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).