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The State vs. Society argument.

We might see (we already have done with Brown) an increasing difference on the role of the state vs. social action.

Blair/Brown want to increase state spending and action to ensure "fairness" Cameron's Conservatives want to promote local action to ensure effectiveness.

I'm predicting that Cameron's "there is such a thing as society...it's just not the same as the state" policies will start to reflect this difference. We'll wait and see...

This is a bit rich considering Tony Blair's sucess as leader of the opposition was becoming more like the Conservatives.

I'd like to highlight the emphasis on competitiveness in the economy and education needed to meet the challenges of globalisation.

To me the big difference is that Blair and Labour think they know what is best for individuals, whilst Cameron and Tories think that people know what is best for themselves and should be enabled to choose.

"Tony Blair said that David Cameron's only big idea was to become more like New Labour."

Funny, I always thought it was Blair that stole the Conservative policies to make himself electable.

Cameron won't have Brown stopping him going further with his change agenda,


Cameron is the future, Blair was the future once!

So your first two are just differences of tactics, nuance and style, rather than concrete policy? And you call that 'clear blue water'? Oh dear...

Wrong question.

List the differences between Blair and his party.

Then compare to the difference between Cameron and Blair. Blair should join the Cameron's Conservatives, not least because he's one of the only Neo-Cons at Labour Party conference.

What a pathetic comment by Blair. We actually need to keep plugging away at the centre and hope that a Brown-led Labour party are panicked into looking for clear red water.

We also need to keep up the momentum that's pushing the leadership and the rank and file in the Labour Party apart - when it's Conservative votes enacting key structural reforms to our public services the electorate will see a credible alternative government contrasted with a divided and confused labour party.

Blair wants the Conservative MEPs to remain in the EPP-ED group, whereas David Cameron wants them to leave and form a new group.

Conservatives want controlled and limited immigration, whereas Labour only talks about it.

Conservatives will share the proceeds of growth between reducing the burden of tax and spending on public services. Labour will spend it all on unreformed public services.

Blair will agree to anything that keeps his face in the media. He's a narcissus. He's essentially a weak character, who needs a big image to hide behind, and who surrounds himself with strong characters/other organisations to handle his responsibilities for him. (Cherie/Campbell/Mandelson/Brown/Clarke/Reid/George Bush etc etc) If anything goes wrong, he'll find a scapegoat/victim to blame and it's never him or anyone he appointed at fault. His inner weakness makes him pi$$ easy for others to manipulate - most recently Chirac - previously Dubya had him over a barrel.

Cameron is not so image dependent as a character, but he has the same skill at playing the image game. This unnerves Blair as he cannot read him. Blair understands a game where there are no values. Cameron has plenty. He has the strength of personality not to need to assassinate those who cross him Blair-style. He has the English trtaditional public school quality of being able to give someone a kick in the Rs without using his boot.

Labour have reformed the public services Derek – we pay more for less, they bleat about the Tories not wanting the extra investment in schools, hospitals and the police, but if extra spending is without reform (as it has been) then we end up with more expense for a reduced local service e.g.

Locally they want to close a couple of small primary schools to cut costs.

Locally they removed our local out-of-hours GP service. Now I have read they are worried they can't afford the repercussions of their GP contract (pension obligation) now let alone in the future.

Locally our police and fire services are threatening with closure and amalgamation how does that improve them?

According to Blair, Cameron wants to return to 11+ selection (although I thought this was a DD policy with extra grammar schools).

Sorry - name needed for new party for grouping in the Euro Parliament. Any ideas? Europe of Democratic Nationstates - EDN?

Blair will never change anything. In case it attracts critism. Change always does. Cameron will make the changes he believes need making and take the flak if he has to. But he has a lot of charm to help dodge the bullets. As he has values which people can respect, he can sytand his ground - while Blair, who has no values, always caves in to try to find an easier position.

Cameron will be a far better innovator - as in creating new groupings in the Euro Parliament.

I've thought of another one. Using a conciliatory style rather than old school "triangulation".

In many ways it's the perfect political weapon, as well as having a political legitimacy of its own.

