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Perhaps ALL politicians should undergo a paradigm shift towards plain simple speaking that we can all understand and enjoy!

If Letwin is trying to communicate to a wider audience then I fear his efforts are wasted with words like these.

Spot on assessment Tim.

I thought we were supposed to be copying the new Labour project? This speech has no chance whatsoever of being the splash in the Sun or Mirror or even I suspect in the Times. Alistair Campbell would never have allowed it!
About the message itself. Yes full of long words and unecessarily verbose but rather too simplistic in my opinion.
Thatchers Conservative party answered the problems faced by the economic crises of the 1970's , Cameron faces different problems. Whether the policies outlined by people like Letwin will prove successful remains to be seen.

I found Oliver Letwin's article very thoughtful and I look forward to reading the speech later. I hope you will link to it Mr Editor.

I will Felicity as soon as I receive it.

"Framework based" signals to me the expansion of the role of non-state-owned agencies in the delivery of public services, rather than simply a freeing of professionals to act as, umm, professionals. Cameron gave an excellent (and non-verbose!) talk on the subject which you can see HERE (if the link doesn't work you can find the podcasts at conservatives.com under video archive or on iTunes- the link is to iTunes). It's worth watching because it's the opposite of fudge.

Anything they can do, we can do better.

Who needs "neo-classical endogenous growth theory" anyway?

Cameron & Brown owe it to the nation to ensure Messrs Letwin & Balls are paired up against eachother in the same portfolio.

are now more central to politics than debates about economic policy.

Pity that....just as the economy is going to flounder and be exposed to some very harsh circumstances. Only Pseudo-Marxists could hope to decouple "Society" and "Economy" as if the Superstructure and the Economic Base can be separated.

The fundamental problem Oliver old son is that the Southeast is overly dependent on The City and ancillary services......and the rest of the country needs public employment to replace manufacturing businesses which have been exported to China and Central Europe.

Read Alan Blinder's depressing prognosis

Blinder

Who needs "neo-classical endogenous growth theory" anyway?

We do...and I really wish we had had some in the past decade instead of money-supply driven speculative growth

The French have a saying: "Tout ce qui n'est pas clair, n'est pas francais".
We should adapt this: "Anything that is not clear is not English".

I agree with Graeme Archer - Cameron puts it a whole lot better (although I haven't actually read Letwin's piece).

I don't know if Mr Archer is linking to a recording of this speech, but you can read the speech he gave to the Royal Society on the party's website.

It will tell you all you need to know about Cameron's "big idea". It sounds good, too.

Well said, Editor.

Simon Chapman :-)

Not sure the language is a problem Tim, if we simply say nothing has changed then surely we have not moved forward. The real issue with the electorate is that they didn't actually believe us when we said we were "Sociocentric" (interested in ordinary people), they believed we were "Econocentric" (big business first). Convincing them that we have changed is underlined when people, many on this site, speak in both subtle and blunt terms against the change being proposed by Cameron. The simple fact is that there is a fight coming as soon as detailed policy emerges, Cameron needs the fight, but needs to win it to win the next election. The statements coming from the right of the party that suggest they have been, and are still the key to success ignores reality of the situation we now face.

Governments have done more than anyone to hamstring economies all round the world since time began. For every beneficial economic intervention, there have been a 100 others which have dragged productivity down. Only Thatcher seemed to get it - and set the world on a seemingly unstoppable growth trend. All others have meddled and messed.


If politicians think they no longer have an economic role (who believes that for one second?) that could only be good for the economy.

On the other hand, watch out, society, if that's where they are trying to score points next.

If governments now believe they are running our lives in a more direct and personal way, our futures are indeed grim. The main current threat is to personal freedom - the thing that makes life worthwhile. When I hear a politican championing that, only then will I relax, when politicans say that they will do little or nothing for us.

Meanwhile technology allows Big Brother to encroach a little further into our lives every day.

We don't need governments to tell us how to live. We need governmments that listen to how we want to be governed. The answer to that is a lot less. Keep your hands off our societies Letwyn and Cameron, as well as our economies.

Dear God why can't Olly speak English or at least an approx estuarine version which is comprehensible.
If politicoes utter in incomprehensible double speak, then it is no small wonder that the electorate is dis-engaged and voting at an all time low.
Surely the philosophy of the Tories is to have small government, devolved control at grass roots level, freedom of choice and low taxes. Anything else is anathema and "treasonable", smacking of communism.

