Has Red Toryism peaked already?

Cameron's flirtation with Red Toryism, like Blair's with stakeholding capitalism, was entirely super

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.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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