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Let's hope that the fair-minded Tory can exert some influence

By Yasmin Alibhai Brown

Published 19/05/2015

Speech: David Cameron
Speech: David Cameron

Five years. Five years of Tory hubris and callous, divisive policies. After this Government is done, Thatcherism will seem compassionate and benevolent. George Osborne, the Chancellor, never even pretends to care about the bonds of society, or equity and mutuality.

We could give up altogether - those of us who want a fair, equal, just society. Or we can become less tribal and try to listen to and support ameliorating influences within the Tory party.

No, I am not turning Right, like many do as they get older. I am going the other way. But sulking or sniping for five years would be self-indulgent and worse than useless.

Not all Tories are Right-wingers. There are MPs in the winning party who don't want benefits cut further and others who believe in the European Union and are staunch defenders of the Human Rights Act.

David Davis and Dominic Grieve will fight hard against plans to replace the Human Rights Act with a more tepid British Bill of Rights; Ken Clarke will do the same to stay in the EU.

I can't say I like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, now the Justice Secretary, but that hardly matters. What does matter is that both are calling for a proper living wage and other measures to shift perceptions of the Tories as distant toffs.

I suggest that David Cameron himself is aware of, and possibly slightly troubled by, the discordance between his fine postures - the Green warrior, the caring Conservative, jogging metro-man, modern husband and dad - and the brutish, iniquitous laws that his hardline Cabinet is set to pass.

That must be why his post-election speech seemed conciliatory and righteous: "We must bring our country together. We will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom… it means giving everyone in the country a chance… no matter where you are from, you will have the opportunity to make the most of your life." Did that come out of guilt and shame or was it slick PR? Don't know.

But, hark, here comes one of his most trusted friends and "blue sky" gurus, Steve Hilton, who has written a book, More Human, which, in parts, is bolder, more unabashedly moral than any by Labour insiders.

Hilton went off to the US in 2012 when his wife got a top job at Google. Until then he had advocated savage cuts to the Civil Service and welfare budgets. Now he sees the path to enlightenment and repudiates his own previous self.

I confess I was both startled and then seduced by his words and ideas. Here is what Hilton has to say:

"Our democracies are increasingly captured by a ruling class that seeks to perpetuate its privileges... at least in America, economic, cultural and political power is dispersed. In the UK, centralisation is a gift to the vested interests. When the corporate bosses, the MPs, the journalists - and authors of books such as mine - all go to the same dinner parties and social events, all live near one another, all send their children to the same schools (from which they themselves came), an insular ruling class develops... It is a democracy in name only, operating on behalf of a tiny elite no matter the electoral outcome. I know because I was part of it." He goes on to argue for decent wages, for people to be protected from ugly human impulses such as "avarice, malice and intolerance". This globally respected thinker may just move and affect the Right-wing Cabinet and PM.

He will, for sure, inspire younger, idealistic Tories. Labour movers and shakers, at present muddled and craven, should support fair-minded Tories and welcome Hilton's intervention.

They should learn from him and admit that real progressive thinking can sometimes come from the enemy.

Will they? Some hope.

Belfast Telegraph

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