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James Maskell

As Ive said in past threads, the CPF has been cut down and ignored by Cameron in favour of involving anyone who cares to write in. While it may well be a wonderful objective, it tells the Party faithful that it doesnt trust them to think up decent policy. This is very alienating for those who campaign so hard round the year raising funds, funds to which CCO takes a cut.

The issues that have come up in the CPF since Camerons election have been lower level ones. No discussion on the NHS, the economy, immigration or crime. If Cameron gives a damn about the Party faithful, which are predominantly right wing, then he will allow us to discuss better issues instead of allowing the public to decide what the Conservatives should believe in.

Tony Makara

Sometimes I wonder whether labels such as 'A left-wing policy' or 'A right-wing' policy strictly apply anymore. What matters is that the correct policy under the given circustances is adopted in the national interest. The fact that the Conservative party seeks to take soundings from all shades of opinion proves the party is interested in democracy and is a party that listens rather than lectures. An inversion of the sort patronizing top-down politics that we get from the Labour government. The modern Conservative party has shown that it won't play ghetto-politics anymore, there are no longer any no-go areas as far as policy is concerned.

James Maskell

I understand your point, but the problem with allowing outside parties such influence on policy-making is that it waters down the manifesto and makes it less authentic. I guess part of this relates to the argument of principles or power. Those seeking power primarily will be more open to outside parties involvement. Those more interested in principles are more likely to be more closed off. It doesnt mean that those who are more interested in principles dont care about the country. Its not ghetto politics at all. Lets not forget, the North likes the tough right wing messages as much asa the South. There is such a thing as right wing and left wing. Its those who are ultra-pragmatic who try to argue that there isnt. Pragmatism leads to confusion of priorities, leading to public alienation.

Brian Wood

One of the biggest complaints that I receive from members attending CPF meetings is that there has been no opportunity to contribute or engage in meaningful debate about the major issues that are of concern to members. As a result many of these activists are feeling very disillusioned and an anti-Cameron is starting to emerge which is worrying.

Andrew's piece is as usual very thoughtful and James makes some very pertinent points which echoes the views that I am hearing from many sources.

Moral minority

Andrew Lilico is indulging in wishful thinking. Whilst the Left pays lip-service to markets, it subjects them to ever increasing regulation and limits their effectiveness.

The Shadow Cabinet make earnest speeches to Conservative think tanks such as the Centre for Policy Studies or Politeia to keep them in Cameron's Blairite Big Tent. There is no evidence that the Cameroons pay any intention to the policy recommendations of Ruth Lea, Sheila Lawlor etc.

Conservative Party policy-making is in the hands of two individuals - Steve Hilton and Oliver Letwin (who has abandoned the Hayekian and Oakshottian politics that he inherited from his parents).

The Right knows it is trouble when Letwin and Willetts, a shameless opportunist, join the One Nation Group of MPs.
It is confirmed by the Cameroon rants at the Cornerstone Group and the hysterical reaction to the Better Off Out campaign.

David Cameron is the new Harold MacMillan. The Party is run by a privileged elite pursuing Butskellite policies. They prefer "noblesse oblige" rather than freedom and upward mobility for the less well-off. The grammar school debacle proved that.

The party elite can afford Brown's rocketing taxes. George Osborne, who has never had a real job outside politics, will inherit hundreds of millions. He can afford to cock a snook at policies proposed in John Redwood's Economic Competitiveness Group and Lord Forsyth's Tax Commission report.

The Right has been purged with a few of its ambitious members being offered token frontbench positions - so long as they go along with Cameron's lurch to the Left.

The Right is in denial. John Redwood still clings to vain hope of a seat in the Shadow Cabinet. Dan Hannan desperately hopes that Cameron will take the Party out of the EPP despite the fact that their is little effort being made to form a new Group. Andrew Lilico's piece today merely confirms that delusion.

Andrew Lilico

Wishful thinking about what? I don't deny that there is too much regulation. Neither do I deny that left-wingers are left-wing.

Neither do I pretend that the Conservative Party is listening to thinkers of the Right - quite the reverse: the Party has considered right-wing thinkers an embarrassment, at least in key policy areas such as health and education and social security, since 1997. Even today, it seems to me that the Party hierarchy seeks to present itself as centrist, not out of any genuine Blairite conviction (I do not agree with the denigration of Cameron and Osborne offered above and in so many other places - my disagreement is with tactics, not personnel), but instead because it considers (as it has done for most of the past ten years) that a public impression of right-wingery on health or education would be electorally fatal.

I, in contrast, do not merely believe in right-wing ideas, but also believe that, if we argue for them honestly and earnestly and with an eye to what is feasible and relevant to people today, then we can *persuade* those that might initially be sceptical, and *win the argument*. Voters do not have immutable preferences that we must accept and adapt to. Instead, they listen to reasoned debate and evidence, and form a view about what we stand for and what sort of people we are. By engaging in the debate, we can win, and if and when we do that, *then* is when we will deserve (for the first time for many years) to be elected.

