Michael Gove and Ruth Davidson have teamed up to back a new Tory think tank, we were told yesterday.

We wonder, is another really needed to add the glut of think tanks already in the UK – 150-odd at the last count?


‘Onward’ is said to be the brainchild of the Conservative MP Neil O’Brien, former director of another think tank, Policy Exchange. He, and apparently Mr Gove and Ms Davidson, worry that without without fresh ideas and a broader appeal, the Conservative Party will be ‘be finished for at least a generation’.

On its current downward membership trajectory, that sounds like a pretty accurate statement. But what of the fresh ideas and broader appeal with which to bribe the Corbynista young? If it’s going to be about more nannying promises to help over-sensitive young souls realise their goals, etc, they are starting off on the wrong foot. That, however, is what it sounds like:

‘The younger generation, and society at large, is not yearning for a five-year plan of centrally delivered tractor quotas. Instead, we are a society that prizes individual autonomy and freedom of expression, and expects government to help us to achieve our goals, not set them.

‘Conservatives should seek to embrace this open, liberal outlook as a positive – and not a threat. But talk is one thing: we must also focus on finding practical solutions that meet the needs of people – because it is only through deeds that trust can be restored.’

There you have it: ‘meeting their needs’. Government, the big Daddy. They say ‘be open and liberal and positive’ then they say that the government must help them achieve their goals – which is not that autonomous after all. It’s not very new either.

In fact it’s standard liberal Left policy – every man and woman for him or herself aided by the State, with the State mopping up (or not) the collateral damage. This is the problem, not the solution. The State cannot be the wish-giver, and it is time, Ms Davidson and Mr Gove, that the Conservatives got honest with young people instead of feeding their discontent and promising they can all be ‘what they want to be’ – the diet, I understand, that schools feed children. Truth would put some clear blue water between the Conservatives and Mr Corbyn. And no, it is not all about an alternative to tractors – I doubt whether many have any concept of agriculture under the Soviets.

Let’s hope Mr O’Brien sees sense before he sends his new team down the same old discredited, not very fresh, ideas track.

When the Coalition took power, he wrote about the hardening divisions between rich and poor in Britain and about the cultural coming apart of society, and warned:

‘Even if it [government] did have lots of cash to spend, it would be a mistake to start sloshing it about until we are clearer about what actually works.’

He went on to say: ‘The government should use this period to pilot and evaluate a range of programmes aimed at reducing the gulf between rich and poor children. We don’t know how to reduce the gap yet, but a concerted attempt to find out would at least signal the government’s intent.’

They found out what didn’t reduce the gap: State intervention and nannying. As Mr O’Brien must now well know, the money sloshed on Dame Louise Casey’s futile ‘troubled families’ programme made not one jot of difference. Any more, as he acknowledged himself, than the State’s expensive Sure Start Programme. Nor, I expect, will he find the ‘fairer university access programme’ has either.

Charles Murray’s book, Coming Apart: The State of White America was the starting point of his review of inequality. That’s what he should go back to – and start again at the beginning.

If he is truly looking for fresh ideas, a dose of truth about what is happening to society and why, as well as the part played by government, and about the destructiveness of identity politics, might not go amiss.

An autonomy-lite/State-heavy prescription won’t lead the Conservatives onwards, let alone upwards, just backwards (to the same tired old Leftie liberal hymn sheet).

30 COMMENTS

  1. “‘Instead, we are a society that prizes individual autonomy and freedom of
    expression, and expects government to help us to achieve our goals, not
    set them.'”

    Kathy Gyngell has already dissected the internal contradictions here, the government-directed “individual autonomy” and so forth, but this is a government which has no right to pretend to be protective of freedom of expression. Successive governments have piled on restrictions on free speech here and Theresa May shows no sign of stopping. She has no libertarian instinct whatever.

    Factions of islamists, vocal but, we are always told, insignificant, still seem to dictate policy to May, who has never met an authoritarian measure which she didn’t yearn to manoeuvre into law. As a result, we are threatened with prison even for telling the objective truth about islamists, while police forces pore over Facebook, but ignore the ballooning murder rate.

    All of this is what the left has in plan for us. A genuine Conservative PM could find the words to reject statist, defeatist propaganda, but Theresa May never will.

