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Setting the Tories straight

Samizdatista Paul Marks lets rip in the comment section of the new Tory leadership blog at Conservative Home on the topic of that Orwellian doublespeak term ‘social justice’. Check it out.

25 comments to Setting the Tories straight

  • It’s a very good pointed criticism, accurately describing how most people use the term ‘social justice’, but that’s not the meaning David Willetts seemed to be using at all. It seemed to me anything but a retreat from conservative, small government principles.

    This passage on demand for government as well as supply of government makes an excellent libertarian point, and was clearly against the sort of government redistribution Paul Marks is condemning:

    We talk as if the problem is just the supply of government. But increasingly I believe the real problem has been the demand for government that grows as a consequence of a fractured and fragmented society. There are different ways in which this demand for government expresses itself. If people are living on their own, we know they are more likely to use the NHS, especially A & E departments. If you feel rotten in the middle of the night and there literally is nobody beside you to mop your fevered brow and tell you not to worry you go to A & E instead. This is just one example of a wider point: atomised individuals need more external support. Social liberalism doesn’t come cheap.

    Why has Britain become a more unequal society with such pressure on the tax and benefits system to redistribute from rich to poor? The clue is the size of the family. We focus very much on the diversity of individual incomes. Of course in a modern market economy there will be great gaps in individual income. But the big difference between more equal and less equal societies is that more equal societies have bigger households. You see things very differently if you measure incomes not by individuals but by whole households. A society where well paid individuals are sharing their income with other members of the family can end up quite equal. In Britain, by contrast, as we have unusually small households, that task of redistributing income falls much more heavily on the state because we do much less of it informally within the extended family.

  • Tim Montgomerie


    I’m afraid that your attititude is exactly what has done for the Conservative Party at the last three General Elections.

    Millions of voters deserted the Tories in 1997 because, although they had prospered under Mrs T and John Major, they were concerned at people being left behind.

    A recent YouGov survey for the Centre for Social Justice found that 70% of target voters were more likely to vote Conservative if Tories embraced “social justice”.

    What did they mean by social justice?

    They didn’t mean massive redistribution. When asked to define social justice 67% meant fairness to those who need help and fairness to those who provide it. Only a minority saw it in the negative, big state terms in which you chose to define it.

    In other words 67% of the British people understand that social justice involves protecting ‘the goose that lays the golden egg’ but that the needy should get a share of the goose’s produce.

    William Boetcker’s Ten Cannots, written in 1916, still get it right:

    ““You cannot bring prosperity by discouraging thrift.

    You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.

    You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

    You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

    You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.

    You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.

    You cannot further brotherhood of men by inciting class hatred.

    You cannot establish security on borrowed money.

    You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.

    You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

    I am a big fan of Hayek, Paul, but Tories who say they are opposed to social justice, or fairness or a more compassionate brand of conservatism may retain some intellectual purity but they’ll never win power. They’ll never have the opportunity to build a distinctively conservative approach to poverty-fighting – built on such things as zero tolerance policing, school choice, tax cuts for low income families and stronger families.

  • Nick Timms

    The point about smaller sized families meaning less equal is probably accurate but it does not mean that it is right for the government to redistribute wealth. Why should society strive for equality anyway. It may be right for the strong to carry the weak but it should be their personal choice not an obligation foisted upon them.

    Living alone is mostly a choice. Being a one parent family is usually a choice. The inability of many people to select a suitable partner and to keep commitments is yet another symtom of individuals who have never learned to take personal responsibility for their actions.

  • Here’s what Willetts said about Hayek in the speech:

    The real change came after the Second World War when we faced a Labour opponent committed to massive state intervention in the economy. I believe we can fix the date when economic liberalism was whole-heartedly embraced by the Party very precisely – the decision in early 1945 to sacrifice 1 ½ tons of the Party’s precious paper ration for the coming election so that more copies of Hayek’s ‘Road to Serfdom’ could be published. Ever since that commitment to market reform has been a key strand of Conservative thinking. Labour might believe in organising the economy in corporatist deals with the producers – we are the Party of the consumer.

    What a commie!

