Red Tories, Reagan Republicans

Two stories in yesterday’s news (Nov 27th) caught my eye.  First, someone called Phillip Blond (sic), and described as a “Tory Guru”, has come up with a series of way-out policy proposals.  He is said to have the ear of David Cameron (though an un-named front-bencher was reported as saying “I’ve no idea what he thinks and I couldn’t care less.  He’ll be gone in three months and someone else will be in fashion”).  Mr. Blond (sic) is described as a “Red Tory”, and runs a new think-tank called ResPublica.
So what gems of wisdom is the Red Tory offering us?  He challenges the “neo-liberal account” of free markets, saying that Margaret Thatcher’s 1980s reforms had “failed to produce the right results”.  This will come as a surprise to most Conservatives.  He says we should “Break up the big-box retailers” — he seems to be thinking of the big supermarket groups — and return to the idea of taxing supermarket car-parks.
The Party floated the idea of taxes or charges for supermarket car parks a couple of years ago, and met such a firestorm of protest that it backed off pretty smartish.  Now Mr. Blond (sic) wants to start the same hare running again.
He should pause and reflect that supermarket groups have achieved success because we, the consumers, choose to shop there.  We find an enormous range of choice, that would have bewildered our grandmothers.  We find ease and convenience.  And we find highly competitive pricing (though prices would be even lower if we could get out from under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy).  Of course there are risks with supermarket dominance, but that is what the planning process is there to control, to give local authorities and local voters a say in development.  As localists, we Conservatives should be giving more say to local people, but we should not presume to have the right to go to successful businesses and to “break them up”.
Nor have the supermarkets totally taken over.  On the contrary we see vibrant growth amongst new retail approaches — farmers’ markets, veggie-boxes and the internet.
I joined the Conservative Party because I believe in conservative (small “c”) values — not because I want to see corporatist policies wrapped up in Conservative branding.  And those conservative values include enterprise and free markets, small government and low taxes.  Sorry, Blondie, but I don’t buy it.
Meantime across the pond, Republicans are reacting against wets and liberals and leftists standing as Republican candidates.  They were prompted by candidates like the improbably named Dede Scozzafava running for an up-state New York Congressional seat recently.  Her leftist views prompted a proper conservative to enter the race.  When opinion polls showed Dede that she was on to a loser, she quit and endorsed the Democrat, who won.
Unwilling to fall into that trap again, Republicans have proposed a “Reagan Test” for candidates.  They would be invited to endorse ten conservative principles.  Anyone endorsing fewer than eight would be automatically excluded.  I was pleased to note that the ten principles included low taxes, balanced budgets, the right to bear arms, and market-based solutions to health and energy policy — but no commitment to “fighting climate change”!
I wish them well.  And I’d like to emulate them.  It’s time we had a “Thatcher Test” for Conservative candidates.  Meantime I suggest that any Conservatives wishing to sup with Mr. Blond (sic) should take with them a very long spoon indeed.  ResPublica?  ResPopuli?  ResSocialistica?  No thanks.  I’m quite happy as a conservative.  A Thatcherite Conservative with Jeffersonian principles.

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1 Response to Red Tories, Reagan Republicans

  1. Al says:

    Just found your blog, keep up the good work.

    I was brought up with Spitting Image and a media that hated Thatcher and Reagan. Recently read some of Maggie’s speeches was surprised to agree, also viewed this speech from Reagan in 1964 and approve. ‘A Time To Choose’

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