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David Cameron’s utterances about Thatcherism over the last few years have not always been unconditionally positive.

Whilst the Tory leader hailed Baroness Thatcher as the country’s "greatest peacetime Prime Minister" when unveiling a statue of her at CCHQ last year, during the 2005 leadership election he was seen by the media as trying to distance himself from the Iron Lady’s legacy.

And what Mr Cameron has told Will Hutton in today’s Observer is also being interpreted as a rebuff to the Thatcherite politics of the 1980s.

Messrs Cameron and Hutton participated in an exchange of emails about the economic crisis – which you can read in full here – in which the Tory leader talks again about his newly-favoured notion of "progressive conservatvism" (a theme which Shane Frith also picks up in today’s Platform article).

Mr Cameron talks about his vision for the country "that connects the economy, society and the
environment, and which aims to bring a new sense of responsibility to
all three", adding:

"That’s a change from the past decade or so, where we
had booster capitalism tacked on to a failing welfare model. And it’s a
change from the 1980s, where we rightly had the spirit of enterprise,
but on which we now need to build the sense of responsibility.
That word responsibility is really crucial for me: it’s the golden
thread that connects all our policies and positions. On issues such as
executive pay and corporate greed, I agree we want business leaders to
behave more responsibly. But I don’t think that more statism is the
best way to fix the excesses of the market.
"

Here is another key passage in which he talks about his scepticism of ideology and his definition of progressive conservatism:

"As a Conservative, I’m naturally sceptical of embracing anyone’s theory
or ideology, although I agree that Keynes had many good ideas, in
particular his emphasis on the dangers of the contraction of credit… I think our plan for a National Loan Guarantee Scheme would actually
achieve many of the long-term outcomes people associate with
"Keynesianism". But if by Keynesianism you mean a big fiscal
stimulus regardless of the level of government borrowing, I don’t
agree. The reason is simple: because the government is already planning
to borrow so much, if we borrowed a lot more now we’d actually make the
recession worse. Why? Because we’d have to show how the extra borrowing
was going to be paid back through tax rises. That would damage business
and consumer confidence, which is in the end what will get the recovery
going. So if it’s not full-blown Keynesianism, what is it? The
way I explain it is progressive conservatism – that is, we think the
best way to achieve progressive goals such as a fairer, greener society
is through conservative methods, such as making sure that government
lives within its means and decentralising responsibility and power."

Jonathan Isaby

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