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"I'm naturally sceptical of embracing anyone's theory or ideology"

This is why I believe David Cameron could be the most pragmatic prime minister ever. He simply refuses to be boxed in by a set of ideas and is constantly looking to think outside of the box.

Thatcherism was an idea for an age, an age that has long since past. We are now in the post-ideological age, the era of centre ground consensus. A new period when what can be achieved is more important than what we would like to achieve. In other words an age of realism, bring it on!

Tony I agree with you. Lady Thatcher was a truly great Prime Minister - and in fact the reason why I joined the Conservative Party all those years ago! We are, however, talking about twenty to thirty years ago and times have changed a great deal. This is Conservatism for a New Age.

Progressive was a term adopted by our friends on the Left to mask the abject failure of socialism to present a viable alternative to capitalism. Now, with capitalism somewhat less than triumphant, we would seem to be shoe-horning this catch-all term into a perverse and somewhat ill-judged variant of Conservatism.

"As a Conservative, I'm naturally sceptical of embracing anyone's theory or ideology,'

And yet the inherent contradiction is that he is in fact embracing the witterings of a self-appointed intelligensia rather than the sceptical and pragmatic tradition of Conservatism. Blond ambition and hyperthetical Utopia absurdly proposed in the dystopia of the global malaise.

Get thee to Lincolnshire David. See the reality. Not just the grey prison hulks of exploitation but the real consequences of mass immigration and the 'theory' of the EU writ large.

And do stop using 'responsibility' as a euphemism for blame.


An Unreconstructed Thatcherite

Well lets be painfully Honest Thatcher monetarists policies made the 1981 recession worse and she was the Nation's most unpopular peace time PM for quite a few months. Once she embraced Reaganomics things started to improve, and lets be honest she did a "good" Job. Later and against many peoples advice she became stubborn about the Poll Tax which ended her, excellent run of luck. There were many good things about the Maggot, most especially her British spunk attitude. Sadly we cannot go to war with the argys or be rescued by North Sea Gas. We will need even more intelligent governance if we are to survive as a sovereign nation.
I agree with Dave that she was great but there is no going back to some of her more divisive policies. For all of her greatness she was not a ONE NATION Tory and was far to willing to sacrifice many for the good of the blessed. I think Dave has the potential to be greater than Thatcher and we always have Boris in the wings should he falter.


Too hyper.

He really is a chameleon. Sorry, but he is.

"Thatcher monetarists policies made the 1981 recession worse"

This shows the danger of ideology, which I believe to be the greatest problem in politics. Ideology has not only brought us totalitarianism but has also created the left and right wing extremes in democratic politics. We need a new age of pragmatism and the modern Conservative party can provide that. Ideology belongs to the 20th century, let's leave it there to rot.

Mr Cameron is a PR man through and through. He is belief- and policy-lite.

The fact is, he has no choice with this policy. Socialism is an idiots dream, and unrestrained irresponsible capitalism without a social conscience will rive the world to pieces. The days of politicians selling our souls to corporations are clearly over.

Progressive Conservatism must listen to people, see the underclass, take politically and social responsibility to develop one nation, and put people at the forefront of capitalism. Else the aim is lost completely, division is caused in society and if left unchanged will eventually result in revolution.

If he has any sense, he will also see that Brown's global economy only has him in it, with us sharing the proceeds of our growth to the world instead of to this nation and its people. Classic example is the debacle over British oil workers not being considered for British jobs and being told to get on your bike, traipse around La-La Land looking for work on 60 quid a week Job Seekers allowance, whilst the firm up the road employs foreign workers and ignores our own workers skills.

If that's the kind of Britain Cameron wants then he'd best say it because people want to hear what his policies of responsibility mean, and whether they also apply to their government. If they don't then he can forget it.

David Cameron's utterances about Thatcherism over the last few years have not always been unconditionally positive.

Oh my God, how can that be? I mean she was PERFECT, second coming and all that....

Considering the number of posts on here over the last couple of days which are supportive of illegal industrial action and which express opposition to the free movement of labour across the EU, it seems a significant part of the Conservative Party is distancing itself from Thatcherism.

It appears that many are happy to throw overboard two of the basic building blocks of Thatcherism: her labour market legislation and her enthusiasm for the pro-enterprise aspects of the EU.

"have not always been unconditionally positive."

As Thatcherism wasn't unconditionally positive, that's a sensible approach.