It makes us look reasonable and "anti-political" which appeals to normal people rather than political hacks. It makes us look concerned with the issues and improving lives rather than scoring cheap Westminster political points. It makes the other person look hysterical. Finally it builds up credibility, so that when we come to a really big issue we want to disagree on (the successor to Iraq??) we have the public credibility to use an angry tone, highlighting the differences between us.

I hope to see much, much more of it.

Blair et al, simply carp on about the Tories being monsters (or whatever).

Frank: indeed. New Tory, New Danger seems to be their instinctive reaction. Even that misses the point: it's not Conservative policies, but the Conservative brand that voters have rejected...I find it really encouraging that Labour's disciplne and strategic sense is breaking up so quickly.

No room for complacency, of course.


- Tax 42% of GDP with Labour
- Business investment lowest since records began
- Productivity levels, especially in public sector, is woeful
- Railtrack fiasco
- 2.7million people sitting on incapacity benefit
- More long termed young unemployed today that BEFORE the new deal (and its £5,000,000,000 price tag).
- Social mobility has reduced greatly under Labour
- Public spending out of control
- European policy firing on 3-cylanders (Euro, no Euro, Referendum, No Referendum, Reform of CAP, No Reform, No midnight oil budget deal, Midnight oil budget deal).
- No ‘welcome to the 1970s’ and old labour policy twisted into Gordon Brown’s perverse version of accepting ‘the market’.
- No supporting a flawed Phoenix bid for MG Rover
- No 4th – 14th in world productivity league
- Violent crime soaring, best New Labour proposal – create supra-regional police forces.
- Immigration out of control, armed forces overstretched, Regiments decimated, especially in Scotland. Carrier contract going awry.
- 1 million manufacturing jobs gone. Businesses gloomy at unnecessary Labour meddling. Oil industry reining in spending due to additional tax. Devolution has turned into an embarrassment, Upper house ransacked – Tony’s flatmate given Lord Chancellors job, Mandleson cocking up trade negotiations with the USA. Prescott is in office (disaster of a man).

…Iraq, Terrorism Bill, Education White Paper, ILAs, Public Debt soaring, Smoking Ban, Hunting Ban, Immigration, Dr Kelly, Pensions, Energy Policy, Tax Credits, Red Tape, Hospital Targets, ID Cards ….

In fact - The ONLY time Labour have had limited adverse impact, is when they have done nothing. When they HAVE implemented policy – well, see above.

Lets get then out of office!

I think its best summed up by saying.

Blair - equality of outcome

Cameron - equality of opportunity

Frank Young - you're right about triangulation. Only someone with no values can use this tactic. Formula's like this. Find two opposing groups and take a position somewhere between them, painting them as extremists and yourself as reason incarnate.

Cameron seems to be able to take up a position as say with the EPP, and stand his ground while others like Blair, Merkel and K Clarke attack him. He maintains his sangfroid, quietly repeating the stance he has adopted while they expend themselves. Once they've fired off their ammunition, he moves a step more towards his objective.

It is helpful to him if others draw a little fire on his behalf. Good work Roger Helmer getting Blair nicely stoked yesterday.

In the Europarliament Blair tried to create a triangle - painting UKIP as one extreme, but he was unable to manufacture the other corner, as that would have involved upsetting Chirac. So he had to rant and rave himself for once. How else will he close the deal he's really after - becoming the first EU President.

Cameron will be terribly polite I am sure, while saying non nein etc the Eton way. This will completely confuse the Eurolot. They are all set for Thatcher style hand-baggings. Instead they'll find the most charming youth saying that the game's moved along somewhere else, and he'd love to invite them along if they wish.

Do you think the aircraft carrier delay business is the Fench way of getting the Royal Navy off the sea for the first time in 500 years? And bankrupting the British Treasury to boot. Not even Napoleon thought of that one.

1) Human Rights Act
2) Fox Hunting ban
3) Fisheries/EU

There's alot of assumptions made about Cameron here that I'm not sure have been justified by what he's said.

Such as?

Pretty much most of what has been written.

Just back from the serious organised criminal carol service in Parliament Sq (not too bad - "Little Drummer Boy" was all over the place, and I'm convinced "First Noel" was in the wrong key but otherwise an acceptable sing-along; Greater London Authority sent a fax telling people to keep off the grass; only one helicopter flew over). Any way, that's done my bit to put two fingers up to the Blair Reich.

