Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A political thin web

This will be a long post, I warn you.

I've been sparsely following the news from the British Conservative Party since a while, to be more precise since the race for the new leadership and the somewhat surprisingly election of David Cameron as a move to possibly have a credible chance against Tony Blair and of securing the premiership in United Kingdom since the age of Margaret Tatcher and John Mayor.

Now, my looking around the globe for the conservative world comes surely from the fact at home I do not have a political group I can identify myself. Everyone who knows me know I'm a conservative at heart. I hope a smart conservative (which many would deny it's even possible, I suppose, but then I cannot figure out how could one possibly be a smart communist or a smart anarchic or a smart no-global), but that's for others to judge, not myself.

Now, I shall not go at lenght about it, not in this post at least, but in the political scenario of Italy there is simple no place to go for an international-minded polemically-christian averagely-nationalistic at-times-social-reformist (and I do not think that's a contradiction) conservative as I am: not in the firm-like, spirit-deprived and effectively vision-less "Forza Italia", not in "Alleanza Nazionale" where, I checked, the young members still address each other as "camerati" (the fascist way to say comrade) over their mailing lists, not in that mass of undefined individuals that call themself "Lega Nord", without even considering the self-proclaimed (but could be debated, considering some of their positions) christian minor parties.

So, today, intrigued by the news that the new manifesto of the british conservative party had been published I went and checked that, and their website with it. I've mixed feelings, I've to say.

Let's have a look at what they present as their beliefs on their website:
We believe in the family. But we shouldn’t preach to people about how they live their lives.
Umm.. ok, but what is the family for you? father-mom-kids? 2 same sex parents with kids? 2 people living together jure coniugalis? Nada, a conspicuous silence about the point. But the second half of the sentence leaves a door open for every interpretation.
We believe in lower taxes. But not in fostering greed or favouring the rich.
Ok, I follow you so far, but how do you concile lower taxes with
We believe in high standards in health and education. But opt-outs and escape routes for the privileged few will never deliver high quality for all
The challenge is to deliver equal access to first-class public services without burdening today’s generations with higher taxes, or tomorrow’s generations with higher debt.
is not exactly clear, actually, let's say it's not clear at all. But let's move on, and get to what is the manifesto, a little document called "Built to last".

It starts in a very agreeable, for my palate, way:
We are a modern, compassionate Conservative Party.
Our enduring values mean we believe in trusting people, sharing responsibility, championing freedom and supporting the institutions and culture we share as one nation.
Now, I can't but like terms as modern, compassionate trusting responsability freedom and, most than everything, "culture that we share as one nation". It continues in an even better way saying:
We must be a modern, compassionate Conservative Party.
We must be a voice for change, optimism and hope.
Letting aside the true and real irony that being a conservative today means to be wanting changes, words as optimism and hope are like a balm on my spirit.

The we get to the point, or rather the 8 points that are the aims of the (new) conservative party:

- (UK should be able to) compete with the world.

- A thing as society, it’s just not the same thing as the state.

- Quality of life matters, as well as the quantity of money.

- Public services for everyone must be guaranteed by the state, not necessarily run by the state.

- It is our moral obligation to make poverty history.

- Security and freedom must go hand in hand.

- Limitations of government, but not limited aspirations for government.

- That government should be closer to the people, not further away.

That's it. Ummm... I'm unconvinced. I know it's generally a little document stating broad goals, ideals and prospectives, but I find it so vague, so too generalistic, so utopistic too in some ways (freedom and security, I think, can't really go hand in hand anymore as we see all the time as democratic freedoms are exploited to destroy our security). The concepts of culture and nations disappear totally when it comes to pass from beliefs and aims. Also the family concept almost disappears, i don't see ethics emerging from the document.

This manifesto seems to me a neutral declaration of vague principles, something put together to be easily agreeable for everyone, without wanting to take a firm and clear stand on any real issue: bioethics, the islam-western civilization relations, the european union.. nothing is addressed, even indirectly. And even if working groups should follow to elaborate practical strategies, the framework seems fragile.

I know it's a political pre-electoral document and its aim is to get as little people as possible annoyed, but it seems to me that's built in the same way a web is: being transparent and so thin that wind pass trough and able to catch as many insects as it can, no matter if they are flies, bees or wasps.

But webs are built to last just as long as the first rain comes.

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