  2. Politicians attempting to fix “inequality” (insert canned laughter here). In recent history they have been the greatest creators of more of it, than would be naturally the case if they had just done nothing.

    Any politician with even a passing knowledge of economics and history would know the best way to reduce inequality is through free market economics, and lack of state intervention. Many on the left {like those in the modern conservative party} can never accept inequality is the natural state, because it means their whole belief system is based on a lie.

  3. Gove on a think tank????

    He is basically a Blairite who has realised that the EU is not for us.
    An Elitist devoid of common sense.

  4. What all the elite want is to crush diversity of opinion, to hamstring equality of viewpoint, to destroy parity of beliefs.
    ‘all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others’
    Our political parties serve the very rich and the poor. The hardworking, self sustaining middle classes are now not equal to either.

  5. There are no “fresh ideas”. If you have not learned what works and what doesn’t by now, then there is no hope for you.

    And for what it is worth, there is no variation of “what can the state do for you provided it gets enough of your money” that has ever worked, can ever work or will ever work.

  6. We have progressed from hunting barefoot to driving around in cars, all without the aid of a “think tank”.
    These parasites try to make themselves important but really they just get in the way.

  7. If they want to meet our needs, they can stop mucking about and get on with enacting the decision supported by the biggest mandate in British political history.

  8. Any attempt by mainstream politicians to reduce ‘inequality’ will always fail, because any ‘normal’ political solution will always pander to the needs and wishes of powerful interest groups.

    In education, we have a false antithesis between state and private education. Private education is largely the preserve of the wealthy (= the result of economic power). Economic power however is not the only form of power. State education is available to all, but state (or state-funded) schools are most definitely not homogenous. Church-run schools are usually funded by the state but are smaller and academically better than their secular cousins. Schools in certain areas are better than those in others. Who gets to send their kids to the better schools? Why, the sharp-elbowed, networking, mendacious professional classes! This is the exercise of *political* power. It is perhaps the need to keep these people on board which has stymied the simplest and most transparent method of funding education, the ‘voucher’ method.

  9. The govt does not have lots of cash to spend, it is the taxpayers money. If the current govt want to be true Conservatives they should be reducing taxes thereby letting people decide how to spend their own money.

  10. “Instead, we are a society that prizes individual autonomy and freedom of expression, and expects government to help us to achieve our goals, not set them.”

    Just no. We are a society (with notable individual exceptions) that pays lip service to individual autonomy and freedom of expression, but doesn’t behave that way. If it we actually prized those things we would expect the government to keep out of our way. Provide a safety net? Yes. Dictate a way of living? No. Dictate a way to live in fear of giving offence? No.

    I’m afraid that the quote, above, is a justification for the self-selecting and self-promoting academico-bureaucrats that have dominated public life for the last 50 years or so. Nassim Nicholas Taleb doesn’t speak well of them in his latest book ‘Skin in the Game’ – and neither should we if we truly value individual autonomy and freedom of expression.

  11. The real problem is the strength and overwhelming dominance of the Government, and all Think Tanks are populated either by former or current politicians (paid for by us) and/or current or former Special Advisers (again, all government apparatchiks of one sort or another) or NGO sincerity elites. Hardly ever does a “Think Tank” employ ordinary men and women or genuine business people (not the CBI thank you), because we don’t talk the language or have the “sophistication” of these State actors. Their only weapon for everything is the Purse of the exchequer, and its massive power, and today’s Think Tanks are liberal only fests, with “solutions” generally centred on more of our money being thrown around (to no effect, oddly enough too).
    Mrs Thatcher had many good ideas, and if you recall, many involved LESS spending of our money. That’s why she was the only true radical I have seen in politics in my lifetime.

  12. The region I live in has several of what the statisticians tell us are ‘areas of multiple deprivation’, Over the past twenty years that I know of, these areas have received million upon million in public money over and above what any other area receives. And each year, however much was spent the previous year and the years before that, every one of them is still an ‘area of multiple deprivation’.

  13. Ruth Davidson completed the transition of the late Conservative party into Blaibour by writing in the Guardian (of all places!) that it needs to become more liberal (code for left wing) in order to appeal to ‘younger voters’ (sic).

