“We are not going to solve our problems with bigger government. We are going to solve our problems with a stronger society. Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger country. All by rebuilding responsibility. We have got to stop treating children like adults and adults like children. It is about everyone taking responsibility.
“The more we as a society do, the less we will need government to do. We will have to tear down Labour’s big government bureaucracy — ripping up its time-wasting, money-draining, responsibility-sapping nonsense.”
That from a speech by David Cameron in 2011, trying to reach out to those in his party, and out of it, who cling to traditional conservative instincts regarding the role of the state and the role of the individual.
And the words had power. The very presence of Blue Labour testify to that. For many, Labour had become statist, authoritarian, and were too often an obstacle to a family trying to get on in life, poking in their nose where it was neither welcome nor needed and often making things worse in the process. The Broken Society was real – it was the State, and its leeching of responsibility from individuals, which had caused it.
Indeed, often there was a more sinister edge to the analysis. Since people had lost trust in the state, so they had also lost trust in its motives, meaning that any move to insert the state into realms traditionally belonging to the individual or the family were treated with a mixture of suspicion and derision. As such, if Labour had ever suggested that schools open earlier, and close later, and have shorter holidays, and hold summer camps, and even offer sleepovers for children, then we could have expected to be greeted with cries of derision and uncharitable suggestions as to why the Labour government wishes to insert itself as surrogate parent to the nation’s children.
Why? Well, because the DfE is Michael Gove’s gig, and Tories tend to suspend all critical judgment when it comes to Michael Gove, primarily because they (wrongly) see him as a Burkean hero slaying the forces of Leftism with his sword of righteous radicalism. For them, what Gove says and what Gove does must necessarily be right, primarily because of whom it appears to upset. If they spent more than five minutes actually considering what Gove says and what Gove does, they would see that quite often it is they themselves who are out of tune with his political instincts.
And so, with an appeal to making being a parent fit more conveniently around working hours and a busy modern life, so the Tories propose to insert the state far more intimately into family life than Labour ever did. And those that call themselves Tory either stay silent or cheer wildly, convinced that he who pulls the rug from under the feet of their intellectual tradition is actually one of their own.