Saturday, 1 November 2008

The Glenrothes Axis

The coming by-election in the Scottish borough of Glenrothes is one that is already looking to be a very close call between Labour and the SNP. It is also perhaps the most glaring example of how outmoded the traditional 'Left-Right' political axis is as regards politics within the United Kingdom.

As there is sadly, no Conservative presence in Glenrothes (as everywhere in Scotland) the two parties contesting the election are the immediately 'Right wing' nationalists and what one would presumably regard as their opposite, the self-described socialist and decidedly 'Left wing' Labour.

Yet in an election that cannot help but be defined overwhelmingly by the current state of the economy, there is actually very little to distinguish between the two parties' policies. Both are traditionally protectionist, interventionist, and in favour of State ownership. Both have been forced to climb down a peg or two in this post-Thatcherite political arena, but to be sure, only a couple.

For example, although Alex Salmond has paid lip service in the recent past on freeing up the Scottish economy for foreign investment, since becoming First Minister he has also sent Scottish State expenditure and benefit payments through the roof - a combination that would, to anyone with a reasonable grasp of economics seem utterly contradictory. But alas, it is exactly this kind of behaviour by Gordon Brown over the last decade that has landed us in the dire economic straits we're now in. Even worse, it appears that in his efforts to take a revised approach, the Prime Minister has got it the wrong way round - jettisoning the former while accelerating the latter.

In effect, by ditching the free-market rhetoric of Blairism from Labour policy, Gordon Brown has given the equally reactionary First Minister the green light to do the same. After all, it hardly opens the doors for a Tory take-over of Scotland. What it does do however is expose very plainly that on economic matters these two populist parties are completely out of their depth - meaning that in a crisis they invariably grasp for the same old tired straws of State intervention.

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise. There is a long precedent in Europe of seemingly opposite political parties of the 'Left' and 'Right' at each others' throats simply because their policies are so resoundingly similar. Indeed, the Nazis and Communists of inter-war Germany never ceased to tire beating each other senseless, but afforded very little attention towards the liberal and conservative groups. The Social Democrats too, had a rivalry with the Communists approaching that of which both had with the Nazis because all three were in competition for the same minds armed with broadly similar economic programmes. As economic disaster was the key to most of their electoral success, the conflict between them was bitter.

Unsurprisingly then, all three parties were fond of using the giant crimson proletarian superman on their posters - usually seen smashing through his chains and/or stomping upon the petrified faces of capitalists and priests. Nonetheless, this does seem to contradict the notion held by most of us that the ideologies behind these parties presented radically different visions on what the future of Germany should be. Indeed, the Third Reich and East Germany are both very real and chilling testaments to how the latter two would realise these differing but equally terrifying ideals.

Growing up with the idea that Nazism and Communism are as different as back and white, one may overlook the fact that the practical applications of their ideologies were not all that different. It is worth posturing that in domestic policy at least, the Third Reich and East Germany changed day-today life very little for ordinary Germans - even, to an extent - if you were Jewish. It is principally because all three had such a thin grasp on the study of economics itself that their policies were so resoundingly similar. As frequently put by the economist Milton Friedman - there can be no political liberty without economic liberty.

It is certainly no moot point that Hitler, a man who viewed economics as supremely unimportant in his grand scheme of things, should immediately jump to State ownership and direction as policy once his chief economist Schacht had stopped telling him what he wanted to hear on rearmament. Indeed Enoch Powell, a man many would wrongly associate with the nationalist 'Right' argued this precise point - observing that there was so little to distinguish the economic policies of successive Labour governments from the Fascist and Communist regimes of Europe simply because "they are all at heart totalitarian". Certainly in this light it can come as no coincidence that the celebrated fascists Oswald Mosley and Benito Mussolini were dedicated members of Labour and the Socialists respectively, before beginning their own political movements.

The point to be made here is this: when the crux of your policy falls on essentially one issue - be it the welfare of the toiling masses, national independence, the environment, religion or race - economic concerns inevitably take a back seat, more often than not as merely a tool used towards an end. Consequently it is always poorly understood, always misused and always abused. The consequence being, naturally, that it always ends in tears.

