Thursday, July 03, 2008

Cameron's policy free politics

Responding to a challenge in The Times to make clear what his party stands for.

Yesterday, The Times threw down the gauntlet to the Conservative Party, telling us to prove that we are worth not only our opinion poll lead, but of government too. That's fine by me - the more people look at the arguments we are making, the policies we are developing and the vision we are offering, the more they will understand the scale of change we will bring and the coherent set of political ideas on which it will be based.

Wow! So what are these policies, Dave?

That's precisely why we are setting the agenda in so many areas: measuring outcomes, not processes in the health service; sharing the proceeds of growth in our economy; putting rocket boosters behind renewable energy; having a border police force; the importance of wellbeing and quality-of-life issues.

Cool. So what are these policies, Dave?

But we are not just setting the agenda today - we have an inspiring vision for tomorrow too. The aim of the Conservative Party is nothing short of building the good society. We will be as radical in social reform as Margaret Thatcher was in economic reform.

OK, I get ya. Agenda, vision - good, good - but what are these policies, Dave?

Lifting up our society is the great task for the next Conservative government - not just because it's both morally and socially right, but because, in these troubled economic times, when families are suffering from the rising cost of living, getting our society right means getting our economy right. Tackling joblessness, getting people off drugs, putting children on the straight and narrow - these are the only long-term, sustainable way of cutting the cost of social failure and bringing down taxes and the cost of living.

I hear what you're saying, but what exactly are your policies, Dave?

How exactly are we going to do it?

Yes, yes! - how exactly are you going to do it? Let's get down to the policies!

At our conference last October, we set out three agendas - for opportunity, responsibility and security. These aren't plucked from thin air. They are all intimately connected to one another. If you give people more opportunity and power over their lives, they will behave more responsibly. A society where people are more responsible will be more secure. And a more secure society provides a stronger platform for individual opportunity.

Oh, for f**** sake! Enough of the agenda shit, Dave - what about these policies?

Let me give you two examples of how this virtuous circle can work. We will give parents the power to set up new schools. Once parents are more closely involved in how their child's school is run, they will take more responsibility for making sure it is a success. That will drive standards up and provide our society with the economic and social security that a skilled workforce brings.

Er, Dave .... parents already have the power to set up schools. Policies, Dave, policies?

The same goes for welfare reform. We will give more power to charities and social enterprises that really know how to get people into work - paying them for their success. Armed with this power, they will have a greater stake in - and a greater responsibility for - making success. And their success will mean more people moving from long-term poverty to long-term employment.

You haven't got any policies have you, Dave.

This is the driving force behind all our reforms. Our green papers on schools, welfare, decentralised energy, prisons and the not-for-profit sector are designed for what I call the post-bureaucratic age, in which the information revolution can give real power and control to individuals in a way we have never seen before.

Nope - not a single policy worthy of the name.

That is the choice in British politics today. On one side an exhausted government that never had a plan and is now bereft of energy and completely out of touch with how the world is changing. On the other, the Conservatives, with a coherent vision and a focused set of priorities.

Vision, agenda, priorities and lashings of rhetoric - but no policies. Dave, responds to the challenge by picking up the gauntlet thrown down by The Times and stuffing it in the draw with all the other gauntlets.

Sooner or later he's going to have to actually pick it up and slap someone across the face with it. I have a horrible feeling it will be the British people - yet again.


Rational Anarchist said...

The problem is that any policies they announce now will have been forgotten by the voters long before the general election comes around, and the popular ones will be grabbed by Labour and spun as their own ideas.

Think about it from the conservative point of view. They can watch Labour screw things up, then deliver their policies just in time for a general election and call Labour out on any attempt to pinch them, or they can reveal their policies now and have Labour take them and use them. They could even do it openly, saying that they're responding to the will of the people (just look at the opinion polls).

Stan said...

Exactly, RA! Because the two parties - three if you include the Lib Dems - are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Cameron moans as it is that Labour "steal" his ideas. Any policy he puts forward will have people thinking "what's the difference?"

If he were a true conservative instead of just another progressive liberal he could offer real conservative policies without fear of Labour using them. Grammar schools for example - but he won't 'cos he can't.

Look at his energy strategy. What is the difference between that and Labours? Nothing except for detail - and both are doomed to failure.