Sunday, April 05, 2009

Hitchens, Vaizey & Dale on the Tory Big Idea

Well that was a lesson learned. The lesson? Don't bother debating with people who were trained in debating by the Socialist Workers Party. In case you are wondering, I refer to Peter Hitchens. He, Ed Vaizey and I were talking this afternoon at the Oxford Literary Festival on the theme of 'What is the Tories' Big Idea?'. There were around 150 people at in the Grand Marquee to hear a lively exchange, which was moderated by BBC journalist Ben Wright.

Both Ed Vaizey and I were rather dismissive of politicians who have big ideas. They are usually from people who over promise and under deliver. I prefer politicians who under promise and over deliver. Ed concentrated on talking about localism and education and in particular the Conservative policies on schools as key to the Conservative approach. I said that the only big idea in town must be the one which helps solve our economic woes. It was fanciful for any politician to think that it would be politics as usual. But I might as well have saved my breath.

Peter Hitchens didn't really bother to address the question of the debate and treated the audience to a collection of his column's greatest hits. All politicians were useless, especially Tory ones. Nothing could be solved until Britain left the EU and the best thing which could happen would be for the Tories to lose the next election and implode. There could then be a real political party which could implement all the policies which Hitchens himself believes in.

And pigs might fly.

I am afraid I saw red and ridiculed Hitchens for being the Tony Benn de nos jours. He reckoned the only reason the Tories had lost the last three elections was because they were not right wing enough. An interesting proposition, and a preposterous one. Benn thought the same about Labour in 1983. He reckoned they would have won if Labour had been more left wing.

Hitchens then accused Vaizey and all modern day politicians as being careerists and only being in it for what they could get out of it. An easy populist line, but one which didn't seem to find much resonance with the audience. He accused the Conservative Party of not believing in anything. I pointed out that the Conservative Party has a clear consistency of ideas and beliefs, unlike someone who has travelled from the far left of the political spectrum to, er, God knows where. I don't think even he knows where has ended up to be honest.

There's nothing wrong with a good dose of idealism in politics. I agree with some of Peter Hitchens' ideals. But he belongs to the school of thought which ignores the harsh realities of political life. He doesn't seem to recognise that all political parties are coalitions. He pretends that he would like to be in power and make the decisions - but he would find it impossible to be a politician in a liberal democracy - a benevolent dictator perhaps, for if he couldn't get his own way on everything he'd rather just snipe from the sidelines at those who do their best to make things better.

I made the point that while we all retain ideals, some of us realise that in the end politics is about putting things into practice, and yes, sometimes having to be pragmatic.

The best question came from a man in the audience who had his 18 year old son sitting next to him. He asked what the Tories could offer young people like him, who were about to go to university and be saddled with a £20,000 debt. Ed maintained that student loans and tuition fees were perfectly justifiable in an era of expansion for higher education. I begged to differ. I said that the 50% target for 18 year olds to go to university was fatuous in an age where job prospects for graduates were increasingly dubious and it was criminal to encourage people to go to university just because it was the 'done thing'. Many of them would drop out in their first year. I went on to talk about vocational education and said that the worst thing the last Conservative government had done was to turn polytechnics into universities and help ruin vocational education in this country. I concluded by saying that a Big Tory Idea could be the revitalisation of vocational education. It was the only thing which got a big round of applause during the whole hour, which is something David Willetts might reflect on. Ed told me afterwards that this policy had been thought up and implemented by Robert Jackson and Alan Howarth during their stints as Higher Education Ministers, while Ed was himself on the Education Desk in the Conservative Research Department. Both of those ex Ministers ended up defecting to Labour.

Another 18 year old complained that none of us had given him One Big Idea which could inspire him. To be honest, I think Ed and I both thought we had failed him. Someone asked about Barack Obama and how he had inspired a generation. With what, asked Ed. By constantly repeating the mantra of "Change we can believe in"? "OK, I can do that too," said Ed, "but I'd prefer to treat people as adults."

My parting shot was to suggest that the big idea ought to be "Sound money we can believe in".

I normally enjoy these sort of panel sessions, but I left this one feeling that the audience hadn't really got what they came for. The fact that Peter Hitchens was on the panel meant that it became a discussion about his wacky brand of right wingery, rather than about what the Conservatives ought to do in government. I suppose it was inevitable, but it was nevertheless unsatisfactory. To be honest, I don't think any of us covered ourselves in glory.

