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You right wingers you lot. Gor blimey it is almost as though you had forgotten ho far labour have moved to the right from their old position of state intervention etc. This whole idea of the state spending your hard earned cash diddums. If you care to remember Tony has nicked conservative ground from under our feet. The great illusion which the vast majority of you are suffering from is that you think that being a conservative is just something that has to be more 'right wing' or different than new labour. You have taken the bait. If you actually just thought about if for a moment and recognise how much of a tory tony is then you might feel you dont have to define yourself by being different to new labour.

Anyway why dont you pipe down and wait till the policy review comes through. As usual you all jump to silly conclusions on this site without full information. Would be wise to give it a bit of time and wait for daves policies to come through, instead of leaping injudgement because torygraphy has letwin under headline oliver leftwing.

Actually the idea of redistribution is absolutely a conservative idea but lets wait nd see how they decide to do it.

At the end of the day equality of opportunity is what we all want and that is only going to happen generations down the line when the education system is better which will mean that those in the poorer income groups are less likely to have children when they are thirteen, and smoke drugs while they go through school thus ruining their chances of opportunity later on etc. Until that happens and we do have equality of opportunity there has to be some sort of intervention.

'I don't think I really am a Tory'

Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin talks to Tom Happold about the state of the Tories, locking up asylum seekers and cutting crime

Wednesday January 22, 2003

Tom Happold: What made you a Tory?

Oliver Letwin: I don't think I really am a Tory. Every political party is an alliance of all sorts of different kinds of people with all sorts of different kinds of views. And you pick the party that most closely represents your view and least contradicts your view. And for some people that's a natural exercise and you're a dyed-in-the-wool Tory or you're an old fashioned Christian socialist from the valleys of south Wales, or something. I don't fit in those lucky categories.

John Hustings,

You don't agree that we should strive to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor as an ideal? Amazing. Perhaps you'd like to bring back medieval serfdom too?

"If you care to remember Tony has nicked conservative ground from under our feet."

He has adopted conservative language, he has not governed as a conservative.

"You don't agree that we should strive to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor as an ideal? Amazing. Perhaps you'd like to bring back medieval serfdom too? "

You obviously don't understand Conservative philosophy. Narrowing the gap between rich and poor does nothing to help the poor.

The point is that wealth creation helps the poor. You don't help the poor by penalising the rich.

I am in favour of helping the poor, but not through "redistribution".

I would've thought it wouldn't be necessary to explain these basic tenets. But I guess true conservative principles haven't been articulated in a long time (since Thatcher) and people have been so brainwashed by socialist rhetoric that they can't think any different.

@ A H Matlock:

I fully agree with that Cameron has had a good start, and I have tremendous faith in the presentational skills of Cameron (which explains I fingered him three years as the next Conservative prime minister and supported him even before he announced his candidacy, and did not waver throughout the leadership election).

However: I thought that I was voting for the Cameron who was the author of the 2005 manifesto, the eurosceptic who wanted to take us out of the EPP, the friend of Osborne who gave us thundering anti-tax, anti-regulation speech at the conference and was investigating the flat tax.

I haven't seen much evidence of *that* Cameron lately.

Instead he is informing us that we agree on Iraq with the LibDems (!!) and lets Letwin blather like in this morning's interview...

I didn't vote for *this* Cameron!

I am actually a modernizer and an adherent of the 'And Theory of Conservatism'.

I just not a crypto-pinko.

"Gor blimey it is almost as though you had forgotten ho far labour have moved to the right from their old position of state intervention etc."

But they haven't. They don't intervene by nationalising industries any more, but they still interfere in businesses (see Rover), and still believe that their coterie of civil servants and advisors knows better about how to run our lives than we do. They are centralisers par excellence.

The one thing we don't need is more of this from Conservatives.


""Thatcher is one of the most hated women around, and some people are probably still praying for her death... It was Thatcher who ruined the conservative brand for those that followed her."

I have a feeling that that was definitely *not* written by a Conservative."

It's not my thoughts, I think she was a great women, but be realistic... The vast majority of the populus think she IS NOT the Goddess of conservatism, there are people praying for her death and she did ruin the Tory brand, eventhough it pushed the country in the right direction (no pun intended).

"Apparently the Editor, David Cameron, Graeme Archer, Oliver Letwin, Francis Maude and the rest of the bunch have decided instead to go with Socialism under the banner of the Conservative Party."

Can you cut the shit, Cameron has said little about definite policy, he talking about the morale principal, principal that is now important to the British people, where the rich and the poor have equal opportunity, where some redistribution is required (especially to avoid the poverty trap as some might call it). Rich people have an obligation to help the poor, we're not saying... Lots of benifits for all..But a signal that these benifits are not against the Tory Party..and that we are NOT the nasty party.

"Osborne who gave us thundering anti-tax, anti-regulation speech at the conference and was investigating the flat tax."

Er, he is no friend of flat tax.

A.H. Matlock writes

You don't agree that we should strive to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor as an ideal? Amazing.

Behold the effects of 50 years of Socialist Propaganda and "Education"...

I couldn't care less what the "gap" between the rich and the poor is, as long as the poor are living decent lives, morally and spiritually. I wish to lift all boats, but the politics of envy and resentment have no hold on me.

And don't preach to me about "ideals", one 20th century of mass murder in the name of enlightened Ideals is quite enough for me, thank you.

I refer you to my first comment on this thread some way up. Clearly, in your case 'you don't understand Conservative philosophy' = 'how dare you disagree with me!'.

I come here for intelligent conversation, not hysterics and inanity. The dearth of such conversation here these past few weeks has been quite a disappointment.

"Can you cut the shit," Jaz

Ooooooh sounds like the nasty party.

"The vast majority of the populus think she IS NOT the Goddess of conservatism"

I doubt anyone thinks she is a deity. However, I think the majority of people think she was a strong and good leader. That's why she scores consistently well in "best PM" polls.

Embittered lefties are not typical of the population as a whole.

"Can you cut the shit, Cameron has said little about definite policy, he talking about the morale principal, principal that is now important to the British people, where the rich and the poor have equal opportunity"

No he hasn't. He's pulled the plug on policies that would have offered the poorest escape routes from failing services. He's accepted the consensus that means only the rich can get something better.

