Theresa May, it seems, doesn't do ideas—but there are concepts the party must take on board to move forwardby Julian Glover / June 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
There has never been much of a Tory intellectual tradition—even Burke was a Whig—but there are Tories who care. Lacking philosophy, they hang policies on all sorts of hooks, unworried by the tangled mess this creates. Now someone will have to sort out the biggest tangle of all, the one created by Theresa May.
She didn’t do ideas: we know it now. We can see that her anything-but-Cameron lurch to provincial authoritarianism which fed energy price caps, immigration targets and grammar schools sank the nobler aims in her manifesto about inter-generational fairness. It also sank what there was of good liberal Conservative government in the Coalition years, under the best administration this country had seen, or will see, for some time.
Ideas are also the last thing tea room Tory MPs are talking about now: the recent manifesto is judged only by the toxic effect it had on voters who feared losing their homes to council bailiffs, or their pensioner perks without any explanation of what might support them instead.
But ideas—or at least an idea of what it is for—is what the party will need if it is to deserve a future in government, or even in opposition. So how might this be done? Here are five things which might help.
First, the absence of a majority means the end of new laws. This is a good thing. It is not only Conservative politicians who have confused the ability to pass eyecatching laws with good government— Gordon Brown was infected with this disease—but Conservatives really ought to realise that not very much government touches works very well, and that constant changes only make things worse. There are always sometimes big things which need to be done: adapting the state to manage new technology, new individual rights, or manage the market fairly. So do them. But the end of pointless tinkering should be to the good.
Second, modernisation wasn’t stupid. Most Tories are not bigots, or deranged, but some are. They drove David Cameron away from his early goal of creating a party which served the country as it now is, and would be in the future, rather than the one which used to exist. They also led to Brexit.
Modernisation was mistaken for spray-painting the party to make old ideas palatable to…