‘Role of Government’ in a capitalist society

I cannot believe our politicians have only just realised that the ‘Role of Government’ in a capitalist society is the most fundamental problem they need to resolve.

It shows an extraordinary lack of leadership and vision.

I can say this, rather immodestly, because it is exactly what I told them over four years ago – long before the last General Election. Here’s my story….

In 2007 a professional contact, who had become a personal friend, was appointed to head up one of the Study Review Groups in Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘Centre for Social Justice’.

He asked me if I would run my eye over his team’s final report. I won’t say which but it concerned an aspect of society in which I have some experience and expertise. Once I had done this, we met to discuss my thoughts. Overall, I felt he had developed a very worthy piece of work on which I had a few minor comments.

I would like to emphasise that I was not a member of the Conservative Party and I am not now. But I am prepared to believe that Iain Duncan Smith is an innately good man and that what he was trying to achieve was genuine and for the overall public good, particularly the underclass in our society that never appear in our target audience profiles in the commercial world.

To give him his due, as an ex-leader of the Conservative Party, Duncan Smith could have spent his time making money on the after-dinner speaking circuit. But he didn’t. He got downbeat and dirty and tried to understand the real world out there. As a human being, as much as a politician, I admire him for that.

However, I told my friend that, by General Election time, there would be an over-arching barrier for all Duncan Smith’s Social Review Groups to overcome.

This would be the deeply entrenched views held by many of the electorate about the Conservative Party and, worse, that the strength of these views would provoke a response that would override any specific policies – however worthy – just because they came from ‘Tories’.

I said there was a communications need for the Conservatives to present themselves in a new light – to urge people to throw away entrenched prejudices and re-evaluate the Tories in order for Duncan Smith’s initiatives to be accepted more readily, objectively and on merit.

As a non-member of the Conservative or any other political party, I felt, from a professional point of view – i.e. as if they were a client of my strategic marketing agency – that this would be an interesting challenge (and, I admit it, a commercial pitch).

My friend suggested I submit my views to the Central Office of the Party, which I did. (I posted the complete presentation on Brand Republic in October 2010 in a blog entitled: ‘The Conservatives may be doing the right thing, but in the wrong way’).

In short, my presentation (in 2007, remember) called for a complete re-think of ‘The Role of Government’ in society today. I argued that the Conservatives had won the ideological wars between socialism and capitalism. Now all they had to do was work out how capitalism could work towards a fairer society in a modern free-market economy.

My presentation was submitted to Steve Hilton and Andy Coulson and their PAs. Steve Hilton agreed to a meeting but I couldn’t make the proposed date. I was on a photographic shoot in The Bahamas (well, you have to look after the day job first, don’t you?). By the time I had come back from the sun, Hilton had gone cold. We never met.

Imagine my surprise when – yesterday – yes, yesterday! – I read that the Prime Minister used the very words ‘Role of Government’ in the context of ‘a long-awaited speech on capitalism’.

Has he only just thought about this? Didn’t he read my presentation? What does this bloke Hilton do all day?!

For this is the issue that is going to define the difference between our political parties from now until the next General Election. Well, not from now. Actually since 2007 when, if he had done what I had told him, Cameron might well have won an outright majority at the General Election in 2010.

I know it is immodest to say so but, because the Conservatives did not bother to work out the Role of Government in the modern world, and the consequent need for they themselves to change within this environment, the human effect of a keen but over-enthusiastic Government has been unnecessary suffering and social chaos.

It is very frustrating that, back in 2007 and again in 2010, I told them this would happen.

Now, years too late, a vital debate has begun.


About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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