Margaret Thatcher Centre Freedom Festival

The weekend of Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th March 2024, saw the second Margaret Thatcher Centre Freedom Festival held at the University of Buckingham.

Following on from the inaugural event last year the two days consisted of a series of keynote addresses, panel discussions and a gala dinner with Jacob Rees-Mogg speaking.

As one might expect given current polling there was a somewhat sedated attitude among attendees and delegates.  Whilst the festival was non-partisan it was attended by a handful of MPs and many panellists were affiliated to the Conservative Party.  Most bemoaned the lack of achievement of 14 years of Conservative led government.  The two achievements referenced on multiple occasions were the PISA rankings in Reading, and of course achieving Brexit.  In the case of Brexit this has not been delivered for Northern Ireland, and what was delivered was despite rather than because of the Conservative Party’s corporate position.  Talk was often of reform, both of the Conservative party, especially in the case of candidate selection, and the party Reform, who many attendees would be voting for.  In a room at the Margaret Thatcher Centre, hosting an event named after Margaret Thatcher, for the most part the Conservative Party had lost the room.

Among the weekends highlights was Lord Frost’s keynote address in which he described what might be coined as Frost’s Four Freedoms:

  1. National Freedom – the right to run your own country.  The idea that a country has the right to be self-governing and that a country has a national demos.
  2. Free Speech – In a free country you must have the right to free speech.
  3. Economic Freedom – This is perhaps best described in a quote from Margaret Thatcher: “A man’s right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property, and to have the state as servant and not as master — they are the essence of a free economy. And on that freedom all our other freedoms depend.” 
  4. Freedom to Transmit – A freedom to hand on our culture to the next generation.  Our belief that every individual is special, our cultural Christianity, the beliefs that allowed us to build western civilisation.  A freedom to build, own and hand on. 

On Economic Freedom it was pointed out this compares to the current government who have just introduced a Football Regulator.  After 14 years of Conservative led government, the state often sees itself as the master, and the people and their businesses as it’s servants.

In later discussions, we felt The Freedom to Transmit really is the freedom that encourages a culture that plants a tree in the knowledge that future generations will be there to see it grow, a culture that writes an ‘Established date’ sign on a business believing it will prosper for many years to come. 

Tim Montgomerie the founder of Conservative Home and spoke of what went wrong in the 14 years of Conservative government, and summarised what the Right needs to do in 5 areas:

  1. Get rid of a lot of people who are currently Conservative MPs.  Too many Conservative MPs are simply in no way conservative.
  2. We need to be more gracious towards each other.  This may seem like it contradicts the first task, but once you have a conservative movement, you have to agree on basic principles, but not every last detail, and most importantly you need to work together.
  3. We often talk of ‘the State’ and ‘the Market’ but don’t talk about ‘Society’.  We live in communities, and in families.  Conservatism doesn’t spend enough time talking about our society.
  4. Cut the demand side of government.  We all know that the government is too big, but we always look at cutting the supply side of government the size of departments, spending etc.  We need to instead look at cutting the demand for government.  One way is to build a lot more houses, another is to rebuild the family.
  5. We need to do less politics.  Elections are too important, politicians have too much power.  We should all go to church, join clubs and get out more.

Some other general points made on the day were that we (the Right) need to get more people onto public appointments and quangos.  Conservative Home regularly publishes opportunities at

Conor Burns MP made some suggestions of what the Conservatives should do in their remaining time in office.  This included continuing to sign the US State level ‘Memoranda of Understanding’, like that recently signed with Texas.  They also should focus on what the Conservative Party wants from a leader, rather than who they want as a leader.

The point was also made that we need to make the case for Free Markets, specifically:

  • Profit is a good thing.  Profit provides the dividends for our pensions.
  • Capitalism helps people live longer.  It is responsible for improving the lives of billions.
  • Competition drives up standards.