Friday 9 March 2007

No, no, no.

Gerard Baker in The Times:

On the Right too there are similarities in the US and the UK. In both Britain and America there is a gathering sense of despair among true conservatives about the condition of their party’s politics. True conservatives in Britain, who, rightly, see the country on the road to a state-controlled serfdom, hear Mr Cameron and wonder whether there is a genuinely conservative bone in his body. His instincts seem as busybodyishly paternalist as any new Labour bureaucrat.

In America, where conservative disillusionment is a more recent but no less palpable emotion, the three front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination are all, in a sense, Cameroonian in their frailty. With no obvious conservative candidate in the field, the contest between Rudolph Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney is coming down for many conservatives to a choice of whom you hate least.

Absolutely correct. So what's the solution?

In Britain Thatcherism is not in favour and in America Reaganism is not on offer. But that doesn’t mean reformist conservative candidates are inferior to their socialist and liberal opponents. In a hostile political environment a scaled-down conservatism is still better than no conservatism at all. The current generation of Republican and Conservative leaders recognise this and are working to renew conservatism rather than destroy it.

The right thing to do is not to make faces at this bandwagon but to jump aboard and keep trying to drive it in the right direction of freer markets, freer people.

Does this make any sense at all? That an argument like this could invite anything other than sputtering derision from a supposed Conservative is in itself good evidence of what's wrong with modern politics. Gerard Baker appears not to have heard that incentives matter.

Cameron is turning the Conservative Party... You know, we really need to stop calling them that. OK. Cameron is turning the Tory Party further and further left. He has decided that it's best to fight Labour on their own ground, i.e., to prove that the Tories will be an even better Labour Party than the Labour Party. If enough people vote Tory at the next election, enough even to get them into government, then that turn leftwards will have been rewarded. In what kind of bizarre psychology does Gerard Baker believe, that he thinks that the Tories' likely response to being given a massive reward for their behaviour will be to utterly change their behaviour?

And when does he think this sort of strategy has worked before, I wonder? Did voting for Thatcher push the Tories further left? Did Labour change in the Eighties because Michael Foot did so well in elections?

This is a short-term game Baker's playing. If you want a government that is almost imperceptibly more right-wing than Labour for the next ten to fifteen years, vote Tory. If you want genuine change, the way to get it is to give the Tories a nice big defeat and teach them that the likes of Cameron are losers. Sure, that'll mean another five years of Labour, but it'll also mean that, when the change does come, it will actually be a change.

This is the only thing I agree with Tony Benn about: parties should be very different, in order to give voters choice. When they become similar, they take away the voters' choice. Don't reward that.

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