Thursday, 3 December 2009

More Old Toryism and confusing labels

Martin Ivens in the Times this morning looks at Cameron's relationship with Blond's Localist / Old Tory locus. Rightly, he identifies the IEA as the wellspring of the challenge to Welfarist thinking; under Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon, both of whom came from working-class East London communities, the disempowerment of the working class by the State formed the core of a whole caucus of social and economic thinking.

We can't blame Thatcher for losing her way. As more pressing issues - dealing with the unions and the militant left in the Town Halls - forced her into increasing centralisation and a Big State, so the ideas of the IEA, and Ralph and Arthur's influence, fell into desuetude. 1979 was the start of neoliberalism, and saw over a million local members leave the party. To look at the roots of Old Toryism, we need to look back beyond the 1945 - 1979 period of consensus Keynesianism. As Blond wrote in Prospect:
Conservatives who believe in value, culture and truth should therefore think twice before calling themselves liberal. Liberalism can only be a virtue when linked to a politics of the common good, a problem which the best liberals—Mill, Adam Smith and Gladstone—recognised but could never resolve. A vision of the good life cannot come from liberal principles. Unlimited liberalism produces atomised relativism and state absolutism. Insofar as both the Tories and Labour have been contaminated by liberalism, the true left-right legacy of the postwar period is, unsurprisingly, a centralised authoritarian state and a fragmented and disassociative society.
Now those of you who have read Ralph Harris will know he always described himself as a 'liberal' rather than a conservative - but an implaccable enemy of the authoritarian State;
Alas, you need government, but big government is subject to such flaws, incorrigible flaws. Big government is irresponsible government because they can’t know all the circumstances of the nation, the society, the families that they are administering. Big government leads to all kinds of deals, backstage deals about policies, and all the time they are governed not by the public interest, but by the self-interest of the politicians to maintain their power. You need politicians, but the more you can contain politicians to the central tasks they have to do, the less you tempt them into this vote-grabbing, this corruption and deceit which is inseparable from modern, mass, undiscriminating democratic politics.
Harris advocated Burkean solutions, the answers being with the Little Platoons; mutuals and co-operatives, friendly societies and sixpence-a-week insurance policies. As does Blond.

Labels are confusing, aren't they?

1 comment:

William Gruff said...

'You need politicians, but the more you can contain politicians to the central tasks they have to do, the less you tempt them into this vote-grabbing, this corruption and deceit which is inseparable from modern, mass, undiscriminating democratic politics.

I don't understand this. Could you explain?