Only fairly mild kerfuffle greeted the revelations over the weekend of David Cameron’s links to the secretive and relatively-unknown, but avowedly leftist freemasonry network Common Purpose that’s steadily come to permeate the upper echelons of Britain’s public life.
The degree to which it’s inflitrated a consensus around its left-liberal elitist, statist, pro-EU, pro-Green ideology into the higher reaches of the police, education, local government, civil service and the ghastly-in-name Third Sector of quango/”charity” land, all under the seemingly innocuous guise of leadership training, was overshadowed by fuss about Cameron’s failure to disclose, despite two opportunities, his links to it.
Which is a pity. Because far more worrying is quite why those two opportunities might have been missed (“…administrative oversight”? Yeah, right), and also, what a re-evaluation of parts of Cameron’s ministry against the knowledge of links to Common Purpose might reveal. Because setting some of Cameron’s actions, or inactions against a Common Purpose backdrop could mean that so much else, apparently incongruous in a supposed Conservative, suddenly slots into place.
There’s been very little done about curbing the huge parallel state of Left-sympathetic quangos, fake charities & semi-autonomous state agencies left behind by Labour, and in which CP reigns supreme. No move has been made to reverse the decision taken under Gordon Brown to remove the prior restriction of charities’ political campaigning – with the entirely predictable result.
There’s been no move to undo Brown’s 1997 raid on private pensions which was disastrous for private pension provision. That damage has been compounded by the attrition against savers and pensioners caused by artifically depressed interest rates under QE and the consequential inflation, penalising thrift and self reliance. Result: more people likely to be state-dependent in retirement.
There’s been scant attempt to ameliorate the attachment to deficit financing and increasing public debt, or to curb the excessive size of the state as a proportion of GDP. Fiscal drag is bringing more and more people into higher-rate tax bands, even at far from high-level incomes, disincentivising ambition & aspiration, and presaging a greater role for a benevolent, paternalistic state.
The notion of ever reviving grammar schools, arguably the most effective engine of social mobility ever devised, has been dismissed. Even the restoration of the Assisted Places Scheme, which enabled bright kids from modest backgrounds to go to good schools until abolished by Blair, hasn’t even been mooted.
There’s been an eagerness to avoid giving any “offence” even to the more militant strains of totalitarian political Islam challenging our most basic precepts of liberty, free speech and tolerance. From a Prime Minister who declared, within hours of Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder by Islamists who cited – at the scene – the specific verses of the Qu’ran that to them justified their actions, that “this was nothing to do with Islam”.
There’s been the readiness to accommodate the first state licensing of a free press in 300 years, to the extent of entrusting midnight negotiations with state-control-eager leftist politicians and the leftist pressure-group Hacked Off, without any representatives of the press allowed to be present, to the hapless Oliver Letwin.
There’s been obstructionism, obfuscation and subterfuge about an EU Referendum, for which even a vague commitment, forced by UKIP’s surging popularity, had to be extracted in a manner more akin to pulling teeth than to any commitment to democratic pluralism.
There’s been a barely concealed contempt for the traditional conservatism, both economic and social, of the Party’s grassroots and activists, and for their presumed incompatibility with more enlightened metropolitan attitudes. The “swivel-eyed loons” comment was, almost certainly, the true feelings of the Cameroon inner circle coming out into the open.
There’ve been the only half-hearted attempts to get to grips with mass, uncontrolled immigration, despite mounting evidence of strain on public services and deleterious effects on the indigenous working-class.
Thee’s been a willingness to abandon civil liberties on sometimes spurious security grounds, to the extent of floating plans to snoop on emails, re-adopt the European Arrest Warrant and European Investigation Order, and accommodate the US NSA monitoring internet use. There’s been a willingess to stand by as opinion containing not incitement, but merely views uncongenial to their recipients, is criminalised with the epithet “hate”.
And there’s been the ongoing eagerness to accept all things Green, in particular a probably unprecedented transfer of income from middle-income and poor to rent-seeking corporatist elites by Green subsidies recouped from domestic and commercial energy bills, the effects of which are starting to become apparent.
