The self-styled 'Red Tory' Phillip Blond appeared to be in the ascendancy earlier this year as David Cameron appeared alongside him at the launch of Demos's Progressive Conservatism project. Speculation that Cameron was prepared to embrace significant elements of Red Toryism intensified when his speech on "moral capitalism" to the World Economic Forum in Davos drew heavily on Blond's work. He even poached Blond's smart line on "recapitalising the poor".
Yet nearly six months on, Blond has little to show for his consistent attempts to woo the Tory leader. He has argued that the Conservatives should abandon their support for the part-privatisation of Royal Mail and outline a plan to extend the Post Office's retail banking function. But even after Lord Mandelson's policy retreat the Tories remain committed to privatisation. Cameron also shows no sign of support for a genuinely progressive tax system.
The Guardian's Tom Clark thinks he has an explanation. Noting the party's failure to support the tighter competition laws advocated by Blond, he writes:
While this policy is attractive, a Tory government would struggle to implement it, because it clashes with the big Conservative business interests. We arrive at the nub of the argument for ingesting Red Toryism with a shovel-load of salt. Clever people, of whom Blond is indubitably one, are prone to over-intellectualising politics - failing to grasp that it is a game where interests trump ideas. In the Tory party, the weightiest interest is property - not the abstract notion, but the real security of those who happen to own it.
It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Cameron's flirtation with Red Toryism was no more substantial than Tony Blair's fleeting support for Will Hutton's brand of stakeholder capitalism in his 1996 Singapore speech.
Hutton, briefly touted as the philosopher-king of New Labour, soon found himself sidelined in favour of Anthony Giddens as it became clear that his ideas would require a degree of state intervention intolerable for Blair. Just as social democrats speak longingly of Blair's Singapore speech, expect the Red Tories to soon wistfully reminisce about Cameron's Davos speech.
For all the seductiveness of Blond's analysis, it's increasingly clear that Conservative policy will continue to owe more to Arthur Laffer than to the Red Tories.