Conversely, the only surviving party in the United Kingdom that has ever viewed prudent maintenance of the economy and wealth creation as ends in themselves are the Conservatives. The United States has thus far been blessed by this trait in both the leading parties throughout its history. However, the Bush administration has been attacked for seemingly putting fiscal conservatism to one side in favour of pursuing an ideological foreign policy - namely, the neocon 'Towards an American Century' project. Obama too, seems set to repeat this folly with socialistic federal expenditure aimed at one slice of American society. This more European mould of politics is increasingly in danger of infiltrating the Anglo-Saxon community of nations as more and more political parties emerge with ulterior motives aimed at ever smaller sections of our society.

More than ever before then, conservatives in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia must stand strong with a One Nation base of support against this increasingly sectarian trend. We have a rich history to draw on. From the days of Tory paternalism against the Liberal 'millocracy' in the nineteenth century to the tides of Thatcherism against the undemocratic power of the trade unions; the Conservatives have been the only party in the United Kingdom to consistently unite these islands' inhabitants through an over-riding commitment to the cohesion of the Union itself. Who else has so successfully united agricultural and industrial workers with the landed aristocracy? The skilled working classes with a rising set of entrepreneurial of businessmen?

Unsurprisingly then, the Conservatives are also the only party with the accumulated knowledge and experience on economic and social matters to actually achieve this. They may be blamed for many things in the industrial heartlands of England, but it should be cited in their defence that the nationalisation of industry by Labour was the original sin. For ten years it must have seemed to the people of this country that Labour had finally 'got it' with the economy. Indeed, perhaps the most consistent complaint of recent years has been that, given Tony Blair's tough approach to law and order, there has been very little to choose from between the main parties.

Of course in hindsight we know that this really was too good to be true. The maintenance of the economy for the benefit of everyone was never, as it turns out, an end in itself for 'new' Labour - simply a change in tactics. The goal remains, as it was, the same. Socialism. Or, to put it in a few more words - handing all the proceeds of accelerated growth to the working (or more often, not-working) classes through damaging and massively inflated benefits and services while leaving nothing for a rainy day which your ideology has in any case expressly ruled out as a possibility; then, when everything goes tits-up, proceeding to blame it on the very people who raised you all that revenue in the first place before taxing and regulating them out of the country.

It doesn't take a political genius to see that in this way Labour has consistently been a divisive and counterproductive force in the running of British politics, because it has and always will represent the interests of only one section of society - one that happens to be disproportionately dominated by the trades unions who are once again forming the bulk of party funding.

This blinkered and interest-driven view towards policy will always be the downfall of Labour when it comes to economic matters. It nearly cost them their very existence as a mainstream political party in 1983. By 1997 Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had managed to successfully 'decontaminate the brand' so to speak, and make Labour appear electable again - for a short while even invincible. They had managed to convince us that after fifty years of wrecking the economy they'd finally gained some competence on the subject. This is no small feat, and they deserve some recognition for this.

But Gordon Brown has demolished this illusion as just that. It was a very fancy illusion, and darned convincing, but an illusion nonetheless. It is now not such a stretch to conclude that what Labour inherited in 1997 was in fact a Tory upswing in the economy - a Tory mistake fixed by the Tories - proceeding to hollow it out over the next ten years with a spendthrift attitude to public borrowing/spending prompted by an ideological assertion that there would never again be another economic collapse in Britain. "No more boom and bust" indeed! The very idea, that one can completely rule out this entirely natural outcome of the economic cycle and proceed to stick ones head in the sand, refusing even to prepare for the merest possibility of this eventuality shows an enormous degree of ignorance and arrogance on the part of Labour that is usually reserved only for the most feckless and stupid of individuals.

I put it therefore that Labour is unfit to govern. I put it that they have never been fit to govern and their trail of destruction in British industry and society since 1945 leaves very little to defend their claim to power. Furthermore, due to the deep-rooted socialist assumptions and instincts within the party, I do not believe they will ever conclusively prove themselves to be so. Attlee failed, Wilson failed, and now Brown has failed. It's a sloppy record.

