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» TOP OF THE TORY POPS from Clive Davis
A couple of vox pops caught my eye in the Independent's lengthy and otherwise complimentary profile of David Cameron:So, what do the party faithful think of it all? I pick a distinguished-looking couple at random. To my mind he didn't [Read More]

Comments

Coxy

Ed, this is very sharp analysis and most welcome. The liberal wing of the party doesn't have a monopoly on change or modernisation. And I'm sure you're right that the Easterhouse model will also be more electorally appealing than posturing over trendy social issues (which anyone can do). Thanks for your thoughts!

Alex W

Why the dichotomy?

Editor, I respect your championing of the social justice agenda rightly laid out by IDS (though, sadly, sub-standardly presented) but it is not mutually exclusive with what you term "Soho conservatism". Since you advocate the "and theory" of conservatism, might I suggest "Easterhouse and Soho modernisation". Both wings are equally important in renewing the Conservative brand which is still at a low. George Bush-style conservatism will not work in the UK - it barely succeeded electorally in the US (2004 I would argue was more down to national security than social justice).

What I personally think we need is a sort of new post-Thatcherite "One Nation" conservatism, uniting both the Soho and Easterhouse modernisation agendas. The Tories should represent everyone, be it a single mother on a council estate, a young gay man or a member of an immigrant community. It seems curious to reach out to one neglected area of society without also matching that with a commitment to all.

Jack Stone

I agree that there are people on all wings of the party who have done there bit campaigning for various issues connected with social policy but I think that what as clearly divided the leadership contenders is style.
Cameroon as put forward a politics of hope and opptimism wheras Davis as put forward the politics of disapproval and despire.
I suspect the main reason Cameroon as won this contest is because he as put a smile on peoples face wheras Davis as made people think that hell is here on earth!

michael

This shift 1 & 2 argument is misleading. Shift two is a tangible concept for people to grasp - they know what it means and it can be measured in pounds and pence. Shift 1 is much more about branding and perceptions - people often have an impression but cant tell you why they hold it.

So of course, when asked asked which is most important, people will go for shift 2. But believe me, come election time they wont vote for it if shift 1 hasn't happened and we appear angry, intolerant and reactionary.

There is no reason why we cant have both shifts. But why anyone would want socially conservative policies in a Party built on freedom with responsibility, tolerance and opportunity for all is beyond me.

Kevin Davis

Ed. You and DF are absolutely right. But in defence of the party it takes time to get to the stage we are at now. You do not overnight go from the despair of 1997 to the optimism of the Tory party today.

Naturally you go through the process of being angry with defeat and trying your best to make what worked before work again. In fact it is a bit like a marriage heading for a divorce. You remember the good times and spend an awful lot of time and energy trying to make it work when the reality is your partner has changed.

We do need to be careful though that we do not go from a party that was seen to be uncaring to one that becomes so driven by Social Justice that there are some in the middle who again feel excluded. There is a somewhat controversial US book called Black Redneck and White Liberals written by Thomas Sowell in which he says: "You can talk about "social justice" all you want. But what death taxes boil down to is letting politicians take money from widows and orphans to pay for goodies that they will hand out to others, in order to buy votes to get reelected. That is not social justice or any other kind of justice." Let it be our role to make sure that this is not what Conservative Social Justice becomes.

Editor

Respect for minorities and social justice are not incompatible, Alex W, I agree...

But a relaxed attitude tro drug/alcohol misuse and an indifference to family cohesion are destructive of social cohesion.

I think David Cameron will probably be okay on these issues. He appears, for example, solid on family and marriage and his commitment to collective shadow cabinet decision-making should mean that his support for downgrading cannabis/ ecstasy is over-ruled by wiser colleagues.

Selsdon Man

"But traditional, social conservatism can be just as positively presented as libertarian Toryism. US Republicans have painted attractive and powerful pictures of strong families, drug-free lives and faith-based social action, for example."

Glad you agree that libertarian Toryism offers a postive and attractive proposition. That is not incompatible with strong families and drug free lives.

But why only faith-based social action? Social action must be taken by as many individuals and organisations as possible. We must also recognise that many have reservations about faith-based social action. The record of the Catholic Church, especially in Ireland, is not always a good one.

I agree with Alex W. To take up DD's theme, we must champion the victims of the State.