This thread is just unbelievable. Apparently, the Conservative Party has gone completely socialist. There are actually people who think they're conservatives and believe this statism.

The wets are back!

John - Like every philosophy conservatism can be applied differently by different . I may be wrong but I think it stands for freedom and I believe that you should be able to help those at the bottom of society to give them equal opportunity as those at the top. But it is a pretty fluid principal as are your ideas true conservative principals I suspect. I suspect also that true conservative principals may well contradict each other so why not wait until you actually see how Letwin plans to redistribute and have your beef then?

Lets try that again

John - Like every philosophy conservatism can be applied differently by different people . I may be wrong but I think it stands for freedom and I believe that you should be able to help those at the bottom of society to give them equal opportunity as those at the top. But it is a pretty fluid principal as are your ideas what you call true conservative principals I suspect. I suspect also that true conservative principals may well contradict each other so why not wait until you actually see how Letwin plans to redistribute and have your beef then?

Goldie, just how long have you been a member of the Conservative Party, pray tell?

"I refer you to my first comment on this thread some way up. Clearly, in your case 'you don't understand Conservative philosophy' = 'how dare you disagree with me!'. "

No you said, we all basically accept the principle of narrowing the gap between rich and poor. This statement shows an ignorance of Conservative philosophy!

This isn't a "how dare you disagree with me". Why not ask the fellow posters on this site and see if they "basically agree" with that principle to discover your ignorance?!!

This is tricky economics that you dont learn about unless you actively choose to. This is something 95 per cent of children wont bother learning because they'll have no need to debate the ideas behind it. This isnt like selective education or drugs or whether the Eu is good or bad. This is a very serious and complicated choice.

So difficult in fact Im not entirely sure where I lie with it. Economics was never one of my favourite subjects when I was studying Politics. A calmer discussion looking at the redistribuition of wealth argument would be very welcome for someone who isnt au fait with this part of politics.

John your "true" conservative principles have kept us out of Government for too long. Give the new brooms time to put flesh on the bones before slagging them off. It does your standing on this site no good to be so b****y patronizing.

What's the big deal about us embracing redistribiutionism? We must move to the centre. We sounded so much more moderate and reasonable under Heath and Major. Who wants to have successful governments and win elections all the time anyway?

Okay, um.. this is aimed at
1) legalise cannabis but only after school
and
2) Jaz.

Whilst I agree with most if not all of what you're saying, your mis-spelling principle is letting our team down big-time,

Thanks!

;-)

If redistribution is seen as a good thing, could we also be allowed to claim that wealth creation is an important part of the social process?

Employment is under threat from heavy and unwieldy regulation. Jobs are the best way to redistribute wealth. Tax and subsidy come second.

Can Mr Letwyn be good enough to liberate employers from tribunals for example, where individuals pleading against their employers jeopardise the interests of the majority? That is if he really wishes to improve the lot of those on lower incomes.

If more and more jobs are driven out as has happened across the EU putting millions on the scrap heap, he can tax and redistribute all he likes but he will fail to lift living standards.

Could he find a way to put out a pro-business message? Does he understand that wealth has to be created? He's a bright chap so presumably he has some idea of the real world.

They are at liberty to comment as they wish, but even our esteemed Editor seems to endorse the principle, or are you telling me that he's a Socialist Wet too?

"he talking about the morale principal, principal that is now important to the British people"

It is PRINCIPLE, Jaz. Your spelling is as bad as your collectivist conservatism.

"John your "true" conservative principles have kept us out of Government for too long."

So it's my fault?

Was I responsible for the disaster that was the "extreme right-wing" John Major?

I don't seem to remember Michael Howard advocating "trickle-down economics" at the last election. In fact, the Tories haven't even entered the economic argument for over a decade because they've been too scared.

So how have the principles of Milton Friedman really lost the Tories election?

This idea that Cameron hasn't announced policies is just wrong.

We have learned the following:

-Patient's Passport to be junked. Attempts to move to a continental-style private/public health care abanonded. State-run socialist NHS to be revered. "Investments" to be increased.

-No vouchers in Education. No selection.
No peep on privatizing Oxbridge. Agreement with Tony Blair.

-Pensions: agreement with Tony Blair.

-Environment: agreement with Zack Goldsmith and John Gummer (he of the BSE crisis). Support for Kyoto! No support for government underwriting new nuclear stations

-Tax cuts: no flat tax. Preference for more state spending instead of tax cuts.

-Europe: junked the return-of-fisheries-policy. Support for the chimera that the EU can be 'reformed'.

-Iraq: agreement with virulent anti-war LibDems that troops 'must return as soon as possible' instead of commitment to the Mission.

-Economic policy: main goal is to be redistribution of wealth from rich to poor.

-Constitutional structure: devolution is great.

-Per Letwin's interview: Party policy is to be set by non-members.

-Support for the totems of Political correctness: by decree, we shall have more candidates from ethnic minorities, women and candidates with handicaps (including low IQ?)

-Immigration: QUOTA policy to be dumped, instead asylum seekers (almost all of whom are not genuine refugees, other than from poverty) must be embraced. Immigration is per se good for the country.

DC should have said all of this during the Leadership election.

"Whilst I agree with most if not all of what you're saying, your mis-spelling principle is letting our team down big-time,"

I think these two problems are related.

Goldie, a few of those things he did say. About patient's passports for example.

I personally think the evidence was there that Cameron was a phoney Conservative long before he was elected (for those who wished to see, that is).

I think these two problems are related.
Posted by: surely some mistake | December 23, 2005 at 05:04 PM

Yes, but I've already pointed out that the problem of the spelling and the problem of the "team" being let down are related. ;-)

Great summary, Goldie.

That is NOT what I (and many others) voted for. If that is typical of what we can expect, there will be a huge row in the Parliamentary party.

It is almost exactly what some of us said we'd be getting though.

""Can you cut the shit," Jaz

Ooooooh sounds like the nasty party."

I don't intend to be a politician and play with words, I got to the point...This thread is full of alot of shit, misguided attempts to diss Cameron and screaming and running around shouting "socialism". Grow up, its an interview with Letwin who has NEVER been any good in any Tory role in the shadow cabinet.