  • Argosy

    We can unpick that dreadful interaction of traditional school catchment areas, poorly managed social housing, ineffective policing, and the disappearance of small businesses, which together add up to the problems of urban decay. This might well require opening up, for example, school choice. But it is not just a matter of rolling back the state. Of course government can’t do everything, but that doesn’t mean it must do nothing. We Conservatives recognise that often the state fails but we shouldn’t react with glee when it does. Instead we should believe in effective government. Too often government seems to be in the way when you don’t need it but not there when you do. So yes, the state needs to be reformed and indeed rolled back but not because we hate it like some libertarians who have taken to the hills of Montana.

    Yes he is just another dreary statist who makes noises about markets to dupe schmucks who can be lied to again and again and again and again and still come back for more. The ‘Stupid Party’ indeed. But when you read this marvel of political duplicity you see he is being all things to all people. He is soooooo full of shit and Cuthbertson swallows it hook line and sinker. Amazing.

  • Argosy, if you think the Thatcher government duped people who believed in rolling back the frontiers of the state and promoting the free market – presumably what you mean by “lied to again and again and again” – then our views and political wishes are just radically different (as, for that matter, are yours and the original poster, Perry’s), not a case of me being duped and you not.

    To say government is always there when you don’t need it and rarely there when you don’t is true, even if, or especially if, you believe in Nozick’s ‘night watchman’ state. Government does thousands of things it shouldn’t, but won’t police the streets and lock up dangerous criminals.

  • And when Willet specifically names the government departments he wants abolished outright and the fact he wants (say) 20% less spent by the state (for starters), I will at least start listening to him seriously. Until then, I too think his commitment to a meaningfully smaller state is a complete load of bollocks in light of the other things he says.

  • Verity

    Tim Montgomerie says: “millions of voters deserted the Tories in 1997 because, although they had prospered under Mrs T and John Major, they were concerned at people being left behind.”

    I don’t believe that for one second. People are selfish. They don’t care who’s “being left behind” in the aggregate. They were fed up with the Tories – a weak and ineffective John Major being bullied by his cabinet, the squabbling cabinet – and Labour was smart enough to run a carny snake oil salesman who didn’t look, or speak, like Old Labour. Long and short of it.

    BTW, I don’t know who that smiling woman is on the website on the link, but she needs to go. She has the word TOKEN branded on her forehead. Stop with the women, already! Trust me, women do not hunger to be governed by women. Women are seen as interfering and full of good intentions that other people may not necessarily want.

  • A_t

    Nice of you to speak up for all women there Verity.

    Personally I’m quite happy to be governed by whoever, provided they mostly stay out of my business. Their gender has little either way to do with their competence, & “are seen as” is not the same as “are”… I’ve certainly seen enough interfering well-intentioned male politicians.

  • Perry, that’s fair enough, but I don’t think Willetts gives a reason for a small government person to think less of him in that speech. Quite the reverse, if you view it (eugh, I’m going to say it) holistically.

  • Pete_London


    That’s Theresa May. Now the Shadow Minister for Families(!) She’s been on the Tory front bench for years now. It shows how anonymous and so lacking in any fighting spirit they’ve been.

    Tim Montgomerie

    Piffle. The proverbial monkey with a red rosette would have won the 1997 and 2001 elections. Though it never stopped him, Blair never needed to lie in those years. The Tories would have lost an election in which no-one else stood.

    A recent YouGov survey for the Centre for Social Justice found that 70% of target voters were more likely to vote Conservative if Tories embraced “social justice”.

    You’re pulling my plonker, yes? Did you read about the recent survey by the Potatoe Growers’ Association? It reported that Potatoes are delicious and good for you. No-one at YouGov or the Centre for Woolly Thinking would dream of voting Tory. There’s more chance of them making it up than doing a survey. They’re just not in the business of helping the Tory Party. I smell propoganda.

  • Sivi

    “Setting the Tory’s straight”.
    The Tory’s straight what?

  • Verity

    Pete_London – As you say – piffle. It’s rigged rubbish. The average Tory doesn’t stay awake fretting that there may not be enough free council flats for 14-yr old mothers of two. Or that “key workers” (aka “Labour voters”) can’t afford to get on the property ladder.

    Teresa May is the one who called her party “the nasty party”, thus doing further damage. What the hell is she doing with her photo on the website?