If you're looking for clear blue water: I've no idea where Cameron actually stands but he ought to pledge to scrap the daft law that locks up people for reading out names at the Cenotaph.

That would build on opposition to the 90 day detention and from that platform we could construct a credible theory of how to win the war on terror (= what are we fighting for?) with what ought to become known as "compassionate aggression". Blair has to come up with these fatuous laws to distance himself from the Labour past and suggest he's being 'tough on terrorism'. Cameron has the advantage of being a Tory so doesn't have to prove his anti-crime/disorder/dodgy foreigners credentials. A cynic would point out that this move allows us to come at Blair for being incompetent in fighting terror + pick up centreground liberals - but of course, it's only the national interest which motivates the people who read this blog.

In turn this position enables us to a more robust/better explained foreign policy.

First step - we've got all these policy groups in the pipeline. Why not set up a shadow National Security Council?

"name needed for new party for grouping in the Euro Parliament. Any ideas?"

I thought European Reform Party (ERP) would be good - highlights the fact that for us, the EU is useless without reform.

Sadly there is very little clear blue water between Blair and Cameron.

Ways in which we *could* show clear blue water would include:-

1. An end to Thought Crime. The Public Order Act 1986, and Terrorism Act 2002, are simply being abused to harrass people for saying things New Labour disapproves of.

2. A promise to abolish Inheritance Tax; clear, simple, and popular.

3. An end to arrange marriages, as a way of emigrating to this country. Adopt the Danish policy, whereby any spouse wishing to qualify for entry to this country, has to be at aged least 24 before getting married.

Cameron's support for enterprise-based solutions to poverty.

"2. A promise to abolish Inheritance Tax; clear, simple, and popular."

Actually I think that would be all too easily made unpopular and seen as regressive.

"Cameron's support for enterprise-based solutions to poverty."

Like the support he has expressed for Jeffrey Sachs of the Make Poverty History campaign?

"Economic empowerment is impossible if a country's people are dying. Jeffrey Sachs is right to make this a priority. I read his book over the summer, and challenge anyone to read it and not be convinced by the overwhelming power of his moral case for action."

In Leeds, David Cameron argued for a "fusion of Sachs and de Soto."

Is the Globalisation Institute now following David Cameron's lead and advocating a middle way, part property-rughts enterprise agenda and part government intervention?

There's no need to speculate on the differences between David Cameron and Tony Blair. Just ask Nicholas Boles, now that The Spectator has been able to verify its story by contacting those present at the meeting at which he made his remarks:

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

I'm not sure how you fuse Sachs and De Soto.

James, perhaps I'm too London-centric. Such a pledge would not be unpopular at all in suburban North London (where there are plenty of marginal seats to mop up).

Ok Dave, but Cameron has been under heavy pressure to back down on the EPP from Merkel, Clarke (former Conservative) and Blair, but when asked under interview he has repeated four times on four separate occasions that he will stick to the commitment as made.

I think he will be mild in his public profile, moderate in his use of language and refuse to take up identifiable political poses. However I also believe that on the crucial issues he will keep to the agenda and deliver. I don't smell a yellow belly Blair style. Do you?

So no commitment to tax cuts or vouchers equals different from Blair how?

If you had to choose between a Tory governmnent committed to tax cuts and vouchers OR one committed to staying out of the EPP which one would you choose?

Or to put it another way, out of the above, which wing of the party is getting something serious and which is merely being patronised?

"I don't smell a yellow belly Blair style."

It's positively fetid.

It's pretty obvious than Cameron is all about splitting the difference between Blair and the Conservative Party in order to appear more moderate (in the belief that will make the party more electable), just as Blair once split the difference between the Labour Party and the Conservatives.

Obviously, that approach means splitting the difference in a slightly different place than Blair. Exercising leadership it is not in either case (another similarity).

"I'm not sure how you fuse Sachs and De Soto."

Perhaps Alex can tell us.

Tory Guy is right. Tony Blair moved politics in this country slightly to the right. David Cameron is now moving politics in this country slightly to the left.