This really ought to be the end of the road for Labour in Scotland, but without a fresh and renewed Tory presence there (perhaps by cutting the Scottish Tories loose again in the guise of a resurrected Unionist party?) all we can really expect to see is the replacement of one populist, spendthrift and economically ignorant party with another. The danger is that if the Tories fail to produce a real alternative to this socialist/nationalist economic axis, we may end up in a situation where it's no longer our problem.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Totalitarianism in Town Hall

I like eastern art. I especially enjoy traditional Japanese prints and painting, so you can probably imagine the abrupt about-turn I made while passing our very own Cooper Gallery this week. Upon entering, my first surprise came when I discovered that these weren’t in fact Japanese works at all, they were Korean. North Korean in fact. Hmm...that’s quite an exotic curiosity for Barnsley I thought. Better read on.

The info pane told me that this was an exhibition of work from the Matsudae Art Studio – the largest State-run studio in North Korea. ‘As [North] Korea opens up to the West this will have an effect on work produced in the future’ it said. Yep, okay fair enough. ‘This could be a last chance to see artwork in its purest state from this country’. Hmm ... as a former art student I felt a little uneasy about this line, given how strictly controlled art is in North Korea, but thought that as a curiosity this could be a quite fascinating exhibition and it’s certainly doing no harm.

My attitude to that last point changed sharply when I read to the bottom and discovered that the exhibition was being held as part of the ‘All Barnsley Diversity Festival 2008’.

Excuse me? Diversity? North Korea?

I carried on reading. The festival’s purpose is to ‘celebrate the communities and individual cultures that make Barnsley their home’. Oh this is just too much. I’m all in favour of exploring other cultures - in fact I would actively encourage it – but I find it profoundly disturbing that anyone, least of all a democratic body like Barnsley Council and a cultural organisation like the Diversity Festival could tolerate the kind of puerile State-dictated drivel of North Korea’s totalitarian regime as an ‘individual culture’. The very idea of it must surely be offensive to all cultured people of the world, and presumably to all the democratic values we are supposed to hold dear in this country. And don't think I missed the suspiciously Soviet-sounding 'All Barnsley' reference either.

North Korea is a one-party dictatorship. Its government controls the people’s lives right down to the smallest detail. Freedom in any sense of the term simply does not exist. ‘Communities’ and ‘individual cultures’ are not tolerated unless they have been explicitly approved or created by the government. What you see in the Cooper is not an expression of a people or of a rich, diverse culture, you see a collection of images used by the totalitarian regime in Pyongyang to perpetuate itself – simply because nothing else outside of brute military force will.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m perfectly willing to accept this exhibition as a curiosity, in fact some of the traditional ink landscapes featured by artists such as Song U Yong (‘Shopsun Peak of Mt. Kumganag’) and Ri Chang (‘Echo of Waterfall’) are indeed truly breathtaking as pieces of art in their own right. They stand as a testament to the rich cultural history of Korea as a united nation prior to the misery of war and ideology that tore it apart in the 1950s. In fact these magnificent works are only devalued by their proximity to the close-minded, sinister, fascistic rubbish that fills the rest of the exhibition. The very idea of this material being featured as part of a diversity festival is simply unacceptable and utterly offensive.

An example of the more malignant nature of the exhibition is the work of Kim Song Min. Beautifully painted, these works nonetheless betray the invisible hand of the State guiding Kim’s brush. One such piece shows a very nationalistic portrait of a triumphant North Korean wrestler waving his national flag in jubilation while his crestfallen Japanese opponent, kneeling, looks on. The situation displayed here is particularly telling, as North Korea and Japan have had a very troubled relationship in recent decades, due in no small part to the North Korean policy of kidnapping Japanese scientists and technicians and forcing them to work on projects and developments in North Korea for decades. The title of the piece is very appropriately named ‘In the Spirit of Chosum’ – Chosum being North Korea’s peculiar policy of complete national and economic self-reliance, meaning no trade and very little contact with the outside world. Predictably this policy has led to an almost constant state of famine within the country, which makes Kim Song Min’s other featured piece all the more tragically ridiculous.

