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The real lesson of the Tories' campaign on hospital closures

23 Aug 2007 - Bruno Prior

The Times reports that the Tories' hospital campaign "was in disarray last night". One can pontificate on whether the campaign was the right point of attack (no), whether the mistakes are serious (in credibility terms, yes), and whether the media's reporting is biased (maybe, but it didn't half invite the criticism). But those aren't the main points. The main lesson is that the Tories are sadly lacking in critical faculties. Whether it's the activists, who militate for policies that owe more to instinct and prejudice than reason (even if many of those instincts are sound), or the researchers, who seem unable to provide coherent material for the many points of attack left gaping by an incompetent government, or the political representatives, who are unable to point the researchers in the right direction and to sort the wheat from the chaff of the material provided to them, there seems to be a general dearth of smarts on the right.

Is it the left-wing bias of the universities, which means that the part of our population most inclined to go into politics receives a thorough schooling in interventionism and socialism? Or that the smarter people on the right can earn a better living in careers outside politics, whereas politics is the pinnacle of ambition for many of the intelligentsia of the left? Or that politics is now a career to be embarked on straight from university, which means that the right can no longer rely on the real-world experience that would once have been their trump card? If you don't have extensive experience of life outside politics, it is hard to understand the damage that well-meaning intervention can do, which makes it hard to put together a convincing case against such interventionism.

There will be smart people there, as there are anywhere. But are they being allowed to rise to the top? Or are they being dragged down by political triangulation, which judges the merits of a proposal on the basis of whether it is an acceptable compromise between the opinions of the dumb and the not so dumb, and the merits of a person by how well they can justify such semi-dumb compromises?

A real classical-liberal party would be about encouraging quality to prosper, whether in the economy or within its own ranks. Chances are, this can't be done in a party that likes to think of itself as a broad church welcoming uncritically a range of perspectives. If everyone's opinion is equally valid, how will you distinguish between them?

UPDATE: I wrote this before I saw the other article in the Times, on the comments of Sayeeda Warsi. QED.

Topics: Health
Organisations: UK Conservatives

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