On the other hand, this may be predicated on an assumption that, with the imminent disappearance of TB, sociologically a Tory, from the scene, Labour will move considerably to the left again, thus making the Conservative the acceptable face of centerright politics, which is what the British people, by majority, seem to want.

For replacement EPP, why not drop the E?

Independent Democratic nation States

or my preferred option, not tainted with the 'E' letter. (The 'D' letter has been overused as in the CD, the LD, the ED and so on).

The Independent Nation States
The INS says it all.

I'd prefer the "OUTs" to the "INs" !!!

Just need to think of some wording with those initials now....

Dave -

Thanks for the summary, very interesting. Those on the Right that feel disappointed with the direction of the Cameron Project still have a choice to make. Either they can reject this form of Conservatism outright, but remain in the party to promote their vision. There are certainly some that are so entrenched that it is an all-or-nothing call.

However, those that appreciate the huge gulf of difference between a moderate Labour Party and a moderate Conservative Party in ideological terms, and are willing to be pragmatic in their approach, will be far less troubled. If people take this option, they may have to accept a slower timetable for reform; however the upside of this compromise is seeing Conservatives as the natural party of Government in Britain, a party that holds true Conservative values at its heart. Labour will then return to being the natural party of opposition, a Labour party that today still has, in its third term of office, egalitarian dogma pulsing through its veins.

You have to remember that it is Blair copying Conservatives that has created this situation. He is already back-tracking on education and will have to cede some of the centre ground to stay in power.

the new MEP grouping should be called @European Reform Movement', or ERM for short. That is sure to bring back good memories for Cameron

Blair has copied the Conservatives on *some* issues, but to be honest, it was people like Neil Kinnock and John Smith who did the really hard work of getting the party to accept that trade union reforms, council house sales, etc. were here to stay.

Blair's achievement (and in political terms it has been a brilliant achievement) has been to persuade leftish Conservatives in the electorate that he is reasonably right wing, when in fact he isn't. He talks right, even while acting left.

Now if it's David Cameron's intention to talk left, while acting right, that's fine by me. I'll happily settle for the reality of a right wing government, even if the rhetoric is different. If OTOH, he talks left and acts left, I won't be happy at all.

"Now if it's David Cameron's intention to talk left, while acting right, that's fine by me. I'll happily settle for the reality of a right wing government, even if the rhetoric is different. If OTOH, he talks left and acts left, I won't be happy at all."

Surely in a democracy, politicians have a duty to make it clear what political standpoint they represent rather than deceiving people into voting for them by allowing people to believe (incorrectly) they share their political standpoint?

"Blair's achievement (and in political terms it has been a brilliant achievement) has been to persuade leftish Conservatives in the electorate that he is reasonably right wing, when in fact he isn't. He talks right, even while acting left."

Yes exactly.

Take Tony Blair's words in 2004:

"People aren't disengaged -- but they do feel disempowered. They no longer expect government to solve all their problems.

They want the means in their hands to lead their own lives, make their own choices, develop their own potential.

People do not want the old centralised state. Instead, they want the state to empower them, to give them the means to make the most of their own lives."

Now, those words could not be more conservative. They pretty much spell out the basic conservative philosophy.

But has Tony Blair been true to those words?

Not in the slightest. This is a government that wants to control the amount of salt in your crisps, whether you decide to smack your children, and what opinions you can and can't have on any issue.

Too many conservatives have been so paralysed by the idea that "Tony Blair has stolen our clothes" to notice that he hasn't; and that this government has been extremely left-wing, state-managed, authoritarian and nannying. It is obsessed with identity politics and dividing people up into artificial categories; and it has consistently denigrated this nation's history and culture.

Cameron = suaviter in modo, fortiter in re.
Philosophically he is an economic and social
liberal. He should leave the details of economic policy to Osborne who seems to have a thorough grasp of the basics, i.e. you need to generate growth through tax cuts and an enterprise culture before you can begin to share the proceeds of it.

Daniel, I would certainly prefer it that way. However, perhaps it is the case that the electorate (or a key section of it) don't like politicians to be honest with them.

Sean, I think that you are right: the electorate preers wishful thinking to confronting tough choices. You are also right that Blair is not a Conservative - he talks right and acts left, and his instincts are both devious and authoritarian.

