Snippets of Dr Liam Fox’s Sunday interview with GMTV are picked up in a number of newspapers this morning and Iain Dale has a full transcript. Dr Fox appears to be calling for David Cameron to offer a broader conservatism – emphasing core and breadth policy issues:
"We avoid external coalitions in our politics by maintaining an internal coalition, and the Conservative party has long been a broad coalition and if the party is tilted too much in any one direction that makes us politically less stable and that makes us less attractive for the voters… I think that we do have to deal with some of the issues that we haven’t dealt with in the past. On things like the environment. As you know I’m very keen on issues like mental health and domestic violence… We do have to have that social agenda which I think has been missing, alongside the traditional Conservative policies of wealth creation and of national security and of being tough of crime and so on. And it’s getting the balance right over the next few months that I think we need to do and I think that it is quite preposterous that people expect us to come out with detailed policy now. What I think is reasonable is for people to expect us to set out the intellectual architecture upon which our policy will be based and I think increasingly that is beginning to come forward."
Interviewer Steve Richards then asked the Shadow Defence Secretary if David Cameron was getting the balance wrong at the moment:
"No, I think that this is a project that is still evolving and I think that David Cameron has made a very good start in that he set himself, as a politician in a mould that is of clearly very attractive to a lot of voters. He’s more popular now then the party is. The question now is can we repeat that exercise in showing to the electorate that the Conservative party is a broad coalition which deals with all those issues that the public is concerned about, on crime and discipline and so on, but that it is also able to bring into it this element of social agenda which I think has been missing."
Some will question the wisdom of Dr Fox making these remarks so close to Thursday’s local elections but he has only said yesterday what he said repeatedly last year. Dr Fox understands that ‘the traditionalist right’ of the party are anxious about David Cameron’s relative neglect of issues like crime and national security. He is giving David Cameron good advice. It is exactly the same advice contained in ConservativeHome’s And Theory of Conservatism. Dr Fox is not asking David Cameron to abandon his emphasis on green issues and on social justice. He – like ConservativeHome – applauds David Cameron for embracing those issues. What mustn’t continue to happen, however, is that the party doesn’t talk about the issues that are worrying the striving classes. I think, particularly, of crime, immigration, national security, the tax burden and public service failure.