Tim Morgan

The centre-right ideology vacuum

At times of economic crisis, successful governments need vision as well as competence. Recent events have called the coalition’s competence into question. What about its vision?

As I argue in a new report, ministers have yet to present anything in the way of a novel philosophy. Coalition policies are sold in Labour language, and tested against Labour benchmarks. It seems that Cameron and Clegg aspire simply to be more competent, slightly less spendthrift versions of Blair and Brown.

Vision is vital, because a government that is going to rescue Britain from crisis has to stand for something, and voters need to know what that something is.

That we are in a crisis is beyond question. The economy continues to deteriorate, and we have failed to find new drivers to replace private borrowing and public spending. Governments have tried sharp devaluation, £520bn of deficit financing, £320bn of QE, and three years of near-zero interest rates, yet Britain is still in recession.

Since all traditional macroeconomic levers have failed, we need radical policies to rebalance the economy and promote private sector growth. Big changes require big ideas. There is little sign, as yet, that this government has these ideas.

All of this makes a depressing contrast with Britain’s great visionary governments. Back in 1945, everyone knew that Attlee’s Labour administration stood for the welfare state and Keynesian economics. In 1979, with Britain nearly broke, everyone knew that Thatcher stood for de-regulating the economy and breaking the power of the union barons.

Everyone knew what those governments stood for. Can anyone really say the same of the current government?

Let’s be clear that we do not need another synthetic ideology. After thirteen years of New Labour’s vacuous blend of free market economics and social interventionism, voters are preternaturally attuned to spin.

The electorate, and, in particular, working people in the &”squeezed middle”, are discontented.

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