Conservative Party will ‘move heaven and earth to show that we are not the party of the rich’
And while they are busy moving heaven and earth, all hell breaks loose with talk about Mr Clarke being off message; having usurped George Osborne by telling him what he cannot do, being at odds with David Cameron on inheritance tax, contradicting Boris Johnson on the 45p band, and betraying the Conservative cause by proposing to penalise the wealth creators during in a time of unprecedented economic turmoil.
The strategy, according to the ‘Tory strategist’, is to take an ‘anti-rich’ position in order to ‘buy room for acceptance of public spending cuts’, because ‘only when the party has decontaminated itself as the party of the rich will we have the authority to attack the size of the state’.
This is a curious way of conducting strategy, and this strategist ought to be sacked.
It is one thing to pretend to be ‘anti-rich’ in order to ‘buy’ the confidence of the public; it is quite another to place such a carefully-laid strategy in the public domain and give the impression that the public are being deceived by a superficial ‘decontamination’ process: it is all about image. The ‘Tory strategist’ is plainly saying that Tory strategy is to ‘attack the size of the state’. But the hint of deception, the whiff of hypocrisy and the admission of style over substance are unacceptable.
Howard Flight was sacked for far less.
Yet the strategist is right in the aspiration: it is the logical pursuit after the Thatcher reforms, and one which all Conservatives should embrace. During her first term, Mrs Thatcher focused on monetarism as the antidote to orthodox Keynesian economics, to which the ‘wets’ were wed. Only by targeting inflation could a sound economy be built. Her second term was focused on privatising state assets, democratising shareholding, and encouraging home ownership by permitting council tenants to buy their houses. In an epic struggle with the unions, she also re-established the principle that HM Government runs Britain. Only in her third term did her agenda extend to social policy, by reforming education funding by giving schools the ability to opt out of local authority control, and also by introducing some free-market thinking into the monolithic NHS.
Yet these reforms were nowhere near as radical as those she achieved in the realms of economics, industrial relations, private property and personal wealth. She rejected education vouchers, avoided much-needed reforms to the NHS, shackled local government with central targets, and eschewed the expansion of means testing to pay for welfare benefits.
David Cameron shows every sign of radical thinking in precisely those areas where Mrs Thatcher was timid. His premiership will be the ideological continuation of where she left off.
There is little doubt that David Cameron is proposing a revolution in social policy. Under him, the quango state will be decimated: it will cease to monopolise provision in education, welfare and health; local councils will be headed by elected mayors under the principles of subsidiarity; and it is intended to introduce a degree of democratic accountability in policing.
In an article for The Spectator last week, Mr Cameron talks of a ‘massive transfer of power from central government and its agencies to individuals and local communities’ and decries ‘the arrogant belief that the political élite...really do know best’. He believes policy should be informed ‘by our instinctive Conservative optimism about people’, and says he has ‘faith that most people are good and will do the right thing if only you trust them’. Those on the political Left, however, are ‘essentially pessimists, believing that people will do the wrong thing unless told what to do...’
Cranmer must write to this ‘Tory strategist’ to discover if this is an ‘anti-autocracy’ bit of Lockean spin in order to conceal the reality that the Conservative Party has massively transferred powers from local associations and individual members to central control, because the Hobbesian political élite at Conservative Campaign Headquarters really do know best.