I've written many times about how so many conservatives still convince themselves that the Cameron is planning some sort of Trojan horse offensive if and when he leads the Conservative Party to victory in a General Election. In today's Telegraph comment section George Bridges still believes this will happen.
When finally we emerge from these dark days, the Tories will be ready to make some startling changes to social policies, says George Bridges.
He headline at the top of the page reads .... "Prepare for a Conservative revolution. No, seriously" .. which tends to suggest that Bridges is desperate to believe that the Tories are still conservative. The "no, seriously, tells you that he is having a hard time finding any real evidence of that.
Bridges starts his piece by harking back to WW2 and the Beveridge report.
Beveridge boasted to Harold Wilson that "Beveridge is no longer the name of a man; it is the name of a way of life". (Clearly he was a modest man.) Now we know what that "way of life" is. It is a culture of dependency and entitlement that is deeply engrained in communities across Britain. Why bother working, when you can be paid by the state to watch Sky all day?
Quite. Bridges goes on ....
So, when I ask, "What is the Britain we want to build when this economic war is over?", the answer is not another Beveridge report. No, we need a Britain in which the state does less, and in which the failures of Beveridge's welfarism are addressed.
Ok - so far so good.
The Left, obviously, cannot do this. The Beveridge Report is its tablet of stone, passed down from Labour leader to Labour leader. The task looks increasingly as though it will fall squarely to the Conservatives. And I have faith that David Cameron does not merely understand the scale of the challenge, but is prepared to act.
Well, it's all well and good having faith, but in the real world of politics that alone is never going to be enough. Cameron may well understand the scale of the task - personally, I doubt that he has even begun to grasp the sheer enormity of the situation - but if Bridges really believes he is prepared to act then he really needs some concrete evidence of that. The problem I have is that Bridges rightly says that "the left" is never going to make the changes needed - but all the evidence I see points to a Conservative Party that leans considerably to the left.
To his credit, at least Bridges doesn't go on about the Tories commitment to capitalism as reason for his optimism. Capitalism - as I have pointed out many times - is not an indicator of political leaning, just an economic system which, despite it's all too apparent problems, remains the best economic system. It is used and supported by parties on the left and right of the political spectrum - from The US Republicans to the Communist Party of China. Instead, Bridges seems to see something in the current Conservative policies which gives him hope.
Surveying the panoply of current Conservative policies, the revolution I foresee is one of values – the values that determine our social policies, and how our institutions are run. In welfare, tax, health, law and order, the Conservatives advocate profound change. The balance will be tipped away from rights to responsibilities.
Ah - the old "values" thing. Forgive me for saying so, but isn't the "revolution" of values exactly the same thing that John Major promised with his "Back to Basics" campaign? How did that pan out?
Families will get explicit support in the tax system. The presumption will be that the man in Whitehall does not always know best. The legal system should unequivocally support the victim, not the criminal.
Again, forgive me, but even though the Tories (and Labour) have talked a lot about this, the reality is that they still have not put forward any cast iron policies which will actually do anything about any of this. Airy fairy talk does not make a policy - but that is all we've had from Cameron and the Tories. Bridges sees the revolution taking off in our schools.
But perhaps the greatest cultural change promises to be in our schools. For generations, our education system has been in the grip of "progressives", who have been anything but. Their fundamentalist doctrine is "all must have prizes", "children should learn from experience", "treat every child the same". Thanks to LEAs, teacher training colleges, Whitehall, government quangos and the trade unions, this approach has polluted the bloodstream of our education system.
I don't disagree, but where does this "promise" of cultural change come from? I can't recall a single Tory policy that even hints at such a thing, let alone promises it.
In response, Michael Gove, the Conservatives' education spokesman, is planning a full-frontal assault on the teaching Taliban. Every state school would become an autonomous unit, able to compete for pupils; out would go "continual assessment"; so too would soft exams, which all pupils can pass. Subjects would not be reduced to "areas of study" or "skills set". Again, the values are clear: equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome; passing a body of knowledge down from one generation to another and schools preparing children properly for life.
OK - I readily admit I am not a Conservative "insider" and therefore not privy to what is going on inside the Tories education spokesman's head, but I've not seen or heard anything from Michael Gove that suggests that this is either the plan or will actually happen should the Tories attain power. And if he is planning such a coup, then it is clear to me that Cameron really hasn't grasped the sheer scale of the task involved. Because, to defeat the "teaching Taliban" will require more than a few policies - it requires a complete dismantling of the whole progressive system that pervades our society and institutions including (especially?) our media.
And all of this is supposing that the Cameron Conservatives aren't just another liberal progressive party. Which is far from apparent to me.
Bridges piece demonstrates once more that conservative voters are still pinning their hopes on the belief that Cameron will shrug off his progressive cloak once he gets into power and turn into some reincarnated Thatcherite conservative. It's a vain hope in my opinion - and all the evidence, particularly from the Tory councils who often lead the way in implementing progressive policies, points to Cameron being just another progressive with the same ideas as all the others.