Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Conservatives plan to take us forward to 19th century welfarism

Reviewing the Righwing Policy Exchange's Compassionate Conservatism, today Polly Toynbee finds its central message- that the voluntary sector should take up a hugely increased share of welfare functions- hard to comprehend. It seems the authors- Jesse Norman and Janan Ganesh, look back nostalgically to the days when the Salvation Army, tended so nobly to alcoholics and prostitutes. If the Tories get in next time standby for the heirs of William and Catherine Booth to be enthroned, presumably as much cheaper replacements for Patricia Hewitt.

The authors will have to forgive Toynbee and many others of us on the left of centre for being highly sceptical. I have always found the idea of rich people being relied upon to be charitable problematic. My reading of Conservative thinking is that it has a somewhat pessimistic view of human nature; hence the need for strong law and order arrangements and networks of socially binding institutions like family, school and the rest. Now if we cannot rely on people to be socially responsible, how can we expect them to take that even more difficult step to become socially altruistic?

I remember too a leader in the Economist shortly after Nigel Lawson slashed the higher rate of income tax to 40p in the £. The economically 'dry' journal welcomed the move but added the rather schoolmasterish proviso that it now expected the rich-as in the USA- to give far more generously to charity. I've yet to see evidence that charitable donations surged forward in the wake of the tax cuts. Rich people, according to my view of them, tend to take increases in their income as deserved, as of right and to spend it on themselves. I'm not sure how these voluntary bodies are going to stand in for welfare agencies- my copy of the book, ordered from Iain Dale's online Politicos bookshop, has still not arrived- but to rely on the dubious largesse of the rich rather than the assured support of the state, seems a poor exchange for the disadvantaged.

The real philosophy of Mr Cameron exposed. He is a bulls***er and wolf in sheep's clothing. Of course tory patricianists hark back to the 19th century, it was their finest hour. This is the stuff to re-energise the left.
Some of the comments on The Guardian web site to Polly Toynbee's article are truely jaw-dropping.
I've always found it strange that IDS is running Cameron's social-justice policy unit, in the same way that Ruth Kelly as women's minister is a queer notion.

Incidentally, Skipper, I ordered something from Politicos recently and it arrived in breakneck speed. ( - a Labour mug from the "Economic Disaster II" campaign in 2001, a few Harold Wilson postcards and a rather amusing "Up For Portillo" baseball cap.)
Congratulations, Skip.
For the sake of, let's say, balance...


Although Polly is spot on about the new Tories she's well off target when she writes; "The loudest voice undermining the good state at the moment comes from the government itself".

I'm sorry that a lot of lefties can't seem to accept that many public services are in need of reform (not least because they stopped evolving during the Thatcher/Major years).

I'm in no doubt that this government is fully behind the concepts of the welfare state and of proper funding for public services......
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