Accessibility links

The Tory emphasis on developing ‘progressive conservatism’ marks an attempt to move away from the ideology of homo economicus and the neo-liberal economics and philosophy of Hayek and Friedman that gripped Thatcher. The commitment of the Conservative Party to developing a socially and economically progressive policy agenda without recourse to its neo-liberal default position of the last two decades will be a fundamental test of just how progressive and radical Cameron’s conservatism is. It will also be a big test of his leadership and power to keep onside and tame Daniel Hannon and other maverick ultra-Thatcherites. As Matthew notes in his blog yesterday:

The Tory emphasis on developing ‘progressive conservatism’ marks an attempt to move away from the ideology of homo economicus and the neo-liberal economics and philosophy of Hayek and Friedman that gripped Thatcher. The commitment of the Conservative Party to developing a socially and economically progressive policy agenda without recourse to its neo-liberal default position of the last two decades will be a fundamental test of just how progressive and radical Cameron’s conservatism is. It will also be a big test of his leadership and power to keep onside and tame Daniel Hannon and other maverick ultra-Thatcherites. As Matthew notes in his blog yesterday:

“Under the pressure of office it would be all too easy for a Conservative administration to abandon its social ambitions and enthusiasm for localism and civic action, instead reverting to a Thatcherite ‘strong state, free market’ model of modernisation.”

Just how committed are the Tories to a new politics and philosophy of civic and democratic renewal? Robert Booth’s article in last Fridays Guardian may shed some important light on this question. The article documents the plans of Barnet Council (a leading Conservative run council) to model their public service provision on the business model of budget airlines like Ryanair and easyJet. Booth writes:

“The practices of the no-frills airlines, who charge customers extra for services which were once considered part of the standard fare, are being emulated by the London borough of Barnet as it embarks on "a relentless drive for efficiency". A spokesman for the council has unofficially dubbed the project "easyCouncil"

The "easyCouncil" concept captures what Habermas describes in volume two of The Theory of Communicative Action (1984) as the “colonisation of the life-world” - the process by which the logic of the financial systems (e.g. instrumental means-end rationality) become embedded in the public sphere (“life-world), deforming it of its essential character (collective action and shared responsibility). Indeed, the concept of the “easyCouncil” embodies the absolute antithesis of a progressive, forward-looking politics and local government policy agenda – radically at odds with the local government Green Paper the Tories put out last year.

Is this what future Government policy will look like in 2010-2015? For the sake of everyone, I hope not. And the real question remains: just who are the Conservative Party and what can we expect from them as our next government? With a General Election just eight or nine months away, the party most likely to be elected (increasingly I think by a healthy majority) is one that appears to me profoundly at odds with itself.

Comments

Be the first to write a comment

Please login to post a comment or reply.

Don't have an account? Click here to register.