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July 16, 2010

A Very Tory Coup: Richard D. North asks if the Conservatives have pulled off a post-modern coup

Posted by Richard D. North

Richard D. North - author of Mr Cameron's Makeover Politics: Or Why Old Tory Stories Matter to Us All - asks, has this government managed to be more Thatcherite than Thatcher, whilst being elected on a centrist platform? And what sort of democratic mandate does it have for such a programme?

OK, so it's post-modern coup. It's heavily disguised and all wrapped up in Big Society guff. Much of the underlying economic thinking might please a free market type (that would be me).

But isn't it remarkably short of honesty or democratic accountability?

Let's unpick that in a series of questions.

(1) Is George Osborne slashing because he wants a diminished welfare state?
Is it because he doesn't want to waste the crisis? It's hard to imagine otherwise. I am not an economist but I'd have thought the markets would have responded pretty well to a much less severe programme. Surely it looks like Mr Osborne wanted to redefine our welfare services and caught his moment. Has he a mandate for that?

(2) Is Osborne slashing because he wants radical economic change?
Similarly, it looks as though George Osborne wants to rebalance the economy's balance between state and private activity, and again, didn't want to waste this historic opportunity. Is he aiming for a 30-35% "stake take" or something like it? Has he a mandate for that?

(3) Was this the programme all along?
Was this the sort of agenda George Osborne and David Cameron had all along, but until the Crunch thought it would have to be achieved by a gradual evolution?

(4) Haven't the Tories deceived the electorate?
We told the Tories would cut, but isn't this "coup" far more dramatic than they promised or the circumstances dictate?

(5) It's intriguing to note that if Cameron/Osborne carry this off, it will be a far more remarkable achievement than Thatcher/Howe/Lawson managed.
Isn't it fair to say that Mrs Thatcher advertised in the 1979 campaign that she would be tough (in rather unspecified terms) but actually failed, even in 1981, to radically rebalance the state's role in the economy or welfare?

(6) Whatever happened to the "steady" government David Cameron promised?
Where is the progression from manifesto to consultative Green Paper to definitive White Paper to Bill? So far we seem to have exactly what we were promised wouldn't happen: a blizzard of initiatives especially on schools and health. What's the hurry? Wasn't this supposed to be consultative government?

(7) Why are the Lib Dems providing so much cover?
Nick Clegg's Lib Dems pose an equally dazzling series of questions in their acquiescence in the Tory coup. Perhaps we really all ought to have read the Orange Book material.

(8) Isn't Mr Cameron extraordinarily the wolf in sheep's clothing?
However much Neo Con or libertarian or rightwing or free market Tories like the tenor of these reforms, aren't they rather "un-Conservative"? Martin Wolf and Samuel Brittan in the FT have been writing in terms which strongly echo those of, say, Geoffrey Robinson or David Miliband, but which could have been spoken by a wide range of Tory voices?

Richard D. North is the author of Mr Cameron's Makeover Politics: Or Why Old Tory Stories Matter to Us All.

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If David Cameron wants to be more Thatcherite than Mrs Thatcher, that's fine by me!

Posted by: Ed at July 18, 2010 10:33 PM
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