Alex Massie

An Old-Fashioned, Modern Government

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In some senses, and for all its reforming zeal, this is something of a throwback government. David Cameron's own views and preferences have, I think, mellowed with time to the point that he is now in some respects the kind of Tory who might not have been altogether out of place in the era of Harold Macmillan. Something similar might be said of Nick Clegg. Again, Liberal Unionists for the win.

And then, of course, there's the man of the moment, David Laws. The new Chief Secretary to the Treasury is the fastest-rising star in this young ministry. How pleasing it is to come across this kind of thing in today's much-linked Guardian profile:

"Laws is an unreconstructed 19th-century Liberal" said [Malcolm] Bruce. "He believes in free trade and small government. Government should do the job only government can do. There's no point in having large public sector if the users of the public services are getting poorer. But he specifically made the point in the house [on Wednesday] that his economic liberalism is tempered by his social liberalism."

[Paddy] Ashdown describes it as "a liberalism of the mind, not the heart".

Another long-standing friend puts it as follows: "There are four ways in which Liberals are liberals: economic liberals, political liberals, liberal in personal life and social liberals. To me, he is a complete Liberal. He is one of the few people who ticks all the boxes."

Refreshing! Also, alas, rare. And yet also the kind of talk that leaves one with an unusual, mildly discombobulating sensation: optimism.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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