Posts Tagged ‘Nick Boles’

Two impressions of Policy Exchange

28/11/2013, 07:50:03 AM

by Jonathan Todd

My two visits to Policy Exchange bookend the Tory modernisation project. Early in David Cameron’s leadership, I heard Daniel Finkelstein and Siôn Simon debate what this endeavour might learn from Labour’s own modernisation. Nick Boles, then director of the think-tank, dressed in suit jacket and vest, gave Simon some cheese as thanks for passing into centre-right territory.

Simon came not to praise Cameron’s efforts and Boles recently buried them. So hopeless is the Tory modernisers task that Boles, Cameron’s planning minister, now claims it cannot be accomplished within their own party. A more hospitable adjunct is required.

Perhaps things would have turned out differently had Tory modernisers heeded the insight that Simon gave them. He argued, essentially, that Tory modernisers were taking the wrong lessons from Labour modernisers. The Tories saw Alastair Campbell and thought that modernisation meant slick communication. Actually, it requires much more. What Campbell himself has called “heavy lifting”. Thinking through how traditional values can be applied in a contemporary context.

The values are the end, their policy application is the means, the heavy lifting builds new means to achieve timeless ends. This approach updated the revisionisms of earlier Labour pioneers, like Tony Crosland and Hugh Gaitskell. Cameron’s only fixed end, however, was to become prime minister. His lack of an animating purpose has left him seeming inauthentic and his administration bereft of ballast, easily knocked off its stride.


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