Oberon, don't assume that disaffected supporters of the centre-right like me have any confidence that the Conservative Party will ever deliver the reforms this country needs: quickly, slowly or otherwise. So seeing the Conservative Party back in office is far from reassuring. Since 1945, the Conservative Party has almost invariably (with the partial exception of Thatcher) spent all its time conciliating the left. With people like Nick Gibb and Nick Boles in Cameron's inner circle, I don't expect that to change and shall cast, or not cast, my vote accordingly.

"Labour will then return to being the natural party of opposition, a Labour party that today still has, in its third term of office, egalitarian dogma pulsing through its veins"

This is part of the problem with a positioning-based approach to party policy. Oberon is forced to make ludicrous assertions about New Labour in order to make them sound different to the Conservatives. New Labour does not have "egalitrarian dogma pulsing through its veins." Trying to convince the electorate of that will make us look ridiculous. Moving towards Labour doesn't give us "true Conservative values" it just gives us a Conservative Party whose values are closer to New Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Oberon really sums up the problem with this whole enterprise without realising it. Like his post, it has nothing to offer except more of the same.

It's more a sort of faux egalitarianism e.g. no school selection by academic ability - but rather selection by postcode, personal connection and religious belief.

Likewise, social mobility is declining, while at the same time, the government loudly proclaims its belief in achieving sex and race equality.

I think this ties in well with my earlier post, about people not wanting too much honesty from their politicians. Blair appeals to people who want to think they're being egalitarian, while actually doing the opposite.

Now That The Spectator has stood up its story about Nicholas Boles, where is he?

Sean spot on, almost....Blair appeals to people who want to strike attitudes as meritocrats or egalitarians, while actually doing the opposite. Hence Blair's enduring popularity among the "moderate" middle classes who would resolutely oppose the reintroduction of grammar schools....mainly because their own children would then have to face real competition from bright children from non-middle class homes. Blair panders to these vested interests. Will Cameron just do the same?

Michael, be careful when comparing the Conservative party of today, centrist or not, with the Keynesian administrations from the post-war era up to the times of Heath, they are simply not comparable.

I also disagree that reform will not occur – I think it will, however the pace will be decided by the popular vote, and currently they are expressing caution through the ballot box. What I am arguing is this, if we adapt our position to capture the popular vote, we will win the next General Election. The argument proposed by those on the ‘New Right’, like Liam Fox, that the electorate should be told what they need in policy, ignoring the mood of the country is political folly. I also firmly believe that compromising with a slower timetable for reform, not only is politically expedient, but I actually believe in it.

The founding principle of the Conservative Party is ‘scepticism of change’, most of the public instinctively feel this, so when proposing reform (whether it is returning to 19th Century neo-con values or unleashing neo-liberal markets) we must accept public scepticism, or even fear, of the eventual effects of this. We should accept the importance of this, understand it philosophically as a party, and politically.

Whilst I was writing my last post, Chris Fox got in a wee stab at my position.

Chris - New Labours mantra is "Opportunity and Equality for All" ... But (and they don't say this out loud)... if the two come into conflict, the formaer shall prevail.

Look - we are ahead in the polls, for the first time in a decade the public look at us without either laughing or snorting in disgust, and yet how to many react to this new found appreciation from the electorate, undermine the whole effort in an attempt to move back into political oblivion. Thats where your thinking,Chris, will lead us - and I don't want to go there again.

Doh - latter should prevail...

"Michael, be careful when comparing the Conservative party of today, centrist or not, with the Keynesian administrations from the post-war era up to the times of Heath, they are simply not comparable."

I don't think anyone is doing that on this blog. The comparison that is being made is one of approach. Everyone knows post-war Keynesianism is dead (and everyone also knows it was the conviction approach of Thatcher that killed it). But the approach is similar build up similiarity between the two main parties and convince yourself and others that the big problems will be addressed after an election is won, or start the long, hard work of explaining, in reasonable and moderate tones, what needs to be done. What we have now is the former, whereas most Tories would prefer the latter.

"But (and they don't say this out loud)..."

