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The big Tory idea

08 May 2007 - Bruno Prior

Fascinating briefing by Peter Riddell in today's Times on the ideas of Oliver Letwin. Of course, Riddell is limited by the space constraints of newspaper reporting. On the one hand, he could have got by with a lot less space, if he had accurately and succinctly represented the essential vacuity of Letwin's "big idea". On the other, he could have filled the whole paper several times over if he had given a full exposition of the many layers of glossy pseudo-philosophising in which Letwin has wrapped the empty box of his intellectual bankruptcy.

Letwin's "big idea", Riddell reports, is that he wants to "shift the debate from an econo-centric paradigm to a socio-centric paradigm". In other words, we should forget about economics because capitalism has won the battle with socialism, and focus instead on "how we live".

So long as we live within the law, it is none of the government's business how we live. Perhaps he thinks the government is entitled to intervene in our lives because the way of life of a minority (the "underclass") affects everyone else's lives. But that is for two reasons - law and order, which the government should uphold without any need to venture more deeply into our lives, and costs of welfare provision. If it's the latter, we are back to economics.

If this is the "big idea", it is no more than a restatement of the old-fashioned Tory position in the classic divide - both sides want to interfere in our lives, but the Tories want to interfere in our personal lives, whereas Labour and the LibDems want to interfere in our economic lives. What about an option for government to interfere as little as possible in all aspects of our lives? 

Organisations: UK Conservatives

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