This is a bit storm in a teacup to me. It honestly seems as if you want to believe this, & want others to believe it, rather than it actually being true or anything.

What Cameron is saying is that Thatcherism was hardly pretty, but it was a reaction to the horrors of the 70s, caused by that postwar socialism which he has never supported.

In this day & age, however, a new approach is required. This isn't 1979, & he's got it right. He wants essentially to improve on the 80s system, not replace it.

Though having said that, I'm not a conservative & am probably a fair bit more left-wing than most who comment here...

Key word is "Responsibility".

Thatcher made workers "responsible" for the choices they made, choices to go on strike, choices to vote for idiots like Arthur Scargill, etc etc. When they were faced with the responsibility of those choices, namely unemployment because the state would no longer bail out businesses they bankrupted with their unreasonable demands, they stopped making bad choices.

That single act had perhaps the largest impact on the "British disease" of anything done between 1979 and 1997.

Cameron is not backtracking from this. If anything, he is going much further than Thatcher dared go in other areas like education and welfare. I hope he will stick with it when the shock hits some people and they find themselves needing to think and act for themselves. If he does, he could be as transformational as Thatcher.

The very best time to do this is when times are tough. People will accept the need for radical change much more readily than they will in good times. But he will have at best six years to enact the necessary legislation before the tide turns.

"I think Dave has the potential to be greater than Thatcher": in these less than happy times one needs a laugh and that comment certainly made me chuckle. Are those pigs flying past the window?

We shouldn't be afraid of progressive ideas and I think the great irony was that sometimes lady Thatcher was more progressive than the left. Perhaps thats why deep down they hated her and ironically why some in the Conservatives hated her (but thats another story). Most Conservatives have long since moved on from the raw definition of "conservative" that the party name implies. This is good. I think we also have to face upto something else. This is that while capitalist democracies are the least worst model of Govt and thus the best approach we can adopt. There are provisos though. Ultimately over time markets do work well in creating wealth for most people and acting as a balancing mechanism. They encourage innovation, efficiency and improving standards, technologies and ideas - something the state simply cannot ever do. Witness socialism tested to destruction all over the world and by the way the lousy environmental standards that flowed from it. However markets go through medium term periods that tend to monopolisation where companies come together to the point that they become less responsive and then failures occur. That is why good Conservatives have always recognised the importance of rules and laws that try to keep fair competition and ensure a free market can operate and that markets don't end up being like the state. The rules should be less about intervening in a company but more about intervening overall so that companies and companies to be, have a level playing field and enterprise is encouraged. This can ensure the market works well but I don't think it can avoid cycles of recession because of the intrinsic nature of renewal although it can and should make those recessions less severe. The recession we are going into now is looking severe and it has not been helped by meddling in companies, high taxes, high debt and a failure to ensure the proper operation of a fair and free market.

"As a Conservative, I'm naturally sceptical of embracing anyone's theory or ideology, although I agree that Keynes had many good ideas, in particular his emphasis on the dangers of the contraction of credit"

Contraction of credit wouldn't occur it hadn't been recklessly expanded in the first space. Contraction of credit is unfortunately necessary to wipe out the malinvestments caused during the boom.

"and unrestrained irresponsible capitalism without a social conscience will rive the world to pieces"

Strange you say that when the age of near-unbridled capitalism (the 19th century) was also the age of charitable schools and hospitals, mutual societies etc. Indeed, many banks and law firms give significant time and money to pro bono schemes.

"He simply refuses to be boxed in by a set of ideas and is constantly looking to think outside of the box. "

Unfortunately thinking outside the box won't defeat the laws of economics.
Keynes thought outside the box and his theories came crashing down in the 1970s. Similarly, the theories of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School have now been found wanting (and have given free market economics a bad name). Incidently if Cameron is thinking outside the box he might want to investigate the hardcore free-market Austrian School of economics who predicted the crash for years based on their theory of the business cycle and who haven't been taken in by Keynesian fallacies or the flawed semi-free market orthodoxy of the Chicago School.


You got it in one. It was precisely because Maggie had the courage to challenge the wish washy lefty patronising post-war social and political settlement that the left and a fair few spineless Conservatives disliked her. She challenged and threatened a status quo which favoured the few over the many.

Cameron is smart not to allow himself to be strongly associated/labelled with any politicians in the past.

However I must digress: after watching prime ministers question time, on Sky I think,listening to Cameron again trying to force Gordon Brown to admit that he was wrong to say there is no boom and bust was tedious, boring and counterproductive.