P.S. Thank you Ed for the translation.


Socialistic central planning may be out of fashion, but the victory won by free marketeers has been pyrrhic. There is a consenus among politicians that nationalising the commanding heights of the economy is counterproductive. Equally, there is a consensus that businesses must be taxed and regulated to the nth degree - to promote equality and diversity, generate social cohesion, protect the environment, create the appropriate work-life balance etc.

It is certainly a rare politician who thinks businesses should just be left to get on with doing what they do best - making profits.

Letwin is highlighting a shift in political philosophy that is slowly rejecting economic utilitarianism as the primary understanding of human behaviour. Yeah, he uses some big words to describe it, but to be fair, two minutes with a dictionary and all makes sense.

It remains to be seen though whether Cameron grasps this particular nettle. There is a peculiar tension between ultimate human liberty and sociocentric policy setting. One cannot be both a Whig AND a neo-social conservative (which is the direction I think Letwin is pointing us).

Letwyn should 'fascilitate social freedom' in the same way that Maggie set the economy free...get rid of legal and political interventions in peoples' lives, empower communities to build and replace big brother-style, demotivating government.

The problem is Tapestry that there is a dichotomy between total personal liberty and sociocentric policy setting. You simply cannot have a Whig approach to personal morality AND a sociocentric public policy. At some point the community must say "This particular personal choice is not conducive to the social good".

I actually read Letwin's piece in 'The Times'. Twice. I'm still here. Which is a surprise because i was in hysterics within the first couple of sentences. What is Letwin on? I sure as heck don't want any. Who on EARTH is going to go away having read that complete 'Pseuds Corner trash' and then have a greater understanding of what the Conservatives are about?! I think Letwin is in dire need of help.

Editor: you're wrong in your 'plain english' transcription of Letwin's econocentric to sociocentric paradigm shift. It doesn't mean simply that social policy takes preference, its far more than that. Marx saw the world in terms of a base and superstructure; everything (religion, arts, culture, and so on) was reducible to economics. Cameron Conservatism is a complete rebuttal of Marx's philosophy, which is quite profound, and something that hasn't happened before in politics (While Marxism has been shunted aside, Marx's philosophy has been almost taken as granted, even for Thatcher). While it's not a whole new philosophy, Cameron Conservatism seems to be an attempt to recover the pre-Marx mode of thought, which is quite a challenge. On the policy side, however, it probably does mean you're all going to have to tolerate tax being shunted off the agenda in favour of other areas of policy, and probably also going to have to tolerate more of what you call platitudes. Cameron's Conservatives are now the 'Ideas Party' - which is very very exciting. I look forward to it. He seems to have hit a chord with other academic streams of thought; all the academics at my University are starting to talk about Cameron glowingly. We're going to be the intellectual party.

'What?'

Peter [email protected]:06

I'm not so sure about that. A Whig is not a libertarian - if a particular personal morality choice threatens order, then a Whig will want policy to constrain it. Burke, for example, would (I suggest) have been surprised by the thought that the state did not have an interest in backing up the promises made in a marriage contract.

Where there is a bit more tension between Letwin's story and what I would take to be the classical Whiggish tradition in Conservatism occurs in at least two ways:
First, Letwin's case appears to ascribe all kinds of weaknesses to markets. But Whigs will not lightly accept this. To the Whig, a Market is not a state of nature, but instead a *construction* of government (requiring property and contract rights, a reliable medium of exchange, and so on). As such, markets are instruments for individuals, firms and governments to use to achieve certain ends. If they are to be used to promote environmmental objectives, fine! But that is not because of some *weakness* in markets - that they can be used to achieve many objectives is one of their strengths.

Second, Letwin's story seems totally to neglect a constitutional element, which to a Whiggish mindset is surely anathema. How could we have a version of Conservatism in which rebuilding of the Whiggish constitution - the checks and balances of authority, the presumption of innocence, the constraint of arbitrary power, the cogency and integrity of the United Kingdom and (reasonably) equal treatement of different geographic areas - is not central?

Thanks John Reeks. In terms of representing Oliver's whole argument, you might be right. We'll publish the full speech when we receive it.

AL @ 12:38,

Burke's hypothesised support of marriage would have come from a theological, not economic conviction. I'm happy with that but wonder whether in today's society the same "trump card" could be played by the Conservatives?

