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Mark Ellse: The Right must avoid the siren solutions of the Left


It’s difficult to decide how to treat near-parallel blogs. Does one draw attention to them or ignore them? And are they, indeed, parallel? Readers of The Conservative Woman may or may not be aware of Times columnist Tim Montgomerie’s ‘Good Right’ project, to achieve ‘a conservatism that is compassionate and electorally successful’. Might this be an ally?

Wary of the narcissism of small differences, I have tried extremely hard to like Tim Montgomerie’s Good Right, not least because the project is at least an overt push for the Right, something unfamiliar in today’s Conservative party. Top of the list is the desire ‘to make the moral case for conservatism’ which is something that many of us would support, perhaps more enthusiastically were we sure of what he means by ‘conservatism’.

The Good Right website has aspects of real insight. The Ten ways in which the Left has lost the moral high ground is largely a model of clarity about the weakness of the left wing position. This Good Right analysis would be an excellent core from which to explain why socialism, wherever it is applied, gets countries into a mess. Surely it’s much more winning for the Right to explain to voters why we should balance income and expenditure than present the electorate with ‘We will cut more than them!”?

The presentation of the Good Right is superb: cuddly, three-day-growth, smiles, no tie. We are the ‘nice guys’: the ‘other Right’ is the Bad Right. But is that true? Really?

The Good Right wants ‘to take a more positive view of the role that the State plays in society.’ Among its aims are ‘providing a generous safety-net’, ‘investment for government-funded construction of social housing’ and ‘measures of social progress to be produced alongside measures of material growth.’ In the view of the Good Right, the ‘benefits and social nature’ are the focus of marriage rather than anything to do with the conception and nurturing of children by their biological parents.

Here are the weaknesses. The Good Right ducks the hard decisions of the Right. To a naive electorate the politics of the Left are so much easier to campaign for. Generous safety net, social housing, education focused on social mobility rather than academic excellence. Of course it’s much easier in today’s world to invite everyone into marriage rather than being ‘judgemental’.

But the consequences of socialist policies are far from good. We have too comfortable a safety net and welfare expenditure has expanded until it has become unaffordable. The State’s overspending and the knowledge that a Macmillan-style social housing boom would run at a loss prevent any huge social housing project. Our education system, supervised by Ofsted thought police, focuses on equality instead of training good academics and skilled plumbers. And to avoid offending a few radical campaigners we must not give special recognition to those relationships which produce and raise children.

Of course the State has a role but it is to ameliorate rather than remove hardship. Politics which are right, in both senses of the word, and good will inevitably involve relative hardship for some. Those who do not work will be worse off than those who do. Those who spend easily in their youth will not be able to afford to buy a house and will be worse off. Those who do not value education will have a harder life than those who do. And no society that has a proper desire for its own succession will give to all the same benefits that it gives to those whose primary reason for being together is to produce the next generation.

The Good Right adopts too much the easy sell of the Left. It is neither right, nor good.

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Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse is a physicist and author. He is a former headmaster, independent school inspector and A level chief examiner.

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