Archive for the ‘Conservative Models’ Category

Conservative Models

Jeudi, avril 12th, 2012

Addressing the future of Conservatism in the English-speaking world John O’Sullivan, who started as a speech writer for Mrs Thatcher and is now an American citizen at the Hudson Institute, discusses in the National Review Online the four distinctive Conservative Models adopted in the US, Canada, Australia and Britain.

www.nationalreview.com/blogs/print/293378

For the US, Tim Stanley writing in the Daily Telegraph blog sees the struggle between the Republican contenders for the soul of Conservatism as essentially a less fundamental one between the Country Club and the Church Picnic, a struggle which both sides can afford to lose. American Conservatism remains vigorous and fundamentally healthy but what it needs to acquire from the Primaries is a leader with both the firmness to adopt a strong programme of reform and the rhetorical skill to persuade the American people of its necessity.

Conservatism is also thriving in both Australia and Canada although in different ways:
- In Australia by boldness
- In Canada by caution.

The key moment in Australian internal politics occurred in December 2009 when Tony Abbot became leader of the Liberal Party. Today his Liberal–Coalition has a 10% lead over a fraction-ridden Labour government uneasily reliant for its small majority on three independent MPs. Paul Kelly of The Australian summed him up in writing that …….[Abbot] has a Conservative set of values that he champions yet his policy outlook is highly flexible and pragmatic. …..Because Abbot is seen to stand for enduring values he gets away with multiple policy switches with impunity. Sometime in the next 18 months Abbot is expected to win a national election on a programme boldly Conservative but not dogmatically pure.

In contrast the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper under-promises and over-delivers. Until recently Conservatism was considered a doomed philosophy in a Canada governed by a large and ideologically sprawling Liberal Party, interrupted by brief intervals of power granted to a so-called Progressive Conservative Party. Stephen Harper undermined the Progressive Tories by founding a rival Conservative Party called Reform and then amalgamating Reform with the rump Tories to form the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC). This he led first into minority government on a programme of moderate reform. He then made the CPC the natural party of government with a clear majority in an election in which the Liberals fell into third place. Although after 6 years social Conservatives might feel a little let down by a leader who has avoided issues such as abortion and has adopted conventional views on immigration, the Prime Minister has cut the size of government to one of the smallest in the advanced world, as well as having a similarly low tax burden of around 31% of GDP.

Yet it is David Cameron in Britain who has attracted the most attention in the US as a possible model for the Republican Party and American Conservatives. The standard Cameron narrative is that the GOP should learn to detoxify its image in order to win new votes as David Cameron succeeded in doing by e.g. going Green and avoiding traditional Tory issues. However, the article goes on to criticise the Cameron Tories over what is judged a certain passivity on economic policy, as a sub-set of a larger decision not to challenge the cultural assumptions of modern metropolitan liberalism across the board in Britain. It also questions their policies e.g. towards minorities, whether ethnic or otherwise, and reshaping British human-rights law.

Given that this then leads the author to conclude that alongside Tony Abbot and Stephen Harper, there seems little that American Conservatives should want to copy from Cameron Conservatism, the recent decision announced in the March 2012 budget to reduce the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45% as well as corporation tax by a further 1%, is a strong signal that the Conservative Party in Britain has not abandoned the intellectual tools of anti-socialist economics, i.e. that tax cuts are a more efficient form of economic stimulus than increases in public spending and that Britain is again now open for Business.