Peter Hoskin

Cameron sets out his tough love agenda

Cameron sets out his tough love agenda
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David Cameron's speech to the Welsh Tory party conference serves up some more of those "uncomfortable truths" that George Osborne mentioned a few weeks ago.  Rather than just referring to Labour's debt crisis - although he did plenty of that - he talked about Britain's overall "addiction to debt", and suggested that the public need to change their ways for the country's sake:

"We’ve seen too many of the ugly things that happen when people duck responsibility. The father who leaves a mother and child to fend for themselves. The banker who clamours for his bonus when he’s bust the bank. The healthy welfare claimant who thinks it’s OK to live off benefits paid by others. Or the businessman who puts profits before the planet. All this irresponsibility must end.

That is our mission: to help build a responsible society where government leads by example and lives within its means. Where strong families give every child a stable, loving start. Where doctors and teachers and police officers are trusted to use their judgement. Where their vocations are valued and where everyone understands that we are all in this together that life is about “we”, not just “me”.  And that the way to build a better future is through social responsibility, not state control." Although it's centred around an anaemic catch-all term - "reponsibility" - these are themes the Tories are right to push, and which they ought to develop.  If there's one fundamental truth in politics right now, it's that things cannot continue as they did during the Brown years, and - to my mind - that will require a realignment of how  governments, banks and the public see money.  No more can false prosperity, built on credit, be encouraged and nurtured; there can no longer be be a "cosy consensus" which equates public spending with investment; and people shouldn't be as quick to buy plasma TVs and houses they can't afford.

It will be left to the next government - in all likelihood, a Cameron government - to vocalise these home truths.  In turn, this means that the right will probably have to confront how it views itself.  Making value judgements about how people live their lives smacks of hardcore socialism.  Mixing politics with categorical imperatives all seems a little too Son of the Manse.  But a degree of tough love will be necessary.  And the sooner Cameron & Co. can get this message across, the easier they'll find their task once in power.