Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Jenni Russell flys a kite....

. Regular readers will probably not be surprised that Jenni Russell's piece in todays Guardian caught my eye. It has to be said it has not been unnoticed that the Guardian has been openly flirting with David Cameron's Conservatives; recently it's progressive future series of discussions openly wondered if they could be part of said progressive future. Openly flirting with and certainly thinking of jumping in bed with if the tone of Russell's arguments are anything to go by; it seems very much to me that some of the Guardian editorial staff are kite-flying. I will lay a wager now that The Guardian will in fact, at the next general election, call for a Conservative vote (along with us as a side, tactical, mention).

Firstly, we have to admit that at least one of Russell's preconceptions is very true; we are headed for a Conservative government which is gathering steam to the point where inevitability seems to be beyond question. Secondly, it should be openly admitted that anybody who is serious about politics will, of course, not refrain from seeking to influence the government of the day whatever hue they maybe. So far, so good right?

Well not really; because Russell seems to want us all to abandon our 'short-sighted hatred' and well...i'm not actually sure what she is proposing unless she thinks we should give up our respective affiliations to the Liberal Democrats and Labour and engage en masse in some weird kind of kitsch entryism. Riding valiantly to the rescue of the 'Cameron-wing' we will then take our seats at the heart of government I presume?? According to Russell;

"A small group of determined people at the top is trying to pull the party behind some version of green, progressive, or compassionate conservatism. Its members are doggedly establishing the Conservatives in the centre, and sometimes the centre-left, of the political battleground."

One presumes this is the same group of people whose most striking proposal regarding taxation for a long time was the abolition of inheritance tax?? Hardly 'Red Toryism' is it? Russell's main mistake is to confuse the consideration of ideas with their acceptance. Many ideas get considered by all the main political parties but of course the likelihood of their acceptance is always determined by the political DNA of the party in question. Also, it should be noted that calling for the 'markets to serve society' does little more than indicate that David Cameron is an astute politician and has picked-up on the increasingly widespread frustration that people feel with the markets and how they operate.

One policy does not a program make and here again Russell falls down by being easily impressed by the 'startlingly redistributive' pupil premium' (why she fails to be impressed by our 'startlingly similar' idea is not mentioned). So-called 'One Nation Conservatism' has always been part of the Conservative body politic and to hear it reiterated from the party that did spawn Thatcherism is simply a reminder of the reality that political parties are complicated beasts. The contours of how this will be intertwined with a conservative ethic have already been sketched out by Cameron in terms of a 'belt-tightening' philantrophy to 'fix our broken society'.

Instead of a state with a sense of social responsibility that it is willing to follow through on what we will have is a state that thinks it is a good idea in theory but unwilling to do hardly anything about it in practice. Now of course there is nothing wrong with pointing to this to apply pressure but this cannot be done from the point of view that the best way to achieve this is to entrench the power of Cameron's 'wing' of the Conservative party itself; rather it must be done from the outside perspective of constructively opposing the governance of this party.

Russell also overestimates how much power this 'wing' has within the party and would be fascinated to hear how she accounts, for example, for the more radically restrictive views on abortion of the potential Conservative intake. Incidentally, this sits uneasily with her view that the Tories are 'much stronger' on civil liberties. Fine if your view of civil liberties is restricted to not wanting to carry an ID card; more problematic if it includes a women's right to choose. Russell is far too easily impressed with rhetoric about 'wanting the market to serve society' in lieu of delivery of what she herself admits is a 'patchy' Conservative narrative on the economy.

She says that 'constructive criticism' is what is needed without specifying what that actually means; people in other parties, in the business of politics, will naturally want not to cede ground to their opponents. Opposing a party for governance does not mean your criticism becomes less constructive; writers in the business of airy speculation will naturally feel that is an alternative to the 'nastiness' of politics but then that is a luxury they can enjoy....

12 comments:

Oranjepan said...

Well the Tory centrists are definitely in the minority round my neck of the woods.

You might enjoy this.

If Cameron persists he could tear his party apart or at least create some powerful enemies (of the likes Simon Heffer for example)...

Darrell G said...

Oranjepan,

Thanks for that....it was an interesting read but dont you think the party will accept it if power is within their grasp like Labour did Blairism??

Oranjepan said...

I think some will accept expediency over principle, but the keepers of the conservative flame are the nadine dorries' of the world who refuse compromise at all costs.

I think liberals can work with centrists and libertarians among their ranks, but I don't think we can work with the centralisers and authoritarians.

But then I would say that.

Cameron is desperately avoiding his clause four moment to show he is prepared to isolate the extremists in his party but until he does his chances of gaining an overwhelming landslide are split evenly with his chance of being the largest party in a hung parliament - either of which present serious challenges to running an effective government and neither of which would be desirable to him personally (though the foot soldiers might disagree).

Five years down the line one of the two major parties will be in complete disarray, which one it will be depends on the exact size of any majority.

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