‘Inequality remains the great social and political challenge of our time’. This is the somewhat surprising view of the Conservative Party’s chief whip, Michael Gove. But Gove is not threatened by this realisation because, he argues, conservatives are ‘warriors for the dispossessed’. He was speaking at the launch of ‘Good Right’, a new Conservative grouping led by Tim Montgomerie, whose aim is to demonstrate how conservative values support ‘a society where everyone has a chance, everyone has a stake and where no one is left behind’.
For Montgomerie et al, the problem with conservatism does not lie in its philosophy, but rather in ‘how conservative parties and movements think of themselves and how they present themselves to the world’. You need to scroll to the very bottom of Good Right’s mission statement to find its core diagnosis: ‘A society that recognises parents, teachers and job creators as the agents of social progress will prosper. One that tries to replace them with the state (the socialist danger) will stagnate.’
For Good Right, it is not capitalism that acts to dispossess the poor; rather, it is the state (a belief that sustains Gove’s ruinous ‘free schools’ agenda). Moreover, the grouping proclaims that it stands for a ‘conservatism that doesn’t just want to reduce the state but knows how to make the government work for the people’ (emphasis added). So it accepts austerity, but also seemingly the neoliberal notion that the state is little more than a set of purely technocratic instruments – in effect, the servant of individual utility-maximisers, rather than the embodiment of individuals’ collective enterprise.
The right defines the problem of inequality as dispossession by the state. But the real problem is the dispossession of the state from our collective imaginary.
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Image: Policy Exchange