Jonathan Powell

I don't think it's useful to characterize policies as "right-wing", mainly because "right " and "left" are essentially meaningless terms when applied to politics. For instance, Andrew seems to regard free-market policies as "right-wing", but what about the market for drugs? Is it "right-wing" to favor a free-market in cocaine, say, or is increased government intervention in the market for cocaine a right-wing policy? How about immigration: is it "right-wing" to support an open border (i.e. minimum restrictions on the labour market) or is an anti-immigration stance "right-wing"? What about running a balanced budget vs. supply-side tax cuts? Or the merits of using military power to depose a foreign tyrant? Is it right-wing to be for greater government powers to fight terrorists, or is the right on the side of civil liberties?

On top of being the left/ right paradigm being essentially meaningless, I fear it works against the Tory Party, because "right-wing" has more negative connotations than "left-wing" (e.g. if the BNP is really bad and far-right, then the centre-right party must be somewhat bad). Moreover, if conservative policies are labeled "right-wing", then there is a tendency to argue for moderation, since "extreme-right" doesn't sound good. This is unfortunate because if a policy is good it may be unwise to water it down, as Barry Goldwater put it: "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!"

Thus I think conservatives would be wise to move away from the whole concept of left and right.

As for the main thrust of the article, I think it's true that there has been shift towards free-market policies in some areas, but it's hardly consistent: look at the bans on "junk food" advertising, for example. Moreover, I am often concerned that rather than building on this widespread support for market-based policies, Cameron and his cronies (notably the egregious Zac Goldsmith with his campaign against free-enterprise in the form of supermarkets) seem to be more suspicious of the market than Brown et al. If the tories start intervening in the economy to makes us "happier", God help us all...

Jonathan Powell

"I, in contrast, do not merely believe in right-wing ideas, but also believe that, if we argue for them honestly and earnestly and with an eye to what is feasible and relevant to people today, then we can *persuade* those that might initially be sceptical, and *win the argument*."

I agree with that. I actually thought this was the function that Cameron would be able to carry out (because he seems likable and pragmatic). Remember when he promised to "campaign for capitalism"? But I'm still waiting...


Through constantly dealing with the entire social spectrum in various parts of the country, I note that the polarised classification of policies into left and right ideologies is only clearly demarcated in a few areas in the minds of the vast majority of the electorate, who incidentally rarely discuss community matters or national issues in those terms.

Rather, the lay public seems more concerned about whether something is right or wrong, or whether it is good or bad for them or the country. Coupled to that, what people say in private can be rather different from what is aired in the public arena. In essence, their views and opinions are distilled, pure and direct; above all, these are common sense albeit expressed sometimes with stark bias.

Using that as the basis upon which intellectual reasoning is deployed in forming cogent policies, we need to build those up with grass-root Conservative supporters and Conservative principles, with the responsibility of enuciating that clearly, simply and totally being entrusted to the leadership.

Beyond that, the concerns are based around the notion of acceptability by all, and that is the conundrum in politics - correctness of broadest appeal is rarely and universally achieved, yet the courage and distinctiveness of true leadership that will ultimately galvanise support for victory is based on core principles and not absolute consensus.

Tony Makara

I think there are times when the state can intervene in the economy without it being termed 'Left-Wing' For example if a government were to create transient waged work, not workfare, for the long-term unemployed that would be a very positive move. Getting people unto some kind of public works programme while they are looking for a job would be a great boon both socially and economically. While I certainly support free market economics I recognize that at times there can be shortfalls, particularly at times when the economy has to contract. The state can help the economy in times of necessity and still adhere to free market economics.


Tony Makara, an aspect of the unemployment issue is actually being addressed by this present government alarmed at the high levels of Incapacity Benefit claims, but I can say from personal experience that trying to engage with this government to pursue the worthy objectives is next to futile as there is so much top-down diktats, misuse of funding and too little encouragement for the troops that would and could ultimately achieve the desired results.

Health has huge overlaps with other portfolios, unbeknown to the casual observer and dare I say, the seasoned politician. Part of the failure of our NHS has to do with the increasing trend of shrinking personal responsibility, while part of the answer to charging up our economy lies in the way certification of sickness and therefore work absence is configured into our welfare system.

Joined-up government remains a dream, a farce and to many ordinary folks, a tragic nonsense phrase.

Moral minority

I agree with Jonathan Powell. Zac Goldsmith (with his chum John "BSE" Gummer) is a very bad influence on David Cameron.

The trailed policy group attack on cheap flights, a free market achievement that benefits the strivers, is the latest example. Old Etonians can afford to pay an extra 17.5% VAT on flights. They even want to kill off domestic flights (so much for attracting votes in Scotland and northern England).

Travel broadens the mind and is of great educational value. Our Conservative principles are being prostituted in the name of enviro-fascism.

Tony Makara

Teck, Labour have wasted 3.4 BILLION on the New Deal, money that could have gone to our NHS or Educational services. When the New Deal was first anounced Labour promised vocational training which didn't materialize. Instead the Unemployed were shunted off into 'Work Experience' which usually involved working a a 13-26 week period doing a 30 hours week in a charity shop for an extra 15 pounds a week, or in other words 50pence an hour. So one has to ask where the 3.4 BILLION has gone? Most likely 'Mopped up' by the gravy-train providers who run the New Deal for the Labour government.

