The Progressive Conservatives and The Strange Case of Phillip Blond
August 12th 2009
British politics are clearly gearing up for the run-in to the election. George Osborne’s speech at Demos made the pitch for the Conservatives as ‘unapologetically progressive’ and advocates of a ‘fairer society’. Mandelson slammed his old Greek yacht friend for ‘political cross-dressing’, a quality which used to the measure of Blairite/New Labour success.
Several things are going on here. One is the New Labour-Cameron convergence – which Demos is unashamedly and is trying to put itself at the centre of, and become the unchallenged courtiers to the new king.
Phil Collins, Chair of Demos and former Blair speechwriter, spoke after the event to Newsnight emphasising the importance of ‘social responsibility’ as a ‘third way’ between the state and market. This showed he said in a revealing comment, ‘the enormous family resemblance’ between the New Labour era and forthcoming Conservative period (1).
Fraser Nelson and Philip Blond followed up with a discussion. Blond clearly sees himself as the coming man, but comes across as a mix of Oscar Wilde’s long lost love child and a Tory version of the 1970s ‘History Man’. He talks a mixture of commonsense and academic, impenetrable jargon of the kind lefties freely used in the 1970s.
He recently came to one of my Ullapool weekends at The Ceilidh Place and never stopped talking the whole weekend! Blond excels at the broad-brush statement, whether it is summarising post-war Britain or the past 2,000 years of human history. ‘Christianity, capitalism and Islam’ are the only viable worldviews, and ‘Christianity is the only game in town’ he said to me in Ullapool. When I pointed out that we had just experienced thirty years shaped by an ‘only game in town’ philosophy, i.e.: neo-liberalism, he took on board my point at least for a minute.
The Tory History Man apparently has the ear of the Tory leadership, but is even according to his supporters short of policy prescriptions. But full of sweeping views of human history. According to a revealing interview with John Harris in last Saturday’s Guardian, Blond has apparently raised over a million pounds for his new think tank, after falling out with Demos (2). He has raised this from people who think themselves ‘a little bit Red, a little bit Tory’, but he has antagonised many in the Tory Party who don’t like the Red part and see all this as an affront to the Thatcherite legacy.