Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Have the Conservatives made a mistake in sidelining Blond's Red Toryism?

In the latest edition of Social Policy Review 23, Jay Wiggan writes a very interesting article on the social policy thinking behind Cameron's conservatism and its relationship to Phillip Blond's vision of Red Toryism (a copy of the working paper can be found here).

In the article, Wiggan argues that in most social policy areas - such as public service delivery, poverty alleviation and welfare reform - Cameron has by and large stuck to a neo-liberal, paternalistic strategy, much in the spirit of both Thatcherism and elements of New Labour. In doing so, Wiggan argues that Cameron has largely ignored the thesis of Red Toryism. The Red Tory thesis shares some elements of traditional conservatism (such as self-reliance, a distrust of the state and a concern with dependency and worklessness), yet is openly critical of the neo-liberal model, both in terms of its economic effects (which have produced even less market plurality) and harmful social consequences (such as the emphasis on individualism over wider claims of community and civic responsibility).

After reading Wiggan's analysis, I can't help but feel that the Conservatives have missed out by sidelining Blond's ideas, as opposed to putting them at the centre of their political strategy. In an age of mass distrust of both the state and the market, a thesis which offers a coherent critique of both would seem to offer the Tories the chance of genuinely moving beyond Thatcherism and into a new age. By rejecting this route, it is of little surprise that they continue to be tarnished with the nasty brush: as the party of individualism, privatisation and social ignorance.

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