Called simply ‘The Harvest’, it features five North Korean women delightfully tossing bales of grain in the air, all furnished with that disturbingly forced smile that seems to appear in all totalitarian art – the kind you only pull knowing you’re going to die if you don’t. Ironically what you’re looking at in this painting is probably the entire North Korean harvest for that year, as the supposedly self-reliant ‘Spirit of Chosum’ has done nothing but force the North Korean people to rely on international aid packages simply to stay alive. Untold numbers have starved to death because of the economic and agricultural ignorance of North Korea’s dictatorship, and its refusal to open the country to international trade – precisely what has made South Korea one of the richest nations in the world.

The propaganda posters featured in the exhibition are predictably militaristic and xenophobic – ironically going against what I gather are the core principles of the All Barnsley Diversity Festival. One such poster features a gigantic fist clenching then- prime minister Koizumi of Japan, who his defiantly waving his national flag.

I imagine that the only reason this disgraceful display of militarism and thinly veiled xenophobia has been deemed acceptable in a ‘diversity’ exhibition is because North Korea still retains the superficial pretence of being a socialist country, and that this is something that makes the lefties in Town Hall, the Cooper, and Barnsley’s Labour party positively salivate at the thought. This, and this alone, appears to have raised the exhibition above that of say, celebrating the ‘communities and individual cultures’ of similar regimes such as Apartheid South Africa or perhaps Nazi Germany even – despite all three being thoroughly culturally and ideologically repugnant regimes, each with its own massive death toll to answer for.

And although socialist regimes have hardly fared any better when it comes to freedom and death counts, eager lefties should not be fooled by North Korea’s Marxist imagery – Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il long ago abandoned the ideal of international socialism, preferring instead to pursue more of a national socialism – cutting North Korea off from the rest of the world and forcing its citizens to observe a complete subservience to Party and State above anything else, while pursuing total economic self-reliance and a tendency towards militarism, extreme nationalism, and xenophobia. In fact come to think of it I can think of no better definition for fascism as imagined by Mussolini himself. Oh yes and did I mention that Nazi is short for National Socialist?

How on earth we are supposed to celebrate cultural diversity with fascism is absolutely beyond me. It is a perfect demonstration of the sickness inherent in obsessive anti-capitalism and how far its tentacles have spread through our local institutions. As far as I know, there aren’t even any North Koreans living in Barnsley. I may be wrong about this. But I firmly believe I am right in saying that if there were, they would certainly not wish to ‘celebrate’ the poverty-stricken Orwellian nightmare dictatorship that they came here to escape in the first place.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Children's Crusade

I recently happened to stumble across the 1990 film Robocop 2 on the wonder that is digital freeview television. I have to say it had been an awfully long time since I'd seen the film in question, and I was quite probably below the BBFC's age classification when I did. Predictably, the film had a much more different impact on me then it did the first time round - what was once a child's awe over a cool ultra-violent cyborg police officer is now a more skeptical and critical digest of the film's core themes. Indeed, one aspect of the nightmare future presented that struck me very deeply, despite being a fairly minor aspect, is of foul-mouthed vandal children causing trouble while adults are all but helpless to stop them. The remarkable thing about this is that in 1990 it was intended to be shocking - to be about as far removed from reality as the main character's bionic technology. Eighteen years later however, this aspect of the film has lost almost all of its shock value - indeed, it perhaps takes the context of films such as this to reveal to us how dire a mess we have gotten ourselves into in the upbringing of our children.

That said, although my chance encounter with Robocop 2 provided an excellent opener to this article, the film itself is perhaps not ideally suited to illustrate my point. As anyone familiar with the film will know, the main cause given of such nightmarish social and urban decay in Robocop's Detroit, Michigan is essentially unrestrained free market capitalism. In typical '80s style, the Reaganomics ideal of small government is misinterpreted as weak government, with malevolent corporations filling in the ensuing power vacuum. Under the guise of serving the community, the corporation then uses its power and influence to pursue its own interests while 'stepping on the little man' to maximise its profits. And in case the message wasn't getting through to you, they even use flags and banners shamelessly reminscent of the Nazis [1] (incidentally the anti-capitalism of the National Socialist German Worker's Party and its repugnance for the Anglo-Saxon 'commercial' mindset is something we shall just have to ignore here).