"I doubt anyone thinks she is a deity. However, I think the majority of people think she was a strong and good leader. That's why she scores consistently well in "best PM" polls."

She was a good Prime Minister, many people accept that, but she is disliked by a great margin.. A very divisive figure, who has frankly destroyed the flexibility the Tory party had with the electorate.. But again, those days are gone and we have to rebuild and base.

"This thread is just unbelievable. Apparently, the Conservative Party has gone completely socialist. There are actually people who think they're conservatives and believe this statism."

For crying out loud, even conservative economist now believe there is a role of government intervention, Letwin is being realistic, there WILL be redistribution under a conservative government, this was also the case with every other conservative government. However, its always minimal and that is what i think Cameorn will do.

The things that matter to people is the interfering of their daily lives..why parents are now AFRAID to hit their children... Why heckling can result in being arresting etc. That is labour for you, interference in everything.

Business is being croppled, not by the Uk government, but the EU.. What can you do if the EU parliament effectively passes laws which are socialist.

Regarding business;
1) Minimum wage rises should be frozen.
2) Make it easier to employ people.
3) Review discimination regulations.

"Patient's Passport to be junked. Attempts to move to a continental-style private/public health care abanonded. State-run socialist NHS to be revered. "Investments" to be increased."
The passport idea was a good one, but horribly, horribly sold at the general election... the NHS is here to stay and most foreigners think its a great idea. We just need more private investment in this area.

No vouchers in Education. No selection.
No peep on privatizing Oxbridge. Agreement with Tony Blair.
But I believe Cameron will deregulate to make it more enjoyable for private schools to set up practise.

Tax cuts: no flat tax. Preference for more state spending instead of tax cuts.
Flat Tax will not work with the electorate...Cameron has it right for once. Tax Cuts..We don't have any idea as of yet..I'm hoping for pro-business cuts..We'll see. I'm worried about this area.. But we'll have to wait and see

-Immigration: QUOTA policy to be dumped, instead asylum seekers (almost all of whom are not genuine refugees, other than from poverty) must be embraced. Immigration is per se good for the country.
Immigration was overplayed at the last GE, we have to avoid sounding overly racist or hatred towards migration workers. We must keep our UN and EU obligations intact.

-Economic policy: main goal is to be redistribution of wealth from rich to poor.
Another goal is competitiveness and growth.

-Constitutional structure: devolution is great.
Only way to win votes in Scotland and Wales

-Environment: agreement with Zack Goldsmith and John Gummer (he of the BSE crisis). Support for Kyoto! No support for government underwriting new nuclear stations
Kyoto is important to people. I personally want nuclear power stations...

Apologies for poor grammer, spelling, punctuation..

"Immigration was overplayed at the last GE, we have to avoid sounding overly racist or hatred towards migration workers. We must keep our UN and EU obligations intact."

If we keep those obligations intact we won't be able to do anything at all about immigration.

Everybody who agrees with Letwin's interview this morning is a wet, yes. There is no other reasonable interpretation.

The huge gap in incomes in this country (nay worldwide) is at the root of many social problems not least crime and people migration.

We should not attempt a crude redistribution. This simply implies dividing up a fixed cake differently. Definitely socialist.

But if there are Conservative policies that help to reduce income disparity then I would want to promote them on their own merits and also for the consequent benefits in reduced crime, people migration etc

I offer three suggestions:

1. When we come to reduce tax, our tax reductions should be aimed at addressing the higher proportion of income those on lowest income pay compared with those on higher incomes. All would benefit from a hike in the personal allowance, but those on lower incomes would benefit proportionately greater.

2. Rebuild the ladders of opportunity for all young people through meaningful school (and in particular secondary school) reform.

3. Find new ways to encourage philanthropy and charitable giving.

so i take it that they are unlikely to bring the death penalty back then

Adrian, what difference does it make how rich Bill Gates is? Does Bill Gates being rich make the starving Africa poorer?


I wouldn't see improving the position of third world countries as being redistibutive; if we encourage and assist them in adopting capitalist policies, then they'll grow richer in absolute and relative terms - but at the same time we'll benefit from new markets and reduced migration flows.

A win win situation.

then why has that failed so badly in South America where they are all rejecting IMF policies?

Bill Gates (if he were a Brit) would benefit if as Adrian suggests "All would benefit from a hike in the personal allowance, but those on lower incomes would benefit proportionately greater".
What's wrong with that!

"Bill Gates (if he were a Brit) would benefit if as Adrian suggests "All would benefit from a hike in the personal allowance, but those on lower incomes would benefit proportionately greater".
What's wrong with that!"

Nothing. I'm just challenging the principle that "income inequality" is the problem. Poverty is the problem, and the poor are not made better off by making the rich worse off.

I agree John but, I believe, so would the good Mr Letwin.

As someone on the left of the Party, after some thought Ive decided I agree with the redistribution of wealth here. I dont like Governmental interference which deters businesses and eocnomic growth but living in a part of the country which is one of the most socially deprived parts of the country but being in a family that is relatively well off, Ive always believed that those with more wealth should help to pay for those who cannot fend for themselves. Its my upringing. I dont think though that we should go overboard though and punish someone for having more wealth as its something they earned and in a sense their standard of living requires more resources than the people who are less well off.

We would be failing in our duty to those less well off if we refuse to help them.

Mr. Letwin specifically said (and many here seem to have missed it) that he was not in favour of redistributing wealth by taxing the rich.

Offhand, I can think of many ways to redistribute wealth by relieving the tax burden on the poor. Gordon Brown's stealth taxes (particularly his raid on pensions and his council tax increases) disproportionately affect the poorest in our society, especially those on fixed incomes like pensioners. Filthy hospitals,long waiting lists, and education that leaves vast numbers of children from deprived backgrounds illiterate - these are things Conservatives must tackle. We are the natural party of social justice and of wealth creation for the poorest. Right to buy was a Thatcher policy - that created prosperity at a stroke for many of the worse-off. Who here wants to condemn that sterling example of wealth redistribution? We supported its extension to housing association tenants when Labour opposed it.

