Monday, January 25, 2010

Musings on Conservative thinking, am I being a bit unfair?

I have been quite harsh on the Conservative policy announcements of late. I have not been, in that sense, even-handed, because I've tended to leave Labour alone. Admittedly, there are plenty of people tearing their proposals apart, but it does look like an omission on my part. So let me explain...

I am, at heart, a free trader, a believer in personal responsibility, an opponent of the nanny state. I believe that we, as a nation, have created a system of government that is fixated on monitoring of delivery rather than delivery of outcomes. You would think that I am an obvious candidate for being lured by the Conservatives. And yet I am not. Why is that?

Put simply, because I do not perceive that Conservative policies support and encourage freedom for all. Yes, they talk a good game about freedom, but there always seems to be a razorblade in the candyfloss. On tax breaks for married couples, for example, they seek to tell us that marriage is the best background for child rearing. Tell that to the two victims in Edlington. And no, I'm not claiming that being raised in any other type of family environment would have been better, an assertion impossible to prove and equally judgemental.

Oh yes, there is no such thing as absolute freedom for all. In a just society, with freedoms come the obligation to respect the freedoms of others, and government is there to establish the framework within which we take the opportunities to make of ourselves what we will.

And I acknowledge that there are elements of policy within all political parties that are contradictory, an inevitability given that, by its very nature, a political party is the sum of its disparate parts. However, I am a believer that society is in itself a compromise, and that most decisions involve a balancing of competing freedoms, often quite a difficult one.

So, Conservative-minded readers will be thinking, why Liberal Democrat? I suppose that it comes down to an optimism that people are basically decent, responsible, law-abiding, reasonable, tax-paying, sensible, honest, decent... (oops, gone a bit 'Pub Landlord' there). Most people can be trusted to adhere to the basic rules that make societies work. And whilst I might not agree with every dot and comma of Liberal Democrat policy, I still believe that the Party is the one most likely to deliver the society I want to live in.

That said, if my Party is not in government, I want the Party that is to display some sense of philosophical coherence other than "we want to get elected". At the moment, Conservative pronouncements are long on aspiration, short on delivery mechanisms. Time is running out, ladies and gentlemen, and the country deserves better...

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