Most Tory members think David Cameron is too cautious. In this week’s leader (not yet online), The Spectator offers three arguments for believing that the Tory leader might be more radical than some believe:
- On localism: "The ending of Whitehall capping powers and the introduction of local referendums to enable residents to overturn bad budgets would be a very desirable transference of financial control from the mandarin to the man in the street. The removal of disincentives to build houses, the devolution of planning power, the plans to plough the fruits of local businesses back into the community, the proposed statutory presumption enabling town halls to act in the best interests of their voters, even if no specific legislation supports their actions: all these measures, if matched by serious political will, would be significant steps towards the growth of a genuine localist culture." [I worry, however, that only controlling instincts have been on show in opposition].
- On schools: "The Spectator has pressed, and will continue to press, for more grammar schools. But the Conservatives’ plan to adopt the Swedish model of independent schools, enabling parents, voluntary groups and businesses to establish their own educational establishments funded by vouchers, is a truly radical blueprint which we support wholeheartedly. The Swedish experiment has shown how the liberalisation of public services can triumph where top-down, centralised bureaucracies and targets have failed." Definitely. Michael Gove is the most oustanding member of Mr Cameron’s team.
- On marriage and the family: "On the family, Mr Cameron is much more radical than his recent predecessors, daring to state explicitly what is empirically obvious: that the family is the fundamental building-block of any social order and requires unambiguous support from government. On the Broken Society, he has faced down those in his party nervous of speaking the truth about welfare dependency, addiction, dysfunctional families and forgotten communities." Mr Cameron says he’s a "marriage nut" and ConHome welcomes that but we’ve yet to see policies that are up to the job of addressing the scale of the problem.
The area where radicalism is most going to be required is, of course, on the economy. When will the Tory leadership tell us how it will restore order to Gordon Brown’s terrible fiscal position? A serious programme to control spending will almost certainly necessitate radical reform of the state.