I am still sceptical about a Big Idea. What do you reckon?

It was nice to meet a few of my blogreaders afterwards, particularly the lady and her son who told me I brighten up their day each morning. And it was also great to meet Lakelander and Mrs Lakelander!

52 comments:

FireForce said...

I must say that Hitchens has a point, Having not read your full article, due to pain & drugs, medication, Hitchins has a point. All political parties have moved LEFT this last 20 years!
The last Conservative elction manifestoes were, off clapham common!

The Grim Reaper said...

Peter Hitchens, you are a complete and utter hoon.

Thank you and goodnight.

Oliver Drew said...

Big Ideas are not good or workable ideas. How about several smaller ideas representing an ideal instead - like several small economic changes to help the economy run smoother, or several small changes to education to make it better.

Wholesale big aims never work - the "big aim" has been a Labour mantra over the last 12 years and it hasn't worked.

Plato said...

The imposter who posted as Peter 'the Hitch' Hitchens was more credible.

jailhouselawyer said...

Am I to take it that you lost the debate Iain?

Paul Halsall said...

The reason I like your blog, Iain, is that even though we disagree politically I don't think you are either an evil or a crazy political thinker.

I do read people like Iain Martin and Quentin Letts, and although I do think they both have a touch of pure evil about them, they are both cogent, and, let's face it, entertaining.

Hitchens strikes me as simply crazy. (Actually, so does his brother).

jamesburdett said...

Big ideas are usually the preserve of those who want to over-simplify things. I would rather have a good idea than a big idea. Although having said that, it can be useful to have a simple way of getting your ideas across.

Twig said...

I agree with Peter Hitchens. The Tories have been infiltrated by closet lefties.
They lost the plot when they stabbed Maggie in the back.

I loved his documentary on the Bullingdon Club.

Forlornehope said...

No big ideas please, just professional, honest, competent government. Wouldn't that be a nice change. I hear that they have it in Chile.

Conand said...

The Big Idea: Provide a government that serves a society which can trust itself.

DespairingLiberal said...

Agree totally with you about Hitchens, I've always thought him a bit towards barking and this just confirms it.

Mind you, the actual Tory leadership hardly seem to be learning some crucial lessons, as with the whole sorry sage of the EPP. Hilarious stuff tonight on Radio 4 10pm news programme - apparently the Cameronistas have located "a couple of stray Bulgarians" in the Euro-parliament who share their views!

Mrs T would have handbagged these tossers. The sooner the Tory party can realise they have to get back into the mainstream, the better off we shall all be.

Quite rightly, the programme raised the real possibility that Cameron's fawning to the Euro-marginalists might actually severely affect British interests once (or if - it ain't over yet) the Tories win the next election.

DespairingLiberal said...

Dream on Twig - M Thatcher was a solid supporter of the mainstream European agenda, despite her demands for a rebate - she always worked closely with the main conservative parties in Europe and look at the Channel Tunnel for an example of her co-operation mentality.

I will give her credit where it's due - she would have had no time at all for the Little Englander mentality exhibited by you and other isolationist headbangers on the extreme Tory right.

Bert Rustle said...

Ian Dale wrote ... My parting shot was to suggest that the big idea ought to be "Sound money we can believe in".

... I am still sceptical about a Big Idea. What do you reckon?


How about enforcing the law without fear or favour?

William K. Black, author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Looted the Savings & Loan Industry is interviewed on video by PBS (akin to a BBC of the USA) regarding the industrial scale fraud within the Ruling Class which has precipitated the current financial situation: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04032009/watch.html

This is the only program I have seen which in clear and measured terms sets out the situation. In my opinion.

You could not make it up and you should not pass it up:

...The financial industry brought the economy to its knees, but how did they get away with it? With the nation wondering how to hold the bankers accountable, Bill Moyers sits down with William K. Black, the former senior regulator who cracked down on banks during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. Black offers his analysis of what went wrong and his critique of the bailout ...

It lasts 28 minutes.

Robert said...

In the early Blair days I thought Hitchens' attacks on hte Tory party as being barking mad. However as time has gone by and they have shown they are incapable of opposing Labour effectively. They are too like Labour to want to change anything.

Where do they stand on the defining issues of the day which are public spending and Europe. They daren't speak out on either because they have no policy except to ignore the issues.

