David Blackburn

What to make of Cameron’s rejection of laissez faire?

What to make of Cameron's rejection of laissez faire?
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Pressure brings out the best in David Cameron and right now he’s coasting. He gave, as Pete and Fraser have said, a subdued speech. The content was there but his delivery was calm, except on two occasions when he spoke rather than read the autocue. He attempted to sell the Big Society (third time and no luckier). Then he said, with conviction, ‘I don’t believe in laissez faire.’

Those six words are pure Tory Reform Group, pure Iain Macleod, pure One Nation. He evoked that traditional form of Torysim with a firm description of how his government seeks to empower people as responsible groups not just free individuals. A theme encapsulated by the soundbite: ‘Mine is not just a vision of a more powerful country, it is of a more powerful people’, which is the essence of the Big Society.

This linked to his vow to weaken vested interests in business. Cameron told of his admiration for those who reject the comfort of a salary and ‘strike out on their own’, and he wants to do the best by them. He explained how regulations would be swept away and which start-up funds and tax breaks would be introduced. He then signalled an end to the total dominion of the Masters’ of the Universe: ‘The taxpayer bailed you out and now it is time to lend to small businesses’. This was not banker-bashing or a crude assault on capitalism; it was far more positive – a promise to extend opportunity with the support of the government.

Paternalism isn’t necessarily a by-word for molly-coddling or interference; it can be 'light-touch', providing the means to greater wealth and opportunity when pursued effectively. I wonder what the party's right-wing make of it.