Tim Montgomerie writes:
In three days’ time John McCain will lose the race for the White House. ConservativeHome readers’ favourite conservative – John Howard (in a vote last year) – was ousted a year ago. C entre right leaders in Europe are a mixed bunch. Germany has trended left under the grand coalition led by Angela Merkel. Sarkozy has many excellent qualities but his recent lurches towards protectionism and state intervention are worrying. Two hopes shine most brightly: Stephen Harper in Canada and David Cameron in Britain. At the heart of David Cameron’s appeal is his agenda for social reform. He put it front and centre during his Party Conference speech. It’s the biggest idea in centre right politics anywhere in the world. It matters because…
(1) We should not be resigned to the persistence of poverty in our rich and technologically-sophisticated age. The Left have run out of steam in the war on poverty. An alternative – conservative – approach to mending broken societies, rooted in the renewal of the Burkean small platoons of family, charity and strong local institutions, notably the school, is the morally right thing to do for the millions let down by state poverty-fighting efforts.
(2) Only a stronger society will produce a sustainably smaller state. Small state conservatives have long tried to cut the supply for government services but have done little about the demand for them. You cannot have a small state unless a large majority of citizens have the skills and values to live independently of the taxpayer. That means a good education, a stable family life, a respect for the law and a concern for neighbours in need.
(3) The old conservative tunes aren’t electorally sufficient when centre left parties are also attempting to play them. Conservatives need to offer a broad prospectus if they are to reach the growing number of ‘values voters’ who want to vote for a party that isn’t just good for them but also good for their neighbour.
On school choice, prisons reform, voluntary sector funding and welfare policy Britain’s Conservatives are beginning to devise the policy responses that are equal to the challenge. Recession must not be used as an excuse to retreat from the task of going still deeper and broader.
Five people in the shadow cabinet give us the most hope that there will be no retreat: David Cameron himself and then Greg Clark, Michael Gove, Oliver Letwin and David Willetts.
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