Tuesday, April 11, 2006

 

Come Off it Ollie! We can't believe this lot!

What is happening in the Conservative Party is almost surreal. Today in the Guardian Oliver Letwin, the party's head of policy, claims Conservatives have also signed up to Labour's target of eliminating child poverty by 2020. This is to be 'an aspiration not a pledge' has adds a little guardedly but there is no doubting his desperation to squeeze his party into the centre ground on social justice. As as has been said before: 'How can we believe they mean it?' It's hard after such a long period when such sentiments would have been dismissed by gimlet eyed Tories as the naive dribblings of a bleeding heart liberal. Letwin, however, writes an article much of which which could easily have been penned by the most lefty of leftwing Labour MPs.

I remember well hearing She Who Had to be Obeyed saying that she was fed up with hearing about the need for people to be equal- 'what about the right of people to be unequal?' I also recall Enoch Powell visiting a sixth form conference in Manchester at my invitation and explaining the key role of the Conservative Party in convincing the public of the moral need for inequality. Folks were born unequal, went the argument, and some made more of their lives than others. Inequality was the essential prerequisite for dynamism in the economy in particular and society in general. Poverty had always been the spur to effort, betterment for self and family and eventual success. To abandon so easily a fundamental tenet of Conservative philosophy- without any debate or consultation- seems a tall order indeed. At least Blair's repeal of Clause Four involved a campaign to educate, not an edict from on high.

Tory leaders seem to think they have simply to encourage members to 'change' or 'modernise' when what they really mean is that they should eagerly endorse the full range of Labour values, almost without exception or cavil. Letwin argues their approach would be different, being based on encouraging 'social entrpreneurs' to build 'from the botom up'. But this sounds pretty much what Labour does already and lacks the coherence of the government's Sure Start programme, which, despite equivolcal early results, at least seeks to break the vicious circle of deprivation in a way supported by some kind of logic and a fair amount of experience abroad. Come off it Ollie!

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