    A_t – American women in politics – save Hillary and a clutch of other loony lefters – are not as bossy and interfering and hectoring as British and European women in politics, especially of the left. There is a different tradition of bossy leftiness in Britain and Europe – especially Sweden, which is downright terrifying! They’ve got to have an equal number of board members in companies now!

    There are plenty of very able, non-bossy Republican women politicians in the US. Kay something, in Texas, is sound. By and large, I do not like British women in politics because they see themselves as little tinpot moral leaders showing everyone the way. It would have to be an outstanding woman before I would give her my vote. I would vote for Maggie with all my heart. Can’t think of any others, offhand. Very few, if any, of them have been selected on merit.

    I am interested in good (minimal) governance, that is all. I don’t want moral hectoring.

  • Chris Goodman

    Taxation may be theft, but the extent to which people begrudge it depends on how much the State takes, how much they spend on themselves, and to whom they give the rest.

    Although the Left like to frame the question as a moral debate between those that care (namely themselves) and those that do not care (namely everybody else) in reality it is about what delivers the best outcome – where best includes the interests of the most vulnerable.

    If you say that the State has no role defending the vulnerable – which is what some mean when they use the phrase “social justice” [although I agree the word “justice” in this context only serves to confuse] – then it does become a moral debate. In practice however almost nobody, and this includes Hayek, is seeking to defend this assumption.

    Few people have a problem with money being taken away from them so that it can be spent on a Police Force. Nor do many people have a problem with money being taken away from them and spent on a carer who looks after somebody who is mentally disabled.

    The issue then becomes, is the money being taken by the government on your behalf being well spent – where better is not better for teaching unions but better for education, where better is not better for NHS staff but better for healthcare, and better is not better for those who seek to exercise political power, but better for those who seek the freedom to realise their own dreams.

  • Chris Goodman

    i.e. humans are moral animals and although giving more power to the State is not always the morally right thing to do, arguing that the State ought to be morally neural is not only self-refuting it also gives ammunition to Leftists who view its opponents as amoral. This I suppose is what is meant by the ‘nasty party’ tag i.e. Conservatism has to be presented (in its true colours I might add) as a moral vision and not as an amoral return to the jungle.

  • Nick Timms

    Chris Goodman – I begrudge any taxation. Anything that is coercion is WRONG. And for all those who would call me heartless and selfish you would be assuming that I do not support charities and several dependants.

    Most people are not selfish, and do care about the less fortunate, but, they should have the choice about how much and to whom they donate. As for public services – privatise them all. The most efficient and cost effective will get my business.

  • Verity

    Nick Timms. I agree, and that includes the police, who would then be responsive to their employers because they would be able to understand who their employers are. At the moment, they seem to be under the delusion that their employers are the government.

    The only thing that I wouldn’t privatise is the armed services. And I wouldn’t begrudge of penny of the taxation levied to support them.

    Actually, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to have MPs privatised, come to think of it. Each constituency could set its own salary and pay his/her salary out of its income in council tax. If the salary were comparatively modest, the MP would have to spend part time in the real world doing a real job. This would enchance his/her ability to relate to the constituents. At the same time, knowing his salary came from local people who were watching him with a keen eye, he might be more willing to pursue their concerns instead of his own glory.

  • Chris Goodman

    It seems to me that there are legitimate arguments about what sort of activities the State should be doing, and how effectively a particular government is doing it, but for a political party to seek to office on the basis of a manifesto that the State ought to ignore the fact that a society in which all services are dependent upon ability to pay would leave some with little or no services, on the grounds that their welfare will [hopefully] be addressed by charitable activity, is to truly deserve moral contempt. Fortunately this political party bears not a scintilla of resemblance to the Conservative Party.

  • Verity

    Pete_London – I just noticed that you wrote Teresa May is Shadow Minister for Families! Are the Conservatives serious about winning the next election? A Minister for Families? Like, families aren’t families and interact among themselves? WTF does May do all day, shadowing someone who casts a shadow as she (it’s got to be a Za-NuLab “she”) stealthily, through technology, creeps among British families?

    What are the Tories thinking? They should have made a big public issue of abolishing this loony ministry in the Shadow Cabinet!

