Oliver Letwin (PA Photos)
At any given moment, there is a fashionable thing to say about British politics.
Some years ago, the fashion was to regard the Conservative Party as a near-death experience. But fashions change. When David Cameron came along, the near-dead became "resurgent". Soon afterwards, Gordon Brown decapitated Tony Blair and the fashion switched again — to assuming an early election triumph for the new Prime Minister. But this fashion didn't last long either. It was quickly replaced by the fashionable view that Mr Brown was a "dead duck" — a view which lasted only until it became fashionable instead to say that the PM was a hero who had saved the world from financial meltdown. But then people caught up with the fact that Mr Brown has difficulty making decisions and that his tenure at the Treasury left the country in appalling debt. So it is now fashionable (though wrong) to suggest that a Conservative government is inevitable.
The real truth — that nobody has any way of telling at this stage what will actually happen when there is a general election — is not, of course, a fashionable thing to say.
To a degree, all of this is harmless nonsense. There is, however, one kind of fashion that does tend to corrode the workings of our democracy. It becomes very difficult to conduct democratic debate if there is a collective decision to avoid engaging with the policy put forward by one or other of the participants in democratic debate.
Britain is at present experiencing exactly this sort of democratic deficit, due to the current fashion for balancing the false presumption that a Conservative victory is nearly certain by tossing in the further false assertion that the Tories are in this supposedly enviable position despite "having no policies". Stephen Glover's article in the July/August issue of Standpoint is a classic example of this tendency.
One of the things that makes this particular fashionable canard so bizarre is that, for better or worse, the Conservative Party under Mr Cameron has actually chosen to be more open in its policy development and to publish more detailed policy papers than any Opposition in recent times.
An inspection of the Conservative website will reveal a dozen Green Papers, setting out detailed policies on schools, welfare, the Health Service, prisons, the low carbon economy, international development, the voluntary sector, local government, housing and so on. Alongside these Green Papers, of which there are more to come over the next few months, there are major speeches on foreign and security policy from Mr Cameron and William Hague, and a series of important papers on tax, financial regulation and the fiscal framework from George Osborne and the Treasury team, as well as a large assembly of more minor policy pronouncements by other members of the Shadow Cabinet.
In short, it is absolutely impossible to substantiate the assertion that there is an absence of detailed policy from David Cameron's Conservatives.
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