I therefore agree with Hitchens that we need the Tory party to implode so we can get the party we need to take us out of Europe.

Roger Thornhill said...

"sound money we can believe in"

Hear! Hear! Shame the Tories are way off being able to achieve it.

Simon Gardner said...

I’m old enough to remember vividly the pre-Thatcher Conservative party.

Until Thatcher, no respectable Tory would dream of having anything as vulgar as an ideology. The Tory party was always all about pragmatism and bugger-all to do with ideology.

Oh and Fireforce @ 9:19 PM is barking up the wrong tree as we all know. At least two political parties have moved to the right on the advent of Blair and afterwards.

The Tories, having wandered off to the right during the Thatcher terror are being dragged back towards the centre by Cameron - who actually wants to win elections. [Thatcher only won because of the Falklands and (some) Tories are fooling themselves if they think it was because she was so right wing.]

And very amusing to see so many of your trailing head-bangers still going on and on and on about the EU to no great effect and of little interest to the electorate.

crimeficreader said...

I did not arrive with high expectations because I considered the inclusion of Hitchens on the panel to be a misnomer from the start. He always talks about the "useless Tories" in his column, so he was not best placed to explore the big idea was he?

And was it meant to be a debate or an exploration? If a debate, it's not the first one that OxLiFest has fallen down on. Last year they pitched two academic literary reviewers against two litbloggers, but they didn't have an independent chair and this was taken over Prof John Sutherland, one of the two academics, so it turned into a sort of soft love-in with no real debate but plenty of self-promo from each side.

While not shrouding yourselves in a luxurious velvet of glory, I thought both you and Ed V acquitted yourselves well, actually. Ed V had plenty of thoughts and facts to hand, with the micro examples on policies. You showed that the Party is still open to debate and creative thinking.

I was surprised and impressed by the chair of your panel who works for the BBC (not an entirely Tory friendly organisation). On times he actually managed to feed recent Tory events and decisions to Ed V before posing a question to him. For once, this felt more like being fair over trap-setting.

Hitchens also had a goal of employing humour which he achieved, clear from the outset. But I am not sure that this was a delivery conducive to the description of the billing of the event. After writing that, I conclude not and wonder how many others attended for such a diversion. Many in the audience seemed to be seeking new and original thought on how to go forward in this country, recognising the massive amounts of debt that pervade all sectors of people, both now and in the future. They seek a credible and viable alternative to the current regime, but the overall banner and headline - or "big idea" - has not yet reached them from the Tories.

By the time I arrived home, I wondered if "prudence" is the key to a big idea banner here. Real prudence which includes that outlook on money and spending at state level as well as for individuals. Re. education, I am with you and perhaps more fearful that if I was 18 today, I'd not even be studying for A levels, because what's the point of uni, the associated debt and little prospect of a job at the end of it? It is prudence that needs to be in all our lives and the state, going forward. No one and nothing can live beyond their means.

Last point on political matters: I arrived home to an email from the Conservative Party which carries the logo "Now for Change". Unfortunately, I kept seeing the NHS symbol in this, because of the font, italics and use of blue. Perhaps you could feed that back?

Finally a point on the personal, Iain. You seem to have caught the sun in Cardiff? You had a summer glow. Loved and was jealous of your glasses: very nice. And bloody hell, you're tall aren't you? A Grand National runner to a Hitchens stubborn donkey, I'd say.

And fume no more, Iain. Hitchens is like a badge one can adhere to the person and easily remove. Sometimes he talks good sense and brings a lot of risks to the public's attention, which is good. On other times he is immersed in his "useless Tories" statements and consideration leads to another conclusion.

This country appears ready for change again; indeed now finally revolting against what this current regime has introduced and its results. Who gets in at the next election has to make changes and make them sustainable and this includes something you mentioned, as did Ed V I think, the honesty of politicians.

Personal integrity and an appreciation of service to the public - not just seen/perceived, but also felt and experienced - are key to the next election in my mind.

Sorry for long comment & sorry for any typos as I am knackered, but still feel angry. My earlier event experience on the economy was disappointing, by the way. It offered a rich tapestry from keen and active thinkers, with depth. It was actually closer to the mass-produced printed muslin of the free ST bags for the fest, when delivered. This I put down to lack of time. One hour on this subject was never going to be enough and it was not down the invited present. But that's the state of our economy, isn't it? An hour's debate will never produce something of value.

