By Stephen Pollard
May 8, 2007
Oliver Letwin is a nice man, and a very bright one. But, my word, he can spout garbage:
Cameron Conservatism, so far from being merely a set of attitudes, has a specific theoretical agenda. It aims to achieve two significant paradigm-shifts.
First, a shift from an econocentric paradigm to a sociocentric paradigm. Secondly, a shift in the theory of the State from a provision-based paradigm to a framework-based paradigm.
OK, it's easy to take the mickey out of such ugly prose. But that's not what I mean. I mean, of course, that his content is garbage: If the free market is a matter of consensus, the debate must change its nature. Instead of arguing about systems of economic management, we have to discuss how to make better lives out of the prosperity that the free market generates.
Er, no. If the free market is a matter of consensus then there's little left for government to do beyond ensure competition exists, lock up criminals and defend the country. Plus whatever else the electorate in its infinite wisdom decides it wants government to do. It's not the job of government - any government - to decide for me how to make my life better. I'll decide how to do that, matey.
I thought these were arguments we were supposed to have with nanny-state lefties. Isn't the point of the Conservative Party (at least since Heath) to let us get on with our own lives and to let the economy get on with being efficient?
Oliver Letwin writes that "Cameron Conservatism, so far from being merely a set of attitudes, has a specific theoretical agenda". Quite. That's the whole problem. If it was just a set of PR stunts then we could console ourselves that, in government, they'd behave like a Conservative government and stop taking ever greater sums from us to throw down a public services money pit, or send crimimals to prison instead of giving them a cuddle. The depressing fact appears to be that the Cameron PR stunts do actually mean something, and he is the quasi-socialist he seems to be, and really does think that, as Douglas Jay put it in the 1930s, "the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves".
(In fact if you take the usually omitted part of that quotation, it is even more aposite to Cameron: "in the case of nutrition and health, just as in the case of education, the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for people than the people know themselves". Remember his attack on Chocolate Oranges?)