinet Member), William Hague (former leader of the Conservative Party before Iain Duncan Smith) and Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart. Further, Michael Howard is slated to give a speech supporting compassionate conservatism in the near future.

CSJ's ultimate goal is to help develop policies that allow individuals to live more independently of the state. This is done by supporting and rewarding organizations not controlled by the state that fight poverty. Charity is such an important fixture of nationalism that the CSJ promotes these organizations through their exposure in the media and by political figures.

The CSJ is definitely making waves in its effort to restore what it means to be a conservative -- humanity and charity. Not simply in response to a tariff break, but because it helps those truly in need. That was the vision set forth by Lincoln and Wilberforce and ought to be the legacy passed down from generation to generation.

Erick Harris is a graduate of Central High School who is attending college at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. This is one of several columns he will be writing from London about his experiences as a semester intern with Parliament.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: