The Conservative Conference in Manchester is effectively the beginning of the Tory campaign for the 2010 General Election. We can confidently expect that Labour will pay the price in that election for its epic fail as a government. Once again Labour will leave Britain with worse education, more structural unemployment, a debased currency, massive debts and a moribund economy. The election will give the people their moment of revenge, but can we hope for more than that brief pleasure from the Conservatives?
David Cameron personifies High Toryism, with its noblesse oblige approach to social problems. He sees a powerful role for the state in "improving" our lives. His version of the traditional High Tory concern for conserving the countryside is a radical approach to "Green" issues. Advised by his chum Zach Goldsmith, he embraces the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming and is ready to use authoritarian measures to "save the planet." While previous Conservative leaders had to pretend to believe in the Soviet-style National Health Service for political expediency, Cameron actually does. If you believe the important healthcare industry works best as a state enterprise, why stop there?
In short, the man is barely a Conservative at all. Still less is he a free-market classical liberal. He is as much a Statist as Gordon Brown, but merely wishes to pull the government's levers to (slightly) different effect.
New Labour has criminalised well over 3,000 formerly legal activities. It has been one of the most authoritarian governments in British history. Cameron's Conservatives are suggesting the repeal of none of them. The "ratchet effect" Margaret Thatcher struggled to combat is back. If the New Conservatives repeal none of New Labour's laws and then add more of their own, all we can confidently expect is to be less free after their first term. I am far more interested in a programme of legislative repeals than in any new measures. No such programme is on offer.
To fix "broken Britain" needs courage. Taxes for the lower paid should be reduced, both to eliminate the nonsense of minimum wage-earners paying income tax and to open a wide gap between those on benefits and those who earn. Only then will we get our 6 million "economically inactive" back into production. The benefits system needs to be radically simplified and all abuses ruthlessly eliminated. The National Health Service needs to be replaced with a compulsory insurance system and all healthcare providers privatised. Education too should be privatised and the National Curriculum eliminated. Not only will Cameron's Conservatives not attempt all of this, they will not attempt any of it. They lack the testicular fortitude.
I fear the best we can hope for is for the Conservatives to slow the rate of economic decline and the drift to a police state. Not very inspiring is it?