Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Keep it moderate. Cameron right to distance himself from Thatcherism.

The Guardian carries a story which is especially salient, given the conversation about Tories and Scottish secession, taking place below. David Cameron has distanced himself from the ideological approach to public service cuts, associated with Thatcherism, and Conservative policy in the 1980s.

Following on from yesterday’s Vince Cable piece, I had intended to write today about the perils, for the Tories, of focussing too myopically on budgetary measures. Which is not to imply, by any means, that I underestimate the centrality of economic issues in the forthcoming election, or the necessity to the UK of spending within its means.

As the Guardian article identifies, the Conservatives have won the finance argument with Labour. Gordon Brown has conceded that his government must also instigate cuts and it is not a choice between continued investment, under the present government, and a Tory regime, zealously hacking back services.

The public doesn’t need to be reassured that a Conservative government will rein in spending. It already accepts that it will prioritise balanced books. However it remains wary of the Thatcherite wing of the party using the crisis as a pretext to decimate, rather than reform, public services.

Cameron has done a good job, thus far, showing that Conservative is not shorthand for ultra liberal, free market fundamentalist. In the run-up to the election he must retain a focus on the broad basis of conservatism, and its innate sense of moderation.

Then, after the election he must govern in line with the social policy goals which he has outlined. The rewards for adhering to his centrist message will follow, in Scotland and elsewhere.

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