Henry Porter doesn’t think the Tories will be much better on civil liberties, pointing out that most of what they offer consists of more reassurances, not basic changes in policy or outlook. Likewise, Ross McKibben doesn’t think there’ll be that much difference over spending, and offers this:
Then there is the sad story of ‘choice’, from which the Tory leadership has learned little over the last 30 years. Much of the energy of recent governments has been expended on trying to create markets where markets cannot operate – particularly in education and health. One perverse consequence of this has been a huge increase in managerial bureaucracy in every sphere where ‘markets’ have been devised. Another has been to encourage a free-for-all, which favours, as one would expect, the well-connected and the well-to-do. ‘Choice’ has consistently undermined both the efficiency of the Labour government’s high levels of social expenditure and its worthy attempts to eliminate inherited disadvantages. How far a Cameron government would attempt to further marketise the NHS we don’t know, since Cameron is clearly nervous about upsetting the status quo. When it comes to education, however, Gove has been extolling choice and diversity (every man his own school). If carried out, this policy would probably wreck the state education system by shifting resources to the most energetic and best-placed parents. Since resources are finite, the result of ‘choice’ is that one parent’s gain is another parent’s loss. But the Labour Party has been almost as reluctant to admit this as the Tories. It is unlikely, therefore, that a Cameron government would make much difference. It will simply make the same mistakes; and perhaps a few new ones.
The other point here is that “choice” costs money. I think it’s here you can see a potential faultline emerge when the Tories are in power. You have the right, which wants to use the recession to push through a program of spending cuts, and, when they can get away with it, tax cuts. But then you have the Cameron-post Blairite consensus, whose convictions are expressed economically by the notion that public services exist to provide private and third sector companies with a guaranteed revenue stream from the taxpayer. They might squabble about who’s “really progressive”, but this is what the current and future government actually have in common: nothing involving public services goes forward without a payoff, often to some consortium formed with the express purpose of receiving it. But if your basic rationale is to gift the private sector then that places limits on how much you can actually cut spending, and there’s the rub. The rightwingers have a more coherent set of ideas, but the pseudo-market progressives will count on the support of a whole constellation of business and social enterprises, who, somewhere down the line will probably end up as an important source of financial support for both major parties. It’s on these lines, I think, that the debate about spending within the Tories will actually form itself.