Ooohhh Labour are "really" egalitarians but ssshhh they don't say this out loud. And "compassionate conservatives" are really Tories and really into reform, really, but sshhh don't frighten the voters.

This is pointless silliness. As Nick Boles reminded everyone the other day, Dave would govern as a compassionate conservative--no commitment to vouchers or tax cuts. Or was it centrist conservative?

Oh oh. Right-Wing Robot blogger is on the rampage again. Raising the standard of debate every time he graces the site with his mechanical presence. Why don't you change your name to...

"I'm an idiot, ignore this post"

Oberon's comments remind me of watching Derek Draper on TV trying to make out that New Labour was the old right-wing Roy Hattersley/Denis Healy wing of the Labour Party. Everyone knows Blair isn't that, not least Hattersley who regularly criticises him for it.

By the same token, the idea that Cameron is secretly Thatcherite and is just toning it down for waves and smiles is nonsense. In both cases this is a myth that it is useful for these leaderships to have their parties believe. But in reality something very different from the internal spin is going on.

You can believe that "sharing the proceeds of growth" is really a radical tax-cutting agenda if you like. Or that New Labour is clever redistributionism and class war but nobody else does.

Dave Carter, thank you for responding to Oberon better than I could have done myself.

Oberon, I would add that one of the reasons why I am loath to label myself a "Conservative" is that I am not sceptical of change per se. It all depends what the change is, how it is presented and how it is implemented. By the same token, I am sufficiently idealistic that I don't want to see a Cameron-led Government if it doesn't make a concerted effort to undo the damage done to society over many decades by the left, aided and abetted by the Tories.

But Michael, if we de-code what you mean by "a concerted effort to undo the damage", you are effectively proposing an idealistic, romantic Tory party that would be unattractive to anyone outside what Peter Kellner of YouGov calls "Tory World", meaning that Britain would have only party capable of forming a government - Labour.

Is that really a desirable outcome? Surely it's better for the electoral health of Britain to have a broad-based party of the centre-right that is electorally competitive?

The Conservative Party in the UK is not in the same position as the Liberal Party in Australia.

You have John Howard who believes in conservative ideas. We have someone who believes in a mixture of conservative and Blairite ideas. If we had someone of John Howard's beliefs, a William Hague, a Liam Fox or even a David Davis, I might agree with your posts.

Dave & Michael - you both make a good case for being more ambitious politically.

It becomes a strategic call then. Do you, either, commit to an ambitious reform agenda now and hope that by the next election people will be willing to vote for the change, or do you place more modest limits on the objectives of the next period in office in order to ensure the floating voter feels comfortable voting Conservative.

I think the latter is a safer bet. The downside, as both of you point out, is that this tactic places limits on the ambition of that administration. The downside to committing to a more ambitious program is that by 2009, the electorate decide they don't want it. After the amount of time we have spent out in the political cold, I prefer the measured approach to be honest.

I suppose the point is whether you see the modest approach as being an end in itself - or do you carry out modest reforms, obtain assent for these, and move onto something more ambitious.

History is not on your side, Oberon. What you describe as the "measured approach" has in practice always meant an ever-leftward drift post-1945 as the Conservative Party collaborated with the left's attempts to build an expensive, statist, authoritarian New Jerusalem. My parents voted Labour during the High Noon of Butskellite/Heathite Toryism.....and I would have done the same because the Tory Party had little or nothing to offer. It was the Party of vested interests and helped Labour vandalise secondary education. Hence I'm not very interested in voting for a Party whose not-so-new message to the voters is "Just get us into office and then we'll see what we can do". I don't even believe that this makes the Tory Party electorally competitive in the medium term. Voters will realise that it simply reduces General Elections to a decision about which crime family should grab the spoils of office.

I always feel a chill or horror, Michael, during this frequent debate, when someone holds up the 1950s Conservatives as a model for us to emulate (not that I'm accusing Oberon of doing so.)

I think the model for us should be Margaret Thatcher's approach in the late seventies. It was cautious in terms of actual policy commitments, yet Thatcher and Joseph were prepared to be ambitious philosophically, and to work with similarly ambitious think tanks and journalists.

I cautiously endorse Sean's thinking here.