Brown's tactic of saying at the end of answering each question ' the conservatives policy is to do nothing' was much more effective, and I suspect took root in people's minds.

So Mr Cameron please learn from this, your approach was hectoring and boring and I have to say it did come across as 'student politics'

So Cameron admits that he is, in effect, a Keynesian sympathiser. No thanks!!!

If you want to hear about the real moral basis for capitalism, go and hear Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute speak at the Adam Smith Institute on 10th February.

It is time to shrug and withdraw our sanction from Cameron's socialism.

I have never understood this obsession with Mrs T.

Why does this column keep going about a PM who was last in office in 1991?

It really is time to move on to the present day ie 2009.

Bill, I did say potential ! Isn't that what politics is about, the art of spin is not dead.

I'll grant Cameron one thing: if he becomes PM he will have as big a challenge an incoming PM has had since Maggie in 1979.

Ms. May dismissed claims that the Conservatives would move back to Thatcherism and let manufacturing jobs go to the wall.

Has the cock crowed yet?

RichardJ "thinking outside the box won't defeat the laws of economics"

Spoken like a true dialectical materialist!

Is the ideological inflexibility of the free-marketeers any different from those of the Marxist?

Given recent events, all ideas about the market being a self-regulating, self-governing and self-balancing force are now exposed as nonsense.

I'm sorry to have to say that as someone who believes that the very notion of liberty is tied up with that of private ownership, a smaller state and division of the means of production. However its now clear that too much market can create as many demons as too much state. We need to get the balance right.


I am just as angry about the bust as the next man. And having worked in the City I am as disconcerted as the next man at its excesses. But I think it a bit unfair to apportion blame on the market, whatever that means. But politicians, whether they are in the US, UK, China or EU, have the ultimate reponsibilty for the monetary and trade structures which have gut us where we are today. Not the market.

Is this what passes for someone distancing themselves from Thatcherism? To suggest that simply dusting off the 1979 manifesto isn't a great answer to the problems we face in 2009?

If it is, then I welcome it. What's your objection?

"Is the ideological inflexibility of the free-marketeers any different from those of the Marxist?"

Yes, Marxism was wrong and based on some strange notion that history was governed by some sort of ethereal force known as class conflict that would eventually result in the victory of communism (although Marx never actually explained how this final society would work). Free market economics is based on theory and and logic e.g. if you increase minimum wages above a certain level companies will have to start sacking people, if you rapidly increase the money supply you will end up with inflation etc. Furthermore the free-marketeers don't believe that there will be an inevitable victory for free markets.

"Given recent events, all ideas about the market being a self-regulating, self-governing and self-balancing force are now exposed as nonsense."

Recent events were not a result of free markets but institutions with state privileges (the Bank of England and the Fed) holding interest rates too low and creating a credit boom. In a pure free market with a gold standard, 100% reserves and no central bank there wouldn't be a room bust cycle.

Furthermore my support for free markets isn't just based on ideology but on morality - I value liberty very highly and do not like to see the government restricting it through taxation and regulation. The government's job is to maintain internal and external order through the police, army, courts and immigration control. Alas the influence of socialist Fabianism has resulted ina state that consumes 40% of our wealth and tries to do too much.

In Tory party terms, he's going for a Balwin/Macmillan approach instead of a Salisbury/Thatcher. Presumably, he thinks the times not ripe for the sort of uncompromising confrontation with the left the last two represent. Equally, he must believe the current situation to be essentially sustainable, with a few tweaks here and adjustments there. This involves some sympathy for the left and some willingness to leave its "contributions" in place - Scots Assembly, London mayor, "academies" et al. Hmm. Provided he refrains from using any foul socialist jargon I can just bring myself to buy into it. Moreover, I hope that the cumulative effect of his tweaks will be to shift the country ever so gradually to the right again, in a number of moderate shuffles - all carried out with a broad, patrician, patronage dispensing smile.

Let's hope it works.

Thatcher herself believes in responsibility. Enterprise AND responsibility go hand in hand in her philosophy. Of course not all the people around her were so principled and the Poll Tax gave a political opportunity to her lefty enemies, (whereas an even larger number of people quite liked it.)

Neither Socialism nor Capitalism will ever work. Neither can be implemented in full because they are both flawed. Socialism trends to totalitarianism and Capitalism trends to oligarchism.

