Reforming Conservatism

11.12.12

'Does He Care About People Like Me?'

In the Times of London (pay wall) Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home UK has a piece that builds very powerfully on some of the themes of conservative economic reform that Ross Douthat and others, myself included, have been urging.

Tim starts here:

One key conclusion from last week’s American exit polls should provide the starting point for every conservative as they think about a future, winning agenda. When voters were asked what they most wanted in a president, Mr Romney beat Mr Obama on three of four criteria. The Republican had an advantage in terms of sharing American values, as a strong leader and having a vision for the future. He lost on just one criterion, by a landslide 81 points to 18. That criterion was that “he cares about people like me”.

Conservative parties will start to revive when they stop thinking monomaniacally about cutting the size of the State and instead address this central question: which party best provides security to the large number of people who fear rather than revere market forces?

Tim then adds some very constructive positive suggestions:

In developing a politics of social solidarity British and American Conservatives must do three things. First, they need to give much more serious attention to the stagnation of blue collar wages. What changes to our school, immigration and industrial policies are needed to ensure that lower-skilled Britons can earn enough to live without state help? This is territory that Ed Miliband with his predistribution idea is trying to occupy.

Second, Conservatives need to think less about cutting the supply of government services and more about supporting the social institutions and behaviours that reduce demand for those services in the first place. Tax reliefs to encourage extended families to care for their members, rewards for private philanthropy and rehabilitation programmes that reduce reoffending or drug and alcohol dependency should all become much more important policy tools.

Finally, and most importantly, Conservatives need to drop the anti- State rhetoric. Ensuring comfortable retirements for pensioners, benefits for the sick and assistance for genuine job seekers shouldn’t be afterthoughts for Conservatives but central to their electoral pitch. Conservatives shouldn’t see these things as a necessary evil but as a privilege for a decent society to provide and for a decent party to enhance.

And this passage inspires a thought I'll advance and elaborate in a next post ….