There are 5.4 million people out of work in our country. Yet only just over half a million new jobs created each year. It is therefore mathematically impossible for everyone to work. So the state must ask itself whether its better to pay the unemployed 35-55 pounds a week plus their full rent and council tax, or whether it might be more cost-effective to hire the unemployed to work on social projects, at least until they eventually find work. Would it really cost that much extra to have the unemployed waged and working renovating derelict communities and other socially useful projects?


Tony, you are absolutely right on the waste and gravy slurpers. On the problem of mathematical fit, it is my belief that job creation lies mainly with the government in creating the right conditions for enterprise to develop, and not primarily an expansion of the public sector. A conducive environment is tax reduction, something that George Osborn and the Party as a whole has tactically avoided presumably to ward off Labour scenting of tax lowering and their banal linkage with public services cut.

Having said that, I believe that government responsibility in the incubation of employment has a lot of merit, not least by way of overseeing the direction of future industries with benefits to the economy.

I have alluded elsewhere in ConHome to portfolio overlaps and economic regeneration, and it would be most compelling to marry this political strand with that of another - the promotion and enhancement of social responsibility and communal cohesion by combining this approach with a national service requirement, not with guns but with societally orientated projects.

Quick, find us the dream tickets!

Tony Makara

Teck, full employment can only come about if we regenerate Britains manufacturing industry. The service sector by its very nature cannot employ large volumes of people. A nation the size of Britain needs to have a large manufacturing base.

In a time where global markets are opening up we are presented with a golden opportunity to become a major workshop of the world and replicate the great export-trade that our forefathers created a hundred years ago. This can only be done by creating a privately owned manufacturing industry. Failure to do this will leave the field clear for powerhouses like China, India and Russia to dominate global markets.

I certainly agree with you on the need to derail government gravy trains. When a situation develops whereby New Deal providers are able to milk 500 a week salaries out of taxpayers money, then something is seriously wrong.

Peter Franklin

Andrew -- you are right to distinguish between the two kinds of policy debate and also between organising principles and objectives. I'd also agree that to some extent the organising principles shaping the policy formulator debate have a basic market orientation. This is only to be expected given the Right's victory over the 'first Left'. However, in terms of public sector policy (which is the main event)this really doesn't take us very far. Marketisation certainly does not dominate, instead the dominant organising principle in relation to the policy that actually gets implemented is centralised state control.

David Sergeant

Andrew Lilico seems to be saying that we could expect a Labour government to carry out a right agenda. I wonder if that is the way voters see it. Up to the 80s an attraction of the Conservatives was that they would, at least, put the brakes on the advancement of socialism which was generally assumed to be the future. Now if capitalism is assumed to be dominent might an attraction of Labour be that it, at least, puts the brakes on capitalism?

The debate has not mentioned the tendency for Labour's attempts to follow rightwing policies usually ending up with a flawed end product. Plenty of examples. Rightwing thinking usually looks at the end product more than the intellectual thinking because end products are usually decided by customers. The trouble seems to be that talking intellectually about something is more fun, and media friendly, than worrying about customers.

Andrew Lilico


I don't mean to come across as aggressive, but this is not right. For most of what were traditionally public services - water, say, or electricity or telephones or airports - now the "regulated utilities", this is just blatently false. There is no assumption in the policy-formulator debate in favour of centralised state control. There *is* an assumption in favour of competition. Even for health and education, there is an active desire to make use of the private sector, and there will be more and more of this over time. The great danger for Conservatives is not being irrelevant for proposing market-based solutions, but instead of seeming ridiculous wheb we blithely declare that market involvement in some public service is "innappropriate" or "infeasible" only for the Labour government to announced its own pro-market scheme.

Yet Another Anon

If Labour were to stay in office indefinitely, but with the same policy positioning as over recent years, then over time you will see more and more use of the private sector in the NHS, more and more promotion of competition into new areas such as post and airports, more and more sophisticated market mechanisms used in environmental goods, radio spectrum, and many other areas. That is because the policy debate is utterly dominated by an acceptance of the virtue of these concepts.
Parties change over time including in government, if the Labour government were to remain in it might extend use of private provision, it might move to a more centralised system, it might even vary over the years with different leaders and Health Secretaries, and so might the Conservative Party to some extent.

However parties don't remain indefinitely in power - even the Chinese dynasties came to an end in time.

Yet Another Anon

>>>>If Labour were to stay in office indefinitely, but with the same policy positioning as over recent years, then over time you will see more and more use of the private sector in the NHS, more and more promotion of competition into new areas such as post and airports, more and more sophisticated market mechanisms used in environmental goods, radio spectrum, and many other areas. That is because the policy debate is utterly dominated by an acceptance of the virtue of these concepts.<<<<
Should have been in italics, I keep forgeting that some pages on this site allow italics and some don't.

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