BY BRUCE ANDERSON
The Tory Party exists to protect the nation and to solve the problems of the day. In a crisis, the two tasks can merge, most notably in 1979. Then, there were related threats to the British economy, to the rule of law and to the West's ability to sustain the Cold War. Margaret Thatcher saw off all three and won enduring greatness.
But there is a problem with politics in a fallen world. In Chris Patten's words, "as soon as you take a trick in diamonds, you find that hearts are now trumps". Old difficulties give way to new. As long as the Soviet Union cast such a long shadow, the menace of Islamic terrorism was obscured. While Margaret Thatcher was mending a broken economy, not enough attention was paid to a broken society.
For the past 30 years, governments have been uneasily aware of two huge - also related - problems: the underclass and the public services. Since 1945, there has been vast expenditure on the welfare state. Too often, the result has been an "ill-fare state" condemning its clients to hereditary poverty, unemployment, demoralisation and crime. Culturally and economically, London is a city of unsurpassed opulence. Despite that, there has been a social regression to a Dickensian underclass.
The welfare state is not the sole instance of government wastefulness. In recent decades, politicians of both parties have tried to ensure that the public services serve the public: that a pound spent by the state should deliver the same value for money as a pound spent by the taxpayer who earned it. There has been little success.
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