Cameron's Compassionate Conservatism Strikes Out
By Staff News & Analysis - February 18, 2011

Why Angela Merkel and David Cameron (left) see eye to eye … The British and German leaders have forged a seemingly unlikely alliance, writes Jeremy Warner … Since becoming Prime Minister, Mr Cameron has formed the closest of bonds with his German counterpart; they seem to agree on almost everything, from fiscal austerity to the perils of multi-culturalism … Rightly or wrongly, there is general acceptance in the Tory hierarchy that Britain's economic interest is best supported by a stable euro, not its break-up. As a consequence, we've seen UK participation in the Irish bailout. Undoubtedly, there would be pressure to extend that support to other countries where British banks have a high exposure, should they be threatened. – UK Telegraph

Dominant Social Theme: He is young, but already a great prime minister.

Free-Market Analysis: Is Tory Prime Minister David Cameron a kind of British "George Bush Lite?" To begin with, he has made a career out of abhorring the EU, but he is no more likely to orchestrate a departure from the EU than previous PMs (see article excerpt above). The history of the EU is particularly despicable in Britain, for a referendum on participation in the union has been promised literally for decades; and yet the intention of the Anglo-American elite that runs Britain (and supports the EU) has never been to hold one.

It recently occurred to us that having Britain outside of the EU is actually a boon for Brussels, and that the elites that have created the EU have wanted Britain to stand apart from it. A Hegelian dialectic is achieved by the positioning of the EU on one side and Britain on the other. It positions the EU as a reality that ought to be better managed rather than done away with entirely. As the Telegraph article above points out, "There is general acceptance in the Tory hierarchy that Britain's economic interest is best supported by a stable euro, not its break-up."

Cameron is not likely to buck the trend, nor Britain's larger, troublesome evolutions. It is true that the Tories came to power in a coalition government with an aggressively liberal junior partner, but from our point of view this has only provided cover for Cameron, whose politics are vaguely oriented along the lines of former President George Bush's horrid "compassionate conservatism." Such a political philosophy combines an overly enthusiastic respect for current elite institutions of governance with a muzzy idea that government has a responsibility to mobilize the masses on behalf of the state. Call it "soft authoritarianism."

Cameron's stance on the EU is not the only troublesome one from a free-market point of view. The Big Society program that he has returned to is certainly reminiscent of rhetoric adopted by a pre 9/11 George Bush and currently suggested by President Barack Obama as well. It is the idea that the average citizen owes his or her nation a debt of service. Such as debt can be paid off voluntarily or via conscription. Cameron's view is that people ought to be motivated to "do more" for their local communities, and without additional compensation. We've written about Cameron's Big Society venture in the past. You can see an article here:

He has probably returned to his Big Society themes because Britain is about to undergo its own version of "austerity" – a term that in Europe has come to stand for a policy of enabling multinational banks at the expense of the larger society. In warmer weather, there were austerity riots throughout Europe. We shall see if they recommence in the spring. In Britain, Cameron seems to be using Big Society rhetoric to blunt the anger over inevitable additional cuts to public services, given that Britain's economy is in terrible shape.

Cameron has had some trouble in the past enunciating just what the Big Society is. But that has not stopped him from moving forward with the program. He recently reached out to private equity pioneer Sir Ronald Cohen to drive a so-called Big Society Bank. The bank is to be funded by funds from dormant bank accounts – some £400 million – plus £200 million from the financial services industry. Cameron has also said he is using Facebook to urge school-children to register for his National Citizen Service program.

It is interesting to read the reactions to Cameron's Big Society outreach. The British masses seem to have long ago reached a kind of social pact with their elite leaders in which a vast array of incompetent public services were to be provided in return for a certain level of tolerance regarding the status quo. The current austerity measures in Britain are stretching the social compact dangerously, and this may explain why Cameron's Big Society is seen increasingly as a way to substitute voluntarism for public service spending. The public view is indeed jaundiced. Here's an excerpt from Britain's SturdyBlog:

I was walking down the Strand last night and out of a doorway came a voice, like increasing voices heard from increasing doorways lately: "Spare some change, mate?" I absent-mindedly patted my pockets and said "Sorry". The voice from the darkness came back: "That's not very Big Society of you, mate." The comment touched a chord.

