fallibilist

"I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth." (Karl Popper)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cameron's compassionate conservatism

To encourage enterprise in all its forms; to fight social justice and help the most disadvantaged by building a strong society; to meet the great environmental threats of the age; to provide first-class healthcare, education and housing that responds to the needs of the individual (by trusting professionals, giving choice to parents, supporting vocation and local initiative); to take a lead in ending global poverty, as a moral obligation and a means of guaranteeing long-term security; to protect the country by being "hard-nosed defenders of freedom"; to give power to people and communities, and recognise the limitations of government - it is not through central government alone that we can change society for the better; to be an open, meritocratic and forward-looking Party.

Those, in summary form, are the eight goals set out in Built to Last: The Aims and Values of the Conservative Party. It is worth a read, even if it's set of proposals veer toward rhetoric rather than detail. The U.K. is after all at least three years - unless there is an unforeseen disruption to the usual timetable - out from its next general election. But 12 months after a third election defeat, this time to an unpopular prime minister, the Conservatives have started to turn their fortunes around. A recent poll put them ahead of Labour by nine points: 40-31. Given the unbalanced constituency system, the Conservatives need something of that order in election 2009 to take victory. And we must remember that the Blair government has been flailing around from PR disaster to PR disaster in recent months. Once the prime minister leaves, which is likely to be in the next 12 months or so, Labour may take on a more settled look. By then David Cameron's Conservatives will have to have embedded some of these ideas in the public conscience.

There are some interesting ideas, not least abolition of the national ID card scheme (should it be introduced) and the replacement of the Human Rights Act 1998 with a new Bill of Rights. Foreign policy is barely mentioned (the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or the debacle surrounding Cameron's intention to leave the EPP in the European Parliament, might as well never have happened); no clear positions are taken on questions such as the direction of policy on energy, or tax and welfare; areas such as transport and communications are left out.

There is a long road ahead for the Conservatives. Remember the old saying: Elections are not won by oppositions, they are losy by governments.

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