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After Blair: David Cameron and the Conservative Tradition Paperback – 2 Jan 2007
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A lucid introduction to Conservative philosophy. It is lightly done, and rather refreshing -- Independent on Sunday
A masterly study of the Conservative dilemma -- New Humanist
A passionate and fascinating book -- The Sunday Times
Elegant and well-argued -- New Statesman
About the Author
Kieron O'Hara is a journalist, academic and author. A frequent contributor to the New Statesman in particular, his Trust: from Socrates to Spin (Icon, 2004) was described as 'absorbing...a fascinating read' (New Scientist) and 'an effervescent discussion' (Financial Times).
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Top customer reviews
While Labourite critics of David Cameron would like us to believe that he is all style over substance, Kieron O'Hara's book brilliantly illustrates how Cameron's ideas are in common with traditional (small c!) conservative philosophy and that he does indeed remain true to solid principles.
From the Sceptics and Phyrrhonists in ancient Greece via Montaigne, Edmund Burke and David Hume "After Blair" sets out how conservative thinking has developed and examines the nature of the Conservative Party from the 19th century to the present day.
O'Hara states that the central tenets of conservatism are the change principle and the knowledge principle. The 20th century was characterised by zealous political movements from the Communists and Fascists in the 1930s to the neo-conservativism towards the end of the century.
Conservative thinkers suggests that human societies can never be as perfect and efficient as political radicals would like them to be as humans are by nature flawed. Therefore any programmes to change the structure should be carefully considered. A change to make things better may not always have desired result and conservatives would prefer to retain traditions if they are of benefit.
The knowledge principle states that humans can never be certain that a programme of ideas is right. Conservatives will always be sceptical of grand schemes to reform society but this does not mean that they refuse to innovate.
O'Hara examines policy statements, speeches and actions Cameron has taken since he became leader of the Conservative Party and whether he holds true to the conservatism defined in his book. By stepping out of the shadow of Thatcher's neo-liberalism, criticising Blair over the war in Iraq and identifying the roots of social disorder in the UK Cameron has demonstrated that there is substance despite the media focus on style.
Distinguishing conservatism from the cynical preference of vested interests, or fear of change, he outlines and defends this non-progressive ideology as it has developed through history. Arising out of Greek Scepticism, it contains elements of moderation and risk-awareness, respect for stability and the wisdom of crowds, and humility.
He distinguishes `conservatism' from `the Conservative party', (and from American 'neo-conservatism').
The book's main achievement in my view is to refute John Gray's argument that Thatcherism destroyed conservatism as a meaningful political stance. To do this, O'Hara first provides an historical context: the influxing liberals of the 1880's formed the basis for the economic right-wing of the Conservative party. It was this group who were effectively the predecessors of Thatcherism. He describes, on the other hand, the substantial conservative tradition of the left-wing of the party. This philosophy, he maintains, cannot be destroyed by events. As society evolves, there are different things which may require conserving.
From this basis he outlines some viable centre-right strategies for the current Conservatives. Tame the reactionary and toxic elements on the right wing of the party; preserve the current mildly eurosceptic consensus; combine the promotion of `Big Society' with acknowledgement of its limits; preserve the widely trusted institution of the NHS; be wary over interventionist foreign policy; maintain environmentalism; reform public services `patiently,quietly and incrementally; tread with great caution through multicultural issues; strengthen the power of parliament.
Written in 2007, this book's assessments are already proving prescient. I found its political arguments to be most robust, and would recommend it wholeheartedly to any confused or bemused centrist voter.