Monday, 7 June 2010

Cameron's Speech

To read the Prime Minister's speech, delivered today in Milton Keynes, press here.

I expect to be on local radio today arguing that while this is a speech about the deficit - Cameron is seizing the opportunity to impose his ideological beliefs on Britain. He isn't proposing a temporary tightening of our belts to bring the deficit down - instead - this is an attempt to overthrow the policies which have dominated the world economy during and beyond the second half of the Twentieth Century - a period of great prosperity and growth. It is a return to the ideological conservatism that last had a free run in the 1920s and 1930s - and was unsustainable.

In the speech he tries to focus our eyes on the "sins" of the Labour Government of the last 13 years. He does what every incoming government does - feigns surprise that the situation is much much worse than they had imagined. (for precedents see 1964; 1979; 1997).

He proposes massive cuts to deal with the situation - "the effects of...(which)....will stay with us for years, perhaps decades to come". But are these inevitable cuts? I will argue that while some belt tightening is necessary - he is suggesting a "conservative" solution which is flawed. He, and true conservatives genuinely belief in the minimal state. They believe that the free market will provide the optimal solution. Trouble is this belief is not shared by all - and I fear it is flawed - and history has shown it to be.

This was the ideology which held sway in the 1920s and was applied to great detriment in the 1930s. The market is not perfect. From the 1860s each recession grew deeper and longer. Market failures led to inefficency and suffering. In the 1930s and its aftermath there was a general consensus that there was a positive role for the state. Some true 'conservatives' remained - but they were out of power. Thanks to state action we educated more people than ever, to higher levels of education. State investment in education and the infrastructure enabled private business to thrive. We build road infrastructures and telecoms development was sponsored by Government.

But the 'conservatives' have grown in strength. They have learnt nothing from history - save how to package their message. Now in Britain - under the guise of addressing the deficit - Cameron is proposing a radical change to the role of government - in a way which, in his words "will affect our economy, our society - indeed our whole way of life".

I don't doubt the genuineness of the convictions of these conservatives - and look carefully at the people who sit alongside and behind Cameron! They genuinely believe that their ideology is the answer to our problems. But progressives need to wake up to this sleight of hand by Cameron. He is about changing how British society and the economy works - a warning needs to be sounded.

This is an ideological position as strong - and as discredited as communism. It will affect people's live - immensely.