Are the Tories under David Cameron a genuinely new party? What do they mean by social responsibility?by Anthony Giddens / May 26, 2007 / Leave a comment
Dear David 3rd April 2007
The next couple of years will be absorbing ones in British politics. Over the past decade Labour has won the ideological battle, in spite of the public disillusionment that has now set in. A succession of Tory leaders who clung to a form of Thatcherism have been seen off. The Conservatives have been forced to change ideological direction in order to re-emerge as serious challengers for power. No doubt you will wish to play down this change, but it is clear that the centre ground of British politics has been shifted in a social democratic direction.
Both the main parties now claim to believe in strong and well-funded public services, the need to counter inequality, the importance of reducing child poverty, the centrality of green politics, being tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime, decentralisation in government, healthcare and education, and in taking forceful measures against illegal migration and the threat of terrorism.
On the surface, the main differences between the parties concern the role of the state and Britain’s place in the EU. The compassionate conservatism that David Cameron has come up with, like that of George W Bush, emphasises the role of voluntary associations in delivering social policy. And Cameron seems even more Eurosceptic than Margaret Thatcher.
Labour is well behind the Conservatives in the polls, and the wind seems set fair for the Tories. But as I try to show in my book, Over to You, Mr Brown: How Labour Can Win Again, Labour stands a good chance of landing a fourth term, while the Tories look vulnerable in the medium term. There are four big question marks hanging over the Tory revival.
First, how real, and how sustainable, is the Tory conversion to a more social democratic stance? George Bush seemed serious about compassionate conservatism when seeking office, but once in government more or less completely ignored it. He introduced tax cuts that favoured only the rich; far more people are in poverty now than at the end of Clinton’s presidency. And he sought to cut back on social welfare, but has given very little support to the voluntary groups that were supposed to step into the gap.
What is to stop the same happening here? Aren’t the Tories much more divided than Labour was when Tony…