ConservativeHome recently revealed that Danny Kruger was leaving The Telegraph to become special adviser to David Cameron. He provides the cover feature for this month’s Prospect magazine and he identifies his new boss’ big idea as ‘fraternity’. Prospect declares that Danny is writing in a personal capacity – but given that CCHQ distributed the article via email yesterday afternoon we can conclude that they are quite happy to be associated with it.
The article is beautifully-written and focuses on one of the most important debates in politics. For the left individuals are largely connected with one another through the state. Through those connections they receive their education and their welfare, for example. For the right, in contrast, individuals are largely joined together by society. It’s a subject dear to my heart and when I ran CCO’s Renewing One Nation policy unit I oversaw the publication of ‘There is such a thing as society‘.
For Danny, "fraternity does not concern the freedom of the individual (the abstract one) or the equality of the people (the abstract all) but the quality of relationships among the communities we inhabit: the real some." He continues:
"Fraternity is the sphere of belonging, of membership, the sphere of identity and particularity. It exists in civil society, in the arena of commercial and social enterprise, of family and nation. It concerns neighbourhood, voluntary association, faith, and all the other elements of identity that relate us to some and distinguish us from others. It concerns culture."
Up until now Cameron has spoken of ‘shared responsibility’ rather than ‘fraternity’ but the Tory leader is clearly interested in the great mix of people-sized institutions that lie between the individual and the state and which give our lives their richness and meaning.
It’s early days to know what practical action is going to flow from this big idea (if it is Mr Cameron’s big idea). But Danny Kruger, as one would expect, is hopeful…
- David Cameron is committed to localism, he writes: "Localism is one of the defining themes of today’s Conservative party… Localism comprehends both liberty, the belief that people should be trusted to make the decisions that affect their own neighbourhoods, and fraternity, the recognition that a community is all in it together." But are David Cameron’s instincts really localist? There wasn’t much localism on show earlier this week when the ability of local Conservative parties to choose their own candidates was sacrificed in order to meet CCHQ’s centralised target for more women MPs. Very Gordon Brown and a decision rightly criticised by the Direct Democracy group.
- Danny Kruger correctly identifies the corrosive effect of Gordon Brown’s tax burden: "We are suffering what Keith Joseph long ago called "the pocket money society": a combination of high taxes, high house prices, expensive pensions and large welfare entitlements runs the risk of infantilising the population, leaving us each with just enough money to spend on pleasure but not enough to spend on the responsibilities of adulthood." But what is Team Cameron proposing to do about Gordon Brown’s record tax levels? Almost nothing. Danny Kruger defends Team Cameron by pointing to plans to prioritise cuts in business taxation. Businesses, says Danny, are "the fraternal glue that holds many communities together." True but tax relief for families and charities is probably more important for ending that ‘pocket money society’.
- Danny Kruger’s third reason for hope is David Cameron’s commitment to marriage and the family: "The promotion of marriage will promote liberty. More importantly, it will also promote fraternity. The evidence shows that, more often than the alternatives, the institution of marriage binds a family together, helping children grow up happy and socialised." The jury is still out on David Cameron’s commitment to the family although I am optimistic that IDS’ social justice policy group will be clear in the need to support marriage. David Cameron hedged his bets in his recent speech on family policy and he certainly faces opposition from the likes of Tim Yeo to dilute his leadership pledge on a tax allowance for married couples.
Danny Kruger may have an uphill struggle making the rhetoric match the policy agenda but it is very good news that he is in the leader’s office – making the case for ‘fraternity’ to be a central feature of Project Cameron.