A discussion in the House of Commons exposes a divide in the party
Was the recent Conservative victory a Red Tory victory? Does it expose a fundamental hesitation about Capitalism?
At a Henry Jackson Society discussion on ‘Priorities for a Red Tory Administration’ at the House of Commons last night, these questions were centre-stage as Rakib Ehsan, Brendan Clarke-Smith MP, The Telegraph’s Sherrelle Jacobs and Philip Blond argued about the merits and limitations of the current system.
The tension was best captured by this exchange between Thatcherite Sherrelle Jacobs and the original Red Tory, Philip Blond:
Sherelle Jacobs: If you go down the route of saying ‘oh yes, capitalism is awful’, then you are opening the doors to a far more radical agenda and I think that it’s quite interesting to see what is happening in the Left in other places where they’ve cracked that formula of Left-wing patriotism. You can see it in Ireland and Bernie Sanders may well give Trump a run for his money.
Phillip Blond: This is wrong on two levels. First of all, people voted out of values so we won not out of economics but out of values in the last election. And the Brexit vote was driven by values and also you couldn’t have had a better candidate if you’re a Conservative than Jeremy Corbyn. He was Heineken…
The idea that this is the wrong sort of conservatism and ‘let’s just defend what we have even though it doesn’t deliver what we believe in’ — I mean this is completely incoherent. If we have a form of capitalism that delivers monopoly and you’re saying that we must defend that because the alternative is worse, people will vote for the alternative.
SJ: You arguing for interference with capitalism creates alternatives.
PB: There’s been no interference with capitalism. We have massive monopolies — that’s the point. And unless you can see that, then you will end up opening the door for radicals. The way to close the door on radicals is be radical yourself with the proper conservative aim, which is genuinely free market. I’m a free marketeer — I’ve always been a free marketeer. My greatest enemies are defenders of monopolies who are all libertarians who say the current situation is fabulous, which is nuts because nobody ever argued that, least of all Hayek.
SJ: I’m sorry but libertarians are the most anti–corporation people that you’ll find.
PB: Show me where! Show me just one piece of evidence where a libertarian has produced an anti-monopoly bit of legislation. Where?
At the Budget next week we’ll get the first concrete indication of where on the Libertarian to Interventionist spectrum this government will really fall.