I hope I can sleep tonight after all this. Just too much excitement and inflammation of the brain in one day...

Twig said...

Despairing Liberal said...
"Dream on Twig - M Thatcher was a solid supporter of the mainstream European agenda, despite her demands for a rebate - she always worked closely with the main conservative parties in Europe and look at the Channel Tunnel for an example of her co-operation mentality."


What's wrong with the channel tunnel (apart from it's poor financial performance, and the fire risks) ? The concept seems fine to me.

BTW, if I prefer english laws to be made in England, and upheld by english courts, why does that make me an "isolationist headbanger". Why use these slurs? - they add nothing to the debate.

Colin said...

Less government, fewer politicians, smaller state and all that is implied by that.
.

That's a big idea I could believe in.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

You show you don't follow history.

"Ed Vaizey and I were rather dismissive of politicians who have big ideas. They are usually from people who over promise and under deliver."

All "Big Ideas" are initially unpopular.

What about Churchill? He was surrounded by appeasers long before it was fasionable to wear blue and bomb Germany.His was a big idea.

What about William Wilberforce? Sidney Silverman? Enoch Powell? The Wolfenden Committee, The Beveridge Committee, The Beveridge Committee,etc,etc.

These all changed the way we live. They were all "Big Ideas". They all were unpopular; some were against the tide of public opinion but we now take the results of what they did for granted.

In a historical context each of the above examples constituted a sea-change in social attitudes.

There are big ideas. It is just that the Tories and Labour do not have them, or if they do, they are too scared to mention them.

Mike Law said...

Big Ideas… The defence of individual liberty and freedom of expression; that'll do for a start.

Thatsnews said...

I agree, Iain. Big Ideas can be a dangerous siren song...

The siren song of the Big Idea

Arnie Saccnuson said...

Peter Hitchens comes from a family that know extreme controversial views attract attention regardless of their basis in reality, you should have known better, he doesn't understand reasoned debate.

Great post, would love to hear a recording???, the only issue I would have with any of what you say is that you need to get over yourselves re: Obama. It is far too early to make judgments, he is an intelligent personable charismatic man, with a lovely family and for most people, they are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Chas said...

I think the Tories are still scared of the Labour party and the BBC, and will not say what we all believe, which is that we need to cut public expenditure and taxation drastically. Not because we are in a recession, but because the state is simply too big and we do not generate enough wealth even in the good times to support the present level of spending. What needed to be done in 1997 was to reform the public sector, not increase its budget by 50-100%.

I really think the public mood is changing and the Tories must get stuck into the debate and drag politics out of the sound biter era. I don't think the Tories can ever win an argument by sound bite, because "closing schools and hospitals" will always sound worse than "tax and spend". If the Tories raise the level of debate, the shitheads in governmennt will be forced to try to compete and will be found lacking due to (1) their total lack of any idea what they are doing and (2) the fact that the Labout benches have a combined IQ of 7.

So, while Hitchens and Heffer are a pair of nutters who would both lose their deposits if they stood for the Turkeys Against Christmas Party in a turkey farm, they do make a point that the Conservatives could be somewhat bolder. Look what happened when Dan Hannan stood up and delivered a few home truths to Gordon, for example.

Yak40 said...

the only reason the Tories had lost the last three elections was because they were not right wing enough. An interesting proposition, and a preposterous one.

Why?

Who wants a watered down version of Labour ?

Labour's crap needs to be completely and utterly rejected and you can't do that if you're hiding in their shadow just a little to the side.

Yak40 said...

I went on to talk about vocational education and said that the worst thing the last Conservative government had done was to turn polytechnics into universities

Seem to remember Harold Wilson's lot started that in the 1960s.

Agreed re vocational ed. tho', whatever happened to apprenticeships ?

DespairingLiberal said...

Chas - that may well be true, so why on Earth do you all keep banging on about Europe for f***s sakes? It just distracts as the voters are bored of it.

The EU institutions do have cardinal faults (corruption, dishonesty, manouverism and self-regard) but Europe is of course bigger than the EU institutions as they are currently set up and the majority know that. It would have been worth having a good debate about the constitution (and a vote!) but the Tories also fluffed that one by just head-banging over it, rather than discussing it sensibly.

I seriously worry that Cameron is making himself unelectable with the latest sad carry-on and this does actually matter if we are not to be saddled with the NuLab dictatorship for another 5.

javelin said...