Sadly, the Robocop franchise seems to have had no small impact on my generation, many of whom like me, will have grown up watching it. Indeed I have known many, many young people who share the vague, half-baked opinions contained within its hypothesis - a very tired hypothesis, that time and time again has proved to be very much that of fantasy, quite often based on the twin evils of ignorance and prejudice. Its foundations rest on the assumption that the two pillars of our free society - freedom of the press and an independent judiciary - can be easily bought off and/or intimidated. In making such assumptions its followers give little credit to the mettle and sincere conviction coursing through these long established professions. For only somebody with either no faith or no understanding of these civic institutions and the wider rule of law could arrive at such assumptions.

Funnily enough this brings us to our culprit. Bitter experience has proven many times over in this country that, far from free market capitalism being at fault, it is government that is responsible for social decay. In Britain it has taken less than twenty years for us to realise some of the things that must have seemed unimaginable in 1990. Unlike Robocop however, in the real world it was not OCP wot done it - it was (dah-dah) the Labour Party. It is precisely their Fabian predilection for tampering with the delicate fabric of our society - to 'remould it nearer to the hearts desire' [2] that has set in motion a sequence of unforseen consequences that have grotesquely perverted the course and nature of our society.

The dangers manifest in pursuing such goals are not often given enough credit. We are, for example, informed by those on both sides of the political fence and by experts of varied persuasions that genetically modified crops will reap a dangerous and uncertain dividend because we are meddling with systems far too complex for us to ever fully comprehend, much less envisage all the conceivable outcomes and variables [3]. GM farming does not have many friends among the general public, much less socialists, but for some reason we continue to delude ourselves into thinking that we can succeed in applying this same principle to the practically unfathomable complexity of society. Let us put this into perspective for a moment. What we are talking about here are the infinite personal, social, and professional interactions of almost 59 million people, to say nothing of the elusive and intricate workings of the individual human mind. By legislating on vague notions of secular morality and abstract 'progressive' ideology rather than the common sense inherent in time-tested norms and values of the people, Labour - as ever - comes into conflict with the interests of the very people it claims to represent.

In the most frightening aspect of this conundrum, Labour has managed to dismantle those core norms and values governing our most important citizens - our children. As a very happy child of the '80s (I was 12 in 1997) - I can honestly say I would not like to be a child growing up today. A top-down ideological approach to 'protecting' our children has succeeded in making every adult a suspect of child abuse. My own parents have recently left their Roman Catholic parish in disgust and protest at being asked to fill in a background check simply because they participate in the Eucharistic Ministry (that's giving out the bread and wine to you and me) and as such come into the smallest public contact with children. It has rendered teachers, parents, and members of the community feeling either powerless or fearful of disciplining children. Indeed, since the completely pointless and unenforceable law on smacking in 2004, many parents are under the impression that physically disciplining their children in any way is illegal.

There is widespread confusion over the matter. Anyone attempting to find out will quickly realise that it is still difficult to find the correct interpretation of what is meant by 'leaving a mark'. When confronted with unruly behaviour in public, many parents - sensing real or imaginary judging eyes around them - simply do not take the risk. I have been sickened to the core by the amount of times I have personally heard parents negotiating with their young children and resorting to asking them nicely if they would 'please' behave. Only last week in the shopping mall in which I work I had the displeasure of witnessing a child who could have been no older than six attempt to strike his father repeatedly in a rage while he did nothing but half-heartedly shrug him off. In the end the child, enraged, actually spat at his father. Though what really shook to the bone - as if this wasn't enough - was the expression on the child's face. It was something that left me with a quite stiffening sense of disbelief, as I had only previously associated such contortions of violence and hatred with that of adults.

When you're confronted with this sort of thing on a regular basis in your neighbourhood and place of work, it becomes very difficult to not take on a somewhat Orwellian sense of foreboding on the situation. That is, that the government - intentionally or otherwise - is turning our children against us. It is a most chilling premise, but I fear, if one takes a few steps back, not altogether far from the truth. Children, being the rapacious little learners they are, quickly discover that they are protected by the law in almost anything they do, and that there is very little anybody can do to stop them. To varying degrees parents and teachers (much less members of the community) fear even laying a finger on them, making any verbal discipline utterly toothless. The results, to be generous, are disturbing.