    Affirmation that the late Conservative party, now Blaibour, has utterly failed to persuade the country with a conservative narrative. Instead of holding to conservative beliefs with integrity and passionately championing them it seeks instead to curry favour with ‘the young’ by publicly abandoning those beliefs it has not championed or defended for many a long year.

    Davidson and Gove look at the brainwashed young and think the only way to secure their votes is to become the THING that has brainwashed them. For decades the Tories sat, fat, idle and complacent, as the left took over the BBC, the arts, academia and the civil service, including the constabulary. More often than not they facilitated the long marching power grab rather than opposing it or preventing it with any kind of integrity or conservative passion. Gove let Cameron chase him away from the Blob with his tail between his legs. They fell, hook line and sinker for the idea that “modernisation” meant turning to the left and living its lies.

    What is it, this THING with a useless leader that now squats, ugly and ineffective, to the left of centre? This THING that now presents voters with the dismal choice of a party of the hard left, a party of the centre left seeking to move ever leftwards or a party of misfits and weirdos slithering between the two. It’s Blaibour, the worst of Toryism and the worst of Blairite Labour. The Blairites still huddled for the ride in Corbyn’s ghastly bandwagon might as well join it and have done.

  14. Yet another vacuous politician who sees the world as comprising merely atomised individuals wilfully dreaming of their wishes, which the Fairy Godmother, Big State, then grants !
    What about Burke’s “little battalions” ? What about families, Mum married to Dad and their kids, or is that only for the royals ?

  15. Think tanks are job creation for the public sector, I mean all that money spent on a tertiary education, someone’s gotta create the jobs innit?

    Quangoes are the EU offices paid for by you and me and running the UK, think tanks are their propaganda outlets, to spread the word and all about the ‘new order’.

    Michael Gove, I think the lizard people have altered his core function and brain, he no longer belongs to the human race, mind you it could be plain and simple intimidation and political armtwisting blackmail, who knows but gawd he’s gone full green SJW Borg.

  16. “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government and I’m here to help,”

    Ronald Reagan

  17. “he wrote about the hardening divisions between rich and poor in Britain and about the cultural coming apart of society,”
    Caused by excessive government in the first place!

  18. If the “Conservatoives” want this think-tank to produce any real results, they should travel Northwards, deep into Conservative / BREXIT territory and ask around a bit.
    If they stay in Westminster with their virtue-signalling, politically-correct, Oxbridge educated sycophantic slaves / SPADS they will learn absolutely nothing about becoming relevant in Britain in 2019.
    I predict the latter.

  19. I’d trust a Conservative Woman think tank a whole lot more than the other 150-odd already out there, although some brutally honest home truths might be a bit awkward for our liberal, progressive Great and Good.

  20. Think Tank checklist for Conservatives.
    1. Deliver a clean, proper Brexit.
    2. If that means removing Theresa May (and it almost certainly does) then get on with it now, before she does any more damage.
    3. No £40B Brexit bill, out of CU & SM. STOP kowtowing to Brussels.
    4. Borders. Make them secure and start treating them (and us) with some respect.
    5. Illegal immigrant? Bye bye, you’re leaving.
    6. Any new illegals: processed, convicted and removed inside 7 days. Lifetime ban from UK. No exceptions.
    7. Foreign aid. Slash to 20% of current, absurd levels.
    8. Climate change. Please for the love of God stop this insanity. The single stupidest ‘policy’ I’ve seen in all 53 years of my life on Earth. Risible.
    9. Energy policy. Any chance we could have UK energy security via cheap and abundant ‘stuff that actually works’, eg coal and shale gas?
    10. Address the HUGE elephant in the room of the Islamification of the UK, in particular the long-term demographics, which are terrifying. This is serious.
    That’s 10 and enough to be going on with. You can have those for free. You’re welcome.

  21. The number of think tanks is inversely proportional to the amount of thinking that goes on in Westminster.

  22. As soon as I saw the word “liberal”, I knew it was going to be packed to the rafters with meaningless BS.

  23. O’Brien left out an important qualifier when he said we don’t know yet how to reduce the gulf between rich and poor children. What we don’t know is how to close the gap and remain a free society. The education system has been in a constant state of equality-oriented flux since Crosland, the introduction of the comprehensive system and the end of the 11+. Crosland shrank from the political and libertarian consequences of trying to ban the public school system which remains as a safety net for middle and upper class families who distrust state education.

