Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Resurrection Of Faith

But surely he was the one who destroyed it in the first place

Yesterday we gave Cam 6/10 for his New Politics speech. On reflection that was maybe a tad harsh. Having now heard the panicky, vacuous, response from various Labour ministers and their erstwhile supporters in the press, we'd move Cam up to a 7.

Take the detailed analysis of the speech in today's Times by their leader writer and Labour insider, Philip Collins. He attempts to dismiss Cam's linking of the expenses row to the much broader small government agenda as being "plausible but spurious". According to him, Cam has cunningly "changed the subject" - a low-down political trick of the kind Collins himself routinely pulled when he was writing Bliar's speeches.

Collins either doesn't get it, or he thinks he can ignore it. Cam has struck a deep chord with many of us because he's resurrecting the Old Faith.

As we blogged here, the reason we are all so furious about the expenses scandal is not simply that we're paying for duck ponds. It's because the troughing epitomises the contempt with which our political class have treated us for years. That's what we're angry about, that's why we are demanding real change, and that's why Cam's linkage is absolutely direct.

The Old Faith says we must return power to the people to manage their own lives.

But faith alone is never enough. The real strength of Cam's speech - the bit that lifts it from a 6 to a 7 - is his linking of faith to a specific programme of action (school vouchers, elected sheriffs, etc etc). Yes, there's more he needs to do (see yesterday's post), but yesterday he moved way beyond the realms of pious platitudes: he finally showed us a radical policy platform rooted in a strong and coherent philosophy.

The official Labour response has been lamentable. In today's Independent, his batteries virtually flat, Gordo can do no more than repeat the same old meaningless guff we've been suffering for years:

"Jack Straw will announce the outcome of a long period of consultation... errrr... since March we have been consulting on a Green Paper on a Bill... drrrrrrr.... I spent time meeting young people in Fife... click... I will meet members of the Youth Citizenship Commission... drrrrrrr... click, click... in the Court of King Caractacus... click... there is no option I will not consider... click... Daisy, Daisy, giiive meeee yoooouuuuuurrranssssssssss...."

No wonder the massed ranks of the left are panicking. Carefully crafted triangulation no more than a distant memory, they are scurrying back to their own true faith, the faith of class war and conformity.

Also in the Independent (not an organ I normally frequent), an obscure theologian called Johann Hari lays into Cameron for being a rich toff who practises Voodoo Economics when people aren't looking. Hari warns that the evil Cam follows the dark faith of the false prophet Laffer, entirely ignoring the path of righteousness laid out in the teachings of Saints Obama and Krugman:

"Cameron is advocating policies that will benefit his tiny class of super-rich Trustafarians at the expense of the rest of us... and now he has announced his enthusiasm for a bogus economic theory that will justify shovelling far more of our money their way.'s clear how he will pay for these cuts for himself and his friends – by slashing the few redistributive programmes for the poor built up over the past decade, like the Educational Maintenance Allowance for poor kids to stay on to sixth form which his team derides as a "bribe", or the tax credits which his frontbench openly compares to the disastrous nationalised industries of the 1970s, or the SureStart centres which he has described as "a microcosm of government failure." They belong to a world he has never seen, or shown any interest in."

This is the Other Faith. The faith that hates toffs, hates markets, and believes in the wholesomeness and efficacy of Big Government.

Never mind that in the real world, Labour's EMA system is a disgraceful and costly shambles (eg see this post), or that according to its own official analysis, Labour's £3bn Sure Start programme has actually made things worse for the poorest kids it was supposed to help (eg see this post). Never mind any of that, because they belong to a world Hari and his fellow theologians have never seen, or shown any interest in.

Still, we should welcome the resurrection of political faiths, however whacky. Mainstream politics has lacked conviction for far too long. And we shouldn't decry the primitive faith of the left: they will need it to sustain them through the next 20 years in the wilderness.

PS Great article by Daniel Hannan welcoming Cam's speech:

"Brilliant: I couldn't have put it better myself. No, hang on: this is exactly how I did put it in my book Direct Democracy, serialised in this newspaper four years ago.

The solutions which David Cameron goes on to propose are drawn directly from that text, and from its sequel, The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain, which I co-authored with Douglas Carswell six months ago: local control over schools, housing and policing; fewer MPs; more power for councils; referendums, local and national; legislation by citizens' initiative; a shift in power from the executive and judicial branches of government to the legislature; weaker Whips; the end of the patronage powers enjoyed by the Prime Minister under Crown Prerogative; the appointment of public officials through open parliamentary hearings.

Then again, there is no such thing as plagiarism in public life: we are all in the business of proselytising our creeds. As Ronald Reagan used to observe: "There is no limit to what a man may achieve in politics provided he is indifferent as to who takes the credit".

A great quote. And if you haven't already done so, you should read The Plan asap.

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