Social justice cannot be achieved by socialism. There are socialist ways to aim at wealth redistribution, which don't work, and compassionate, enterprising, aspirational Tory ways to achieve it. It's the latter which Oliver Letwin is, rightly, championing. I am thrilled to hear him do it.

then why has that failed so badly in South America where they are all rejecting IMF policies?
Posted by: tom | December 23, 2005 at 05:58 PM

Because IMF policies have never worked in developing countries. The developing countries which adopted the one-size-fits-all policies drafted by the IMF in the 80s, Nigeria for example are a lot poorer now than they were then.

The problems of most countries need to be solved by the indigenous experts on the inside, not by figurehead external bodies who think they know better.

South America would be foolish to reject policies from the IMF which is dominated by the West and serves mainly Western interests.

Oliver Letwin's comments this morning, and the various acts of policy abandonment over the past few weeks, make it clear that our party is moving towards the centre (if not the left) in a pretty dramatic fashion. One of the interesting things to watch out for, will be how far this will open up opportunities for the smaller parties of the right, e.g. UKIP and BNP.

I can remember during the 1970s that the growth of the extreme right (the National Front in those days, plus various 'private armies') was only halted once the Conservative Party adopted a distinctive right-wing voice when Margaret Thatcher was elected leader. It would be ironic if one of the beneficiaries of 'modern, compassionate Conservatism' was to be the extreme right

yes but it just goes to show how simply saying capitalist policies means bog all. What are capitalist policies? And how are they different to policies that may have decreased poverty but have increased inequality and why is that good? And if it is not good then why are the IMF still in business? And if the IMF are still in business what is so good about the capitalist system anyway when it allows this to happen?

Ha! C'mon lets have it!

"Mr. Letwin specifically said (and many here seem to have missed it) that he was not in favour of redistributing wealth by taxing the rich." says "Reasonable"

Er, no. If you want to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor you have to do this. "Of course, inequality matters. Of course, it should be an aim to narrow the gap between rich and poor. It is more than a matter of safety nets.," as Letwin says.

"That is NOT what I (and many others) voted for. If that is typical of what we can expect, there will be a huge row in the Parliamentary party.

Posted by: Selsdon Man | December 23, 2005 at 05:14 PM

It is almost exactly what some of us said we'd be getting though.

Posted by: James Hellyer | December 23, 2005 at 05:20 PM"

Yep. It's too late to complain about conservative ideas and policies being junked now. The time to stop it was during the leadership election, not after

I disagree. Despite all of this, I still wouldn't have voted for Davis, an electoral loser if I've ever seen one. Fox was marginally more attractive than Davis as a candidate.

Cameron is the right candidate, but he needs to be influenced in a different policy direction.

Quick clarification for confused party members.

Helping the poor = Conservative

Reducing the gap between the rich and the poor = Not Conservative

"Cameron is the right candidate, but he needs to be influenced in a different policy direction."

Good luck.

No doubt the Murdoch press will be very impressed with this latest commitment to lower taxes and small government--the condition they have set for supporting the Tories at the election--from Mr. Letwin.

Will the last person to leave the Conservative Party please turn out the lights?

What would Shirley Robin Letwin and Michael Oakeshott have to say?

how about increase the gap between the rich and the poor?

or do we keep the difference exactly the same?

Will someone come to the rescue of our party and restore its intellectual integrity and commitment to conservatism?

Please.

You can help the poor by reducing the gap between rich and poor. What would that be, Conservative or not?

"You can help the poor by reducing the gap between rich and poor. What would that be, Conservative or not?"

Not. A conservative policy provides a safety net it doesn't set out to reduce income inequality.

Conservatives support the society described by Chuchill in which "there is a limit beneath which no man may fall, but no limit to which any man might rise,"

Please what exactly do you mean by conservatism - todays world is a myriad of illusion - conservatism = lib demism = new labourism = who exactly is conservative. They all want to help the poor and they all want to be friends of big business and they all dont want trade unions to rear their ugly head again. What is left and right? What is gay and straight? What is Blair and Cameron? What are liberals and what are conservatives? What are green ties, red ones or blue ones? Why do I have to have an ipod to understand? Why does the Sun support Tony Blair? Why is Jordan big tits so rich? Why do 4m people smoke joints? Why do cars go faster than 70mph?

I am confused.

Somebody help.

Is it me?

"What would Shirley Robin Letwin and Michael Oakeshott have to say?"

That is an old chestnut but an interesting one!

Bill Letwin would not have been too chuffed at this load of nonsense either!

We've got the worst chairman and policy director I can remember.

Cameron isn't exactly proving a master of party management is he?

Why are two people who have failed in their jobs as Shadow Chancellor, one of whom regularly embarasses his party ("I would rather beg on the streets than send my child to the local comprehensive."), the other of whom can't even arrive on time, put it charge of the two things we will have to get right to have any hope of winning the election.

These appointments prove more disappointing with each passing day.

"These appointments prove more disappointing with each passing day."

A strong party manager like Thatcher or William Hague would have turfed those two under-achievers out by now.

yes greg you are right.

Time for some Ayn Rand to repudiate redistribution.

"I swear, by my life and love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man nor ask another man to live for mine."
John Galt's oath from Atlas Shrugged

Redistribution is a form of compulsory altruism and is anti-life.

Evening all. This isn't related to this thread at all (good job too, seeing as I am to economics what Margaret Thatcher is to basketball, and I've had a rather enjoyable lunch as well) but I hope you all have a merry Christmas (even you Jack, if you're reading this). Cheers!


In response to a number of comments, once-poor countries that have adopted policies based on capitalism and the rule of law, such as South Korea, Singapore, (increasingly) India, (tentatively) China, have tended to see their economies grow much more rapidly than those that haven't.

At the time of its independence, in 1964, Zambia had a higher per capita income than South Korea; now compare the two.

"If you're determined to be altruistic about it, the only way you can be of any good to others is for you to be self-sufficient. The biggest burdens in a crisis are those who were so concerned about the welfare of everyone else that they never provided for themselves."

Harry Browne, Libertarian Party presidential candidate 2000

Thanks to my friend Johnathan Pearce for posting that great quote on the Samizdata blog. It is highly relevant here.