    So Teresa May has to keep herself and her staff busy all day, feeling as though they’re driving through some important programmes in opposition. And the real Minister for Families (dear god! – I didn’t even know about this!) gets into work in the morning and has meetings about families and sends memos about families and develops programmes for families and commissions reports on families and sets up outreach bureaus with outreach counsellors for families – and the dept’s civil servants burrow themselves in to families – the most private unit of any civilisation – and do research into families (if they can get the wires attached so families will give anything away about each other) and attend conferences about families and go to cocktail parties with their cards that read Ministry for Families.

    The Tories should begin to announce what intrusive official jobs would be abolished under a Conservative government.

  • Bernie

    Chris Goodman

    Few people have a problem with money being taken away from them so that it can be spent on a Police Force. Nor do many people have a problem with money being taken away from them and spent on a carer who looks after somebody who is mentally disabled.

    I think you are right about this but for one point – you still agree with the producer class being forced to pay for non producers. I think most of us are in favour of charity giving where it really is charity. I fundamentally disagree that anyone has a “right” to any part of my income by virtue of being poor. Being poor is not a virtue and I resent the tiniest fraction of my income being used in that way. No one is morally “entitled” to your income but you. When you choose to help others by giving them money you are exercising charity, when others take away part of your income by threat of force you are by definition, a slave.

  • Verity

    Police should be funded by subscription. If you don’t subscribe to the service, you don’t get the service. This may concentrate minds which sorely need concentrating.

    Health care, similarly private. This is not to say that, as before, throughout our history,there would not be church charities and mutual funds to help poor people. And many, many salary-earners would donate money for other people and their children to get medical attention. By force? No. If they can donate hundreds of millions of pounds to people in a country in the south Indian ocean with whose population and lives they have little in common – although this was, to a large extent, self-congratulatory – they can donate it to their own. By choice.

    Roads and streets should be paid for by the users, as parking lots are. What is the big problem?

    The only tax I think is legitimate is for protection of the entire country by the military. This would include protecting our borders agains invaders – including aliens who have not been admitted legally – but would not include foreign adventures, whose expenses should be raised by private subscription. In other words, all “UN” adventures to be private supported, if they can find anyone willing to pay for them.

  • Pete_London


    WTF does May do all day, shadowing someone who casts a shadow as she (it’s got to be a Za-NuLab “she”)

    Well waddya know, a little digging discovers a return to government for the Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families (may the Lord help each and every one of them) – Beverley Hughes.

    Formerly Minister of State (for Immigration, IIRC) under Dr Josef von Blunkett at the Home Office, she was forced to resign for lying about immigration numbers and what she knew and when she knew it. The holder of this post before the election was Margaret Hodge! Those with a strong constitution can google Hodge, Islington and children.

    As Children, Young People and Families (I feel ridiculous merely typing it) are affected by government policy anyway (health, education, blah blah) Hughes and her team will be reduced to justifying themselves, dreaming up ever more intrusive and imbecilic measures. That this ghoulish position exists in the government of the UK really does sum them up.

    Is there no area of life which politicians regard as rightfully private and beyond their writ? 99% of them would recoil in horror at being told that there are, indeed, matters pertaining to human existence which can function perfectly adequately without politicians meddling.

    As you say, the Tories should begin to announce what intrusive official jobs would be abolished under a Conservative government. I’d announce that all such positions in government will not be shadowed.

    Recently there was a discussion in here about not battling on your enemy’s ground. It’s always sound adice but if you don’t get it you judt don’t get it.

  • Chris Goodman

    It is coercive to impose laws.

    The alternative is a lawless society.

    A private police force would only help those who could afford to pay for its services.

  • Verity


    Well, well, none other than Helga von Hughes! The liar. The liar about matters of critical importance to British citizens. (“Bah! The citizens! Trumped up little busybodies getting up on their hind legs to stop Der beloved Fuhrer’s Grand Plan!”)

    Yes, obviously they have to justify their loathesome creepy department by busying themselves doing intrusive things to families. That’s what they’re for! Control!

    The Conservative leader should indeed point up the evil of this, and other invented Za-NuLab departments and ministries, by announcing, as you say, which intrusive and insulting insulting departments are due to be abolished and noting that they would not be shadowed – because a shadow would double the affront to the British citizenry.

  • Verityu

    I didn’t mean to type ‘insulting’ twice. Enough with the hyberbole, awready.