Over tea on Easter Monday, I was engaged in a discussion with a few friends who are Conservatives and are at the cutting edge of social justice. Some around the table were primarily focused on social justice at home, creatively addressing Britain's crisis of social breakdown. Their priority is what has correctly been called our "broken society" - family breakdown, drug abuse, anti-social behaviour, truancy, poor education standards, crime, and inner-city deprivation, all pieces of the same tattered jigsaw. Some of us around the table specialise in global justice - international human rights, challenging tyranny and championing democracy and freedom, and battling global poverty. Of course, we recognised that these were two sides of the same coin, and that all of us, whatever our chosen focus, care about both. We cannot pursue justice abroad and condone injustice at home; nor can we simply focus on our backyard, and ignore those further afield with far fewer resources to address their plight.
But what is the philosophy that brings these together? And how is it different from the Left? Well, it's compassionate conservatism, which includes tinges of neo-conservatism. But ultimately, it is interventionism. Not economic interventionism, of a socialist kind. Not nationalisation, not even of Northern Rock. But not laissez-faire either. It is empowerment. Interventionism by government here at home to empower the voluntary sector to continue and improve and expand the extraordinary work being done to fight deprivation and breakdown. And interventionism - proactively, politically, diplomatically, materially and sometimes militarily - to combat poverty and fight dictatorship, to stand with dissidents and promote democracy. The arguments for this have been rehearsed plenty of times elswhere, so I won't repeat them, aside from saying that it is not only morally right, but also in our own national self-interest to do so. Do we call this neo-conservatism? No, because it is a tarnished phrase which conveys a wrong idea, whatever its actual definition. Do we call it liberal interventionism? Of sorts, but the difference is that we still want to keep government itself - and the role of the State, as distinct from society - small. So, my friends said, how about Conservative Interventionism? Yes, I said, but it's too cumbersome and unattractive. Let's reverse the words and then abbreviate them. And so the philosophy of the Inter-Cons was born at Fortnum and Masons tearooms. Are you an Inter-Con??