Tell me that any of these conflict with the Common Purpose agenda.
But don’t take it from me. For a second opinion about what, politico-ideologically, makes David Cameron tick, read the chapter titled “Cameron’s Party?” in Robin Harris’ superb “The Conservatives: A History”. Harris, also the distinguished author of a very fine biography of Margaret Thatcher, was Cameron’s first boss in the CCHQ Policy/Research Department.
Even at that time, there was an internal debate about what political direction the Party should be taking: the more robustly-Thatcherite one, or the softer, what’s come to be known as the metropolitan-liberal “moderniser” one. Harris hints strongly that he quickly identified the specific political direction that most appealed to Cameron – upwards. And there are some very instructive insights indeed.
Post the 2005 election:
“…the leader did not devote much time to economics. Nor did….Osborne, who busied himself with Party strategy & finance”.
“The assumption was that the economy was safe,.. so was largely irrelevant as an issue.”
This, remember, was with Gordon Brown ensconced in the Treasury, ramping up public spending and debt as he had been since fiscal 2002.
“More than happy [with Cameron] were sections of the media usually hostile to Tories. To the Guardian, the Independent and above all, the BBC, Cameron’s message seemed uniquely sympathetic, and their coverage showed it.”
Harris then goes on to comment on the disappointing 2010 election campaign and the unseemly rush into Coalition:
“62% of Conservative Party members deemed it ‘poor’”
“Cameron rejected the option of a minority Government and swiftly set out to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. He showed enthusiasm rather than reluctance. Members remarked how much more at ease he was with the new Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, than with some of his own colleagues. Cameron portrayed the Coalition as an ideal, not a necessity, and a welcome change to single-party government.”
“The suspicion has duly grown ….. that the leadership wishes to make coalition with the Liberal Democrats a permanent feature.”
Now try a thought experiment. Instead of looking at all this and saying “could this really support the crazy notion of Cameron as a Common Purpose adherent or sympathizer?”, turn the question round, and look at it from the reverse angle. Assume the Common Purpose sympathies as a given – then ask yourself how much is actually at variance with, or inimical to, a Common Purpose agenda, rather than in line with it? My instinct is to say: with the exception of free schools and the efforts at welfare reform, perhaps not all that much.
Now consider the state of the Party. It’s haemorraging support, to the extent that the current membership figure virtually had to be dragged out of Shapps, mainly to quell speculation about how disastrously it had dropped. And it’s admitted losing the ground organisation, too, the constituency-level footsoldiers that are crucial when General Election time comes. We saw it – or rather the lack of it – in Eastleigh earlier this year.
YouGov’s (and prominent Labourite) Peter Kellner is on record as saying that a centrist Conservative Party must be kept in being, and even allowed occasional periods in office provided it does nothing substantial to reverse the prior leftwards march, not only in order to maintain the illusion of democratic choice, but to prevent the emergence of a robustly centre-right alternative offering real ideological choice and threatening to roll back the liberal-left orthodoxy.
You might ask yourself how well the prospect of a second coalition with the LibDems after 2015, which, so rumour has it, is being strongly factored in to No 10 planning with the receding propsect of an outright victory, if not campaigned for outright, chimes with that. Rather well, I would have thought.
It might of course all be just unfortunate coincidence, with other explanations. But if it is, its effects seem to be pretty much in line with the widely-accepted Common Purpose agenda. Contemplate Cameron, not from the angle of frustration or confusion over why a supposedly Conservative leader seems to be so assiduously doing un-Conservative things, and it seems to make no sense. But regard him as a Conservative Party in-house Common Purpose mole, pace Le Carré’s The Circus in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and it suddenly makes a whole lot more sense.
So might there just be the possibility that the Tories elected as their leader a covert adherent to left-liberal communitarianism? And if so, then just like Bill Haydon, he’s pulled their Circus inside out.
Michael is a freelance writer and commentator, from the small-state, low-tax, free-market libertarian perspective. He opposes all strands of Leftism, whether economic, cultural, Green, Islamist, or Eurofederalist. He tweets as @A_Liberty_Rebel
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