"Trust people," says Cameron
This blog has long said the Conservative Party should take as its theme the principle of "trusting people". It has always argued that the single, basic reason it is closer to the Tories than to Labour is precisely because it is Conservative to trust people, but socialist or social democrat to trust "the people" and think it embodies the will of "the people" itself.
Back as long ago as May, I wrote of the leadership contest:
"My vote, if I have one, is up for grabs. The problem is neither Davis nor Cameron seems to enunciate that we don't have to choose between being proud of Tory values and communicating to the public that we're in touch with Britain. With the right leader we ought to be able to do both. Believing in a small state which trusts individuals and families to take responsibility for society is not and need not be incompatible with showing we're not crooked second-hand car dealers. My leadership dilemma is deciding which candidate is best-placed to do both. My big concern, from what I've seen so far, is that neither will come close."
I reminded myself and readers of this in November, when finally weighing up who to support between Cameron or Davis, and concluded Cameron should win as he came closest to matching this "golden paragraph" above.
Now it seems Cameron, must have taken on board this advice. I am delighted with last night's speech to Demos:
"Some have argued that our first principle, trusting people, contradicts our second, sharing responsibility. They argue that trusting people should mean giving responsibility solely to individuals, rather than trying to share responsibility between individuals, society and the state.
But that argument, pressed to its conclusion, leads to anarchy.
Some, from the left, have argued that trusting people and sharing responsibility means leaving people to look after themselves.They seem to deny the huge role that businesses, social enterprises, voluntary organisations, individuals and families can play in building a stronger society.Gordon Brown has set his face against sharing responsibility by arguing in response to our vision that "only the state can guarantee fairness."
That argument - denying shared responsibility - pressed to its conclusion, leads to monolithic state provision of public services.
A further, more sophisticated critique has focused on the need for us to be clearer about how we intend to share responsibility, with whom, and for what. It argues that the principle of shared responsibility on its own doesn't tell you very much. Let me answer each of these criticisms in turn.The first two need not detain us for very long.Plainly we aren't in favour of anarchy. And we aren't in favour of monolithic state provision.
We are in favour of striking a balance. And this is our response to the third criticism. The purpose of the policy review process we have established is precisely to establish clear borders of responsibility, by working out……what is best done by the state, what is best done by civil society and what is best done by the individual.
But, in seeking that balance, we start with an instinctive desire to put more trust in civil society and in the individual, rather than in the bureaucratic apparatus of the state.
This Conservative instinct to trust people has found many forms over the years.Council house sales; employee share ownership; facilitating choice in public services; local management of schools.It doesn't mean we are limited in our aspirations for government.But we do start with this instinctive desire to trust people because we recognise the inherent limitations of government."
Well said, old chap. You'd almost think one of his new speechwriters knew me...