Monday, April 30, 2007

Policy free politics

David Cameron tries to reassure conservatives that he and Blair are different - and that Cameron is a conservative - with a comment piece in today's Telegraph. Cameron is actually responding to Blair's response to Cameron's recent rambling about "incivility".

Responding to my speech last week on the growing incivility of our society, the Prime Minister argued that I am making the same mistake that he once made. He used to think, he tells us, that incivility and crime were problems arising from, and affecting, "society as a whole". Tackling them would therefore require "investment in poorer areas and regeneration".

Does that mean Blair has changed his mind? It certainly isn't apparent if that is the case, but, leaving that aside, Cameron then says ...

In his Daily Telegraph article, Mr Blair writes that he "regarded this as an issue about the nature of society as a whole, curable by Sure Start and the New Deal on jobs, better and improved schooling and so on".

In this one sentence, the Prime Minister captures perfectly the fundamental philosophical difference between us. He believes that state initiatives and taxpayers' cash can ''cure'' the "nature of society". Anyone who still believes either that Mr Blair is a ''closet Tory'', or that I am anything other than a Conservative, should stick that quotation on their fridge door.

Well, I've never believed that Blair was a closet Tory - a closet Liberal Democrat, maybe - but not a conservative. I don't believe Cameron is a conservative either. He is a liberal with socialist tendencies, a social liberal - a progressive liberal. I'm still sticking the quotation on my fridge door. Cameron goes on - as he tends to do - thus.

Only a Labour politician would think that you can pump billions of pounds into public services and expect crime to fall and social wellbeing to rise in direct consequence.

So why are you proposing to do the same? Sorry, Dave, but this is an important point. If there is no benefit to society from pouring untold billions of taxpayers money into "public services" then why the hell aren't you proposing massive tax cuts? You've effectively told us that it is a waste of money, but you are proposing to continue along exactly the same spending programme as Blair!

Labour's intentions may have been good, but its approach failed because its only instruments were taxpayers' money and mechanical central control.

Even I don't believe that the Labour party's intentions were bad - misguided, unprincipled, untested, unimaginative, unaffordable, unsustainable, blinkered, stupid, ignorant, bigoted, vindictive and many other things - but not bad. Cameron's answer to the "instruments" of taxpayers money and mechanical central control?

The fact is that British society in general needs a different approach to Labour's. Not more control. Not more money. But more responsibility.

We cannot address social problems merely with state solutions. Government has a role to play in setting the framework of law and incentives that encourage the right behaviour. But the best thing that the state can do is to help build the independent institutions of a responsible society - strong families and strong communities.

Er - OK, Dave. And that means what exactly?

Reforming the benefits system; recognising marriage in the tax system; freeing police from central bureaucracy; long-term contracts for voluntary and social enterprises.

That sounds a lot like "mechanical central control" to me, but Dave being the big greenie that he is, probably prefers to think of it as "organic central control". And things like "long-term contracts" and "social enterprises" sound an awful lot like they're going to be funded with taxpayers money. Wow, Dave - you really are so different from Tony. I've really had my eyes opened and will be rushing off to my local Conservative party branch just as soon as I've stopped laughing.

All, I'm hearing is exactly the same garbage and rhetoric that Blair spouted during his "Respect" campaign (Note to Labour party activists: It's never a good idea to launch a campaign and name it after one of your rival political parties). And it is just talk and rhetoric. No solid ideas. For example - how do you propose to free police from central bureaucracy? How will you reform the benefits system? How are you going to reward marriage through taxation - and what kind of "marriage"? What social enterprises? Forgive me if I've missed something, but I can't actually recall any specific policies on any of these.

All I've noticed is that you and Tone have been carrying out a slanging match through various comment pieces in The Telegraph - and probably other newspapers - telling us what you are not going to do, the mistakes you won't make and that you aren't what you appear to be.

All talk. Talk, talk talk. Just as Blair came in promising to be "tough on crime", that "education, education, education" was the priority and that his party would be "whiter than white" it's all easy to say - but there are no policies backing up this talk, just as there were no policies behind Blair's Labour party. Just plenty of empty rhetoric - from Labour, from the Conservatives and from the Liberal Democrats (the original policy free party).

Isn't it time we gave all three a bloody good kicking at the polls?

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