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.