It would be foolhardy in the extreme to come out with a series of detailed policy commitments now are at any time other than nearing the next election. By doing so we will only provide Labour latitude to present us as un-reconstructed, un-reformed old Conservatives.

Instead this idea of developing "philosophically" is important. During the leadership election William Rees Mogg wrote an excellent piece where he said that Cameron is right to develop the themes of his leadership and new style party rather than policy positions.

We need to re-assess what it is that motivates us as Conservatives.

"During the leadership election William Rees Mogg wrote an excellent piece where he said that Cameron is right to develop the themes of his leadership and new style party rather than policy positions."

Er, during the leadership election Rees-Mogg said he did not support Cameron because he prefered what he called "a free market modernisation."

Let's not confuse the right approach to policy with the right policies here.

I'll try to dig out the article i'm refering to to clarify my point.

I understand the point you are trying to make, I just wanted to point out that Rees-Mogg did not support Cameron during the leadership election and, like many of us, was not convinced by its specific case for modernisation, as Lord Rees-Mogg put it.

"I like and admire the young team that supports David Cameron, but I have not been convinced by its specific case for modernisation" and "Most Conservatives do support modernisation, but their ideal is a free-market modernisation" are the key quotes.

Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Limited
The Times (London)

September 19, 2005, Monday

SECTION: Features; 24

LENGTH: 996 words

HEADLINE: History is against you, Ken

BYLINE: William Rees-Mogg

His supporters are dwindling and at heart the Conservative Party is...conservative

It is 50 years since Winston Churchill resigned as leader of the Conservative Party. In that period there have been seven contested elections for the leadership. In six of these the candidate of the Centre Right has been chosen by the party, under three different methods of selection -by the "magic circle", by the Members of Parliament and by the whole party membership. The only occasion on which the perceived centre-lft candidate beat the centre Right was in 1965, when Ted Heath beat Reggie Maudling. Even then, Reggie was no Margaret Thatcher, but would now be regarded as a left-wing Conservative.

This is not a mystery. The Conservative Party is a party of conservatives. William Hague, the last but one of the centre-right leaders to be chosen, has recently published an excellent life of the Younger Pitt, who -far more than Disraeli is the archetypal Conservative leader. The issues of Pitt's time as Prime Minister did include modernisation, but they centred on the defence of Britain and the stability of society in a period of rapid change. It was the radical leader, Charles James Fox, who sympathised with the radical dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte, just as many Labour leaders in the 20th century sympathised with the Stalinist radicalism of the Soviet Union.

I expect the Conservatives will again choose a leader from the Centre Right, because that is the point of balance of their party. I do not expect them to choose Ken Clarke; he will have a better chance if the vote stays with the members of the party.

That decision will be taken a week tomorrow.

Ken Clarke is not a radical on home affairs, or even much of a moderniser, but he is a dyed-in-the-wool Europhile, and the great majority of Conservatives are Eurosceptic. They believe in self-government for Great Britain, not Brussels government, and think that European integration has already gone too far. A Europhile leader would simply split the party.

I like and admire the young team that supports David Cameron, but I have not been convinced by its specific case for modernisation. His campaign has not gathered momentum, nor the votes of many MPs. Most Conservatives do support modernisation, but their ideal is a free-market modernisation; that is to be found in the speeches of the centre-right candidates, sometimes in a dynamic form. It is significant that David Willetts, when he decided to give up his own leadership campaign, chose to support David Davis and not David Cameron. Mr Willetts is the leading policy intellectual in the party.

At present, there are four surviving candidates: David Davis, Kenneth Clarke, Liam Fox and David Cameron. If one thinks that a right-of-centre candidate will be chosen, and the odds are 6-1, that leaves David Davis and Liam Fox as the candidates most likely to succeed.

Much will depend on the choice of the method of election. If "one man, one vote" is abolished, the Members of Parliament could decide by early November. David Davis does not have a majority among MPs, but he does have much the largest support. Insiders seem to be convinced that David Davis will win if the vote goes back to Members of Parliament. I expect they are right.

The fascinating question is what might happen if the vote stays with the members of the party. They would be presented with two names, chosen by the MPs. David Davis would presumably come first, but who would the other one be?

