(Image from Prospect Magazine - to accompany a forthcoming feature from Philip Blond).
I've just returned from the launch of the new Progressive Conservatism Project - hosted by the Demos think tank and directed by Philip Blond.
In a sign of the seriousness with which the Tory leadership is taking the project David Cameron has just addressed the gathering. The Tory leader's speech contained little that is new but the PCP has attracted Greg Clark MP, David Willetts MP, Daniel Finkelstein and Zac Goldsmith (among others) to its advisory board.
I'm still struggling to quite understand Mr Blond's 'Red Toryism' (as he describes it) but pasted below are some extracts from pieces he has written for The Guardian's Comment is free over recent months...
Challenging centralisation, monopolisation and speculation: "The small governing elite of the party feels that this is the right way to go, but they lack a final intellectual synthesis and they also fear antagonising Thatcherites, who still constitute a sizeable slice of the party and a majority of the branch activists. But the unprecedented crisis of the world economy precipitated by the debt-leveraged collapse of free-market extremism has given the Tories a real opportunity to develop. They should worry less and carry the logic of their own civic philosophy through to its conclusion, for it could produce a genuinely critical account of the crisis and an alternative to the left/right neoliberal fundamentalism of the last 30 years. For instance, the crisis of contemporary capitalism results from the congruence and culmination of three dominant trends: centralisation, monopolisation and speculation. Despite rightwing ideological claims, unregulated capital does not diffuse equitably among all market participants. The centralisation of money and power is the foundation of monopoly, and the precondition for unrestrained speculation. Thus the Conservative critique of centralisation means an end of cartel domination and a limit to inappropriate speculation." (21 August 2008)
The Left is wedded to to atheism, statism and individualism: "That it is the Conservatives rather than Labour who now wish to restore the social, is an indication that a more radical and ancient conservatism is taking shape. The left, in its current formulation, is hopelessly wedded to atheism, statism and individualism. In part this is because it was created by the French Revolution and is currently unable to think beyond and before the division between left and right." (6th October 2008)
Conservatism needs to break free from "neo-Thatcherism": "Cameron's revivified "one nationism" is after all what lies behind the party's revival. Both he and Osborne require a Clause 4 moment. They need to break with the economic logic of neo-Thatcherism, censure it as an approach that has only served the interests of the top 10% and stand behind their nascent alternative: a conservatism that inveighs against monopoly interests and restores markets, power and wealth to all parts of the community." (20th November 2008)
Stopping repossesion of homes: "In future, all claims for home repossession will have to go through a new, fair and binding procedure that – provided that some equitable payment is made – people will be allowed to remain in their homes. This will provide a floor to the market and ensure that no firesale of property takes place – unlike America, where each new auction drives prices ever lower." (27th September 2008)
We need more than a minimum wage: "We will replace the minimum wage with a living one – as Boris Johnson has already done in London. There will no more minimum wage in Britain, but a living wage for all. We will partially fund this by removing tax credits for the poor, as they are nothing more than a state subsidy for low-wage employers. Why should the state subsidise the wages supermarkets pay to their staff?" (27th September 2008)
Economics and finance needs to be localised: "Local economies that developed regional and city based sources of credit (what I have elsewhere called patriotic capital) would be far less exposed to international financial crises, while being able to develop regional export expertise to diversify our economy, as silicon valley as done in the US, or as Germany has done with advanced manufacturing, or Italy with its luxury goods sector. The conservative idea for a reinvention of guilds and conservative cooperatives is then uniquely prescient – since this would generate income that remained within the locality." (19th September 2008).