Hunt calls for return to caring Conservatism

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The Independent Online
A CALL FOR a more caring style of Conservativism is made today by David Hunt, the Secretary of State for Employment, with a thinly veiled attack on the 'selfishness' of the Thatcher era.

In a pamphlet published by the Conservative Party - 'Right Ahead - Conservativism and the Social Market' - he warns that Britain is in danger of losing a society based on shared values and 'common morality'.

The anti-Thatcherite tone of his message may enrage some of the free-market Thatcherites who fear the Government has lost its nerve, and its sense of direction.

But Mr Hunt closely associates his message with John Major, and emphasises that the Tories should set themselves apart from Labour by their adherence to market disciplines, to improve the economy, public services and the welfare state.

He says: 'We have become over-tolerant of selfishness and boorishness. There are worrying signs in particular that younger people today are becoming 'atomized' - anti-social and introverted, alienated from society and from the legitimate market economy.

'It is in reversing that undesirable process that I see a very clear role for 'One Nation' Toryism in the 1990s . . . The market economy is not just about higher consumption and not at all about selfishness. It can create a society rich in culture and positive inter-dependence, as well as consumer durables.

'Our fundamental belief in the importance of a society based upon shared values - a common morality - is perhaps the strongest strand in traditional Conservative thinking. Yet that is what we are in danger of losing.'

The bulk of thieving today has nothing to do with poverty, he says. Drug dealers who sent out addicts to rob and mug, raked in the financial rewards. 'Almost nobody today robs to buy food, and they do not mug to buy school clothes for their children. No degree of poverty in Britain today forces people into crime to subsist. We should not confuse rising expectations and demands with 'poverty' . . .'

What marked out the 1970s and 1980s in the Tory party was the rapid rise to dominance of 'of the liberal conception of the individual and the policy prescriptions which spring from it. The market was back with a vengeance . . .

'We must not let our opponents on the Left claim that we endorse the worst, most selfish, manifestations of the capitalist spirit. It falls to us to police the market . . .'