Saturday’s newspapers are always a treat. You have Matthew Parris in The Times and Charles Moore in The Telegraph. In this morning’s Telegraph, Charles Moore pens a bird’s eye view of Project Cameron and he is optimistic about its chances of success.
He begins by attempting to rebut the contention of "best friends and fellow-Thatcherites" that Mr Cameron has abandoned key Conservative values on tax, crime and Europe:
- "The Cameron formula about cutting taxes only by "sharing the proceeds of growth" is a statement about what, in practice, happens. No government, except in the direst crisis, actually cuts the total of public spending in real terms. It follows that the room for tax cuts is made by growth, and that it is dishonest to promise otherwise – a dishonesty which Gordon Brown is now committing." I certainly agree that taxes will be lower under a Conservative government than under a Labour government but I regret the "stability before tax cuts" mantra and the intellectual damage that it has done to the essential idea that a low tax economy is the most stable and successful type of economy. In the Cameron/Osborne tax formulation there is no acknowledgment that the growth which the Conservatives intend to share is partly based on cutting taxes and other supply-side measures. [Read today’s Platform where Damon Lambert calls for implementation of the Forsyth recommendations].
- "The notorious "hug a hoodie" speech did not say that crime should not be punished. It was an attempt to imagine why boys want to be hoodies. Its purpose was to raise points about education, male role models, social responsibility and, above all, family. That doesn’t seem Lefty-silly to me: it seems thoughtful and, in an unpushy way, Christian." I 100% agree. With David Cameron we really do have a party leader who wants to be tough on crime (more prisons plus police reform) and tough on the causes of crime (support for the family and more drug rehab).
- "Or on Europe, did you notice the other day that Mr Cameron proposed a mechanism within the European treaties which would reverse the ratchet of integration and return power to member states?" I did notice but I worry about Cameron’s steel on Europe because of the delay to EPP exit, the retreat on fishing and my fear of a retreat from democracy in the selection of Tory MEP candidates (a fear Mr Moore shares). Like Neil O’Brien I’m also worried about trusting the EU on the environment.
Charles Moore ends his article by noting some of the Project’s weaknesses. He mentions green taxes and state funding of political parties. He also contends that David Cameron "has done too little to co-opt most of his MPs into his project, so too many are bewildered or cross." That certainly is a weakness. Certain members of the shadow cabinet periodically complain to ConservativeHome that they are inadequately consulted. David Cameron has none of Michael Portillo’s desire for blood on the carpet but more could be done to involve the party in the next steps of a stategy that is beginning to bear political fruit.