I'm sorry, but arguments at the level of:

You can help the poor by reducing the gap between rich and poor. What would that be, Conservative or not?

are simply very disappointing intellectually. The use of the word 'GAP' signifies everything. It signifies socialism and the many errors of thought implied therein, for starters: the idea that there is a FIXED DISTRIBUTION OF INCOME, i.e. if A is poor, A is poor tomorrow and was poor yesterday, and by taking money from B, who at any given moment is richer than A, we can therefore 'narrow' the 'gap'.

This is all nonsense:

A) If I am fired one year I will 'poor;
B) But the next year I might get a better job than the year before so then I am 'rich'
C) Also, taking money from people has EFFECTS, and those welfare-effects are wealth-reducing.

Anyway, this is all stuff for kids. I had thought we had transcended socialism a long time ago.

It's a deep disappointment to see so much confusion on this site.

No wonder that moron of a Letwin can get away with this.

But if Cameron continues with this nonsense, any 'victory' won't matter much. New Labour or Letwin Blather, it's all the same to me.

I think that quote suggests being selfish will improve society.

I think some people on this blog are underestimating the steps that are going to have to be made to prove to the public that the Conservatives are ready to lead Britain again. The Conservatives need to shake off the image of the Party which cares about business and not the little man.

A Presidential Candidate's not going to be as worried as someone on minimum wage is he? The little people wont be making up his pay packet since the money for his campaign comes from business. Thats the American Dream!

I have no particular problem with 'redistribution' ... I just think that the nation state shows every sign of being just as bad at managing it as it is at 'picking winners' in industry, enforcing exchange controls, providing price subsidies, etc.

A nation that is, in absolute terms, both more wealthy and more devoted to the 'great religions' at an individual, moral level, takes better care of its [relative] poor than a less wealthy, more secularised states. I'd certainly have rather been on the dole in Thatcher's Britain than part of the political elite in Mao's China or Pol Pot's Cambodia. And of course the Thatcher government was 'redistributive', but a hell of a lot less so by the end than it was at the beginning, in terms of the burden it imposed on the wealthy. And imposing burdens spawns resentment, and hence is morally corrosive. But that's almost the point. If the poor want charity, why not let them see it for what it is, which is an act of kindness and contrition, rather than simply an entitlement to the fruit of someone else's exertions?

I had lunch with Shirley Letwin several times in the late 1980s, and rather wonder whether she wouldn't have told young Oliver off for taking what might generously be excused as pragmatism that little bit too far. But of course, she (or indeed the affable, laid-back William) wouldn't have dreamed that Olive could possibly be taking this fatuous, embarassing stuff seriously.

"The Conservatives need to shake off the image of the Party which cares about business and not the little man."

I think the interests of the two largely coincide - particularly as it is small to medium-sized business that have really got it in the neck from this government.

I think that quote from Atlas Shrugged is splendid, but even I doubt whether we could use it as a slogan.

All clear now - Your economics sucks. Redistribution should not be not Conservative. It just might not be Conservative but then again it might. The stress is on the negative. The point is at what level of priority is it? When we say we want to set people free at what level does that operate? Philisophically you can tie yourself in knots and in todays world no wonder. That is why DC being a pragmatist is the only way a Conservative government will get back into power.

And this is an argument for helping the poor by ensuring there is a level below which they cannot fall, not for narrowing the income gap in society as per Oliver Leftwing.

"By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without. A linen shirt, for example, is, strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct. Custom, in the same manner, has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person of either sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them.”

So as long as the poorest has one linen shirt or one pair of leather shoes...but then if the question is shame then that depends on a whole bunch of questions beyond sheer materialism such as enabling the poor to be educated enough to make the right choices. Adam Smith is useful in this context but only so far. Goes back to the old adage about teaching a man to fish being better than providing a fish. So really it is more about education and enabling those beyond adolescance to get what they need to get and not be ashamed about it. This is why redistribution is a duff discussion because it is a function of what is more important which is enabling people. Whether a society redistributes as a result is sheer consequence of what conservativism should be about. I suppose if you want to go beyond all this it is really about the mother making sure that she produces babies that dont care about inequality, and are not greedy nor envious and this is where I get a bit lost but one thing is for sure redistribution should not be on a material level merely on a skills level or an education level. If it happens on a material level as a result then that is just fine.

oh yes and one thing I am sure of is that encouraging mothers to go back to work as soon as possible is not good for a healthy society. Enabling them to do so is, but children shouldnt ideally be in a nursery until they get to the age of three anyway but thats a whole other discussion. Incidentally ensuring that a primary carer is the best available (not necessarily the mother of course) is a good conservative policy and of course leaving that decision in the hands of the parents is much better than it being in the hands of the state.

Labour is totally barmy sometimes.

Crikey! I have just spent an hour reading all the previous posts. Letwin has certainly got a mixed reaction. In my opinion we should not be concerned about the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest. Tony Blair has always said that he is not concerned about it. The main thing is that the poorest in society should be improving with the rest.

What we must try to do is to ensure that all those who are capable of working are in work and off benefits. The way to do that is to keep the level of benefits well below the level of income of those working on the minimum wage. That is not the case at present, where it seems to be the other way round. Until we tackle welfare dependency we cannot hope to tackle the other social ills of this country.

I would far rather see the introduction of a compulsory work-fare scheme than see people given benefit for doing nothing. Work-fare would stop much of the fraud and black economy working that currently goes on.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Derek snap and I agree with you.

Sean - just wait until small business wakes up to what Gordon's got planned with their money in 2006! Re-distribution at it's finest (or would James H call it nationalisation of business by the back door)

and Daniel - Merry Christmas, have a good one.

Happy Christmas to those that celebrate it and 'bah humbug' to those that don't.

Cripes- what a frenzy of comment since this morning.

We diehard DD supporters are least surprised by the shape of policy pronouncements since DC took over. He put up in lights that winning was the number one priority, and that he would change to win. And that means everything...even unfreezing the R word. His strategy is to move us to the centre, with a much softer "more caring" image. We must all know that.

And come on- he has done a sensational job. In just a fortnight Labour are behind in the polls and running scared, and the LibDems are plunged into crisis. Personally, despite all the usual stuff about electoral bias/Baxter models etc, I now think there's a real chance we could win in 2010.