The problem for the Conservative Party is that too many of its leading thinkers believe that State action is the answer to social problems such as drug abuse and binge drinking. They will remain problems until people, rather than the State or others, take responsibility for their actions and lives.

michael

Kevin, I think you raise an important point. What I saw happen during the Hague years, was his focus on 'common sense' and the 'working class lad from Rotheram' stuff divorce the Party from its middle class support, while fooling few working class supporters.

saloon bar populism isn't the answer.

Our focus on social justice must be linked to an optimistic narrative based on ambition and aspiration.

Ambition and aspiration are two themes which is common to all classes and groups - and it allows shifts 1 & 2 to be included in any new narrative.

Selsdon Man

"But a relaxed attitude tro drug/alcohol misuse and an indifference to family cohesion are destructive of social cohesion."

Liberalisers do not take a relaxed attitude. They believe that long-lasting solutions result freedom and responsibility.

The problem with social authoritarians in the Party is that they believe that people should be free to do what they like with their money but not their bodies. Libertarians believe in freedom and responsibility for both. That results in empowered individuals, cohesive families, strong communities and prosperous nations.

michael

"But a relaxed attitude tro drug/alcohol misuse and an indifference to family cohesion are destructive of social cohesion."

Editor - being relaxed is not the same as being realistic. Tough policies can go hand in hand with libertarian attitudes and approach.

US Republicans have the advantage of America being much more religious than secular Britain.

Derek

Respect for immigrants does not prevent us from campaigning for much lower immigration. On the contrary, support for such a policy is as strong among immigrants as it is among our indigenous population. DC has already said he supports our current policy. This is one area where we have a policy which has the support of the majority.

michael

"The problem with social authoritarians in the Party is that they believe that people should be free to do what they like with their money but not their bodies. Libertarians believe in freedom and responsibility for both. That results in empowered individuals, cohesive families, strong communities and prosperous nations."

I agree 100% Selsdon - you articulate the argument much better than me.

 Ted

The role of the state in enforcing moral codes is a difficult area. While I agree we need to promote personal responsibility and freedom there needs to be a moral framework within which the state operates. This changes over time in response to changing social mores.
For example we limit personal freedom over what people do to their bodies : no sex under 16, no public displays of sexual activity, no use of proscribed substances. There is a balance between social harm and individual liberty.
But in this balance I think we should look to bolstering responsibility over state enforcement. Not social authoritarianism but social responsibility - each action should look at its effect on family cohesion and individual liberty.
For example on under age access to abortion and contraception without parental involvement - I personally believe that involving the parents will drive down cases of both under-age sex and under age childbirths. The application of the present law undermines parental responsibility for all on basis of a few bad parents - resulting in both personal and social harm .

Selsdon Man

"What I saw happen during the Hague years, was his focus on 'common sense' and the 'working class lad from Rotheram' stuff divorce the Party from its middle class support, while fooling few working class supporters. Saloon bar populism isn't the answer."

Danny Finkelstein was Hague's policy adviser and responsible for that approach - in contrast to what he recommends now.

Where Finkelstein's apology for the mistakes that he made that resulted in the 2001 election disaster?

It was all right for him - he got a nice job at the Times. The consequences for candidates were not so good. Many had spent thousands fighting target seats.

loyal_tory

Isn't there are third type of modernisation being proposed in addition to the Soho and Easterhouse versions (or perhaps it can be seen as an extension of the Soho view), namely that of being a party that goes slow on changes to tax and public services, and highlights its commitment to the vulnerable by championing tax and public services as a tool for helping them (rather than placing the emphasis on tax and public service reform as the way to help the vulnerable)?

Some Conservatives have written about how the party should establish a reputation as better managers of the tax and public service system rather than as advocates of reform. I think this is a specious form of 'modernisation' and 'conservatism' and has the potential to deprive the party of having much of substance to say on where the Labour Government has gone wrong, and as such is a serious political mistake.

There are also differing degrees of substance in the various "modernisation" themes, as the Editor rightly points out. Soho modernisation in many ways catches up with social attitudes long embraced by the other main parties. Such changes are welcome and long overdue but they do not by themselves provide answers to the big questions that normally turn elections: health, education, policing, tax, pensions, transport etc.

The morning versus mourning distinction is helpful and points the right way as to which option the party should choose but does not of itself say how the party should deliver on the issues that decide elections. We need to offer new approaches to the failing ideas on those big issues as part of modernisation, but many have sought to discourage discussion of them, even during a leadership election, the purpose of which is presumably to make a decision on the direction of the party over the next four or five years.

