In the Indy this morning the left-wing columnist Steve Richards identifies the key truth about the ideological under-pinning of the heavily under attack Big Society programme which seems to have escaped most of his allies on the left. When Cameron said “There is such a thing as society, but it is not the same as the state” it wasn’t a rejection of Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum, it was a restatement of what she said:
“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour.”
That he set the chattering classes into paroxysms of delight over a Tory leader’s supposed rejection of Thatcherism shows that on the whole, with a few exceptions like Jon Cruddas, most of the left don’t understand right-of-centre thinking because they hold a mental caricature of centre-right and right-wing ideology in their minds, attributing malice to their opponents. The Big Society is about displacing Big Government as the key actor in society, so when the left-wing quangocracy, unions and their media allies complain that charities are losing their taxpayer subsidy and this undercuts the Big Society agenda, they misunderstand completely. A charity that relies in the main part on taxes is no more a charity than a prostitute is your girlfriend. Since Edmund Burke conservatives have wanted Little Platoons to take the lead in civil society. If David Miliband’s Movement for Change had actually set about being the change rather than just (as his brother Ed wants) campaigning for Bigger Government, it too would have been one of Burke’s “Little Platoons”. Radical whigs and liberals have always wanted to disperse power away from first the monarch and in modern times from the state. The Big Society agenda is not about the state delivering through para-statal bodies, it is about society delivering for itself. Ask not what your government can do for you, but what you can do for society…
Expect the Prime Minister to very soon deliver a speech reaffirming his Big Society agenda, “when you are right, you cannot be too radical”. The speech will have a touch of a mea culpa, though it will not be a retreat, it will be a call-to-arms at the start of the Big Society revolution unlike Blair’s late recognition in 2005 that “Every time I’ve ever introduced a reform in government, I wish in retrospect I had gone further.” Expect more squeals from those still advocating Big Government solutions…
Part of the reason for the current vitriol from the Labour Party towards the LibDems is that they took it for granted that the LibDems were a party of the left. As patronising as it was wrong.
On election night Guido was on ITN with Will Straw, off screen when it became clear there would be no overall majority, we argued for most of the night about what might happen. Straw basically thought Guido was bonkers to believe that a Liberal – Conservative Change Coalition was not only desirable, but that it was really possible. Will could not conceive of it happening, the subsequent widespread shock on the left when it did happen perhaps explains why the Labour Party is so scornful of the LibDems.
Guido always suspected the ex-Cambridge University Conservative Association member and son of a merchant banker might not be so keen on making common cause with Ed Balls and Gordon Brown. The polls might not support this view today, but that collective mis-judgement by Labour may cost them their second party status in the end.
Nick Boles, the Cameroon insider and wonk turned newly elected MP, has put the cat among the pigeons ahead of the party conferences by advocating in his new book “Which Way is Up“ a formal electoral pact between the Tories and the LibDems. The tribalists among the pinstripes and the sandalistas will choke on their respective Full English and muesli at the thought.
Others, like Guido, are positively salivating at the thought of driving the Labour Party into third place. Guido will be at the LibDem conference on Sunday speaking at the Liberal Vision fringe meeting, telling the Orange Bookers why it is their destiny to destroy the Labour Party as a party of government.
Now if Guido could only convince the Tories that independence for Scotland and Wales would guarantee a prosperous, low tax, free England for ever more…
When the Political Editor of the BBC is writing public memos to himself suggesting that he he “must try harder” because he managed to miss the fact the coalition was coming, things aren’t exactly going well. Just like he missed the leadership coups when his sources’s Blackberries were vibrating right under his nose.
Robinson took a month making a documentary about the coalition negotiations before seeing the light, Guido was outlining the contours of the coming coalition before election day. It became blindingly obvious the Tories were not going to get a majority. Is better-late-than-never-Robinson really the best talent that the BBC’s vast news budget can buy?
The race to take over from Robinson is well under-way, this mea culpa should help those vying for the job.
Before the election George Osborne and many Tory leaning pundits were claiming that a coalition government would wreak havoc in financial markets. Guido argued the opposite – that a “Change Coalition” would see gilts rocket upwards – only a government involving the Labour Party would wreak more financial havoc.
The gilt market has seen yields drop a full 50 basis points, in plain english that is the gilt market taking ½% off the ten year interest rate against which many mortgages are set.
This immediate £6 billion reduction in unfunded over-spending is seen in the City as confimation that the LibDems are fully signed up to the savage cuts to come next year. Britain has now moved out of the P I I G S bracket of nations (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) in danger of sovereign default.* The chart above shows it all clearly, during the days when the City feared a Lib-Lab government the markets declined and once the Lib-Con government was in the bag they rallied.
Now is an historic opportunity to reform politics for the better, to open up politics and government, to roll back an authoritarian state. If the Tory right is too small minded to allow Cameron to do a deal with Clegg then they are as stupid as they are short-sighted. This is an historic opportunity to realign politics along a liberal-conservative axis. It is the chance to destroy the Labour Party as a party of government forever. If the price is real reform of the electoral system then that is a price well worth paying to free us from the economic destruction wrought time and time again, decade after decade, by a statist, big government Labour Party. Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator, says he will fight Cameron.
Don’t do it my friend, at least see what deal is on the table, this is the chance to achieve Margaret Thatcher’s ultimate ambition of two competing non-socialist parties of government.