In a series of eight short posts throughout today, Tim Montgomerie, Editor of ConservativeHome, offers ‘eight takeaways’ from the Birmingham Party Conference.
At a fringe meeting on Tuesday I defended ‘nudging’. I was on a panel of four but I was on my own – even the chairman, Claire Fox, was against me. One person in the audience described my recommendations as steps towards "tyranny".
I ended my remarks by rejecting the anti-government mentality that dominated this ‘FreedomZone’ event. I am a small government conservative but I certainly don’t reject all government activity. I share the view of many libertarians that government actions have contributed to Britain’s broken society but I do not share their view that government can’t help put things right.
I listed things that government has got right in the recent past: preparing the old nationalised industries for privatisation; US welfare reform; zero tolerance policing in New York; the Iraq troops surge. In each of those cases I’m far from convinced that a laissez-faire approach would have succeeded.
In this light I warmly welcomed David Cameron’s rejection of the anti-government mentality in yesterday’s speech (although he misrepresented libertarianism somewhat). It’s far too powerful in sections of the Conservative Party.
As the Conservatives embark on their programme of social reform we are going to need some active government: active government to reform the schools system, help to get people off welfare, investment in relationship education, greater grit in the store card credit market and so on. These are short-term activisms that aim to build a stronger society. Without a stronger society we’ll never make sustainable reductions in the size of the welfare state. David Cameron understands that.
> Related link: Intruderism