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Does ConservativeHome often organise behind the scenes visits like this?

Don't forget that State governments are far more powerful than English councils and effectively control benefits and support for the disabled, elderly, etc - so even if a McCain government tries to address social justice, it won't be easy.

CamOsb will run with this domestically but run away from it internationally. They only care about votes so helping Africans and Iraqis doesn't come into the equation Im afraid.

As David Cameron pointed out after his visit to Rwanda, the key is to make impoverished nations improve their own standard of living and end their dependency on the west. To do this the west should provide free-training in agriculture and business skills to peoples of the developing world. Once the are armed with an education and the skills needed to build their own social infrastructure they will be in a better position to solve their own problems. Often charity, and the good that it does, creates a dependency and brings no closure to the problem. What Africa and other areas of poverty around the world need is knowledge, the knowledge of how to solve the problems they face.

Not often Sammy. This week was a joint effort with the Centre for Social Justice and it went very well. It was great that nearly all the most senior Tories found time to meet Mike Gerson - Sam Coates attended all the meetings - and we held a dinner in Mike's honour on Tuesday night with journalists, think tank leaders and MPs.

As Tony says at 09.55:

"Often charity, and the good that it does, creates a dependency and brings no closure to the problem. What Africa and other areas of poverty around the world need is knowledge, the knowledge of how to solve the problems they face".

It is analagous to work and benefits in this country and I find it absolutely abhorrent that Brown has created such a culture of dependency (in my view he is buying votes with taxpayers' money). Here low earners should not have to depend on benefit if they are earning enough to pay tax but not enough on which to live.

In Africa, I would like to see not only knowledge passed on, as Tony suggests, but also major engineering projects undertaken by the West (like desalination plants) that can be left for the benefit of the local people to use, not only to feed themselves but also possibly to stimulate the economy.

I don't know if the lack of comments on this means that nobody has anything to add (good!) or if nobodys interested in this kind of agenda (bad!).

David Belchamber, what you say is very true. The tax-credits system was designed with one objective in mind, to trap working people into the dependency culture and to make them more inclined to support the government that is topping up their wage. As you correctly say the only way we will ever end welfare dependency is through work that is self-supporting. The fact that people can claim more money out of the state while working than if they were unemployed just goes to show how skewed Labour's tax-credit system is. Being in work ought to mean being able to live independently of the state, but under Labour being in work now often means being beholden to the state. I'd like to see George Osborne abolish the tax-credits system and replace it with one that encourages work but at the same time does not trap working people into welfare dependency. People will never be free of poverty while they are forced to take hand-outs from the state.

Why highlight the views of one of the architects of a universally acknowledged failed Administration? The Bush Administration failed in the implementation of policy and politically. It has left the American conservative movement in shambles.

The most productive lesson the Tories can learn from Gerson is not to follow his failed lead.

I don't really see that John McCain has much to learn regarding social agenda, he has a well developed one of his own and will not want the liberal domestic policies of the 3 main UK poitical parties which anyway could not be stomached by US voters.

AHR, I suggest you read the book and then decide on the specifics of what we should and shouldn't learn from the administration. Gerson talks openly about the the things that worked and the things that didn't.

I don't see from this list of comments much chance of the Tories seriously moving the debate. I don't see commenters here adopting a clear enough stand. I'm stunned that the Tories have not given closer scrutiny to the HFE bill. I'm disappointed that they were not able to fight more effectively against Gordon Brown's sneaky elimination of the 10 percent income tax band.

At the same time, the moaning about dependency culture carries echoes of the 1970s and 1980s, yet what did it accomplish? Not much, if you measure government by share of GDP or welfare dependency. Better to acknowledge that earned income tax credits DO incentivise work, and that earned income credits (especially as part of a highly progressive/strongly graduated income tax) are the single most likely thing there is move people off of welfare. If the Tories want to be really adventurous, maybe after making inheritance tax progressive/graduated rather than the current flat rate monstrosity they should propose enlarging standard income tax exemptions rather than cutting the top rate -- a larger standard exemption is a tax cut for everyone who works and a good many who are retired.

If you leave more money into the hands of everyone, rather than a handing out lot for just a few at the top, lower to middle income people are much more able to afford the full cost of public services, thereby reducing demand for the government to subsidise them. And isn't getting rid of subsidies kind of integral to personal choice? I would think so.

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