Post-modern Conservatives for a post-modern Britain

David Cameron recently presented his vision for Britain at the Conservative Party’s Spring Conference in Brighton. They were to (1) act now on debt to get the economy moving; (2) get Britain working by boosting enterprise; (3) make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe; (4) back the NHS; (5) raise standards in schools and (6) change politics.

Now I know already for the CCs (Cameron’s Critics) there will be the usual whining of “where is the Conservative Party’s commitment to the environment gone?” or “why is there nothing about reducing the state?” However the fact is that these themes are not the be all and end all of the Conservative Party’s platform, they are merely key themes which it believes will identify with the will of the electorate. So I’m not going to spend my time seeking to explain every point of policy. Contrary to popular belief, the Conservative Party has produced much on issues such as the environment, cutting government waste.

It is in the first two principles that one can clearly see the different direction of the Conservative Party when compared to this Labour Government. Firstly, the deficit is a real dividing line between the two parties. It isn’t a question of whether the deficit should be reduced; Labour has already said it will cut the deficit in half within four years. The question is when to reduce it. The Conservatives believe that reducing the deficit as soon as possible makes sense.

That does not mean that we should make ridiculous cuts to the budget in the first year. It does however mean making sensible reductions in public spending, eliminating some expensive projects such as ID Cards and getting rid of some Quangos which are unnecessary. It means showing the world that Britain is serious about our debt levels, so that the cost of our debt does not rise and that we do not lose the confidence of the all powerful bond markets. It means using any money that we save in the years to come to pay down the deficit and not throw it away on headline grabbing projects as Labour has done for the past 13 years. While Labour would continue to spend, rejecting any reduction in spending as “wrecking the recovery”, the Conservatives would make a start now.

The second point on boosting enterprise is also important. New Labour has talked since it was conceived about opening up new corridors for business and yet in recent years growth has been driven only through the public sector. The Government’s deficit spending has increased the number of public sector jobs to over £6 million and while there have been some improvements in public services as a consequence, the increase in funding is simply unsustainable. The situation has been noted by many think-tanks and economists. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) stated that “[parts] of the UK have become so dependent on public spending that it can crowd out private enterprise”.

This has been the legacy of New Labour. Under the Conservatives, the Government will protect public services but seek to drive growth through private sector jobs helping them through taxation and smarter regulation, so they can generate wealth. By doing this we can ensure that growth is really sustainable in the long term, avoid the pain that will be caused in the next few years as public sectors are laid off due to Labour’s lax spending and create a public sector that can survive future downturns.

We are living in a post-modern society. By this, I mean that our society is not guided by the dead ideologies of socialism and even free market fundamentalism. People are seeking a new kind of society, where social prosperity is as important as economic prosperity. A society where responsibility between generations is important and public spending profligacy (as seen under this Government) is not wanted. Rhetoric on perfect institutions, the mirage of “perfect employment” and a perfect society are not what people want.

The public is seeking a party that recognises the problems of globalisation, such as the huge social and economic dislocation it has caused and one that that recognises our society’s problems which have strained our communities. These have divided us by wealth or background, but the Conservatives are coming up with practical solutions to them. The Conservative Party does not pretend to have all the answers, but by the themes it has chosen and the policies it has presented, it shows that at least it understands how to move forward.

The choice presented to Britain is simple: carry on with the empty rhetoric of the modern New Labour Party, or accept the challenges of our post-modern society and help meet them with the post-modern Conservative Party. In May, we’ll find out which one the public has chosen.

Andrew O’Brien is the chairman of Warwick Conservatives.


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