Saturday, November 06, 2010

Progressive Conservatism is an oxymoron

David Cameron's silly use of the term 'progressive' is a clear illustration that the Tories will do almost anything to try and show that they are the party of the future. The truth about David Cameron's Tories is that they relish soundbites, image and tomorrow's headlines; have a clear sense of what will look good and almost no apparent political convictions. The reforms that Mr Cameron made to his party once he became leader were primarily cosmetic (a new HQ, a new party logo) and shortlived (the party's "A" list of candidates). His new and so-called 'progressive' Conservatives, indeed this can now include many of his coalition front bench partners, are made up of the right kind of people, his people - privately educated and from a background of immense wealth and privilege. Cameron's 'progressive' Tories still believe that the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their political, their economic, and their social views. Far from being progressive the Tory attitude to politics is archaic and redundant. The modern Tory party is the old Tory party re-packaged. David Cameron's Tories present the electorate with false choices; you have to be pro-business or pro-unions, pro-growth or pro-environment, for civil liberties or against them, in favour of immigration or opposed to it, a progressive or a dinosaur.

David Cameron is fast becoming the Janus of British politics. The truth is that you can be a progressive in politics or you can be a conservative but you cannot be both at the same time

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Firstly, I think its absolutely essential when you are tackling the issue of progressive conservatism, a movement that has its roots far beyond David Cameron, to be absolutely clear what you mean when using the word.

Progressive in itself refers to those that are pro-reform and pro-change. It is useful to note that even Tories who happily promoted the interests of the privately educated and wealthy might be considered progressive where those views and actions contrasted with what had gone before.

Conservatism as a movement cannot be cutdown into anti-union, anti-environment and anti-civil liberties. It is a much wider ideology that the individual should be free, the taxpayer should spend less and the government should not intervene. This can explain, in part, why the Liberals and the Tories are actually working together. Labour as a movement stands for government intervention, for high taxation and for, I'm sorry to remind you, less individual freedom. The Liberals might be more 'left' than the Tories but their shared heritage of putting the individual first and government second means that Labour is now not in a Coalition government. This marked shift in government policy, from "socialist" government intervention to a more liberal approach is a progressive change.

Consider this with the fact that progressivism and pragmatism, a stalwart of conservative heritage and of laissez-faire government, are close as concepts and you start to see why the Conservatives might have the right to be 'progressive'.

The merits or faults of any party lie in more subtle debate than the traditional Labour poetry and whilst you might not support the Conservatives or the coalition you cannot deny their desire to change and desire to reform is progressive.