Peter King is Reader in Social Thought in the Department of Public Policy at De Montfort University. His new book, The New Politics: Liberal Conservatism or the Same Old Tories?, is being published by Policy Press.
A year into the coalition is a good time to take stock: so do we have a new politics or is David Cameron’s government just the same old Tories with a liberal veneer?
Clearly, the Conservative leadership have sought to claim they represent a new form of politics that goes beyond the traditional attitudes that are often associated with the party. It is not just the same old Tories, but a new brand of politics forged out of a recognition that Britain has changed.
What helps them in this claim is that they are in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. They can claim they have transcended the narrow factionalism of politics and created a broad-based government capable of meeting the challenges of a financial crisis and an unsustainable public deficit.
But the attempt to break with the past began before May 2010. One of the innovations of David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative Party has been to claim the mantle of progress. The Conservatives wish to be seen as the party of social justice, of social mobility and not as the party of the rich and privileged. Cameron has stated his priority is the NHS and the Conservatives have taken up the issue of climate change and sought to place wellbeing on the same level as economic growth.