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Most worrying of all, however, is not what Cameron says but what he does not say. In order to transform Britain from a country in which the state and its satellite agencies now spend more than half of all the wealth we produce to one in which society reclaims its birthright, the Conservatives will have to close down entire provinces of Whitehall's empire, privatising functions that have been performed by government for generations. That this is incredibly difficult to accomplish even in a boom is demonstrated by the failure of the Thatcher government to do more than slow down the juggernaut. A Big Society cannot be created as long as Big Government is left largely intact. But Cameron is pathologically averse to the word "cuts". Not just the public sector's inefficiencies but its raison d'être must be challenged to enable "Britons once again [to] feel in control of their lives". A return to the virtues that he invokes in his speech — courtesy, civility, "a new can-do and should-do attitude" — can only happen with a much more realistic recognition of what government can achieve and the damage it has already inflicted.

Limited government and a decent society are two sides of the same coin. Cameron intuitively grasps this, but he has some way to go to persuade us that he will not fall victim to the same temptations as previous leaders. Margaret Thatcher is notorious for saying that "there is no such thing as Society. There are individual men and women, and there are families." But she was right. Society — big or otherwise — has been a euphemism for the state. It was also Mrs Thatcher who said this: "No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he'd only had good intentions. He had money as well." The best thing a Cameron government can do to create a nation of Good Samaritans is to let people keep more of their earnings — and to get out of the way.

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March 29th, 2010
2:03 PM
The article refers to Cameron having to make his mind up over the "radical egalitarians" who have succeeded in closing down the Catholic adoption agencies. He does not. He has already made his mind up. While Blair was dithering over whether to allow Catholic Adoption agencies an exemption, Cameron announced he would be voting against any exemptins as the principle of gays being allowed to adopt was right and no-one should be exempt.

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