Cameron redrafts party's aims and values to placate hardliners

Click to follow
Indy Politics

David Cameron has bowed to protests by loyal Conservative supporters over the direction of his leadership by calling for a "responsibility revolution" to increase the role of the individual.

A 12-page "aims and values" document for the party has been redrafted by its leader following criticism by traditional Tories who complained he was "too nice" to the Government, and had given too little emphasis to tax cuts and selection in schools.

Mr Cameron was hoping to emulate Tony Blair's abolition of Labour's clause IV on public ownership to demonstrate how his party has changed. But yesterday he opened himself to the charge of wobbling by ditching some of the language that the activists found offensive.

The foreword to the new document carries a powerful message of support for the individual, with which Baroness Thatcher could not find fault. "I am clear about the new direction we must set for Britain," he said. "To meet the challenges of the 21st century and to satisfy people's aspirations today, this country needs a responsibility revolution.

"A revolution in personal responsibility - giving every individual the skills, the resources and the confidence to take control of their life."

He said that the Tories stood for "an opportunity society - a society in which everybody is a somebody, a doer not a done-for". There was a duty to help the disadvantaged but it was "not reserved for the state alone - it is a shared responsibility: we are all in this together".

Mr Cameron has also amended his remarks on health policy after offending some senior Tories. He originally said the Tories would "improve the NHS and schools for everyone, not help a few to opt out". That was seen as a direct attack on the Tories' 2005 manifesto commitment for " patient passports" and education vouchers for independent schools.

Yesterday the attack on "opting out" was dropped, and replaced by a promise to promote choice for patients and to give schools "greater control over their own affairs". Some traditional Tory supporters will be hoping that could open the door to the return of selection in schools, although Mr Cameron has said he would not propose more grammar schools.

He responded to criticism by Tory supporters about the lack of an explicit promise to cut tax by making it clear the Tories will be committed to " fairer, flatter and simpler taxes" while still putting economic stability first. Some Tories want him to go further by adopting " flat-tax" rates but the document, which will pave the way for the Tory manifesto, does not rule out the option of going into the next election committed to cutting taxes, particularly for the low paid. It explicitly says high taxes are making Britain less competitive.

Promising the abolition of national NHS targets, ID cards, and unelected regional assemblies, Mr Cameron said: "The old answers are not working well. Top-down government seems to belong to another age."

A previous pledge to support women who choose to work rather than stay at home was replaced by a commitment to supporting "families and marriage".

The document is tougher on the environment, promising "binding annual targets for carbon reduction" and adopting "tough targets for carbon reduction in new cars" which will be seen as a threat to increase vehicle excise duty on 4x4s.

Mr Cameron also seems to be sticking by his promise to change the party by getting more women and ethnic minority candidates, despite setbacks with the "A-list" of such candidates he has tried to promote over the summer.

New proposals and the critics

Taxation and economy

We will put economic stability and fiscal responsibility first. They must come before tax cuts.

Over time, we will share the proceeds of growth between public services and lower taxes.

What the activists said

General agreement on this point, although many members felt strongly that tax cuts should remain high on the agenda. Some members argued that low taxation was a fundamental part of Conservatism.

Quality of life

We will enhance the environment by seeking a long-term cross party consensus on sustainable development and climate change... and support the choice women make about their work and home lives.

What the activists said

While it is right to give prominence to the environment and global poverty, these should be complemented by other issues.

Public services

We will improve the NHS and schools for everyone, not help a few to opt out.

What the activists said

Some expressed a desire for a Conservative government to expand the use of the private sector and subsidise those who opt for private treatment.

Comments