If all modernisation means in four or five years' time is a more tolerant and optimistic party (which the Conservatives badly need to become) but without being a champion of a serious reform programme that has the capacity to make a difference in people's lives, voters may take a longer and harder look at us than before and ask "Where's the beef?"

Samuel Coates

Aspects of Soho Conservatism Are imcompatible to Easterhouse Conservatism, the erosion of the institution of the family is the primary cause of societal problems like drugs, ASB and poverty.

Selsdon, you would be wise not to brush of faith-based social action - it is altruistic, very effective and often doing what nobody else will. As for the Catholic Church in Ireland you only need to look at the St Vincent de Paul societies - partly documented in Angelas Ashes for example.
In fact, without faith based 'social action' a lot of legislation that benefitted the vulnerable wouldn't have happened.

James Maskell

I think the optimistic and pessimistic attitude was described as being "blue skies" and "black skies" thinking. I remember it being used in the Times earlier this week. Cameron clearly described as being a "blue skies" thinker which was better for the Tories.

Samuel Coates

That was the Finkelstein article Tim quoted in this editorial, and in the leadership race yesterday, I think.

Samuel Coates

Close, its in Wednesdays newslinks

michael

Loyal - I agree. The modernisation bit is the easy part - though for many Tories, it seems to be extremely difficult.

The hard work must be done on developing policy answers - in putting the flesh on modern bones!

Tory T

The biggest problem is that many Tory social Conservatives come across to the public as mean-spirited and misanthropic types who get a secret kick out of condemning lesser beings. Ronald Reagan was a conservative who won elections without compromising his values. Why? Because he stuck to the dictum, "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin."

There are many things wrong with society but pubic displays of anger aren't a useful response, particularly from politicians. Constructive ideas are what we need.

a-tracy

“The problem with social authoritarians in the Party is that they believe that people should be free to do what they like with their money but not their bodies.”

So how do the liberalizers in the party square freedom to do what they like with their bodies and the consequences of this acceptance and freedom. I.e. who pays for the rehabilitation and the consequences of the poorer members of society feeding their habit? Are we to find a way to tax these drug sales? These same teenagers today wanting more rights – will they be prepared to pay for the consequences?

All this talk just switches me off, let’s turn a blind eye underage sex and underage abortion because it’s happening anyway, let’s allow the legalization of drugs by the back door because the younger generation wants to do it freely and openly, anything goes is how I read the liberal agenda!

But maybe you guys are right perhaps the Conservative party needs to change to get elected, whether I’ll support another liberal party is another matter.

Michael McGowan

The "where's the beef?" question is the real worry.....as yet unanswered. I would count myself as an enthusiastic libertarian on lots of issues. However, being more libertarian is not answer in itself. Drugs are a classic example. Well-heeled middle class people (including many Tory modernisers) with the resources, support structures, contacts and intelligence can afford to take a relaxed attitude about dabbling with soft drugs. However, this laissezx faire attitude simply doesn't address the chronic and endemic problems of the kind of people on the estates of South London who my brother attempts to treat as a psychiatrist and who were described in a Sunday Times article last week. Those problems blight people's lives and affect us all adversely. Is the best we can do simply to offer these people the partial palliative of rehab places?

Selsdon Man

"Selsdon, you would be wise not to brush of faith-based social action - it is altruistic, very effective and often doing what nobody else will."

I was brought up in a strong Christian house - my father ran the Sunday school and my mother was secretary to our Minister. I do not need lectures on the benefits of faith-based organisations, James.

The Editor is enthusiastic for the Bush model. That can work in areas where the churches are strong - much more so than here. Even so, many Reaganites compalin that Bush has effectively nationalised faith-based and voluntary organisations through conditions and regulations.

I would also suggest that the socialist, anti-market faith organisations such as Christian Aid are not worthy of our support.

Daniel Vince-Archer

"Danny Finkelstein was Hague's policy adviser and responsible for that approach - in contrast to what he recommends now. Where Finkelstein's apology for the mistakes that he made that resulted in the 2001 election disaster?"

Well said Selsdon. Incidentally, I'm sure the associate of Finkelstein's that was Head of Party Policy Co-ordination and drafted the manifesto for 2005 wouldn't display the same level of amnesia and attempt to disown his policy platform that the electorate rejected so resoundingly. Oh no.

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