Can Cameron roll back the state?

In his four years as leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron has often seemed to embrace socialist ideas.  “Sharing the proceeds of growth” was only one of his efforts to be on a par with Labour. “Social responsibility” was often on his lips – food, for example, was “not a state responsibility but a social responsibility”; he called giving the Bank of England “independence” (it was nothing of the sort) “an act of genius”; Aneurin Bevan was one of his heroes, and so on.

In 2006 he said “For years we Conservatives talked about rolling back the state; but that is not an end in itself”. On tax, he said “I’d like to think not about how we give people a tax cut, but how we give them a time increase.

Several commentators seem to think that he has changed his spots, citing his party’s recent conference, where he said “Labour say that to solve the country’s problems, we need more government.  Don’t they see?  It is more government that got us into this mess… We are going to solve our problems with a stronger society, stronger families, stronger communities, a stronger country…”.

Er, and smaller government, David? There is no mention of lower taxes. Indeed, George Osborne, perhaps concerned with the politics of envy, is likely to retain the top income tax rate and target tax havens.

In a nutshell, there seems to be no ideological preference for low taxes (and thus economic growth) either now or in the future. Indeed, there is a real danger that the same overall tax levels as Brown’s will be shunted around in different ways to satisfy different interest groups.

Of course, it’s hard to envisage a government worse than those of Blair and Brown, and if the Conservatives are elected their slightly milder version of socialism will be an improvement of sorts. Nevertheless, those who think Cameron has the courage or desire to roll back the state are likely to be disappointed.

I used to be on the libertarian wing of the Federation of Conservative Students with Mark Hoban, now Shadow Treasury Secretary. Not content with the damage done by 8,500 pages of financial regulation he recently told a conference that the Conservative proposals to move regulation to the Bank of England were not just shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic but that: “We want to see a much more intrusive regime by the Bank of England”. Get back to deck chair shuffling, I say!

I don’t see a Cameron govt as raising the banner for the free market. Rather its more likely to be another Heathite style Administration. Heath offered us “Seldon Man” and at one stage it looked like his govt would have breathed free markets in to govt policy as far back as 1970. Within 2 years Heath had wobbled big time and we had prices and incomes policies, easy money and all manner of state interventions everywhere.Perhaps this is all we have to look forward to: A shortlived pro statist Tory govt to be replaced in 2015 by another Labour Govt. Tbh I was rather hoping for more for my two kids as they grow up and enter the labour over this time period. Its really rather dissappointing.

Hayek once said that in the course of a long life his opinion of politicians had steadily declined. I think my opinion may have been lower to begin with: at all events I haven’t yet completely given up hope.One of my favourite sayings is that ‘even teachers can learn’; and I believe the same is true of politicians. The fact is, being Leader of the Opposition isn’t a job at which it’s easy to shine. (I think Harold Wilson was probably quite good at it, but look what a hash he made of being Prime Minister.)So my motto is: ‘Give Dave a chance.’ The mess we’re in may end up provoking more radical changes than the chattering classes currently expect.

Amusing typo there. Heath offered “Selsdon” man (named after a hotel in Surrey). If only he had offered (Arthur) “Seldon” man, he might have just made it.

To be fair to Cameron, even if he wishes to roll back the state he will be constrained by the EU, particularly with regard to deregulation. He may have room for manoeuvre with taxation – especially given the dynamic benefits of lower tax rates – but the fiscal crisis will make the politics difficult.

All new governments start from where the last one left off and never from where they would like to be. Indeed much of the public policy and privatisation reforms of the Thatcher government were in their second and third terms after they had set up a clear platform. Much of what will concern a Conservative government in 2010 and after has not even happened yet – Macmillan’s ‘events, dear boy, events’ – and so we cannot really say what Cameron would do. What is certain, as with Blair and Brown, is that much of what they do will be reactive due to events not of their own making.

Cameron cannot and he does not want to.I suspect that what he actually wants is to re-order the state; to shift its priorities. For Cameron, the State is a useful means of channelling resources to places that need it. These may differ from the places that the Labour Party identifies, but it still boils down to using taxpayers’ money to finance agendas of which the governing party approves.Expect less money to unions and fair trade campaigners, and more money to religious education and Third Sector groups.

less to fair trade campaigners – very optimistic!

I used to be on the libertarian wing of the Federation of Conservative Students with Mark Hoban, now Shadow Treasury Secretary. Not content with the damage done by 8,500 pages of financial regulation he recently told a conference that the Conservative proposals to move regulation to the Bank of England were not just shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic but that: “We want to see a much more intrusive regime by the Bank of England”. Get back to deck chair shuffling, I say!

I don’t see a Cameron govt as raising the banner for the free market. Rather its more likely to be another Heathite style Administration. Heath offered us “Seldon Man” and at one stage it looked like his govt would have breathed free markets in to govt policy as far back as 1970. Within 2 years Heath had wobbled big time and we had prices and incomes policies, easy money and all manner of state interventions everywhere.Perhaps this is all we have to look forward to: A shortlived pro statist Tory govt to be replaced in 2015 by another Labour Govt. Tbh I was rather hoping for more for my two kids as they grow up and enter the labour over this time period. Its really rather dissappointing.

Hayek once said that in the course of a long life his opinion of politicians had steadily declined. I think my opinion may have been lower to begin with: at all events I haven’t yet completely given up hope.One of my favourite sayings is that ‘even teachers can learn’; and I believe the same is true of politicians. The fact is, being Leader of the Opposition isn’t a job at which it’s easy to shine. (I think Harold Wilson was probably quite good at it, but look what a hash he made of being Prime Minister.)So my motto is: ‘Give Dave a chance.’ The mess we’re in may end up provoking more radical changes than the chattering classes currently expect.

Amusing typo there. Heath offered “Selsdon” man (named after a hotel in Surrey). If only he had offered (Arthur) “Seldon” man, he might have just made it.

To be fair to Cameron, even if he wishes to roll back the state he will be constrained by the EU, particularly with regard to deregulation. He may have room for manoeuvre with taxation – especially given the dynamic benefits of lower tax rates – but the fiscal crisis will make the politics difficult.

All new governments start from where the last one left off and never from where they would like to be. Indeed much of the public policy and privatisation reforms of the Thatcher government were in their second and third terms after they had set up a clear platform. Much of what will concern a Conservative government in 2010 and after has not even happened yet – Macmillan’s ‘events, dear boy, events’ – and so we cannot really say what Cameron would do. What is certain, as with Blair and Brown, is that much of what they do will be reactive due to events not of their own making.

Cameron cannot and he does not want to.I suspect that what he actually wants is to re-order the state; to shift its priorities. For Cameron, the State is a useful means of channelling resources to places that need it. These may differ from the places that the Labour Party identifies, but it still boils down to using taxpayers’ money to finance agendas of which the governing party approves.Expect less money to unions and fair trade campaigners, and more money to religious education and Third Sector groups.

less to fair trade campaigners – very optimistic!

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