In any event the UK has never been a Capitalist society. What the UK had - can still have - does not rely on an -ism. The closest I can get to a description of the basic philsophy of the way we organise ourselves is as an 'Anglo Saxon Libertarian Democratic Judeo Christian Free Market Economy all operating under the rule of English Common Law with compassion, thrift and resposibilty.'

This is not something that we can make, like a sandwich. It just is. What it needs to function properly are for the goverment and state to discharge a few basic responsibilities (sic) these include, sound money, a stable currency, rule of law, low (as in very low) and fair taxes, secure rights of property, acting as umpire not player, and lastly to be as small as possible.

The current difficulties we are experiencing arise from government irresponsibility, not our irresponsibility. If Cameron gets this, and can get the electorate behind him and implement policies that restore government responsibility and get the State out of our lives in the process, then we have a chance of providing a place where we can all thrive and prosper.

When David Cameron has won three consecutive general elections (as I am sure he will) he will be entitled to criticise Lady Thatcher as much as he likes.

Of course we must move on from Thatcherism BUT that does not mean we have to jettison principles on which Thatcherism was founded. Yesterday I quoted her (in)famous comment made in 1987 "There is no such thing as society", together with the all-important context which opponents wish to forget:

"I think we've been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it's the government's job to cope with it. 'I have a problem, I'll get a grant'. 'I'm homeless, the government must house me.'
They're casting their problem on society.

And, you know, there is no such thing as society. THERE ARE INDIVDUAL MEN AND WOMEN, AND THERE ARE FAMILIES (my caps).

And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There is no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation".

Yes, we must move on but a conservative government would do well to embody the above underlying principle into fresh policies.

She gave Britain the Single European Act, the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Exchange Rate Mechanism. She gave Britain the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, and the replacement of O-levels with GCSEs. And she gave Britain the destruction of patriarchal authority within working-class families and communities through the destruction of that authority’s economic basis in the stockades of working-class male employment.

The middle classes were transformed from people like her father into people like her son. She told us that “there is no such thing as society”, in which case there cannot be any such thing as the society that is the family, or the society that is the nation. All in all, she turned Britain into the country that Marxists had always said it was, even though, before her, it never actually had been.

Specifically, she sold off national assets at obscenely undervalued prices, while subjecting the rest of the public sector (fully forty per cent of the economy) to an unprecedented level of central government dirigisme. She presided over the rise of Political Correctness, so much of a piece with the massively increased welfare dependency, and the general moral chaos, of the 1980s.

Hers was the war against the unions, which cannot have had anything to do with monetarism, since the unions have never controlled the money supply. And hers were the continuing public subsidies to fee-paying schools, to agriculture, to nuclear power, and to mortgage-holders. Without those public subsidies, the fourth would hardly have existed, and the other three (then as now) would not have existed at all. So much for “You can’t buck the market”. You can now, as you could then, and as she did then.

The issue is not whether fee-paying schools, agriculture, nuclear power or mortgage-holding is a good or a bad thing in itself. The issue is whether “Thatcherism” was compatible with their continuation by means of “market-bucking” public subsidies. It simply was not, as it simply is not.

Hers was the ludicrous pretence to have brought down the Soviet Union merely because she happened to be in office when that Union happened to collapse, as it would have done anyway, in accordance with the predictions of (among other people) Enoch Powell.

But she did make a difference internationally where it was possible to do so, by providing aid and succour to Pinochet’s Chile and to apartheid South Africa. I condemn the former as I condemn Fidel Castro, and I condemn the latter as I condemn Robert Mugabe. No doubt you do, too. But she did not then, and she does not now.

Speaking of Mugabe, it was she who refused to recognise the Muzorewa-Smith Government, instead holding out for the Soviet-backed Joshua Nkoma as if he would have been any better than the Chinese-backed Mugabe. It was also she who took away the British passports of the people of most of the British Overseas Territories (all of which remain so entirely by choice), she who supported the American invasion of Her Majesty’s Realm of Grenada, and she who sewed the seeds of the present problems of the Gurkhas.

And it was she who issued what amounted to the open invitation to Argentina to invade the Falkland Islands, followed by the (starved) Royal Navy’s having to behave as if the hopelessly out-of-her-depth Prime Minister did not exist, a sort of coup without which those Islands would be Argentine to this day.

Get over her!

What a pathetic re-writing of history by David Lindsay.

