"So this is supposed to be David Cameron’s Clause Four moment – when, like Tony Blair before him, he buries the party’s election-losing past and moves into a brave new era. Well, perhaps. But let’s not forget we have sort of been here before. William Hague had his "common sense" agenda with a document setting out what his Tory party was really all about. He also called it "compassionate Conservatism" by the way. There was Iain Duncan Smith’s "fair deal for everyone". More recently, Michael Howard had his full page "I Believe" newspaper advertisements in which he set out what his Tory party was all about. Now Mr Cameron has his "Built to Last" statement that, er, sets out what his Tory party is really all about."
Slightly less cynical but less accurate is the Corporation’s Nick Robinson. He has been writing about the document on his blog:
"For the Tories to sign up to a "moral obligation" to end world poverty; to building a consensus to tackle global warming; to testing their policies against what they do for the most disadvantaged, or to celebrating the role of government can play as a force for good is, to say the least, historically intriguing."
Mr Robinson went further on last night’s Newsnight and on Today this morning. He suggested that it was impossible to imagine any of the last three Tory leaders saying the kind of stuff that appears in Built To Last. Not quite, Mr Robinson. Much of the material is very close to that spoken or written by IDS. Here are the most obvious things…
IDS actually launched a book entitled There Is Such A Thing As Society in September 2002. It contained essays – all by Conservatives – on localisation, the importance of the family, standing up to big business, redistribution, a bigger role for the voluntary sector, drug rehabilitation and third world development. In many ways it offers something much closer to the Cameron agenda than the much better known Blue Tomorrow tome.
‘Built To Last’: "The right test for our policies is how they help the most disadvantaged in society, not the rich."
IDS at last October’s Conservative Party conference: "If a Conservative policy doesn’t help the most vulnerable people in Britain it shouldn’t be a Conservative policy."
‘Built To Last’: "[Government] can and should support aspirations such as home ownership, saving for a pension, and starting a business. It should support families and marriage, and those who care for others."
IDS: "Government should support the aspiration to marry – because healthy marriages are good for children and good for society as a whole. This is not about preaching to people about how they should lead their lives. But about what works. Government does, after all, support other socially constructive ambitions like the ambition to learn, to save or to start a business."
‘Built To Last’: "We’re all in this together – government, business, the voluntary sector, families and individuals. We have a shared responsibility for our shared future."
IDS: "We are to preserve the natural environment for future generations. Government must play its full part – knowing when to act itself and knowing when to stand back so people can step forward. Building the common good is not just or primarily the role of government. It is the responsibility of us all."
I could go on and on… I really could! But my point is made. I’m transparently biased as I still work with Iain at the Centre for Social Justice but his trailblazing for David Cameron has been greatly under-acknowledged.
FROM 9AM TOMORROW AND ON THE HOUR, EVERY HOUR, I’LL BE POSTING BRIEF REACTIONS TO EACH MAIN SECTION OF ‘BUILT TO LAST’. IT’LL BE A CHANCE TO EXAMINE SOME OF THE VALUES IN MORE DEPTH THAN HAS ALREADY TAKEN PLACE ON THE "WE BELIEVE…" THREAD.