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"So you're a Conservative really..aren't you?

From Time to time recently I have been invited onto Iain Dale's show on the Conservative blogging TV channel 18 Doughty St. Even though the show is late, I have usually come from work, so I am in my business suit, and yes, I am dressed like an investment banker- well guilty as charged.

I think that this may have lulled my Conservative hosts into believing that I am "really" a Conservative.

However I joined the old Liberal Party as a teenager, and I have maintained my belief in Liberalism as an ideological approach to politics all my adult life.

Cameron's version of the Conservative Party seems to comprise a lot of nice public school chaps who are very keen on helping the disadvantaged- "those less fortunate than ourselves". These "Compassionate Conservatives" drip with concern for their fellow citizens. Last night one of the panel was exactly such an example of a "Compassionate Conservative"- he works in the voluntary sector in the inner cities, but is looking for a seat to fight for the Conservatives.

However as we discussed things, it did show that Cameron has changed the Tories- unfortunately he has changed them into Socialists! I have not heard such a confused attack on the values of the free market since Derek Hatton left politics. While I saw Iain Dale wincing a bit, I was more and more astonished, and Iain is far less the face of the modern Conservatives than these public school chaps. (I use the word "modern" in its broadest sense of course.)

I also see the problem for the "compassionates"- and the clue is in the name. They "want to help" "the unfortunate", but they do not understand them- they are old fashioned paternalists- "we can solve your problems".

I have no such ambition. I want people to have enough freedom and control over their own lives that they can solve their problems themselves. These dripping wet Tories are going to be big staters- "we must do something about...[insert the blank]"- and will continue the damaging centralisation of Blair and Major alike.

When I suggest that a more open political system might help, the Tories try to sound like Liberal Democrats: but the acid test is real political reform, and the Tories don't get it.

The Conservatives do not want to change the system, they only want to control it.

I and my party are a bit like the peasants with the pitchforks- We want to break Whitehall's overbearing centralized control, and unlike the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats have definite and specific policies about how to start this process.

As for the Tories: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions", and as the intellectual failings of Cameron's circle of friends and their half baked ideas becomes more apparent, then I think we might see plenty of Conservatives deciding that they are "really" Liberal.


Tom Papworth said…
The urge to meddle is the unifying feature of Conservatism and Socialism (Ah, that Hayekian triangle again!).

Party politics aside, I think I will vote for any politician who, when faced with an apparent crisis or some social problem, has the courage to say "It is absolutely urgent that nothing be done about this!"
Anonymous said…
You what how are you and Simon Hughes in the same party then Consul. Once again you take a small sample and conflate it into something bigger. I still await your response on the Political shifts thread.

Cicero said…
Alan Duncan and Edward Leigh? Come on, all parties are coalitions to some degree, and when I talk to Simon, we actually agree on fundamental principles, the issue is how best to get there. More and more Liberal Democrats are taking the name of our party as the starting point- and Simon has moved a long way from Christian Socialism.
Cicero said…
Tom- I absolutely agree with you!
Iain Dale said…
James, from our discussion last night I agree with all you said, although you have slightly ramped it up here! You and I are Gladstonian Liberals in some ways with an inate belief in the small State. Your Party has veered away from this massively. I hate paternalism too. The attitude "I know best what benefits 'the little people' is something we should have nothing to do with. I disgaree with you about the Cameroons. I do not interpret their social justice agenda in that way.
Cicero said…
Hi Iain, I think there is a discussion that we could have on the political bona fides of each party vis-a-vis Liberalism. Certainly, my quarrel with the Conservatives is that the privatisation of monopolies and the extraordinary centralisation under the last government- not to mention such nastiness as section 28- makes me pretty sceptical about the Tories as any kind of liberals.

Although the "And Conservatives"- (we believe in wealth creation AND social justice etc. etc.) rely on a rhetorical trick, I think that it does reflect an intellectual disconnect that, while it might be successful in the electoral short term would fail in government.

So, when we see the comments supporting Polly Toynbee's world view it as hard not to call the "Compassionates" as anything except paternalists. Clearly the issue will be finessed by some actual polices which we can deconstruct and parse, but I think scepticsm should be the order of the day, unless we get clarity.