It could be Ken Clarke, as most people would assume. However, he does not have strong support among MPs, least of all among the new entry. Many of his old supporters have retired, or lost their seats. It could be David Cameron, but he seems not to be gaining votes among MPs. It could be Liam Fox. At present, the three of them seem to have roughly equal numbers among MPs; no one knows for sure.

In most of the postwar contests, "anyone but him" has played as large a part as positive preferences. MPs clustered around the "stop Rab" or "stop Michael" candidates, and indeed both Rab Butler and Michael Heseltine were well and truly stopped. I now detect no "stop Cameron" or "stop Fox" bandwagons. But there certainly are groups who would like to "stop Davis" or "stop Clarke". I am sure there are some MPs who belong to both factions.

Last week both David Davis and Liam Fox made good speeches about social issues that appeal to the broad church of conservatism. Liam Fox emphasised the social importance of the family. "The signs of a broken society are all around us. In the increase in violent crime. In the growth of family breakdown. In worsening domestic violence. In record rates of abortion. In rising teenage pregnancy rates, increasing numbers of suicides." His speech was well received. Liam Fox's campaign has taken him from fifth or below among the candidates last May, to probably third now.

It will be for the Members of Parliament to decide which of their colleagues should be chosen as the two candidates to go before the full membership, if that method is retained. The assumption has been that this would be a choice of Right v Left; in that case, the right-of-centre candidate would, on the precedents, be favourite to win. In such a contest, I think David Davis would in fact win, particularly against Kenneth Clarke, because a Davis-Clarke contest would inevitably be fought on Europe.

Yet the heart of the Conservative Party, including the parliamentary party, is a little bit right of centre, conservative and Eurosceptic. If, on the first parliamentary ballot, Liam Fox beats David Cameron, he might beat Ken Clarke on the second. In that case, the run-off would be between two moderate but undoubted conservatives, Liam Fox and David Davis: I am not sure who would have greater appeal to the party activists. It would be for them to decide.

Sean, I tend to agree with your point about being cautious in terms of policy committments but ambitious philosphically. Just to note though that, in 1979, the Conservative Party did come to power with a limited number of interesting policies. These were intended to generate support among floating voters and highlight a new approach: council house sales (resisted of course by the Butskellites); abandoning exchange control; and stopping Shirley Williams collectivising the remaining grammar schools (a policy for which I will always be in the debt of the 1979-83 Government).

"Just to note though that, in 1979, the Conservative Party did come to power with a limited number of interesting policies. These were intended to generate support among floating voters and highlight a new approach: council house sales (resisted of course by the Butskellites); abandoning exchange control"

I'm not sure if abolishing exchange controls was in the manifesto, but Thatcher moved pretty swiftly on this after winning. But tax cuts on higher, basic and lower rate income tax certainly were certainly in the manifesto--at a time that public opinion was much further to the left than it is today.

English Tory, I am acutely conscious of the differences between the UK Tories and the Libs here in Australia. I have worked professionally for both (which is how I know the Editor and through him, this website).

Consequently, I'm also conscious of the very different demographic and electoral dynamics and cycles between the UK and Australia.

I'd be wary of boxing John Howard in around "conservative ideas" (which I personally completely support) as the main reason for his success. People trust Howard as someone who can (and does) deliver good outcomes for them and their families. Although Cameron is doing it differently to Howard, and in a much shorter period of time, he is aiming at the same end result - connecting with the electorate, and encouraging the punters to trust him.

Moreover, the Liberal Party never lost its reputation for good economic management, unlike the Conservatives, because the Liberal Party were in Opposition in Australia when interest rates went through the roof. And don't think we remind people of that during every election campaign!

I think the remedial action that Cameron needs to take is fairly different in order to rebuild Tory electoral stocks. And I think he is doing it extremely well.

Well, the jury is of course out on whether Cameron is doing well.....but if the poverty of aspiration underpinning Letwin's interview in today's "Telegraph" is anything to go by, then I may astonish myself by casting a vote for Iron Chancellor in 2009. Anatole Kaletsky has alredy warned Cameron and Letwin that the Tory Party will be in an electoral cul-de-sac if it adopts a strategy of attacking Labour from the left.

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