So stop complaining everyone. This is just the reality of fptp party politics in 2005. Sure, it's unlikely to make much difference having DC's Conservatives as opposed to Blair's New Labour, but at the margin, I'd still opt for the former. Plus of course, it won't be Blair's New Labour in 2010.

(And for those of us who still believe in other stuff, like small government etc, well, at the risk of stating the bleedin' obvious once again, we just have to work at shifting the centreground from outside the formal party structure. Our parties will follow public opinion,but none of them will any longer take the risk of leading- and certainly not in opposition).

Absolutely amazing response and well done to all. I had a good night at our Christmas Party but upon my return home I could not resist a peak at what was being said. Its all good stuff - even after a few glasses of the red stuff ( not French). I hope that the powers that be study the crazy variation in the reaction of all true tories, to what Mr Letwin has started here.

Happy Christmas, signing off until the New Year.

But Wat, if none of us complain aren't we giving carte blanche to the top brass to do whatever they want with the party?

I think they need to feel that there is some resistance to their moves leftwards, since it might actually have an effect on the outcome. I think this is especially true with regard to the A-list controversy -- I think associations are in a position to be able to kick up a fuss if they don't like the direction Cameron is leading us in that regard, or indeed more generally.

I don't think we should just sit down and accept anything Cameron tells us to.

WHY IS THE BIG SHOCK ABOUT LETWIN FAVOURING REDISTRIBUTIONIST POLICIES LIKE OLD LABOUR AND THE LIB DEMS?

THE PEOPLE WHO BROUGHT YOU THIS:

"Share the Proceeds of Growth"

THIS:

"A Fusion of Sachs and de Soto"

AND THIS:

"EXCLUSIVE: Top Cameron Aide Tells The Right - Don't Expect Tax Cuts, School Choice, Right Wing Conservative Government

[This story is slightly different than the version posted earlier. The reason is that Mr Boles complained that the story was wrong and demanded it be withdrawn. Phone calls have been made to check facts to ensure we are being fair. After speaking at length to people in the room, we think the following is a fair and accurate account.]

Last Tuesday, as Cameron prepared for his coronation, one of his top aides, Nick Boles, addressed a private meeting of right-wing think tanks and campaign groups at the Adam Smith Institute.

While the hope of many Conservatives has been that Cameron is "really" on the Right but would use better PR to sell a Thatcherite agenda, Boles made clear to the audience that they would be disappointed.

The issues of tax cuts and school choice were raised. Mr Boles said that they would not campaign for vouchers and "choice" was not their priority. In reply to questions about tax, he said that tax pledges and guarantees had been tried before in previous elections, they had failed, and they could not commit themselves to cut taxes beyond the current aspiration.

Mr Boles said to the audience that, just as Blair said that he won as New Labour and would govern as New Labour, so - "Dave has run as a compassionate conservative and will govern as a compassionate conservative". [Mr Boles has confirmed that this quote was accurate as we originally reported it; one participant remembers the phrase as "centrist" instead of "compassionate conservative". Different sources have given an almost but not quite identical form of words for a further comment to the effect - "if you're expecting a right-wing Conservative Government, you will be disappointed".]

As we commented earlier.

Whereas Labour is gearing up to claim that Cameron is secretly a hard core Thatcherite who is using clever spin to shield an extreme agenda, it se that Cameron is as he seems - a traditional conservative who does not think there is much wrong with Britain, and will resemble Macmillan and Major, not Thatcher, albeit with better PR. Gove is useful bait to attract some elements on the Right, but the ideological tone will be set by Edward Llewellyn, his new Chief of Staff and former Chief of Staff to Patten.

Ironically, therefore, the emerging Labour attack on him as "really deep down right wing" will help Cameron for a while because it will reassure the Right, many of whom voted for him nervously and mainly because of Davis' extreme incompetence.

However, the ideological right have been told in no uncertain terms: if the Cameron project works out, then you face another decade plus of political irrelevance, no money, and no influence. This is unwise of the Cameron team. First, even in their own terms (ie. gaining power, not medium-term change, is the real goal), it is foolish to tell the Right this so starkly; it would be more effective to lie (at least until they could then use fear of an election to impose discipline). Second, they will not be able to build a new movement of self-consciously "moderate" activists; if they really have rejected the idea of building outrider organisations to act as "icebreakers of the revolution", they are condemning themselves to medium-term operation within a culture defined by Labour and the BBC which provides only a choice between destruction and cooption. Again ironically, this may actually help organisations on the ideological Right as donors and members realise that pressure from the Right is the only way to influence Cameron.

Lord Garrel-Jones said privately the other day, "Great. An OE with the common touch - and Ed [Llewellyn] in there." For those on the Right not of this disposition, a bleak future looms - unless the initial Cameron plan fails and there is a major rethink.

The Spectator Online Team
Check out our blog on DC's First Hundred Days
http://www.spectator.co.uk/blog/index.thtml#153"

WERE ALWAYS LIKELY TO TURN 30 YEARS OF CONSERVATIVE POLICY ON ITS HEAD AND ARGUE FOR THE GAP BETWEEN THE RICH AND THE POOR TO BE REDUCED BY REDISTRIBUTIVE GOVERNMENT POLICY.

And that's what we are all stuck with until someone is brave enough, and has the opportunity, to do something about it.

In the meantime, whichever holiday lights your home, warm wishes for a meaningful holiday filled with good humour, cheer and renewed hope for the new year to come.

Blimey, I finish my Christmas shopping and read this schmozzle. I agree with Wat's assessment at 10.55pm, but I remain unconvinced that bandying about a red-rag socialist word like 'redistribution' is a good move.

(English Tory, you're right that John Howard wouldn't have used that word, but he doesn't have to do a major rebranding of his party to get naturally centre-right voters thinking that his party are normal, appealing people that can be trusted witht he task of governing! The Conservative Party does and Cameron is tackling this task with gusto and success. This shouldn't however include using such a raw hard-Left word like 'redistribution' though.)

A very happy and holy Christmas to you all, but remember I'll be having mine in summer, heading to the beach next week : )

Quoting me, Realistic said:

"Mr. Letwin specifically said (and many here seem to have missed it) that he was not in favour of redistributing wealth by taxing the rich." says "Reasonable"

Er, no. If you want to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor you have to do this. "Of course, inequality matters. Of course, it should be an aim to narrow the gap between rich and poor. It is more than a matter of safety nets.," as Letwin says."