There is only one big idea that is needed for the next government. It can be stated in one word. It can fill parliamentary time for ten years. It can make people happier. It's called "responsibility".

Whether is asking what you can do for your country, your community or your family and friends. Giving makes up happy. Taking in the form of taxes doesn't.

Ask your self what is responsibility and you find a theme that will run through every policy. Responsibility is that you start with nothing and every thing is earnt. If you start with enough rights to live modestly then people abuse them.

Pete said...

Simon Gardner -

And very amusing to see so many of your trailing head-bangers still going on and on and on about the EU to no great effect and of little interest to the electorate.

You think that a bunch of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels making 75% of our laws is of no interest?

Simon Gardner said...

I know the whole EU & Lisbon issues are way down the list of voters’ priorities and sinking. And yet still Tory backwoodsmen wish to talk about little else. They have learned nothing from all those electoral defeats.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

An easy populist line, but one which didn't seem to find much resonance with the audience

Sorry, Iain, but I don't believe you. As we have seen MPs charging their tax bills to expenses, and old badger-brows pulling the second home schlenter with the best of them and Jacqboot Beria's bath plug fiasco and and and ...

People are seriously unhappy with our grasping, careerist politicians, and if you persist in defending them, it makes you look like an apologist for their thievery.

Have you noticed how gentle LabourList has been on the whole expenses scandal? And you are too. You are too close to the protagonists, Iain, and you are wrong to defend them or pretend that they have a shred of decency or honour left. They do not.

if he couldn't get his own way on everything he'd rather just snipe from the sidelines at those who do their best to make things better.

You are deluding yourself again, Iain: where do you see ANY evidence that politicians make things better, except for themselves? Even if their hearts are in the right place (which is unlikely) they never do anything useful or do anything cost-effectively. Anything that politicians do achieve to make things better is almost certainly by accident and equally could be done better by them getting out of the way and letting people do it for themselves.

I happen to think big ideas can do things:

1. Get out of the EU. Free trade with all, entanglements with none.

2. Repeal all 3000+ laws generated by New Labour.

3. A massive reduction of government involvement in public life will help us all.

A government with no big ideas has nothing to contribute to improving our lives. By endorsing a realpolitik Tory party which will muddle along continuing Labour's practices, you are endorsing what the political class has become over the last decade. It's obvious that the Tories are no different to Labour and it's going to be five more years of bread and circuses.

Iain, you're showing yourself to be part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Simon Gardner said...

Arnie Saccnuson said... “Peter Hitchens comes from a family that know extreme controversial views...”

Nothing extreme about the Hitch (who is now an American anyway) whereas Peter Hitchens is bonkers.

DespairingLiberal said...

Pete, sadly you are just proving the point - it is interesting, but it's not the obsession with the electorate that it is with you. Until you and your pals get this, you will make progress. Until you do, you will get nowhere.

The background is that there were always two Tory parties amalgamated under one roof in the past - the party of Ted Heath, Chris Patton and Ken Clarke, which was electable, outward-looking, modern and internationalist and the party of Bill Cash, William Hague and Enoch Powell, which was deeply xenophobic and Little Englander. The latter used to be a small rump, but is now the dominant voice.

Most of the parties are becoming more extreme or more easily manipulated by the bigots because on the whole people no longer go to political meetings or take an active role.

Blogs help to replace that a bit, but serve as platforms for nutters, as does this one, pushing away the more intelligent.

The Lakelander said...

Iain,

It was very nice to meet you also!

You need a new photo for your header - you're much slimmer than that nowadays (and no - Iain didn't pay me to say that!)

acadman said...

I disagree. You have to have some overarching idea to your politics otherwise your policies will lack cogency and your administration will become unfocused in power.

With Thatcher it was a property owning, share owning democracy. She was such a brilliant leader because, sure of her instincts, she never allowed herself to be blown off course from her trajectory. She would tactically retreat when needed to, yes, but her strategy was always solid.

Constrast that with the idea-free chaos of the Major years, where there was a constant flux of priorities and policies on an almost daily basis, and the country drifted. Major left behind a country that was demoralised and confused about itself.

However, if you do map out an idea, what you must not do is what Blair did, which was to more or less promise Utopia.

My own big idea would be to move Britain towards being the Hong Kong of Europe: free-wheeling and independent, and building and expanding on our traditions of Protestant christianity and individual liberty.