Peter O -- I think it can, and that's why I'm increasingly confused as to why 'right wing' (social) Conservatives define themselves in opposition to Cameron. Every time I have heard him speak I have heard him say, clearly, things like 'marriage is the best institution for the raising of children and it is therefore right that we form policy which is supportive of that institution'. i.e. he doesn't even mention the economic argument in favour of supporting marriage (that we all pay less tax in the long wrong because there's less social breakdown) -- to Cameron, the prevention of the social breakdown is sufficient to make the protection of the institution a priority. I don't know how more Burkean he can be without wearing a wig? Whig? (Geddit?) (oh for goodness' sake). He is also going to release government money to any number of different community-based stakeholders (the 'framework' of Oliver Letwin's interesting - and not at all confusing -- article today) -- do listen to that podcast, it was a great speech and extremely open about how he's going to empower non-state bodies to encourage 'social responsibility' - the most exciting and most Tory slogan I can remember.

Freudian slip, ha ha -- "long wrong" should have been "long run"

John Reeks: Fascinating that you see what is going on in such fundamental terms, possibly this is a result of an evolution rather than a pre-planned revolution, although a comprehensive rebuttal of socialism is still required (look at France today). It seems that the academics can see this possibility - given the current situation with the new world order, the timing does look right.

I have to say, I thought about it all in simpler terms, along the lines of

"its not about right and left here, but arguing that we can deliver on that by applying Conservative values to the issues at hand, rather than the top down method of the state intervention favoured by the socialists. .

If what you say is true (if), then the implications could be huge, for example, by accepting the market could Labour have actually signed their own death warrant, and the last 10 years are just the adjustment in the transfer to a new political era that has emerged as a complex knock-on effect originating from the Thatcher revolution?

John Reeks/Oberon Houston:

actually what this means is that post-modernism has arrived in the Tory Party.

Peter [email protected]:56,

Conservatives may no longer wish to offer a theological justification for marriage (though I suspect that US political trends in this regard will eventually leak over here - especially with the growing political significance of Islam in the UK), but that does not mean that they offer no support for marriage at all. As Graeme points out, Cameron (along with certain New Labour ministers) has offered a defence of policy promoting marriage in utilitarian terms - as a way to encourage good child-rearing.

Something related will inevitably be true if the second of Letwin's paradigm shifts is to get anywhere. In the nineteenth century there were all kinds of non-governmental organisations offering medical care, welfare assistance, education, and so on. But private bodies doing this will *inevitably* have their own angle. Education will be an opportunity for evangelism (say); welfare support will favour the industrious over the feckless (say); and so on. If Cameron's version of the "little platoons" is to get anywhere, then space must be created for private bodies to push their own (religious, social, humanist, scientific, whatever) agendas - which are often likely to be different from the State's. And that has to be okay. (Indeed, this was precisely what was so wrong about Cameron's opposition to the Catholic adoption agencies earlier this year. Not that the agencies were correct in their position (IMHO), but rather that Cameron's project *fundamentally* required him to support them, which he didn't...)


Very true, Andrew. It is not reasonable for the State both to look to non-State organisations to carry out certain social services, while at the same time, requiring them to sign up to the State's values.

Sean Fear "businesses should just be left to get on with doing what they do best - making profits".

As far as I see it, what is important is that businesses provide goods and services and create jobs. All the government has to do to promote this happy state of affairs is ... nothing at all, leave well alone, stop meddling. Profits are just what motivates business to do all these things, and in an ideal world will always be competed away.

I was at the event earlier and I was struck by one particular moment of gross hypocrisy by Letwin. In response to a question about the environment, Letwin suggested it was 'ludicrous' to believe (as he thinks Brown does) that environmental problems can be solved by central planning. Yet didnt the 'Greener Skies' paper put forward the idea that British citizens wishing to fly would be given a Green Air Miles Allowance, effectively rationing their foreign holidays each year?

Great article by Oliver Letwin. I've liked the stuff about 'social responsibility' so far, but have worried about the foundations on which it is built. On this evidence, the foundations are firm indeed. It doesn't matter if its hard to understand - no-one should be naive enough to believe that an agneda to solve all of society's ills can be reduced to a simplistic formula. What matters is if it actually stacks up - and that is for each person to decide, if they take the time to understand just what exactly he is on about.

