Collections of policy essays from new or junior MPs rarely have much of an impact or shelf-life in British politics, but however fallible their predictions for the future they can be illuminating about the current state of the authors’ party and its broad ideological directions.
So it is with After the Coalition which is very different in tone and hope for the future from last year’s Which Way’s Up? by Nick Boles. The contrast is there in the sub-titles for the two books. Boles had “The future for coalition Britain” whilst the five authors behind this volume have gone for “A Conservative agenda for Britain”. Last year the talk was of a possible long-term coalition between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. This year it is about an impatience to get into a one-party majority government pursuing purely Conservative policies.
All five authors – Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Elizabeth Truss – were newly elected in the 2010 general election, giving a hint of who might be the future stars of the Conservative Party. Between them they have also already written five other books. Indeed, it is books more than blogs which are helping to raise the profiles and make the reputations of a new generation of MPs. For a variety of reasons, high quality blogging by MPs has never taken off in the UK outside a handful of honourable exceptions.
Despite the clear desire of the authors for a 100% Conservative government, they wisely avoid political controversy by emphasising that this book is about the world after 2015 rather than a coded call for an end to the current coalition government before then.
Much of the policy content is unsurprising for something from Conservative MPs, such as calls to cut taxes, reduce trade union power, trim the BBC and increase jail sentences.
Notable too though are the signs of a changing Conservative Party, including strong support for action on climate change, a belief that same sex couples and single parent households should be supported, not condemned and a call for the Conservative Party to reclaim the idea of social mobility.
Even if the particular policies talked about in the book get overtaken by events, the overall picture of a part-old part-new Conservative Party painted by this book is likely to be a useful guide to that party’s ideological future.