A recent survey of the police services has revealed such horrors as a four-year-old held over a drugs offence, two-seven-year olds reported for driving carelessly while drunk, and a six-year-old who was believed to have carried out a burglary. Statistics recently released under the Freedom of Information Act testify to a total of 1,825 crimes committed by under-tens across Britain in 2007-08, though the true scale of the phenomenon is believed to be much higher, owing to the fact that our already paperwork-swamped police forces are not actually required to log crimes committed by those under the age of criminal responsibility.

The policies and legislation that has made this grim situation possible has, as with most socialist policy, sprung from the assumption that children (and humans generally) are essentially good, that their better natures will prevail in the absence of such liberally undesirable discipline. This ignores what any sensible parent will already know - that our children are only, and can only be what we make them. Indeed the bedrock, even origin of our whole system of liberal democracy and free market capitalism - the two achievements of our civilisation that have changed and benefitted the world more than anything else - stems from the principle that humans, like animals, are naturally lazy, ignorant and selfish - that only the virtues of discipline, hard work, and personal responsibility can ultimately save us from these characteristics.

Despite this, in the name of compassion and understanding, we have taken the opposing view that all men are born morally pure and untouchable. In doing so we have removed said virtues from the upbringing of our children. The necessary shift in the law, and hence values, of this country has been implemented by a party who in the pursuit of abstract ideals and thinly veiled ideology has cut itself off from the core values of the honest working people it claims to represent. In its ivory tower of State morality and ideological purity, it has legislated against their interests while at the same time nurturing the 'it's not my fault' culture in its place, further weakening working communities and furthering their dependence on the state. Indeed, it is the very fact that this approach is so intrinsically intwined with Labour Party thinking that they will most certainly lose the next general election. As a party that is itself all too often ready to blame the media for every election defeat they suffer [3], they will most certainly have their work cut out for them when this twisted outlook on life is finally and decisively rejected by the long-suffering people of Great Britain.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Was the 1945 Conservative Manifesto a blueprint for Thatcherism?

It is customary at this time of year (though I plead guilty to being a little late) to look back on the year just passed and reflect upon some of the more outstanding events it witnessed. To many, of course, the Government's monumental train of failures and descent into PR hell shortly after Gordon Brown took the reins is going to be up there with the best of them. But whatever your opinion on the matter, all the kerfuffle about Lady Thatcher's visit to the prime minister late last year confirmed in stone what a lot of us have suspected for a long time [1] - namely, that a new consensus has come to pass in British politics. However, with the last real remnant of the old one celebrating its 60th anniversary this year (the NHS, to those not in the know), it seems an appropriate junction to look back and ask ourselves: why did it take so long? Perhaps more importantly: could we have avoided the wasted thirty years between Attlee and Callaghan?
It is to my mind that sadly, the answer is yes, we could.

I have in the past touched on the idea that, to get technical, Thatcherism was not so much a philosophy in itself (and much less an ideology, as many mistakenly claim), but a mission that came into being for the sole purpose of 'fixing' Britain. The fact that increasing divisions within the party and Margaret Thatcher's own inner circle seemed to be index-linked to their own success certainly lends credence to this view. But there is further supporting evidence in that the circumstances surrounding the Conservatives' 1979 election victory are not so dissimilar to those surrounding the writing of the 1945 Conservative Manifesto. The task ahead of both Labour and the Tories at the time was to develop ideas on how best to reconstruct an economically and, in many cases, physically destroyed Britain. It was a plan of action, an operation - a mission, so to speak. And it needed to be - financially, the nation was on its knees. From being the world's banker, Britain had emerged victorious from the war bankrupt and at the tender mercies of our American creditors (this debt was only fully paid off in 2006). Cut to 1975, and Britain was once more staring at the abyss financially - indeed it was to be only another year before we were again to be bailed out by an outside party (this time, the IMF). But that is not the only parallel to be made here - most striking is the actual content of the thing. It sounds a hell of a lot like Thatcherism.

Can this be? The nation's 'Greatest Briton' and its 'most unpopular prime minister since records began' proposing the same thing? The thought may not come as any great surprise to many on the right, but to the chequered mosaic of proud Britons that all claim Churchill as their own, it may appear somewhat alarming. Not least, I am sure, to the 'One Nation' Tories who served under Churchill and his protégés after the war, and subsequently fought Lady Thatcher's policies nail and tooth throughout the 1980s. But I challenge anyone giving the time of day to actually read the document in question [2] to deny its almost identical nature to said policies. It contained a now very familiar cocktail of liberal economics, a focus on the wealth-creating importance of entrepreneurs, individual responsibility and low taxation - all imbued with a strong emphasis on the vitality of family values, fierce patriotism, and a firm sense of Britain's historical role in the world at large. Indeed, as Lady Thatcher later proved, the 1945 Manifesto correctly identified that 'Only a Britain that is strong and ready to fight in defence of Freedom will count in the high councils of the world'. It was to be Britain's intolerance of Argentine aggression, her swift and merciless dealing of Islamic terrorism, and her resolve in confronting Communism on a worldwide scale under the Thatcher premiership that renewed our place in these 'high councils'.

Yet despite the many similarities in their beliefs and policies (more of which will be addressed below), there remains a huge divergence in the reputations of Sir Winston and Lady Thatcher. Indeed it would be difficult, certainly in many areas of Britain, for them to be further apart. The reason for this rather peculiar state of affairs lies in two fundamental differences in circumstance - and they speak volumes about how public opinion is formed this country. First, as we well know, Churchill was never able to implement his vision of British revival. In the evening of his years, and in respect to the wishes of a people that had endured so much, Churchill and his party chose not to reverse the Attlee reforms once they returned to office in 1951 - seeking instead to make the best of the new consensus that had almost annihilated them at the last election. Second, though almost identical to the Thatcher years in both policy and ethos, the 1945 Manifesto was a mission to rebuild. And this is the clincher - the Thatcher government did not have this luxury. In Oliver Hirschbiegel's seminal film Downfall, Adolf Hitler muses to his chief architect Albert Speer that the Allied destruction of Berlin had come as a blessing. It would be far easier, he said, to clear away the scattered rubble of Berlin for the new Welthaupstadt (World Capital) Germania than to tear it down first. Yet this is exactly what Margaret Thatcher had to do. From her first round as 'Milk Snatcher' in the early seventies to the closure of loss-making pits and the muzzling of union power a decade later, she bore the unenviable burden of being someone who was seen as taking things away. The idea that a prime minister can, for this reason, be so overwhelmingly unpopular yet simultaneously so successful may appear strange, but then nobody who signs into rehab is going to be under any illusions regarding its pleasantness.

To Churchill, Britain's greatness had been 'built on character and daring, not on docility to a state machine' - and this is very much how he intended it to continue. This 'spirit of independence' which we are now still struggling to re-introduce was something that Churchill sought to preserve 'at all costs'. Like Margaret Thatcher sometime later, Churchill saw as 'first essentials' a strong 'confidence in sound government - mutual co-operation between industry and the State rather than control by the State'. There was an instinctive affinity, reminiscent now of Thatcherism, with 'the small man' in business - Churchill recognised, as Lady Thatcher always saw in her father - that in pursuing his dreams, the entrepreneur 'adventures all he has...his independence of spirit is one of the essential elements that make up the life of a free society'. The Manifesto sought to drive home the legitimate concern that after the war 'other men may have jobs to go back to, but the businesses of some of these men are gone, or hanging by a thread'. There is even an early recognition of the inefficiency inherent in Britain's coal industry - a worrying reality that disappeared under the veil of denial manifest in Labour's nationalisation. Though for the next thirty years the industry’s perpetual decline was frequently cited as a result of under-investment, the 1945 Manifesto correctly identified state-owned coal as 'a wasting asset'. Citing the Reid report, the Conservatives observed how the industry had 'fallen behind some its competitors overseas' and that 'Adequate supplies, as cheap as possible, must be available to our homes [and] to our factories'. Margaret Thatcher's entire policy regarding taxation as well her own deeply-held suspicion of state power too, finds a very clear voice within the 1945 Manifesto. It identifies the state as having resources of its own. It can only spend what it takes from the people in taxes...Britain is now a nation of taxpayers...[this] drastically restricts the ability of the ordinary citizen to satisfy his personal desires. It is discouraging to his enterprise and his efforts to better himself by doing a bit extra

