The Conservative Manifesto – Reaction

14 04 2010

“So we will redistribute power from the central state to individuals, families and local communities. We will give public sector workers back their professional autonomy. They will be accountable to the people they serve and the results they achieve will be made transparent. If people don’t like the service they receive they will be able to choose better alternatives. In this way, we will create opportunities for people to take power and control over their lives. Our approach is absolutely in line with the spirit of the age: the post-bureaucratic age.”

Strong stuff. While light on details, the direction that the Tories intend to shift power is clear: from the central bureaucracy outwards. Exactly what this means depends on who you hear it from:

Party of a Thousand Voices

There are some powerful ideological themes or flavours running through the Conservative Manifesto. There is Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ , Blond’s ‘Red Toryism’, IDS’s ‘Social Justice’, Gove’s ‘Progressive Conservatism’, and Steve Hilton’s ‘Post-Bureaucratic Age’. These themes overlap and interrelate – the right for public sector workers to mutualise their departments could be argued to encompass all five – but there are also numerous unresolved tensions between them.

It seems harsh to criticize the Conservatives for being ‘too ambitious’ when drawing from all these agendas, when each is meaningful and genuine in its own way, but all have been presented to the voters (at various times by the media and the party) as ‘The Tories One Big Idea’. An optimistic strategist might argue that this is perfect ‘dogwhistle politics’, whereby each message is heard and understood fully only by those for whom it was intended. A more realistic observer may just describe it as ‘confusing’.

There is probably only room in the electorate’s attention span for the Tories to stress one of these themes as the election draws closer. Which they choose may prove crucial.

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One response

14 04 2010
Arnold Peabody

“So we will redistribute power from the central state to individuals”
This sounds a lot like the Community Partnerships – a most undemocratic Lab/Dem initiative.
“If people don’t like the service they receive they will be able to choose better alternatives.”
How Mr Cameron ?

“we will create opportunities for people to take power and control over their lives”
Individuals have already taken power and control over our lives. You can fight money so what do you propose Mr Cameron?

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