Tax: the Tories’ ‘clause 4 moment’

On the surface David Cameron’s achieved much with the Conservative Party in a short time despite, as Skipper suggests, not really winning hearts as well as minds. Tories think he sounds like a winner and that’s enough, for now.

Key to this illusion is the ease with which the party appears to have accepted the new ethos. Blair had to fight a bloody fight to change Labour’s statement of values, Clause IV, but Cameron’s vision, Built to Last, went through on a sleepy nod. That’s not good enough; he’s failed to engage his own party in debate.

Some are ‘bewildered by the pace at which Mr Cameron [is] abandoning the Thatcher legacy’ and worried about losing votes to right (where there are no votes). Some got upset when he admitted Thatcher was wrong on apartheid. But most Tories haven’t noticed any change in direction yet.

Thatcher’s legacy to the Tories was to enable the infiltration of the party by libertarians that the socially conservative mistook for economic technocrats. Obsessed with the idea that the state must become smaller, tax cuts are everything to this wing of the party (who let Michael Howard down on the same ground). Cameron’s mantra – ‘Stability before tax cuts’ – is an acknowledgement that Thatcherite economics failed the country. It’s a reality check too far for many with the potential to trigger the ideological debate the Tories thought they’d avoided.

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