If only. Last night de Pfeffel Johnson delivered the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture in defence of inequality. Funny how you always get people who benefit from this state of affairs singing its praises. But anyway, there was a five minute brouhaha that will last until another leading Tory says something outrageous in a day or two. Perched as I am in front of the computer 24 hours after, chances are I might have the last word. So here goes.
1. de Pfeffel Johnson isn't like other politicians. He doesn't hide behind spin. He tells it as he sees it. It doesn't matter if his praise for inequality turns to ashes when burned by evidence. That IQ tests are meaningless. Or that selective education writes off kids - mainly working class kids - at a young age. He's the anti-politician politician. You know exactly where you stand with him.
2. Hold on a moment, de Pfeffel Johnson is caring. Read the speech carefully. Greed is good, but only if it's backed up by solid values. He notes "... if there is to be a boom in the 20-teens, I hope it is one that is marked by a genuine sense of community and acts of prodigious philanthropy, and I wish the snob value and prestige that the Americans attach to act of giving would somehow manifest itself here, or manifest itself more vividly." On one level he's repeating Adam Smith, who noted how the complex of needs and wants in a society are best met by millions of individuals pursuing their own interests in market economies. But like Smith, de Pfeffel Johnson isn't blind to ethics. The hard hearted logic of capital can be softened by the warm glow of philanthropy. Please note the absence of society collectively addressing market failure. Rather, it is left to the whims of billionaire softies.
3. de Pfeffel Johnson wasn't expounding his political philosophy because he felt like it. These things, whatever subjective motivations, take place against a political backdrop and will always be interpreted in that context. In this the speech fused together the two tendencies of contemporary Toryism - the patrician elitism sans one nation commitments, and hard right market totalitarianism. You could be forgiven for thinking some position-jockeying for life after 2015 is going on.
4. It's a Tory speech by a leading Tory, so it was always going to be riddled with stupid empiricism. And before he gave it, I could have told you it would be a backward looking speech. As the organic representatives of the most decadent sections of the ruling class, they have to return to the scenes of the 80s because there is nothing more they can do. What does a privatiser and deregulator do when almost everything has been privatised and deregulated? And when the needs of capital, the needs of their own class demand energetic industrial activism on the part of the state, what then?
Cut through the cynical bonhomie. de Pfeffel Johnson is as bankrupt as the rest of his party. If this is a foretaste of the programme he would offer as Tory leader, that permanent Labour majority is certainly more likely.