Turning to the Liberal Democrats I naturally do not accept that the party "massively" turned away from Liberalism. All along the badge of office of the Party President has been an original copy of J S Mill's "On Liberty".

We all share a belief that the freedom of the individual requires that the state needs to be open, including full freedom of information, accountability for decision making and reforms that include a voting system to delivers what people actually vote for. (and lest we be accused of opportunism, fair votes has been part of the Liberal World view for nearly 100 years).

We also all share a belief in fair dealing in international affairs- ultimately derived from Grotius and Kant- including supporting the international organizations, like the UN, that we helped to create by treaty.

We are also anti bureaucratic and pro consumer- I often think that the creation of Which? magazine was one of the catalysts for the rebirth of Liberalism in this country.

We do have disputes, especially on the role of the state in education and health- what party does not?- however the gap between so-called Social Liberals and so-called Classical Liberals is much less than others seem to think. Simon Hughes often expresses himself in precisely the language of Liberalism that I approve of, even if I disagree sometimes with his policy conclusions.
Anonymous said…
Cicero. I fear the Bishop of Bermondsey has not moved as far as you think. Why do you think CCHQ was praying for his unlikely success.

Two other things have you seen the Council road signs in Polish story.

Third. Can we see your thoughts on the Mike Smithson Hung parliament piece. Given your recent "Matt Drudge" like attack dog pieces pieces on DC it will be interesting to hear your thoughts.

Cicero said…
Lepidus, if you think that my pretty mild comments ammount to a "Matt Drudge" attack on Cameron, you should wait until the story really gets going!

As far as the hung Parliament story is concerned- if I liked either of the other Parties ideas, I would vote for them! I have good debates with Conservatives and while I disagree with their positions, I generally respect them as individuals.

Councils provide services in many languages- Nie wiem dlaczego to bedzie problem po Polsku.
Cicero said…
OK Lepidus, I now see that it was Roadsigns that were in Polish, directing local Poles around some roadworks in Cheshire.

The Daily Express may think that this is "Britain going to the dogs"- that's offensive and beneath contempt. No one says that the Country is going to the dogs because there are signs in Kent in French, Dutch, German, Spanish and English reminding people to Drive on the Left.
Tristan said…
I think it was Friedman who I read saying that Socialism owes a lot to the Tory Radicals, the paternalism and belief that they know what's best for people. Cameron seems to be rediscovering that paternalist, almost feudal strain of Conservatism.

I certainly feel little natural leaning towards the Conservatives in the way I do towards the Liberal Democrats. I don't share many LibDem's fear and hatred of the Tories and there are some Tories I admire and respect, but they are not a liberal party and they never have been...
I have more in common with Simon Hughes than most Tories despite disagreeing with many of the conclusions he comes to.
Anonymous said…
Cicero, I hasten to add I saw the story online not in the Daily Express. Please do not ascribe their editorial view automatically to me. I have no problem with it. I view the Polish influx as a big bonus for this Country in the long term. Was drawing attention to it, because I think it s a straw in the wind and you have to be honest about the effect they are having.

Nice try on the Hung Parliament story. No one says you will vote for the others. What you thought on the merits of the hypothetical story was sufficient. Matt Parris had an interesting piece on the same subject.

Re Drudge hmm. Shall we send questionnaires round Lib Dem HQ. Any case 85% of your fellow citizens back DC's stance. Having attacked him for lack of substance, you now switch to the personal. Slight contradiction n'est pas.

Cicero said…
Well, touche Lepidus- 85% (and I am one) do not care about Cameron and cannabis. So far as I know no one talks about Class A- and I suspect that you might get a rather different response- as you would from me. Class A is a problem, and as I have written elsewhere he can not just say "it is a private matter".

I am not ascribing the Express view to you- you have repeatedly said that you view the CEE influx as a net positive and I respect that.

As far as the Hung Parliament is concerned, I would support a government that puts most Liberal principles into action. I am agnostic about the brand of our possible partners, but determined to get the right principles and policies into action.
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