Massie has been confident all along that Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have this common ground, and I am inclined to agree with him, which is why I think Prof. Fox exaggerates the Liberal resistance to a Red Toryish agenda. There are policy differences that could blow up the coalition, and there are issues where the two parties are diametrically opposed, but the things Massie mentions possibly represent the glue that could keep the coalition from fracturing. My agreement with Massie is also why I find expressions of sympathy for Cameron and Blond among “reformist” conservatives here in the U.S. a bit puzzling. ~ Daniel Larison
I think Larison is giving Blond too much credit here. While it may be that Blond has made quite a splash on the internet with his Red Toryism, I suspect he’s made rather less of an impression amongst policy-makers in the Cameron government. Certainly the theme of decentralization is there, and the stated need for a less bureaucratic society, but beyond these rather generic ideas there is very little of the Red in Cameron’s reform Toryism, and even less of the Anglo-Catholic Toryism Blond is espousing in either the Liberal-Democratic platform or the policies of Cameron’s moderate Tories.
I suspect Blond is kept close to the Tory leadership because he generates interest and a certain level of mystique rather than because his ideas will really catch on in the new government. Some may, but only the most obvious. There is nothing illiberal about Cameron or Clegg or the coalition they have formed. Even a Tory only government would have looked past the more radical of Blond’s ideas.
Much of “reformist” conservatism is concerned with providing an alternative agenda for an increasingly centralized system, rather than with the broad distribution of power that Blond is proposing. “Reformist” conservatism for the most part means more of the bureaucratic, managerial state apparatus that Blond strongly criticizes and opposes. As creative as some “reformists” can be, they are ultimately tinkering around the edges of a neoliberal consensus that Blond flatly rejects.
I’m not so sure that Blond knows what he flatly rejects and what he doesn’t. And while I can sympathize with Blond’s critique of markets, I suspect his own understanding of free market economics is rather less developed than it should be. Policy decisions in the new UK government will likely be influenced by others in the Tory and Lib-Dem camps who have a better grasp of economics. And there is little chance of any of Blond’s social conservatism gaining much traction in the UK.
In other words, I think that Red Toryism – a philosophy which I think Blond never truly let grow into maturity – was stillborn. I think it would have been even had the Tories won a landslide. There may be some echoes of Blond’s ideas in the new government (decentralization, fairness, helping the poor, etc.) but in the end Cameron may have come to these notions without Blond’s influence. Instead, reformist conservatism – with its tinkering around the edges – has won the day. I think spending cuts – however simple and boring – are the only radical thing in the cards. far more so than any sort of revolutionary new brand of conservatism.
It will be more interesting to see what tune Blond whistles now that the Conservatives are finally back in charge. Will he continue his tip-toeing toward a more friendly view of markets? Will he continue to edge back toward liberalism, and couch his critique of modern politics and economics in other terms? I suspect he will.