    The gap has therefore persisted and will continue to do so for as long as private education remains an option and comprehensives are unequal in the quality of education that they offer. The benefit of a private education over what the state provides is confirmed by the number of left wing politicians who prefer to pay for the education of their own children. We jeer at them for this but no decent parent would gamble with his child’s future merely to comfort his own political prejudices.

    We need educated elites. A state monopoly over education would perforce be no more egalitarian than what we have at the moment. Alisdair Campbell condemned «bog standard» comprehensives. I wonder how many of them are bog standard because the education authorities don’t think there’s much point in trying to do anything more with the pupils in their catchment areas. The gap is factored into the educational system as something beyond remedy. If that’s the case, talk about closing the gap is futile and a deliberate misleading of voters.

  24. If the Conservative party wants to broaden their appeal, they only need to look at why Corbyn did far better than expected and denied the Conservatives an overall majority in the General Election.

    The big vote losers for the Tories were university fees, the so called dementia tax that meant inheritances were at stake not just from care home fees but also from home help fees and the removal of the winter fuel allowance. All these measures only applied in England and were therefore indefensible. We are supposed to live in a United Kingdom but here was the Tory party, in their electoral heartland of England, proposing more charges and taxes and less benefits for English voters than Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish voters. How on earth could they expect to win an overall majority on that basis? As one voter said at the time, Labour would bankrupt the country but the Tories stood to bankrupt his family with university fees and the dementia tax and his family switched from three Tory voters to just one. He stuck with the Tories because of Brexit. No doubt he is disillusioned about the Tory performance on that as well nowadays.

    It is notable that in Scotland the Conservatives won many more seats precisely because they weren’t campaigning on polices that alienated large numbers of Conservative supporters.

    Sadly the Conservative leadership hasn’t the collective basic common sense to realise what went wrong and that you actually have to have policies that appeal to voters if you wish to win a General Election. Corbyn doesn’t lack that basic common sense and therein lies the danger next time round.

  25. I do have a certain amount of sympathy with this argument, but, to chuck some cliches at the page, politics is both the art of the possible and downstream from culture. Unfortunately, society at large is both more liberal in its personal morality than the conservative traditionalists would like, and less liberal in economics than the Thatcherites would like. Since think tanks exist to funnel ideas to politicians who wish to win elections, they will generally come up with solutions that reflect the general consensus, with the occasional tweak as a nod to ideology. They are a symptom, not the underlying problem, and nothing will change until conservatives attempt to change the culture or its underlying flaws are revealed clearly (e.g. by a Corbyn government).

  26. There is a fashionable section of the middle class that goes from academia into politics, possibly via journalism or a charity or another sector that contains nothing but fashionable middle class people, and I think it is fair to say that think tanks are almost universally made up of these folk. I’m not sure how coming from that section of society qualifies you to understand inequality or any of the many other problems that do not affect you or anyone you know.

    I am of the belief that the only long term solution is education opportunities. Bright working class kids need to be able to get the same education as bright rich kids. Less academically inclined working class kids need to have their non-academic talents mined and be found suitable trades. No one should leave school with no qualifications or prospects. What we have now is an education system that is very good at funnelling middle class girls into humanities degree courses and little else.

  27. How government helps with all that stuff they talk about is quite simple. In the very short American idiom: “Get off my lawn”. Get out of the way and let people alone to do what they dream of, when they fail, let them, let them find a way to try again, and again, and again, until they succeed. If you mollycoddle them so they cannot fail, and pay the price, they cannot succeed.

  28. Think Tanks would be ok, if anyone actually did some thinking…which they obviously do, but then the thinking is ignored as it wasn’t what was thought was going to be thunk, and the original answer, that should have been thunked but wasn’t because proper people were thinking about it, is used for policy development.
    Insane.

  29. Michael Gove and Ruth Davidson are a brilliant combination.
    Davidson has the chutzpah to draw in the beautiful young things and Gove the drive and ideas to regenerate the party.
    Furthermore Gove has been criticised for stabbing dithering Boris. But what that tells me is that he has the necessary steel to drive forward a Tory agenda.
    Far from any criticism here I welcome the alliance with open arms.

Comments are closed.