Campaigning and governing Right
Do you want to govern or not? Why? What would you do for us, rather than to us, if you were in government?
Conservatives have to come up with cogent answers to those questions. They don't have them. Focus groups are no better than the PR dollies who run them, as it is they who write the summaries. This article shows they can't find them elsewhere in the Anglosphere.
Back in 1995, as I was heading off to work as John Major's adviser,
The opinions of a man who helped put the British Conservatives - the most successful political party in the first world - has a lot more grounds for modesty than Finkelstein would appear to have. He essentially takes a negatiove approach - if you are going to lose is a poor way of operating, and doesn't really address the reality facing the Liberals. Nonetheless, here is the essence of Finkelstein's article:
... there is the waning appeal of small-government rhetoric. In the 1970s, speeches about government being the problem, not the solution, resonated. Now this language is much less potent politically. Government remains often inefficient and too large, but winning support to change it is harder. Conservatives need to show that they can run government, providing services, not merely talking about shrinking them.
This is what the Catallaxy crowd can't understand; people will pay taxes for government to provide services at a cheaper and more universal rate than is available from the market.
This debate wasn't always on the fringes. There was serious debate within the Liberal Party about what government should/shouldn't do, from 1983 until they got tired of it after the 1993 election and took the Howard approach of tinkering at the edges. The NSW Liberals have lost every election since (including?) 1991 because of this skittishness in the face of government services and the taxes that fund them.
The Liberals need to be clear about what they want government to do an not do, and how much this costs. When they get this sorted, they'll be a credible alternative government. They can avoid it, but only if the are determined to be a party of opposition.
After 11 years in office, the Coalition have plenty of experience in running government services. I won't mention AWB if you won't, but it is absolutely appropriate to look at those aspects of government neglected by Howard and ask how we are worse off for that neglect, and whether it is appropriate for the next Liberal government to be so neglectful.
And then there is cultural change. All across the world conservative parties have risked being left behind by the vast social changes of the past 40 years. Making peace with the '60s is the hardest task
It sure is, eh Gerard Henderson?
This is also essential reading for religious conservatives and small-government freaks alike:
Nobody wants to vote for a party that angrily disapproves of how they live. That's the mistake the Left made as working-class people became wealthier and more mobile.
Well done Finkelstein for pointing this out. What has to happen now is the realisation that attitudes to tax and government aren't just poses but thoroughgoing approaches to policy development. Nobody expects Nelson to deliver this, of course, but when the Liberals start wining again they will have absorbed some of the more important lessons from Failure Boy.