The Tories and Progressivism: Those Oxymorons

Politics is very exciting at the moment: real thinking is taking place, words are being articulated and debated, and ideas are the bedrock of policy once more. Take the example of Roger Helmer MEP, his stupidity on the subject of homophobia had a brief moment of genius, it was an analysis of the subject of etymology in that it focused on whether meanings of words stack up to public attitudes, and also how certain attitudes may be perceived from the outside. Deeply philosophical stuff. Only it was magnificently wrong. Despite Iain Dale’s totemistic, scant reflection.

Another revival of etymology in politics surrounds the word progressivism. George Osborne hyperbolically asserting that the Tories are the only progressive force in UK politics today, and Peter Mandelson riposting back that for Osborne to think this is categorically erroneous.

Indeed for these two former yachting buddies, as one blogger puts it correctly, it is a battle of ideas, and how to put those ideas into practice, which as cat-and-mouse as it might appear, makes for interesting reading. Mandy is right to say that what Osborne thinks he means by progressive is whatever it is that the Tories stand for “this month”. It certainly feels like that anyway, that Osborne figures that if a compassionate grin emerges from his po-face as he pours over public spending reform, this will sideline what lies behind the rhetoric.

This, too, goes for inheritance tax, which isn’t thoroughly progressive.

But, for the left, is there not a sense of satisfaction in that our historically right-wing party have found solace in entertaining ‘radical’ sentiment. Firstly it was Cameron’s call for a ‘day of reckoning’ back in January, saying that the nation’s modest earners – “nurses and cleaners and [sic] teachers” – should not have to fund the “multi-billion pound taxpayer bail-out of the banks” adding “[t]here cannot be one law for the rich and another for everyone else.”

Agreed. But this, given the circumstances, would have to imply a tax raise, and I’d like to think this was the case, but it will most certainly not be, so Hopi Sen accounts.

Then this notion of Red Toryism, or Conservative communitarianism, that amounts to replacing welfare with investment vouchers, or rather, a regulated system with a rearticulation of dog-eat-dog capitalism.

Progressivism is a system of formulating change, and the Tories at the moment are engaging in an exciting game of new words that would have once been oxymoronic such as progressive conservatism, but in actual fact it seems that its all talk. The Right inside the Labour camp are short-circuiting, and a shift to the left is imminent. A host of leftist elements are waiting in line, anticipating the death blow to New Labour. Why that blow has had to receive electoral punch from null Tory sentiment is beyond me, but to be sure, even if New Labour is hardly a progressive force worth defending lock stock and barrel, the Tories version of progressivism is a simple veil. Its a pity the traditional Labour base can not hold Mandy up as one of their own, in the battle of words in the new (possibly brief) epoch of political etymology.

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