Now listen. I don’t want to be rude to my fellow conservatives, I really don’t. But I feel the time has now come to say to the economic liberals out there: screw you. You left us social conservatives high and dry and now they are coming for you.
We have always said social conservatism is a necessary if not sufficient requirement for economic liberalism, but you either did not believe us or dismissed us as ‘the blue rinse brigade.’ But now, predictably, Mother Theresa and big Statism is coming for you. Welcome to the being on the outside of the tent.
On Saturday, Matthew Parris had a piece that for once I agreed with. Excuse me, but I will quote a length. Parris discussing the leaked Labour manifesto:
“Phase out tuition fees, as this manifesto promises to do? Is Labour’s alternative — free education from the nursery to graduation day — really unthinkable? School is already free, so why should it be a crazy Marxist idea to extend that to university, where about half the younger generation will now go? I prefer the case for competition between universities, for making the student a customer, for consumer choice. But the Tories haven’t made the case.
“More help with childcare and social care? More and better social housing and council-house building? Better universal credit? These are promises to which, from millions, the default answer would be “yes please”, in the absence of any good reason why not. The Tories haven’t made the case why not.
“Make zero-hours contracts illegal? Nobody likes the brutalities of a few unscrupulous employers, but careful regulation, not a generic blanket ban, must be the answer, because there’s a compelling case to be made for flexibility in the labour market. The Tories haven’t made the case.
“So what’s the case they make as this election kicks off? “Jeremy Corbyn, ha ha ha. Pacifist, ha ha ha. Worzel Gummidge, ha ha ha. Look at his silly beard, ha ha ha. Shortest suicide note in history, mad Marxist, imagine his hand on the nuclear button, imagine him negotiating Brexit?” Brexit, Brexit, Brexit; Corbyn, Corbyn, Corbyn; ha ha ha.
“To the ha ha ha is added the second string to this two-note Conservative bow: sob sob sob. “We’d love to, truly we would — but, désolé, the money just isn’t there.” More nursery provision, more money for nurses? More generous welfare provision? Vast new spending on the NHS? More, more, more of the good that government can do? “Splendid idea,” murmur the Tories, “but sadly money doesn’t grow on trees.” How well I recognise the tactic over decades of doorstep conversations: don’t get bogged down arguing the merits, just sigh that you’d love to help but the cupboard is bare.”
Parris says, for now this will work. The Conservatives,“.. duck. Blair ducked with “what works”, lacking the courage to explain why what works, works. Dear me, no: that would have been ideological. Cameron ducked with “austerity”, lacking the appetite to explain why a Tory government wanted to cut fat regardless. Now May and her team duck behind a Tory screech that Labour’s plans are “not costed”, would cause “a black hole”, etc. And none dare preach the positive case for small government, individual responsibility, family duty and that element of sink-or-swim that sounds harsh but is integral to the case for Adam Smith economics.
"Brexit will save Mrs May and spare her the bother of trying to frame a principled case for 21st-century Conservatism. But Brexit will not always be with us, and meanwhile we’re allowing Conservatism as a philosophy to atrophy.” (My emphasis)
And he is right, is he not? It is just unfortunate that it is May’s economic socialism and not Cameron’s social liberalism that caused this great realisation to dawn on Mr Parris.
I think individual responsibility and family duty is about as close to social conservatism as we can get when it comes to Parris but it will do. And yes, it is as necessary to conservatism as free-market economics are.
This awakening is not confined to Parris. As Ryan Bourne points out here, “Former Labour leader Ed Miliband may have lost the general election battle in 2015, but when one sees the interventionist trend in Conservative government policy, he is arguably winning the war.”
Allister Heath thinks things are so bad that ‘it is time for a new campaign for capitalism and markets’ and that the ‘Tories gave up fighting for free markets years ago when Cameron was elected leader.’ Yes they gave up at around the same time they fell in love with social liberalism also.
So let’s just say it again: without strong families based on marriage you can expect free markets to die and State interventionism to grow. Write this down: the weaker the family, the bigger the State.
We have to have a big State if you have social liberalism, as it is the only thing left to fill the gap left after the family falls apart. Why is this so difficult for the big wigs to understand?
Let’s just take the issue that kicked The Conservative Woman off – the State subsidy of external childcare. When Cameron signed up to the feminist agenda in order to ‘detoxify the party’ by pushing more and more mothers out to work, you need someone to look after the kids, and it turns out that will cost.
In fact, it will cost the taxpayer about £6 billion a year. Do you see the straight line there between feminism/social liberalism and the interventionist State? It is very straight indeed, so straight that the ruler used to draw it just poked out the eye of the economic liberals.
Now you could have said, we are conservatives so we’ll let the family decide (not the same as mothers must be at home, mark). We will let the married couples pool their tax allowances and then they have choice what to do. This will strengthen marriage and delegate decisions about care to the family, where they belong. They can both work and pay for care, work and get a relative to care, or have someone at home and someone at work. It could be the mother, it could be father, it is up to you. But no, no, no we had to have all the mothers in work. So enjoy that 6 BILLLION pound subsidy.
By the way, if you have all the mothers at work, they can’t help look after older relatives either. So you have to give employment leave for that now too. It is unpaid but interventionist. Unpaid year-long leave to care for elderly relatives is the latest wheeze from Mother Theresa. And there is plenty more where that came from.
(Image: Chatham House)