Until recently, Phillip Blond was a lecturer in theology at the University of Cumbria. Now he is the big new thing in progressive politics, having been made a fellow of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. He was also, until recently, running the "progressive conservatism" project at the left-wing think-tank Demos.
Having fallen out with Demos, he has started his own think-tank, Res Publica. He is said to have the ear of senior Tories, including David Cameron and George Osborne. Blond, 42, has been lifted to stardom by newspaper comment articles in which he explains his new political philosophy, Red Toryism. To understand Blond's position, we should begin with his complaints about what he takes to have been the dominant political models since the Second World War — the welfare state and the "market state".
According to Blond, "1979 brought the end of the welfare state". This is false. The British government still guarantees us tax-funded healthcare, education, pensions, unemployment benefits and housing. Government spending was 43 per cent of GDP in 1979. Today it is 47 per cent.
Obvious falsity is only part of the problem with saying that the welfare state ended in 1979. For Blond also claims that the welfare state is having a malign effect on society by turning millions of citizens into state supplicants. Yet it is difficult to see how the welfare state can have any effects, malign or otherwise, if it does not exist. Perhaps there is something in his theology that explains such mysteries.
Having lamented the harm being done by the non-existent welfare state, Blond recommends extending it. He thinks that not only income should be redistributed from rich to poor, but capital too. His other policy suggestions also involve increasing the scope of government action so as to bring about what he calls "the good life". (Blond is vague about the nature of this "good life", but it's like an English village, circa 1955.)
Since 1979, pace Blond, we have lived in a "market state". He does not say what he means by a "market state" but the following quotation gives the gist of his position (and his style): "Prudent Chancellor's (sic) promised no more boom and bust, the state sanctioned monopoly capitalism and sat happy on the tax receipts of unrestrained global gambling." How the government can tax global gambling without restraining it is another mystery we will have to pass over.