When I first heard the name Phillip Blond I have to confess to expecting a slightly more Aryan looking chap than the rather unassuming bloke in the image above, and not a two-bit theologian. I don’t know why, but I had a picture in my mind of him looking Christopher Walken in A View To A Kill. To me, someone who is seen as a guru of modern Conservative thought should look lean, mean and evil and not look like a washed-up folk singer.
Be that as it may, Blond is not a happy bunny. In fact, the guru of ‘Red Toryism’ feels rather let down by this Conservative administration and in particular David Cameron. Blond has used a Guardian article to make it known the full extent of his disillusionment. In part it reads as an embittered letter from a spurned lover. It also contains a pretty withering and a spot-on critique of the Tories record in office in the last two years though.
That said, it’s a very curious act of self-justification on Blond’s part. To put it very simplistically, he expected the Tories to be a lot more progressive and left-wing in office.
Bear in mind that Blond is a full-grown adult, who considers himself a student of the political and who at the age of 46 presumably has a fair few memories of the Conservative Party in action, whether it be in government or opposition. He is being not a little naïve if we accept his premise that David Cameron has ‘lost his way’ since 2010:
But what a disappointment and what a tragedy this promised renewal of one-nation conservatism has become. Make no mistake: a radical Toryism has been abandoned, the once-in-a-generation chance to redefine conservatism on something other than a reductive market liberalism has been lost. In 2009 I argued that the party had renewed its social vision but not its economic philosophy, and if it simply repeated 1980s economics, then that would destroy everything else on offer.
And so it has proved. In an act of almost inexplicable carelessness Cameron has abandoned his social project for a re-toxifying 1980s approach to the deficit. He has surrendered No 10 to Treasury determination and become a creature of other people’s means rather than his own envisager of ends – the starkest example of which is that in the emergency budget of 2010 he allowed the largest cuts to fall on local authorities even before his own Localism Act had come into force, allowing communities to take over public services or employees to mutualise and modernise – undermining the big society agenda from the very outset.
If he really believes this, Blond has failed to understand Cameron, the 2010 intake and the modern Conservative Party, which is completely in thrall to a doctrine of Thatcherism-on-steroids. There has been no ‘inexplicable carelessness’. The last two years have been neither careless or inexplicable. The economic crisis (and to a degree coalition with the liberals) has given them the Tories an opportunity to realise their wildest neoliberal fantasies, which they have done with relish.
Remember, George W Bush before the 2000 presidential election described himself as a ‘compassionate conservative’. Cameron’s re-branding exercise was no different in intent and motivation: electoral expediency. Blond is in serious denial if he thinks otherwise. There is nothing in Cameron’s political DNA to suggest that he genuinely bought into all that ‘hug a hoodie’, ‘I heart the NHS’ guff, regardless of Blond’s absurd claims to the contrary:
Why has this been allowed to happen? Cynics will say that Cameron never believed in his vision in the first place and it was all a cover for rightwing extremism. I don’t accept this; I suspect the failure is philosophical and structural. Cameron has, or had, some of the best intuitions in British politics but lacks the ability to synthesise these into concepts and clear principles.
Cameron had ‘some of the best intuitions in British politics’? Is Blond really expecting us to believe this?
One Nation Toryism was always little more than a well-articulated confidence trick. It seems that in thinking the tradition could and would be ‘reclaimed’ Phillip Blond was fooled as much as anyone. Reading the article, you get the feeling he knows it too.