Roger Thornhill said...

Pure Socialist inversion pt.94.

Simon Gardner: "the Thatcher terror"



Thatcher stopped subsidising. Terror is proactive. Call it Thatcher abandonment if you will, but "terror" is what Socialists (love to) do.

Twig said...

Despairing Liberal...
"The background is that there were always two Tory parties amalgamated under one roof in the past - the party of Ted Heath, Chris Patton and Ken Clarke, which was electable..."

So, who or what makes the Lib Dems unelectable?

Philip Wigg said...

I watched the debate yesterday. Iain, your point about vocational education was good I think, it's not a Tory policy though is it?

I thought Hitchens made strong points that you mostly could not refute. H talked a lot about how you were too frightened to talk about the EU, a subject you agreed Conservatives are 'not encouraged' to discuss.

It seemed to me that the Conservative 'big idea' until recently was free markets, deregulation, cutting "red tape" etc. Now that's obviously gone out of the window, the Conservatives seem politically bankrupt.

Your point about 'pragmatism' seems like exactly what Hitchens was talking about, that the Convservatives would do and say anything to get in power and have no distinctive principles.

DespairingLiberal said...

When you keep saying "socialists" Roger, what do you actually mean? It can't be the current New Labour administration, because they are no more socialists than was Ronald Raygun - they are well over to the right, in some ways, by traditional politicial analyses, to the right of Cameron.

Or are you just stuck in that old record of many years back when Tories just labelled anyone they thought wrong as "socialist" in attempt to smear them with Soviet-block overtones?

Unsworth said...

@ Despairing Liberal

"Or are you just stuck in that old record of many years back when Tories just labelled anyone they thought wrong as "socialist" in attempt to smear them with Soviet-block overtones"

Or are you just stuck in that old record of many years back when Socialists just labelled anyone they thought wrong as "Tory" in attempt to smear them with Capitalist overtones?

Gareth said...

"[Hitchens] reckoned the only reason the Tories had lost the last three elections was because they were not right wing enough. An interesting proposition, and a preposterous one."

If you don't represent something different from the incumbent people will not vote for you and you will only get in when the incumbent becomes unpalatable. As happened with the Conservatives in 1997.

Labour moved to the centre in words alone. Judge them by their actions and they have never strayed far from the left. Bumper Government employment. Higher taxes. Supporting the unions. Attempting a command economy. Did the Conservatives fall for the spin and end up thinking people were voting for New Labour as opposed to against Conservatives? Since then gerrymandering the economy, voter apathy and an often absent opposition has kept Labour in.

Conand said...

@ Despairing Liberal @10:44

I remember being taught at school about a party that originated in Bavaria between the World Wars. They also couched their language in Pseudo-Socialist idioms. They were also far to the right, by traditional politicial analyses, of conservatives.

This phenomenon is interesting and can be summarized by the following phrase: 'The WRONG kind of triangulation.'

Simon Gardner said...

Roger Thornhill said... “Pure Socialist inversion pt.94. Simon Gardner...”

I am not, nor have I ever been a “socialist”. Not that there are many around any more anyway.

Opinicus said...

@Simon Gardner

A man who uses Citizen Servalan as his icon must expect his advice to be treated with extreme caution

It is nonsense to suggest that Tories haven't historically had a big idea it just hasn't ever been a fashionable ism.

Tories have easily had the most consistent principles of any political party.
1) Patriotism
2) Low tax
3) Distrust of the Government
4) Personal liberty under the moral constraints of Society.

I challenge you to find a single election in the last 300 years where the Tories/Conservatives have gone to the polls with a programme less in favour of those four principles than their main opposition.

That is not to say that the emphasis between the four and the degree of commitment to any one of the four has not altered over time but i would suggest that there has never been a time when the major oppostion - whether Liberals, old or new Labour - has been more in favour of those than us.

The EU, which is your lonely passion, is opposed on principle under all four of the points above by all Conservatives

neil craig said...

If fixing the economy isn't a big idea I'm not sure what would be. Hitler, Stalin & Lenin all had the big idea of taking over the world but only Lenin mentioned it when he first tried to get "elected".

Constantine's big idea was turning the Roman Empire Christian but even he downplayed it before taking power.

On the 2nd hand I thibnk fixing the economy would, in the best "its the economy stupid" style, be enough to win.

