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What is a Tory Government for?

CAMERON AT NUMBER TEN That is the question asked by Philip Stephens in this morning's Financial Times.

He contends that a couple of years ago, before the economic crash, the answer "seemed obvious enough":

"Mr Cameron was a modern Tory, at ease with Britain’s social liberalism and attuned to its attachment to taxpayer-funded public services. His post-Thatcherite Conservatism squared the circle between individual aspiration and responsibility (viz. lower taxes) and a society cherishing first-rate schools and hospitals. The way to do it, the Tory leader proclaimed, was to share the proceeds of economic growth between investment in the public realm and a lower tax burden."

But now, Stephens continues, having accepted the need for widespread cuts (while wanting to spare health and overseas aid budgets from cuts), the party finds itself "stranded in a political no man’s land".

Is this really fair? Whilst there is some debate within the party over the wisdom of immunising certain areas from spending reductions (and it is unclear at this stage exactly what state the of economy will be in a year's time in any case), there remain a number of areas where the Conservative agenda for government is  distinct from that of the current Labour administration.

My instinctive three-part answer to Philip Stephens' question would be: 

  • To restore civil liberties to people which have been taken away over the last decade and transfer power from the state to the individual in a wide range of areas;
  • To fix the "broken society", covering a whole gamut of issues including tackling illiteracy, family breakdown, welfare dependency, and associated crime, addictions etc;
  • To negotiate a new settlement regarding Britain's relationship with the EU on the basis that we are unwilling to accept the Lisbon Treaty as the settled will of the British people.

What do you think a Conservative government is for?

Jonathan Isaby


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