Only a few hours earlier I had watched David Cameron give his big relaunch speech on the subject. I dismissed it as more waffle. But it obviously bothered me more than I cared to admit. Why? I reflected. The truth is that at its core the speech had something unsavoury, something cynical and dark, but I could not quite put my finger on it. I went back to the BBC website and listened to the speech and the Nick Robinson interview that followed it again. And then, I had it!

In the midst of this time of crisis, uncertainty and fear, where millions like me don't quite know how long the current job will last, when the next one will come, IF the next one will come, Mr Cameron stood there and told me that I was not a good enough citizen. That was the kernel of the sermon. I should be doing more to help other people. I should be doing more to help the country. I should be pulling my weight more. Not so much "we're in this together" as "you're in it and it's your fault". What followed was rage – and judging from the BBC message board it is a rage shared by a great many people.

So, what is the Big Society? I decided to go "back to basics" (ha! see what I did there?) and read the Conservative election manifesto. Pages 35 to 37 provide no clue. A lot of high rhetoric, but no tangible definition or explanation. Interestingly there is a clue to what it is not: "building the big Society is not just a question of the state stepping back and hoping for the best". Sorry to interrupt the inspirational speech Mr Cameron, no need to come out from under your desk Mr Clegg, but isn't that precisely what is happening right now? It certainly is what Liverpool council felt was happening when they withdrew from the pilot scheme a few days ago.

We tend to agree with SturdyBlog. Cameron's Big Society is not the answer. Britain is facing many problems as the second decade of the 21st century opens. Price inflation has begun to bite and unemployment remains stubbornly high. The powers-that-be in Britain have not been any more willing to let the economy right itself than in America or Europe. The banking bubble – perhaps the only bubble that counts – has been stubbornly reflated and the result is a "profitable sector" that is once again rewarding itself with vast bonuses that are inciting resentment throughout Britain.

The British are actually a kind of funny people culturally. The Anglo-Saxon mindset is generally a tough one and the British as a group are nothing if not warlike; not so long ago they conquered one fourth of the planet. Of course one could argue it is not the British people who are warlike, but their elites, the fabulously wealthy banking families ensconced in the square mile "City of London" that is its own state-within-a-state. Even the Queen of England bows her head before entering.

It is here in this square mile (among other places to be sure) that the Anglosphere plots its world-spanning mischief and contemplates ways to install one-world government. Central banking was invented here; wars were planned here; the EU itself was plotted here. And the plotting continues. It is Cameron's job to put a pleasant face on the continued machinations and to disguise the damage they do. He is to decry the EU without destroying Britain's relationship to it; he is to implement austerity measures (that benefit the banks) and use his Big Society concept to blur the sacrifices that the British public is being told to make. It is ever thus. More than in any other country, the British Prime Minister serves directly at the behest of money power and is charged primarily with disguising its agenda.

And yet … it could be that in the era of the Internet, these elite families and their enablers have miscalculated. The very dominant social themes – the fear-based promotions that have been used so successfully to deprive the middle classes of wealth and power – have turned against them in the 21st century as people have become more aware of their targeted manipulations.

Cameron is running into significant danger in our view. His waffling on the EU is alienating one class of citizen; his Big Society program is going to alienate another class. Were it implemented by Labour it might be a different matter. But average middle- to lower-middle class British citizens remain almost pathologically resentful of Tory politics. Margaret Thatcher is still reviled some 20 years later (for fairly modest free-market policies) and psychologically Cameron's pitch is going to end up irritating the very sentiments he is seeking to assuage.

After Thoughts

British society is very much on a knife-edge from our point of view, with social comity teetering dangerously. Spring and summer should bring more evidence of this, along with renewed price inflation and further doubts about the solvency of the pound – and even Britain's relationship to the EU. Cameron's Big Society program is not going to go over any better in Britain than Bush's compassionate conservatism did in the US.

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