Wednesday, 18 March 2009

It will be Cameron's responsibility to redress society balance

Burke’s Corner believes a consensus on ‘post liberal’ politics might be developing. He bases his assertion on Frank Field’s Prospect article, which proposes compulsory civic service for young people and suggests that prevailing political trends of social liberalism have allowed atomised individualism to prevail over the maintenance of a strong, coherent society.

Field’s thesis is not so terribly far removed in its themes from an article written by ‘progressive conservative’ Philip Blond in the same magazine, which argues, “(t)he current political consensus is left-liberal in culture and right-liberal in economics. And this is precisely the wrong place to be.”

Two further pieces, carried today by the Guardian and Telegraph websites respectively, come from opposite sides of the political spectrum, and both contemplate the best means to build the ‘good society’. Significantly both John Cruddas and Tim Montgomerie start from the premise that British communities have suffered the consequences of individualist politics and need a different approach. One which involves repairing damaged social filaments, neglected over the past thirty years.

Obviously the two men differ as to the economic policies which should accompany attempts to reinvigorate society, and, to an extent, on the degree to which the state should be directly involved in the process, but from both of these Labour and Conservative perspectives, the prognosis is similar.

Pre-emptively, Montgomerie urges David Cameron to preserve his emphasis on social policy, despite the right libertarian impulse, articulated within his own party, which urges government not to involve itself in how people live their lives. Retrospectively Cruddas bemoans the fact that Tony Blair lost sight of his communitarian instincts after assuming office. The means to achieve ‘the good society’ is a matter of contention, but traditions within either party stress its importance, whilst countermanding elements are reluctant to interfere.

Clearly there is a happy medium to be sought. If social liberalism has been elevated to the detriment of society then there is a problem which must be addressed. It is hard to argue, though, that its elevation has not coincided with greater tolerance of difference. That tolerance is an attribute and something it would be a pity to discard. The task is to redress the balance as regards liberalism, not to jettison its principles entirely. Neither the Conservatives nor Labour need be in the business of attempting to square circles. It is quite possible to encourage social engagement and participation within communities as well as combating a range of social ills at their root, without any drastic diminution of Britain’s status as a tolerant nation.

Time is running out for Labour. The party has largely squandered its time in office in this regard. The Conservatives, in contrast, have an opportunity, and responsibility will lie with David Cameron to ensure that the actions of his government match his rhetoric on social policy.

1 comment:

Burke's Corner said...

"Clearly there is a happy medium to be sought. If social liberalism has been elevated to the detriment of society then there is a problem which must be addressed. It is hard to argue, though, that its elevation has not coincided with greater tolerance of difference. That tolerance is an attribute and something it would be a pity to discard".

Yes, that is the challenge for those of us who are communitarians - we have to avoid a silly, reactionary 'let's go back to the 1950s' attitude, with all the racism, homophobia and sexism that goes with it.

Hence the term "post-liberal" - recognising liberalism's achievements, but also addressing its fundamental weaknesses.