An angry audience member accused Conservative MPs Nadine Dorries and Lord Ashcroft of a “waste” of two years talking about Brexit on social media when they “could have been doing social justice work”.
At a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference called ‘Does the Conservative Party care about social justice?’ a man who identified himself only as a “middle manager from a charity in Birmingham” said the MPs spent the previous two years using social media to convey their views on Brexit rather than tackling other issues.
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Dorries and Ashcroft were seated on the front row in the audience, while the panel consisted of Iain Duncan Smith, Johnny Mercer, Justine Greening and Andy Ratcliffe, CEO of Impetus the Private Equity Foundation and former adviser to Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative.
Jacob Rees-Mogg was listed as being on the panel but he did not attend the event.
“It’s a waste of two years when you could have been doing social justice work,” said the man, addressing Dorries and Ashcroft, who had, by this time, left his seat.
'You've made your point'
“You’ve made your point, and I don’t want this to turn into a debate about Brexit,” said panel chair and co-founder of Conservative Home Tim Montgomerie.
“You’re right, it didn’t happen,” Duncan Smith responded. “But we can do two things at once - chew gum and walk.”
“But it’s not two things at once, it isn’t happening!” protested the man.
Once again, Montgomerie told the man he’d “made his point” and held his hand up.
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During the discussion, Duncan Smith, Greening and Mercer called for better collaboration with the Treasury to “invest in people” as Greening put it, and ensure people from disadvantaged backgrounds received the right education to help them get jobs and succeed.
The event was put on by the Centre for Social Justice, which was founded by Duncan Smith and Montgomerie in 2004.
Mercer also took a swipe at Jeremy Corbyn, saying: “It’s pretty devastating to see Jeremy Corbyn trying to own the social justice agenda. People don’t want to vote for Corbyn - this isn’t a far-left country.”
When Montgomerie asked the audience if they thought the Conservative Party cared enough about social justice, the majority raised their hands for ‘no’.
Greening and Duncan Smith agreed, with both saying the party perhaps “didn’t care enough” but it “should”.