There appears to be a hardening consensus behind the opinion that David Cameron, conscious of his electability in the key marginal seats that will decide the election, is seeking to present a Tory party sterilised of the toxicity that has plagued the Tory brand since the downfall of Thatcherism. In the economic sphere this quest for de-toxification has yielded positive results, for with it has come a limited realisation that the Thatcherite acceptance of neo-liberal economic policy was, in a sense, not really conservative at all, since it failed to protect against the excesses of blind markets and monopolising oligarchies precisely those things that conservatives are purported to cherish: the individual, the family, the community. This is a genuine development, and allows reclamation of a conservative thinking that is champion of the people, and protector of the civic realm.
However the development seems to have become stunted, for the Conservative Party seems to have become enchanted with talk of ‘progressiveness’ and the benign persona it bestows, an allure that has proved irresistible even whilst its possession requires the acceptance of the left-liberal worldview that underlies it. This capitulation speaks of a lack of confidence of the merits of genuinely conservative thought; Mr. Cameron has focused instead, to use the words of Tim Montgomerie, on ‘proving progressive credentials to the Left’. Quite why the Conservative Party should feel the need to do this is the point at issue; the answer, one suspects, is because it has accepted the left’s account of what ‘progressive’ thinking looks like. In accepting the terms that frame the debate, the right really has yielded its ideological foundations, and ceded to the interests of the status-quo.
Whilst this might all seem a little cerebral, the point is an important one, because at stake is a genuinely conservative appraisal of the problems that face contemporary society. As the Red Tory project started by Phillip Blond has convincingly argued, the homogenisation currently afflicting the political parties consists chiefly in the continuing adherence to a ‘post-1945 embrace of the state and the post-1968 embrace of the individual’. The argument is convincing, for the evidence is there for all to see. Conservative thinking has accepted an authoritarian statism that proceeds under the presumption that the state holds a monopoly on power and is therefore the only legitimate generator, dispenser and guarantor of it (note here how all three parties currently talk of pushing power ‘outwards and downwards’).