Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Polly-morphous Politics

I am getting very confused about the British Conservative Party- although not, I suspect as confused as the party members themselves must be.

Apparently the Conservatives should ditch Churchill and listen to Polly Toynbee, according to one of David Cameron's advisors, Greg Clark.

Polly Toynbee is so consistently wrong in her analyses that it is almost comical to think that anybody, still less her political opponents, should take her seriously.

Yet, there is a kind of mad logic in the idea. The Conservative manifesto in the 2005 general election was a collection of policies that were often mutually contradictory. The spending commitments did not match with commitments in taxation or borrowing. Quite literally, the Tory manifesto did not add up. The party did not have the courage to present to the electorate what politicians usually call "tough choices". So perhaps we should not be surprised to find them so "elastic" in their other ideas about policy.

The post-Labour world is going to need a radical shift in the ethos of government- it is going to need crunchy decision making in order to reduce the burden of the state upon the citizen. It is rare that I find myself in agreement with the Daily Telegraph, but the threat to personal privacy from the latest raft of child protection laws put forward by the Blair government is very real. It goes to the heart of the problem with the current administration. Yet, where are the Conservatives?

The fact is that the Tories have bought into the ideology of Blairism so much, that they can no longer oppose this bloated, illiberal government with its ill thought out, inconsistent and incontinent legislation. All the Conservatives offer as an alternative is that "it is our turn at the cookie jar". I have no idea whether the Tories really want to listen to Polly Toynbee or not, but I do know that they want us to think that they listen to her. They want to seem unthreatening- the problem is that they have thrown the baby out with the bath water.

They have lost their key, anchor principles.

The intellectual fire has now long gone from the Conservatives. They have lost the intellectual coherence that gave Thatcherism its real impetus. The mind behind the last manifesto - David Cameron- truly would, in the words of Lord Saatchi, "say anything to get elected". It is sloppy and dishonest politics- and it is no wonder that the creeping disillusion with British politics has become pervasive.

David Cameron is not a "Liberal Conservative", because Liberalism has core values and principles. It is hard to avoid the question: does David Cameron have any principles that he would not trade?

The fact that the MP who wants to give Polly Toynbee a Tory platform, Greg Clark, is the member for the famously arch-Conservative seat of Tunbridge Wells is just another irony.

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