These were words to gladden the heart. "Wealth is about so much more than pounds or euros or dollars can ever measure. It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money. It's time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB - general well being." This was David Cameron, 2006 vintage. His speech to the Google Zeitgeist conference suggested a new set of political and economic priorities. He spoke of a "passionate desire for capitalism with commitment". He noted that many companies and ordinary people "are expressing a profound dissatisfaction with rootless, rampaging globalisation".Developments today have shown how right Kampfner's analysis is.
Fast-forward two years, to the verge of a recession and the fears of knife crime, and what do we hear? Society is broken; more prisons should be built; more people should be denied bail. While the Tories are nowhere near the point of Michael Howard's dog-whistle anti-immigrant pitch of 2005, they are slipping back into their political comfort zone. That is a shame for the country, and a lost opportunity for them.
Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, has announced that a Tory government would:
And Simon Milton has defended the actions of councils who use the act to spy on people. He says:
amend the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act so that police no longer need to secure authorisation to conduct surveillance on those suspected of non-terrorist offences.
The changes would mean that the police would automatically be able to:
- Use covert video or listening devices in premises or vehicles.
- Watch premises to identify or arrest suspects.
- Conduct visual surveillance of public locations.
- Patrol, in uniform or plain clothes.
- Use thermal imaging and X-ray technology.
- Conduct surveillance using visible CCTV cameras.
"Generally [the powers] are being used to respond to residents' complaints about fly tippers, rogue traders and those defrauding the council tax or housing benefit system.Milton is the person who was put into City Hall by the Tories to act as Boris Johnson's representative on Earth.
"Time and again, these are just the type of crimes that residents tell us that they want to see tackled.
"Without these powers, councils would not be able to provide the level of reassurance and protection local people demand and deserve."
All of which confirms the impression that the attractive green, liberal Toryism of David Cameron's first couple of years as leader were no more than an act. The Tories now seem to believe that because Labour is so unpopular they are free to return to what they really believe in.
It may be a tragedy for the country, but it represents an enormous opportunity for the Liberal Democrats. When liberal-minded voters see the Conservatives in their true colours, it will make it far more likely that they will decide to stay with us after all.