David Cameron the conservative
Posted by Matt Walker on October 14, 2009
Over the past few days I have attempted to offer two different interpretations of David Cameron’s conservatism. His speech to the Conservative Party conference has been interpreted as being both New Right and One Nation, two different strands of thought within conservatism. So which is he?
Let us take David Cameron at his word, that he wishes simultaneously to reduce poverty, provide all children with top-notch schooling, and reduce the size, scope and influence of the state. If he believes in this proposition and is able to achieve it, then perhaps in five years time we may be able to apply the label One Nation to his Conservative government.
However, it is not clear whether he will be able to achieve all of this. Modern liberalism, and during the past 12 years New Labour, has argued that poverty is reduced by state action. Firstly, this is achieved by ensuring that all people have the educational opportunities to gain the necessary skills to take up jobs provided by the free market. Secondly, poverty is reduced by heavy investment in public services upon which the poor, as well as many middle income earners, rely.
A successful One Nation Cameron will need to demonstrate theoretically and practically how poverty can be reduced in the absence of state support. How for example, can state schools and the NHS be improved in the absence of heavy public investment? If he cannot demonstrate this then the label One Nation may not be appropriate, and his aspiration to ‘roll back the state’ may usher in a second wave of New Right conservatism.