In contrast, Oliver Letwin said: (from today's Guardian)

"...On Radio 4 he later made plain that redistribution does not mean raising higher rates of income tax.

"We have to think about ways in which we can empower people at the bottom of the heap to make a better life for themselves. And that is not just grab from one person and give to another," he said.

But he did warn that a Cameron-led government would have to find ways of "empowering people at the bottom of the heap to have a larger share of an enlarging cake".

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/conservatives/story/0,9061,1673455,00.html

and: (the fuller quote from yesterday)

""Of course inequality matters. Of course it should be an aim to narrow the gap between rich and poor ... not by trying to do down those with most but by enabling those who have least to share an increasing part of an enlarging cake."

"We do redistribute money and we should redistribute money. But we have to find ways that empower people rather than reduce them to dependency."

"Any human being who looks at that is bound to conclude that we should take steps to enable these people to move out of that condition," he said.

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/conservatives/story/0,9061,1673455,00.html

That quote is 100% solidly conservative. It is the compassionate and pragmatic conservatism of right to buy, a truly efficient redistribution of national wealth to poorer members of society that created prosperity and not dependency.

Anybody taking the trouble to find out what Letwin actually said will be cheering it.

Labour has created an underclass and compassionate conservatives must assist them. In that increasing their prosperity rather than increasing the prosperity of the best off is now our priority, the gap will and should narrow. Of course we dont "have to" tax the rich to do this. We can assist the poor in vast numbers of ways without hurting those who create jobs. Have some political imagination.

Merry Christmas to all Christians, Happy Hanukkah to all Jews!

Oh my god, Letwin is actually an idiot.

Well not much we can do about it now.

Merry Christmas!

I am shocked to read that so many people are opposed to the principle of redistribution.

High earners pay for the education and healthcare of those who have little or no income, and have done for the last 60 years.

This is redistribution - is anyone here really opposed to that?

If we are in favour of it, why not say that we are, rather than pretending we're not and scaring most of the electorate


Because proclaiming a belief in Redistribution (not a word that even Labour uses these days) implies that you want to bring about equal outcomes.

"High earners pay for the education and healthcare of those who have little or no income, and have done for the last 60 years.

This is redistribution - is anyone here really opposed to that?"

Try again.

Sean Fear: "Because proclaiming a belief in Redistribution (not a word that even Labour uses these days) implies that you want to bring about equal outcomes."

Not necessarily.

Redistribution suggests a less unequal society; it does not imply an equal society.

I accept the inequalities in income that capitalism produces (talents, luck and effort are not distributed equally and some people want more income than others who place greater value on other things) but I also support progressive forms of taxation to finance an effective welfare system - ie redistribution.

My hope is that Conservatives commit to building that effective welfare system. One that spends more time and money (as in Kent with the Tory Council's Supporting Independence initiative) getting people into work. That will progressively produce a smaller welfare state that can more effectively support the long-term deserving (including the very old and sick).

Well, Letwin has done it again.

Cameron swiftly distanced himself from the way in which Letwin expressed himself.

"DAVID Cameron has moved to distance himself from remarks by Oliver Letwin, his newly-appointed policy chief, who yesterday appeared to attack Tony Blair from the left by calling for greater redistribution of wealth in society. ... ut a spokesman for Mr Cameron said that Mr Letwin had been misinterpreted - and that he simply meant to say that Conservatives would be focused on helping the poor, without regard to the rich. ...Mr Cameron's spokesman said Mr Letwin had simply meant to focus on Tory plans to empower the poor.

"He was really saying there is a way to get people out of poverty and the cycle of dependency," he said.

This is not the first time that Letwin goes off the deep end. He was an utter failure as Shadow Chancellor and indeed an unremarkable Home Secretary.

He was a most unfortunate tendency to firmly plant his foot in his mouth. And everyone in Westminster knew this before Cameron gave him the most sensitive job.

But although Letwin was undoubtedly guilty of having spoken too loosely, I'm afraid it's just another straw in the wind that is revealing of what , if not Cameron himself, then certainly some around him may be really planning. They should be dissuaded from those aims in the strongest possible terms.

Merry Christmas!

Simon Heffer puts it well:

Another fine mess Ollie's got us into

You can always trust the Tory party to put in that gold-medal winning performance. Just when we all thought that the sad fate of Toga the Penguin (RIP) had to be the most gut-wrenching tale of this festive season, along comes dear old Oliver Letwin to steal the prize with a truly heartbreaking tragedy.

In an interview with my colleague Rachel Sylvester, Ollie decided to give millions of people the reason they have been searching for not to vote Conservative. He told them that his masterplan is to take the money they strive to earn by hard work and ingenuity, and that is already in the view of many of them incontinently taxed as it is, and give it away to others.

Big mistake, Ollie. We would, I am sure, and not just at this time of goodwill to all persons, like to see the gap narrowed between rich and poor.

Yet there is more than one way of doing this. In the prosperous, liberal society that we should aspire to be, the rich get richer and the poor get richer, too, as the wealth of the most successful trickles down through society.

This is rather what happened in the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher transformed our country from a banana republic to an economic powerhouse.

However, the Letwin model - until he tells us otherwise, for as usual with anything Ollie says we inevitably have to await clarification - is along somewhat more traditional lines (traditional Labour, that is). Ollie wants to narrow the gap by taking from those who have and giving it to those who haven't.

Now, there may be some in his party - including, presumably but not certainly, himself - who think this is a cunning and "brilliant" way to ensure that the hitherto apostate middle classes will be queueing up to vote his party back into power. I fear he, and they (if they exist), may be wrong.

Ollie's commitment to Socialist-style redistribution is simply one of the most awesome and astonishing gaffes by a senior Tory in opposition that I can ever remember. Indeed, I suspect we have to go back to the autumn of 1974, and the great Sir Keith Joseph's "pills for proles" speech, to find something even remotely in the same league.

The difference between the two outbursts is, however, that Sir Keith was right to say that it would be highly advantageous to society if the dependent classes felt better able to practise contraception: his only crime was saying what everyone with half a brain knew self-evidently to be true, a sin for which any politican must expect to be rigorously punished. Ollie, by contrast, was speaking complete rubbish.

