A number of commentators in this morning’s newspapers see evidence of a "traumatised" and ideologically-confused Conservative Party…

Peter Oborne in The Daily Mail:

"While the nationalisation of the banks will cheer all those who believe (as large parts of the Labour Party still do) in an all powerful state, it is also a massive blow for those who believe – like David Cameron’s Conservatives – in liberal capitalism. The Tory Party has a desperate problem in the coming months – how to defend a failed economic system that is core to its political beliefs."

Simon Heffer in The Telegraph:

"The Conservative Party appears completely traumatised by events and,
as its predecessors did after the war, seems happy to buy into the
socialist project in the interests of a quiet life and a deceptively
good night’s sleep."

Simon Hoggart in The Guardian:

"Poor Mr Cameron was experiencing something he hasn’t often experienced
before – a defeat at prime minister’s questions. He launched into a
lengthy demand for bankers to be controlled and even punished. No more
irresponsible behaviour, inappropriate dividends, indefensible bonuses.
He sounded like a Trot."

Longstanding conservative beliefs are still relevant to this crisis.  Here are five:

Britain has lived beyond its means. Labour spent too much and too wastefully during the good years.  Where Labour is incapable of controlling public spending, Conservatives can and must bring good housekeeping back to government.  We should be recommending a real terms freeze in all discretionary expenditure.  Households are facing tougher limits.

Higher taxes are the last thing that our troubled economy needs. Various centre right thinkers made this case on ConHome last week.  Nick Clegg makes the argument in today’s Independent.  We need to be hearing it from the Tory leadership, too.  If the banks do not need all of the £50bn recapitalisation we should consider diverting that money to economy-boosting tax relief for the real economy.

Over-regulation will kill our chances of recovery. Government is not good at financial regulation.  As Peter Cuthbertson has written: The economies to regulate most will recover least.

Protectionism will turn recession into depression.  We need to continue to make the case for free trade.  As the real economy turns towards we may see unhealthy and dangerous calls for protectionism.  Conservatives must lead resistance to those calls.

Welfare and schools reforms are vital to long-term competitiveness.  The Tory social agenda remains vital.  We can’t afford to pay benefits to millions of able-bodied people and for schools that fail to teach basic skills.  The reforms proposed by Chris Grayling, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith are more important than ever.   

One thing is absolutely true: Gordon Brown will always be willing to promise more spending and regulation than us. It might have been right to be bipartisan yesterday but we need to present our own distinctive way out of this crisis in the weeks ahead.

PS We recommended a ‘Time to man up’ speech to Mr Cameron in March.  That speech still needs to be given.

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