The BBC reports that Tory party leader Michael Howard spelled out his beliefs, at least political ones, in the Times. They're not, as yet, backed up by any new policies (he may or may not stand by the policies he's inherited from Iain Duncan Smith), but they'll do until policies come along.
First of all, there's a bunch of obvious common-sense notions that nobody in this or any other country would disagree with, I don't think.
- I believe it is natural for men and women to want health, wealth and happiness for their families and themselves.
- I believe every parent wants their child to have a better education than they had.
- I believe every child wants security for their parents in their old age.
- I believe that people must have every opportunity to fulfil their potential.
- I believe the British people are only happy when they are free.
- I believe that Britain should defend her freedom at any time, against all comers, however mighty.
Next, there are a number of statements that people in other countries (notably the US) might disagree with, but which are plain political common sense in the UK, and for that matter most of Western Europe.
- I believe there is no freedom without responsibility. It is our duty to look after those who cannot help themselves.
- I believe in equality of opportunity. Injustice makes us angry.
- I believe that by good fortune, hard work, natural talent and rich diversity, these islands are home to a great people with a noble past and exciting future.
I include number three because other countries might think that the Brits are useless arseholes ;-). But look at the first two again.
They're part of the Democratic party platform, in spirit, if not exactly spelled out. They're the political consensus in this country, and in most of Western Europe. That's a huge difference between the two countries.
Then we come to the contentious ones, the beliefs that mark Michael Howard as a Tory, not a Labour Party member or a Liberal.
- I believe it is the duty of every politician to serve the people by removing the obstacles in the way of these ambitions [health, wealth and happiness].
- I believe people are most likely to be happy when they are masters of their own lives, when they are not nannied or over-governed.
- I believe that the people should be big. That the state should be small.
- I believe red tape, bureaucracy, regulations, inspectorates, commissions, quangos, 'czars', 'units' and 'targets' came to help and protect us, but now we need protection from them. Armies of interferers don't contribute to human happiness.
Again, US readers, note that Howard isn't saying that government is bad - Howard's saying that government has gone too far.
I'm not quite sure what "the people should be big" is supposed to mean, though.
And there are some disingenuous claims that try and reframe the issues in dodgy circumstances:
- I do not believe that one person's poverty is caused by another's wealth.
- I do not believe that one person's ignorance is caused by another's knowledge and education.
- I do not believe that one person's sickness is made worse by another's health.
Nobody's saying that. What the left is saying is that there are economic, political or societal factors cause wealth, education and health-care to be disproportionally directed to one group at the expense of another, and that we should correct these imbalances. We're not pointing the finger at Sir Jonathan Bloggs because he's rich, healthy and has a doctorate from LSE, we're complaining about systems that make it comparatively easy for rich people to get richer, get private healthcare and go to the best schools, and put up obstacles that prevent Jonny Bloggs from doing the same thing with as much ease.
Finally, what's most striking is the things that Michael Howard doesn't mention. Completely absent from his list of principles and beliefs are the following topics:
- Interference in other countries' affairs and pre-emptive wars.
- Democracy, freedom of information, and how our political systems should be run and protected from corruption.
- Our relationship with the US and Europe.
- The environment.
- Free trade, how much private enterprise should be regulated, market regulation, privatisation.
I'm not particularly surprised at religion - I only include it for US readers who think it's important - but I am surprised that he doesn't ever mention private enterprise or taxes. Until recently these used to be hot-button issues for Tories everywhere. What happened?
Incidentally, I do wish the Liberal Democrats put up a similar statement of their own.