UK Politics

Red Tory

If you haven’t read Phillip Blond’s Red Tory article, have a look. It’s an interesting article, critical of Thatcher, against Mandelson’s Post Office plans, and wary of big business. I know lots of disillusioned former Labour voters who would go for this pre-Thatcherite old Tory style politics at the moment. In particular, I think the following would appeal to many centre-orientated voters.

The Tories must take on the unrecognised private sector monopolies that hide on every British high street. According to figures from IGD research in May 2008, the British grocery market was worth £134.8bn. Of this, the big four supermarkets took £98.6bn, a 73 per cent market share. In the name of competition we have happily handed over our high streets to Tesco, strangling local commerce. The more that price is our only measure of competition, the bigger the economies of scale required to compete, and the higher the barriers to entry for small local competitors. Our fishmongers, butchers, and bakers are driven out—converting a whole class of owner occupiers into low wage earners, employed by supermarkets. And, once you have a monopoly, it demands that other monopolies serve it, just as Tesco demands economies of scale from its suppliers, driving out small and medium-size farms. It is perfectly clear that the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission are not up to the job. Cameron should revamp them and announce his intention to break up all the big-box retailers. And, when he is finished, he should take a hard look at mobile phone companies. Breaking up supermarkets won’t change the world: but, as they say, every little helps.

And this is interesting too.

The next step for conservatism is to reverse the old politics of class, by restoring capital to labour. Cameron should reject the Marxist narrative that paints Tories as wedded to a disenfranchised proletariat. On the contrary: conservatives believe in the extension of wealth and prosperity to all. Yet the great disaster of the last 30 years is the destruction of the capital, assets and savings of the poor: in Britain, the share of wealth (excluding property) enjoyed by the bottom 50 per cent of the population fell from 12 per cent in 1976 to just 1 per cent in 2003. A radical communitarian civic conservatism must be committed to reversing this trend. This requires a considered rejection of social mobility, meritocracy and the statist and neoliberal language of opportunity, education and choice. Why? Because this language says that unless you are in the golden circle of the top 10 to 15 per cent of top-rate taxpayers you are essentially insecure, unsuccessful and without merit or value. The Tories should leave this bankrupt ideology to New Labour and embrace instead an organic communitarianism that graces every level of society with merit, security, wealth and worth.

It’s one nation Toryism isn’t it? If the Tories took this route it would make the next election very interesting, although opinions are mixed.