As expected, David Cameron's speech has been well received. In the Telegraph, Iain Martin says this was the moment Cameron "came out as a Conservative". Indeed so. But amidst the sobriety and the resolution, there were moments of populist blue meat too. The BBC's mini-focus group particularly loved this passage:
For Labour there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance. You cannot run our country like this.
It is why, when we look at what’s happening to our country, we can see that the problem is not the leader; it’s Labour. They end up treating people like children, with a total lack of trust in people’s common sense and decency. This attitude, this whole health and safety, human rights act culture, has infected every part of our life. If you’re a police officer you now cannot pursue an armed criminal without first filling out a risk assessment form. Teachers can’t put a plaster on a child’s grazed knee without calling a first aid officer. Even foreign exchanges for students…you can’t host a school exchange any more without parents going through an Enhanced Criminal Record Bureau Check.
No, when times are tough, it’s not a bigger state we need: it’s better, more efficient government. But even more than that we need a stronger society. That means trusting people.
Exactly. When you hear about this sort of stuff, you do not need to be a Daily Mail reader to scream "What is wrong with this country?" I'd assumed that this nonsense about criminal record checks had to be made up. But no, it's actually true. Then again, why should I be surprised? This summer a school-teacher told me that "Health and Safety" regulations meant boys could no longer practice in the cricket nets absent adult supervision.
Cameron may have (mistakenly) disavowed libertarianism yesterday, but this is fertile territory for the Tories, appealling to the British version of the Leave Us Alone coalition. There are plenty of votes out there in Why-oh-Why land. Heck, even Tom Harris, Labour MP for Glasgow South, seems to despair of the culture his party's government has fostered. As I say, this is a subject the Tories should return to time and time again. Are you mad as hell? You should be. Are you going to take it anymore? You damn well shouldn't...