The biggest challenge Cameron faces is to show that there is substance behind the 'spin', and this kind of thinking is exactly what is required. If the hacks and analysts can be convinced that the Conservatives really do have the big ideas needed to change the country for the better, then this will filter through to the vast majority who will not be bothered (probably most sensibly) to read articles such as this.

Letwin's article is refreshingly spin-free, it will be up to Steve Hilton et al to come up with ways of presenting these kinds of ideas in ways that resonate with the GBP. Serious political thought might just be making a comeback in the Conservative Party.

William Norton: Do you mean just the Conservative party, or all parties?

Education will be an opportunity for evangelism (say);

Interesting notion. The bulk of Grammar Schools set up in England since the Elizabethan Era were attached to The Church and local parish churches and city cathedrals simply because Churchmen were literate and could speak and write Latin.

The major public schools were set up as charitable foundations by Churchmen or foundations - Christ's Hospitalwas formed by Bishop of London Ridley, later burned together with Cranmer and Latimer

Haileybury was sited on The East India Company College

I don't think English public Schools were very successful in proselyting considering how many of their alumni set out to smash Grammar Schools and create chaos in education.

It is true men like Robert Mugabe were educated by Jesuits....and he has no doubt established very secular schools in Zimbabwe

Oberon: these things go in waves. Arguably it hit the Lib Dems decades ago; Labour probably c.1995/6; it's reached us now.

I meant it as a neutral comment. You could point to equivalent events in the 1970s for when monetarism arrived, in the 1960s (if not before) for corporatism, and in the 1940s for welfarism - and I dare say sometime in the 19th Century for romanticism.

Click here please for the new thread I have begun on this topic. It includes a two minute videoed interview with Oliver Letwin.

Were I you, I'd be very careful with that new Letwin paradigm. It has an unhealthy whiff of elitism, a kind of cultural disdain for hard work and free enterprise. One might even say that it sounds like something out of the mouth of a 16th-century Spaniard.

After all, when Tories start saying things like, "economics don't really matter that much any more," those statements can, and, in all likelihood, will be spun against the Tories as being "elitist" and "out of touch" with the middle and working classes -- aspiring folks who are trying to get ahead in life. In other words, economics -- and sound fiscal policy -- do continue to matter a great deal if you're at the bottom or even the middle of the economic ladder, and economics, mark my words, will return to center stage during the next dip in the business cycle.

Simply stated, it is rather premature to annouce the "end of history" on economic policy, and doing so suggests that you're not all that sympathetic with people who still work for a living.

Its rather strangely worded, though admittedly its for a broadsheet so would be expected to be of better writing than say the Sun.

What Letwin is saying basically is that the Conservatives are now bringing social concerns to the fore of conservative thinking rather than purely monetary ones. However as some comments here rightly suggest, what Letwin is saying in a deeper context is that the economic arguments and social ones can be separated. I find that a little awkward to do as we all know politics isnt easy to separate, especially in a developed country such as Britain. Its one massive orgy of issues.

I can see why he has written this: he wants to philosophise about Cameron Conmservatism and distinguish it from Thatcherism in a more formal manner. Unfortunately he just runs the risk of giving people the wrong impression. Cameron Conservatism isnt as simple as bringing social concerns to the fore. Its actually muich deeper than that and drags conservatism to the left. His article should really be the first of several in a series to really explain Cameron Conservatism. If it can be encapsulated in a half page comment in the Times, then its not a political phiosophy.

Oberon Houston/William Norton,
I think postmodernism has certainly arrived in the Conservative Party, as with other parties. We don't want to get too carried away with this; postmodernism itself has failed to live up to the hype and has been largely ditched in academia. Blair was, however, a postmodern PM - its not the lies you tell but the way that you tell them, for a long while he was in control of the parameters of thought and left the Tories dead in the water.
As for Labour accepting the market, I don't think they signed their death warrant there, because at the same time they moved from being a socialist to a social democratic party. The Tories have only recently learnt how to compete, but Letwin's article shows quite clearly that the party at the top now has a clear grasp of the philosophical battle ground. The most important thing is that they they retain this clear philosophical background whilst being as fluid and flexible as possible in policy terms, except for once every four years. Interesting times, its really exciting that plenty of people on here seem to have grasped it.

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