Clement Attlee's Labour government was arguably the most influential administration in modern British history as the ramifications of his premiership live on in the 21st century. The NHS, social housing, welfare; systems so terribly abused and breaking today, originally represented a Promised Land to a poor population devastated by war. Such benefits were then an 'easy sell' and guaranteed votes. Their long-term affordability, however, was never questioned. Despite obvious signs of subsequent breakdown, successive governments of both persuasions have perpetuated the myth that Atlee's 'reforms' were the best that could be delivered. Untouchable. Sacred. It is high time we stopped kidding ourselves. With the State's debt continuing to double under the current government it is clear that we can no longer live like we have been doing.
It is some achievement that socialism (including the current 'polished' version) has maintained a firm grip on British life since the War. The Labour Party has thrived on the electorate's growing acceptance of State diktat and generous hand-outs. In effect, the Left still controls welfare, health, education and the largest state broadcaster in the world. Their power base has allowed them to maintain unrivalled influence over some of the most essential elements of British life: hospitals, schools and, most importantly, the information needed for people to decide what they think and who they choose to vote for. This is astonishing and represents a genuine failure of the Right. I have to take my hat off to the often privately-educated, left-wing elite who designed and continue to operate the programme. It does have a certain elegance. But, as a Conservative 'by experience' (not by birth) I have developed a deep dislike of this 'soft' Left: what they have done to our country and what they will continue to do if left unchecked?
For this is 2012 not 1945! Stoicism is less fashionable. People are living longer. They are relatively better off (ironically because of capitalism). The world has become a very different place, less stable and much more widely competitive. To put it another way, our old Socialist systems and attitudes will no longer do. We need to start again. For sure, the Left knows it has much to lose if we attempt to do this. Hence the TUC's recent threat of a general strike. Their votes are all tied up in out-dated, unaffordable, over-sized government. That is why changing the status quo will be politically tough to achieve. It is imperative, though, that we succeed. And soon.
I do concede that the Left has recently introduced some new practices and concepts. We've had health and safety regulation, political correctness, 'multiculturalism' and a laissez-faire attitude towards immigration; the latter two leading to the recent rise of neo-Nazism. And don't forget the 'creative accounting' of the various PFI projects, arguably the biggest scandal of the last Labour administration, which has left this country with huge financial liabilities. Of course, spending beyond their means has always been de rigueur for Socialists. And what of recent social strife? I would argue that lef-wing attitudes created the environment in which the riots of Summer 2011 occurred: welfare dependency, an emphasis of individual rights over responsibilities and the breakdown of family structures. A heady cocktail, indeed. A Socialist Wallbanger, no less!
With all of this evidence against, why does Labour (and other politicians who covertly follow their creed) continue with such a failed approach? It is simple, really. They have always put their own interests before tax-payers. If this is not the case, why do they oppose any attempt to even tinker around the edges of out-dated systems and practices? It's because they are wedded to a bankrupt ideology and rising subscriptions. Why do they deny the undeniable? How can seemingly intelligent, reasonable people ignore decades of social failure and the cold, hard economic and demographic facts of modern life? It's because they want things to stay the same, so as to retain what power they still have. They are the New Luddites. This is why true Conservatives have an historic obligation. It's time we started telling the British public the truth. Blunt. Unvarnished. If we don't, we will have abrogated our responsibility.
To date, we've somewhat shirked this duty. Politically unpalatable for us, apparently. The Establishment, which people from my background traditionally relied upon to keep a wise hand on the tiller, have foolishly assumed such a Socialist influence on our way of life served as some sort of positive counterweight to their perceived privilege. Perhaps their own sense of guilt and conscience, allied with a some times remarkable ignorance of what being 'poor' truly entailed, lead them to defend the increasing role of the State. Mostly able to afford to make private arrangements for their own families, their management of decline since has been disorderly at best. Even today this patronising approach is thought by some to be good politics on both sides of the aisle. Perhaps it is: Labour benefits from keeping 'their people' where they are and Conservatives benefit from being seen to care about where those people remain.
Unfortunately for Britain, I believe that many front-line politicians are resisting the obvious need for radical change. Try imagining a world with a smaller BBC, an organisation that currently controls over 60% of the UK's media market. A new media environment would be created in which independent news and entertainment purveyors could succeed without State subsidy. Or, try considering a Britain with a new health service delivering the best care on the globe to those in real clinical need irrespective of means. As opposed to Nye Bevan's system, one that is on an unsustainable spending path, creaking under the weight of ever-increasing patient demand.
What would a school system entirely independent of the State look like? Schools for all in which poor performing teachers could be sacked whilst genuine academic and sporting achievement were actively sought. Classrooms full of respectful children, eager to learn and better themselves. What about a country where long-term social housing no longer existed because everyone had to aspire to either pay rent privately or own a home (or part thereof)? A country in which welfare was solely a short-term, emergency fund to draw upon, not a lifestyle choice. A society in which people were encouraged to become self-reliant and resilient of all that life threw at them. Communities in which property and people were both respected. What of a country where all of its citizens had to speak a common language?
Above all, imagine a Britain that prioritised achieving excellence: be that in the workplace, the Arts, science, engineering, sporting endeavour or, dare I say, government. A truly great country, widely admired, and one that lead the world. Is that not a country where we all want to live? It is certainly one I want to serve. I fear that if we don't achieve this vision then the next generation will leave these shores in droves for pastures new. Who could blame them if they did? Would you want to pay increasing levels of tax with no guarantee of a decent return? To keep them here, we need to challenge politicians who cling to a 'centre ground' cosily defined by these New Luddites. A genuine revolution is required. Are you up for it? I am.