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I turn to the reasons why Conservative Members should support the amendments. It is difficult appealing for support for the amendments on grounds of Conservative philosophy or ideology, largely because there is a Conservative tradition that generally rejects notions of explicit philosophies. However, I wish to seek the support of Conservative Members on the basis of their association with and support for what can be described as liberal conservatism--that one nation Toryism that stems from the radical zeal of Disraeli and which the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) has shown throughout his career. My amendments seek to protect the individual while conserving the overall structure of the City corporation's electoral edifice.
By its very name and nature, conservatism is against wholesale change. My amendments seek to introduce a variation to the existing electoral structure. Nevertheless, they do not constitute wholesale change and preserve most of the corporation electoral practices in the City.
These amendments are very much in the mould of Edmund Burke, that great Conservative philosopher--or, as someone called him, "that drunken sycophant"--in that, in maintaining the existing corporation structure, they acknowledge the Burkeian argument that existing social and political forms have special virtue because they have been refined and sanctified by tradition. Having evolved over time, the conservative would argue that the existing structures have proven their success and viability.
Mr. Tony Benn: Edmund Burke was my predecessor as Member of Parliament for Bristol--a little while before I came here--but I hope that my hon. Friend remembers that his most famous phrase was when he referred to the public as "the swinish multitude", which triggered Tom Paine to write "The Rights of Man". Of the two, I must confess that, despite my civic connection with Edmund Burke, I am a supporter of Tom Paine.
Mr. McDonnell: I am trying to ensure that members of each party know that when they vote for the amendments, they do so on the basis of the philosophy of their party, as well as the modern principles on which they stand. That is why I referred to the Burkeian argument.
By maintaining the residential vote and the business vote and by accepting the concept--and even the level--of property qualification for many of the electors in the City, the amendments err towards the Conservative ideal of preservation of the status quo. The amendments do, however, ask Conservative Members to take a radical leap forward in terms of accepting the right of employees working within the City to have a role in electing the corporation.
In doing that, I appeal to two elements of traditional and modern Conservatism. The first is the promotion of the individual and the protection of his or her rights; the other is the radical Thatcherite tradition of empowering the individual in economic and political structures. My amendment that provides the right to the employee to vote in these elections is related to, and directly comparable to, the rights introduced by Baroness Thatcher's Government, who bestowed on members of trade unions the right to have a ballot before industrial action. My amendments--which empower employees, to a certain extent--are akin to the rights and powers that were provided by that Government, in which so many current Conservative Members served and to which so many look back as a golden age of radical conservatism.
I accept that there are some amendments with which many Conservative Members will not be happy, and I would be happy if they sought the Speaker or Deputy Speaker's permission to vote on these amendments separately. In particular, I expect Conservative Members not to be happy with amendment No. 59, which proposes the introduction of a form of proportional representation to the business and employees electoral colleges. If there can be no separate vote, I would urge Conservative Members nevertheless to vote for the amendment, while metaphorically holding their noses.
Mr. Barnes: The amendments should appeal to traditional Conservatives--including the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke)--because they attempt to reconcile conflicting interests, which is an approach and tactic of traditional conservatism.
Mr. McDonnell: That is why I have appealed to the Disraeli wing of the Conservative party, which formed a radical, reforming Government who addressed some of the abuses of power of previous Governments.
In appealing to Conservative Members to support the amendments, I draw their attention to the congruity between the intent and content of the amendments and the policies set out in their party's manifesto at the last election. In particular, I draw their attention to the statement that strongly supports my compromise amendments, which reads:
Conservatives embrace evolutionary change that solves real problems and improves the way our constitution works."
Mr. McDonnell: This is a legitimate attempt to demonstrate that the amendments can straddle the different political philosophies, and the more modern manifesto statements, of the three major parties that are represented in this Chamber.
Mr. McDonnell: Let us not put the issue to the vote. I take the view that the amendments are the direct products of more than two centuries of socialist philosophy and a century of practical and pragmatic Labour party political activity.
Mr. Corbyn: My hon. Friend is trying to appeal too widely. I recall some strong debates in the Labour party during the late 1960s and early 1970s about the role of independent, working-class, socialist organisations and the incorporation of those within the state, hence the debate on works councils versus independent trade unions. Does not my hon. Friend think that there is a danger that we are going down the road of incorporation?
The Labour party is a democratic socialist party. I know so not only by my own experience, but because the Prime Minister tells me so in the excellent text that he produced in 1996, "New Britain: My Vision of a Young Country". Indeed, the Prime Minister is a socialist: he told us so in his maiden speech in 1983.
In my right hon. Friend's work, he sets out the analysis on which my amendments are based, and marshals the arguments and the justification for them. They would begin the process of constructing a stakeholder constitution for the City of London.