On the 3rd hand to win the Tories have to convince people that they really do provide a a good alternative to Brown & to do that I think they should be coming on a lot stronger. I have no doubt we could have the sort of economic growth China is managing but the height of Cameron's ambition seems to be windmills & merely reducing the rate at which fovernment is growing. I know which of those 2 options appeals more to me & I suspect it does to almost everybody else.

4th handedly you need folk like Hitchens pushing in a libertarian direction because, as you point out, traditional policicans are scred to & without somebody to expand the pool in that direction the leadership will end up with nowhere to swim.

In the 5th hand if you want a big idea here it is - put all the billions we now waste on windmills into a space X-Prize Foundation (with the money given to ESA as a tip) & we won't take over the world but we will take over the universe. So how many people who wanted a big idea still do?

Cuse said...

Hi Iain. Two comments:

Ed Vaizey: "repeating the mantra of "Change we can believe in"? "OK, I can do that too," said Ed, "but I'd prefer to treat people as adults."

Highly revealing. Is Vaizey saying Obama treated the electorate like children? Or that the British electorate don't need inspiration? Frankly, if this is his view of the greatest election victory in many a year - he's missed the point of politics entirely.

The "BIg Idea". I think you've identified the issue for the Tories in one. Not that they don't believe in "The Big Idea" - but rather that they keep changing their minds about it. Dave needs to pin his mast to something.

It isn't enough for him, like it was for Blair in 97, to just not be the government.Granted, the public are unhappy and a lot of them blame Brown - but they blame a lot of other things too. Dave hasn't sealed it because his "Big Ideas" up to now have been pretty weak.

To my eyes - this is why they don't have it in the bag yet. I haven't a clue about what they stand for. If he had an idea that the public believed in, he'd be 40 points ahead and planning for government.

niconoclast said...

Tory definition of 'wacky': anyone who has principles and thinks a party should stand for something rather than pursuing a naked grab for power.Most Tories seem to have an undisguised contempt for ideas and values and resort to ad hominem abuse when this is pointed out.Now they are talking and acting like Socialist wanabees.

English First said...

We have to leave The EU, and the Tories are useless! What`s wrong about that?

Hitchens despises politicians, but then, so do most!

canvas said...

"Someone asked about Barack Obama and how he had inspired a generation. With what, asked Ed. By constantly repeating the mantra of "Change we can believe in"? "OK, I can do that too," said Ed, "but I'd prefer to treat people as adults."

My parting shot was to suggest that the big idea ought to be "Sound money we can believe in"."

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That's exactly the reason why the Tories just don't get it. Ed Vaizey would happily carry on as a complacent MP rather than try to right the many wrongs of the past decade. He is a career politician who won't or can't step up to the plate. Yes, he's handsome and charming - but he is letting down his generation by playing it safe.

Sound money? So very tory of you. :)

Obama has changed the face of politics and history - and you guys are happy to sit back and do nothing?

What is the Tories big idea? To bang on about 'broken britian'? How uplifting, how inspiring. NOT.

canvas said...

britain too

Uponnothing said...

Vocational education is thriving in FE institutions but is no more sustainable than everyone going to university - unless you feel we need hundreds of hair and beauty technicians and hairdressers in each town.

I feel sorry for the students in my college who took construction thinking they would be entering a booming industry only to find out that now they cannot even get work experience let alone an apprenticeship or full time job.

Manicbeancounter said...

How about

Long-term Stewardship over boosting the next opinion polls.

Having done voluntary work for the National Trust, my favoured analogy is of “planting ancient woodlands”. That is of planting trees that after hundreds of years will die, to be are replaced by other trees, with diversity of species, creating rich habitats for mosses, funghi and butterflies. It is the idea of concept of having an evolving nation over many generations (human or political), providing the foundations for outcomes that we cannot imagine or foresee. It is much the same as the founding fathers of the USA, or writers of Magna Carta laid foundations that could not have imagined. It is about quiet public service, not self-promotion or personal enrichment at the public’s expense. It also involves not having a solution to every passing problem instantly, but of gently nurturing the beneficial and discouraging the divisive.
There is also a recognition that there are limits to the political process – that to believe that every problem can be solved by new laws both denies the failure of authoritarian States and treats people are automatons, not living, thinking being, creatively influencing their own environments. Finally, sound money and balancing budgets (except in the really bad years) based on principles, not detailed rules, provides the financial basis.