While Blair’s New Labour remains mired in the war in Iraq, Cameron’s new-look Conservative Party declares war on poverty and makes peace with Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee. In a recent article, Tory front bencher Greg Clark, says that:
Ignoring the reality of relative poverty was a terrible mistake. It allowed the Left to dominate the poverty debate for a generation and to copyright the issue of social exclusion. This was an absurd position for us to be in, Disraeli’s idea of One Nation is nothing if not a determination that no part of society should be alienated from the whole – in other words, socially excluded. In short, poverty is too important an issue to leave to the Labour Party and overcoming social exclusion is an essential ambition for a Conservative Government.
It’s not the kind of thing that Margaret Thatcher would have said, but it’s nowhere that Tory leader David Cameron hasn’t been before. In a speech last year he announced that eliminating poverty must be "a central component of the Conservative governing mission." And in a break with classical liberal orthodoxy he said that "there’s more to eliminating poverty than engineering economic growth."
For free market types, it’s bad enough that Torys are talking about relative poverty and social exclusion. But it gets worse — Clark has started quoting Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee. And worse still again– Cameron agrees.
Who is Polly Toynbee, you ask? Conservative MP Boris Johnson explains:
In so far as New Labour has a fairy godmother, Polly is the girl. She incarnates all the nannying, high-taxing, high-spending schoolmarminess of Blair’s Britain. She is the defender and friend of everyone whose non-job has ever been advertised in the Guardian appointments page, every gay and lesbian outreach worker, every clipboard-toter and pen-pusher and form-filler whose function has been generated by mindless regulation. Polly is the high priestess of our paranoid, mollycoddled, risk-averse, airbagged, booster-seated culture of political correctness and ‘elf ‘n’ safety fascism. In an ideal Polly Toynbee world, private sector broadcasting would be banned, Rupert Murdoch would be nationalised, and the BBC would hire thousands more taxpayer-funded social affairs correspondents to psalm the benefits of social democracy.
Blogger Chris Dillow asks, "of the countless intelligent egalitarians he could have mentioned, why her? Why not invoke instead, say, John Rawls." It’s a good point. After all, wasn’t Friedrich Hayek a Rawls fan?