In addition to this, the Conservatives naturally pledged to 'preserve the incentives of free enterprise and safeguard...industry from the dead hand of State ownership or political interference in day-to-day management'. Somewhat ironically, there are also many things proposed in the Manifesto that have, in subsequent realpolitik only been possible relatively recently under New Labour. These include, within the Conservatives' plans for a 'comprehensive health service' pledges to protect 'the patient's free choice of doctor' as well as voluntary trust hospitals that have 'led the way in the development of hospital technique'. In education, too, the Conservatives promised that 'parents will be able to choose the school they like and to play their part with the educational authorities in the physical and spiritual well-being of their children' - a policy begun under the Thatcher government and carried on under Labour. There were familiar calls, seen later in the sale of council houses and the extinguishing of inflation, to 'see property widely spread...we rejoice that the savings movement, which must go on, has now made almost everyone a property-owner'.

Sadly of course, this movement died a quick death under the welfare state for those it served most - the working class. With the self-reliance that saving fostered replaced now only by a vulnerability to creditors and debt, there is good ground to argue that it was the Attlee welfare state and not Margaret Thatcher's premiership that has effectively made 'the poor poorer'. It robbed them of the need for friendly societies, the need to plan ahead financially, and experience in the rewards that hard work and thrift can bring. It robbed them of the thing most precious and sacred to every human being - their very independence. Resistance to Thatcherite policies culminating in the 1984/85 miners’ strike may have given the illusion of traditional working class solidarity at work, but this had effectively been destroyed years earlier by the state reliance Butskellite consensus fostered. Take away the nationalised industries that allowed this reliance and the veil was lifted. Traditional working class values forged through blood, sweat and tears in the sweltering forge of nineteenth century life – thrift, saving, financial solidarity, family values – all gone within a generation. Nationalisation and distorted trade union power had steadily eroded these values by eliminating risk and flexibility from the workplace. The two became irrevocably tied, and so effectively perished together.

To my mind, out of the many failings of the post-war consensus, this has to be the most remorseful waste of all. Thirty years of precarious financial management (estimated at around £40 billion in 1982 from capital write-offs and grants alone - not to mention wasted productivity) was readily, if not painfully remedied by fiscal squeezes, tax reform, and privatisation - London is, after all, once again the banking capital of the world and leaders of the Labour Party now speak enthusiastically about globalisation and private enterprise. But the underlying tragedy, not so easy to correct, is in the human cost of those wasted years. By making the wrong decision in 1945, by taking the easy road, and - as even Keith Joseph confessed to doing - kidding ourselves that there were 'short cuts to utopia' only to realise the error of our ways at barely the eleventh hour, we have left behind us dire social consequences that have become deeply rooted in the national psyche. With broken homes, teenage pregnancies, benefit dependency, massive debt, and undisciplined children now endemic in this country, there is more than a touch of irony in having rejected a manifesto so strongly identifying Britain as 'a country built on family life [and] the love of home' - a 'precious asset to be defended at all costs'.

The now almost alien tone of this sentiment in the context of political vocabulary is why I will continue to support David Cameron’s policy encouraging marriage as an institution and an ideal. It stands always as the essential foundation from which everything else is built - financially, emotionally, and educationally. As we’re still clearing up the mess left behind by the post-war consensus, with many of the things that were taken for granted when the 1945 Manifesto were written now gone, sound economics are simply not enough. Cameron’s Conservatives are right to tackle the social agenda, and it by no means indicates that they are shifting to the centre ground - far from it. What it means is that like all good Conservatives, they are being pragmatic. Solid social values regarding family, citizenship, discipline and respect are essential to the functioning of a healthy free-market liberal democracy and this is why Labour, with its vast army of bleeding heart lefties, will never be the party to tackle it. We can say in all confidence that the economic war is won. Liberalism is triumphant across the floor. But if the values that Churchill identified as the source of Britain’s greatness are not re-introduced one way or another - if the social war is not now won - then we shall be facing some very deep water indeed.