D Linsay - "Specifically, she sold off national assets at obscenely undervalued prices," You are so nearly right. Since we already owned them, why did we have to pay to get them back?

The increase in government spending after 1979 (partly to pay for "public sector" pay increases agreed to by the out going Labour government) did indeed "make the recession worse".

As for "monetarism", if this word means anything it means the control of the money supply - and that control was rather slack after 1979 (and there was also the vast increase in the money supply in panic response to the 1987 stock market crash - an increase that led to another boom/bust).

However, increasing government spending and a slack control of the money supply is unlikely to be what certain people above mean. Even at the time I found many people living in a dream world where there had been "cuts" in government spending, and where there had even been "cuts" in the money supply.

On principles (and we are talking about principles - not tactics for putting such so called "dogmas" into practice) in being for a certain time or place - I could quote some of Edmund Burke's words attacking such a position, but I will not bother. Let people look them up for themselves.

As for "responsibility" and having a "moral framework" Mrs Thatcher believed in those things very strongly (I feel bound to write about, now, Lady Thatcher in the past tense as it is so many years since I have spoken with her), both in politics and in business.

Let the Conservative party set an example in showing "responsbility" and having a "moral framework".

Let us show our support for civil liberties by returning David Davis to the Shadow Cabinet (a person who has long shown himself to be pragmatic concerning tactics, but honourable concerning principles), and if we are serious about opposing the idea of all power to the E.U. let us remove "Ken" Clarke from the Shadow Cabinet - for in recent years he has "come out" as a servant of the E.U. rather more than he did in the 1980's.

Sadly not needless to say.....

Mrs Thatcher did condemn apartheid - many times.

What Mrs T. did not support was economic sanctions - and neither did Helen Suzman.

It is easy to attack someone who can not reply (due to illness), but not all of us who were about at the time are too ill to reply.

For example, on Rhodesia Mrs T. wanted to recognise the internal settlement - but the F.O. (and the combined weight of the establishment) insisted that there be another election, and an election under British administration (i.e. where the terrorists would be allowed to make people vote for them).

Had Mrs T. come out in support of the Bishop she would have been attacked by all the establishment types (including those in the Conservative party - and they dominated the Cabinet in 1979) as supporting a "puppet of Ian Smith".

On things like the Single European Act (and so on) I agree with you - although you seem to have no conception of the position Mrs T. was in (how isolated she was,even within the higher ranks of the Conservative party) - the idea that the lady "gave" the country this bad things out of some sort of wish of her own is bunk.

As for society - CIVIL society is the complex web of relationships between human beings (as a reader of Hayek and Oakeshott Mrs T. understood that rather well) it is not a thing. Not some sort of enity that can give people stuff.

On giving an invitation to Argentinia to invade the Falklands - no Mrs T. did not. Even Carrington (however much I disliked the man) did not do that.


Actually Mrs Thatcher did not support the American invasion - she was not even told more than a few hours in advance (President Reagan, quite correctly, believed that the British government was full of leaks).

As for Grenada being under the control of Her Majesty the Queen.

You are deluded Mr David Lindsay.

Grenada was under the control of a group of Marxist thugs (who had even killed some of their own kind, including the previous leader of the gang and his pregnant girlfriend), if the Queen had visited the place they would have killed her as well (or held her captive).

On your reference to Enoch.

I admired Enoch Powell perhaps more than any other man I ever met (those are words that could get me into trouble - although it hardly matters now), but he had terrible blind spots, and the Soviet Union was one of them.

There was nothing inevitable about the collapse of the Soviet Union (although in the very long term it might well have collapsed by capital consumption it was not even near that point in 1989) - it might still be with us as such places a Cuba and North Korea are.

I lot of good men and women lived and died to make sure the Soviet Union was defeated Mr Lindsay.

David Cameron should go join the Labour Party where his wishy-washy policies would be welcomed. This party is going to continue to lose vote share to the British National Party until it returns to the leadership of a true statesperson like Thatcher.

There is a range of views here, as one would expect on such a controversial topic, but I find the majority of comments encouraging - it would seem that most conservatives are, at long last, starting to understand that pragmatic, sceptical, non-ideological conservatism offers a coherent and attractive alternative to the ideology of extreme free market fundamentalism that has held the Party in its grip for the past 30 years. Since that ideology has been utterly, fatally discredited by the bursting of the greatest credit bubble in world history, this shift in thinking is long overdue.

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