Saturday, May 10, 2008


Not least through the work of Iain Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Justice, which has maintained a critical dialogue with radical Christian community campaigner Bob Holman and others (even at the Labour conference!), the Conservative Party seems to have moved on poverty issues - as Church Action on Poverty has acknowledged. However, we are entitled to ask what the policy substance is behind this. As Bob has pointed out, some of the much vaunted concern has been underwritten by a continuing legacy of paternalism and individualism. So the idea that David Cameron is a saviour of the poor whose party has gone progressive is a claim deserves further examination.

Take the "10p tax" issue, which the Tories hope will win them the Crewe by-election. David Cameron has remorselessly attacked Gordon Brown on this -- not because the Conservatives support a truly progressive income tax regime (their policies suggest otherwise), but as an issue of "competence". In other words, they are trying to persuade lower income people that "we're on your side"; but when challenged about re-introducing the 10p tax band, Cameron does not want to be drawn "on specifics". Of course. The gap between rhetoric and reality on this is bound to be large for the traditional party of organised wealth.

The estimable Kerron Cross, leader of Three Rivers District Council and vice chair of the Christian Socialist Movement (which I left when it affiliated to the Labour Party, by the way) has unpicked some of the contradictions here. Deeper issues, meanwhile, are raised by Jon Cruddas and Jonathan Rutherford.

While we are on the subject of the Tories, Jesuit e-journal Thinking Faith has an interesting article (Who will show respect?) on new London Mayor Boris Johnson's 'get tough' youth policies, backed by 'muscular Christian'. It has been put together by researchers from the Heythrop Institute for Religion, Ethics and Public Life.

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