Most of our overtaxed people are happy to pay taxes to keep the fabric of society together. But most of them are not happy to pour their money down the bottomless ravines of the unreformed public services, which is what is happening now. And Mr Letwin's observations, in the same interview, about how his party intends to soft-pedal on any public service reform are also intensely depressing.

Although he outlines economic policy, Ollie is not shadow chancellor. That job belongs, in case you have forgotten, to teenage prodigy George Osborne, whose own commendable big idea - flat tax - was also jumped on from a great height by Ollie.

What Mr Osborne must think of his party's policy chief rampaging through his portfolio like a herd of wild boar is a matter of private grief into which I feel reluctant to intrude. But it doesn't augur well for happy times ahead, does it?

With luck, the feast of alcoholic beverages over the next few days, and the general continuing irrelevance of the Tories, will help people to forget that Ollie ever went out in public and said something so humungously stupid.

I would warn his boss, David Cameron, however, that Ollie is likely to prove a serial offender in this regard. A period of permanent silence might be the best Christmas present for all concerned.

Today's Telegraph

Did anyone hear Peter Hitchens and Matthew Parris on Any Q's?

Hitchens said what he says- DC's Tories same as Labour: so what's the point?

Parris said what he says- DC is actually a real Tory who has mastered the language of 2005.

So we'll see. At least DC seems to be distancing himself from Ollie's statements.

So Happy Christmas.

And keep it real, yeah?

As Heffer himself says there are many ways in which you can close the gap between rich and poor. The fact remains that Letwin hasnt said which way is the way the Party has decided on. I think there has been an element here of jumping the gun by some people, including Heffer. We dont even know any detail on how wealth will be redistributed under the Conservatives.

I really only came back online to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. What a brilliant year it's been for us, and many thanks for that must go to Tim for providing us with this outlet for (some of us) our excitement, and (for others) our RAGE!.

You know, at first I was really pee-ed off at Goldie dissing me like wot he did ... but ya know, I don't need to prove to some blogger how Tory I am - those that know how hard I work to get Tories into elected office (or how well I did stuffing the Labour candidate in his "safe" ward when I won election in Essex) will do that for me .. actually I was just chuffed in the end to be mentioned by one of the right-wingers as being of the same ilk as Oliver Letwin! Well he did start in Hackney too, didn't he?

If I come across as mild when I write - do understand, it's a choice. I think expressing your thoughts as mildly as possible is actually the best way to engage someone in conversation. It's terribly easy to wind folk up by posting unpleasant comments (esp if you do so anonymously). It doesn't make me any less right wing (my best mate, also a committed, card carrying, leaflet delivering Tory, calls me a "vicious little right winger" by the way), it just means that I'm not going to pretend I know the answer to everything. Even if, inside, I'm intellectually secure enough to know who's totally and utterly wrong.

Just remember, if we want any sort of right wing government again, we have to engage with people first. Quoting Simon Heffer at people is, in my ever so humble opinion, not a terribly good way to win votes and influence people.

Well Merry Christmas everybody, even Mr Heffer! Next year is going to be such an exciting time to be a Tory! Best wishes, Graeme x.

“Reasonable.” I am sorry to say you are missing the point.

Letwin says “inequality matters. Of course, it should be an aim to narrow the gap between rich and poor. It is more than a matter of safety nets.”

My comments and those of others were not about raising higher rates of income tax. My assumption is that party policy is now to “share the proceeds of growth”
between more spending on public services and tax cuts, and that we will not move beyond that commitment even in a general election (as Nicholas Boles told the Adam Smith Institute recently).

I don’t think any Conservative Party member is opposed to what Letwin additionally said on Radio 4, namely that "empowering people at the bottom of the heap to have a larger share of an enlarging cake" is a highly desirable aim.

It is therefore misleading to say that “Anybody taking the trouble to find out what Letwin actually said will be cheering it.” When in fact he made two different points in each of the interviews cannot be assumed to have been more serious about one than the other.

The fact is that reducing income inequality as opposed to helping the poor without reference to the better off is turning the party policy of the last 30 years on its head, as "free enterprise conservative," points out above. It is yet another sign of Letwin’s confused and muddled thinking, and the basis of the objections of many people on this blog.

We never claimed he wanted to raise taxes, which in any event already (ineffectively) attempt to “redistribute” wealth on a massive scale. So we don’t need to be told to “have some political imagination”—we already have plenty of ideas of how to help people out of poverty. We just don’t want our party to get into the futile and self-defeating dead end of trying to narrow the income gap in society. Sadly, bitter experience shows that going down that road hurts everyone--especially the poorest.


“Redistribution suggests a less unequal society; it does not imply an equal society.” Says our esteemed and in many ways admirable Editor.

But I think he may be missing the point some Conservatives were trying to make about Letwin's remarks. Oliver Letwin specifically said that he wanted to narrow the income gap in society. That is a different aim than merely wishing to help the poorest. For example, in the 1980s, the gap between the richest and poorest widened dramatically but every income group, including the poorest 10% and the richest 10% were better off at the end of that decade than at the beginning. The gap widened but the poor were better off than before.

Of course that government and subsequent governments operated what is usually called a progressive system of taxation. But that government did not have as its aim reducing income inequality per se and neither has its Labour successor. That would be an unwelcome policy innovation which is why people on this blog and elsewhere are right to criticize Letwin for proposing it.


Goldie: "Cameron swiftly distanced himself from the way in which Letwin expressed himself."

I doubt that means anything at all. Here is uber-Cameron booster Bruce Anderson in The Independent on Boxing Day talking about the now infamous Letwin Telegraph interview:

"To those who were alarmed by the interview, he has only one message. You had better prepare yourself for many repetitions."

The Letwin redistribution nonsense just goes to underline the observation of "Vigilant" on the platform of this blog:

"What is most striking, then, is the one major branch of conservatism Cameron consistently excluded from his wooing. Month after month of leadership contest produced no clear statement of support for a conservative cause as dear to Tory hearts as any other: smaller government and lower taxes. "I don't think anyone wakes up and thinks 'gosh, I wish the state was smaller today than it was yesterday'", he declared at one stage."

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