The Tory right are moving to take control of Conservative policy as the vagueness of David Cameron’s Big Society creates an intellectual vacuum and becomes are an electoral liability.
Following a week of humiliation for the Prime Minister, as his Big Society Policy fell apart around him, it became obvious to all that this policy has a fatal flaw. He’s correct to say that community has been eroded by the state provision of services, but wrong in his solution.
In days gone by, if someone had a terrible accident and needed medical attention, the neighbours would club together to pay for a doctor. Today, we’d just call 999. The provision of the NHS has removed the need of self-reliance amongst those neighbours, and therefore reduced community. To argue that by getting rid of the provision of the state, community would likely return, may well be correct, but there is a flaw in this argument which hardly needs elaboration.
Mr Cameron desperately wanted the big society to be a socialist policy. Contrary to his right wing instincts and experience, he believes that the middle ground is essential to win elections in this country. However, he’s become so isolated and humiliated by his inability to accept the fatal flaw of his philosophy, that the Tory right are moving to reinvent the policy in their image.
Thursday night on Question Time, Neo-Conservative author, Douglas Murray, described the Big Society with a confident eloquence.
“It is something like the flipside of the small state. People shouldn’t expect the state to provide them with everything. We’ve created a very strange and unpleasant thing in our society, which is that if anyone expects anything, they expect it from the state. It’s led to a kind of moral obesity in this country.”
Immediately following this program, Andrew Neil’s This Week contained a similar interpretation of the Big Society when former leader of the Conservative right, Michael Portillo, compared it to the philosophy of Margaret Thatcher.
“What she said is there’s no such thing as society. There are families and communities, and a society is judged by how much people fulfil those roles. Funnily enough, “The Big Society” and “There is no such thing as society” are exactly the same thing. It’s about people assuming more responsibility in their communities and their families.”
Mr Cameron has always caused confusion amongst the electorate as to whether he is on the right or on the left. However, it is worth observing that his left wing ideas seem to be picked up and dropped, such as his flirtation with trade unions, while his right wing ideas tend to be consistent. His distaste of political correctness has led him to make public jokes about the height of the Commons speaker.
The 1993 film comedy, Dave, starred Kevin Cline as an ordinary guy who happens look just like the failing American President. White House staff persuade Dave to impersonate their boss as an act of duty, because, “Something has happened to the President.” Aptly to our situation, Dave discovers the deficit and says “If I was to run my business this way… I’d be out of business.” He goes on to becomes a successful President. The most implausible aspect of this comedy being that he achieves popularity through cutting the deficit. Clip below.
For the Conservative Party, it would be too much for them to hope to replace Mr Cameron with an imposter. However, it will be worth observing whether the people closer to Mr Cameron make pronouncements on The Big Society with a newly developed Thatcherite edge.
Mr Cameron’s greatest fault is his own misunderstanding of the British electorate. Left-wing or right-wing is not the most important criteria they consider when choosing a leader. Conviction and sense of purpose are what they look for first. They want a leader who knows where he is taking the country before they are content to follow.
The Conservative Party also understands the political virtue of a clear sense of direction. Mr Cameron may or may not veer to the right; it remains to be seen. However, it is highly questionable, even at this early stage, as to whether he will lead the Conservatives into the next general election.