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What was Progressive in ‘Progressive Conservatism'?



In January 2009 David Cameron announced that the ‘underlying philosophy’ of his government would be progressive conservatism. Despite the ambiguity about this term, it was generally interpreted as a signal that Cameron was moving his party to the left. To some commentators, Cameron was allying with the progressive ‘one nation’ strand of conservative thought. To others, particularly in the media, he was drawing on the more immediate influence of Phillip Blond's ‘Red Toryism’. However, the focus on the market (as opposed to state or community) found in both Cameron's speech and subsequent policies sits uneasily with both of these interpretations. Cameron's progressive conservatism has more in common with Thatcherism – an earlier conservative modernising project – than it does with centrist forms of conservative progressivism. Cameron's progressive conservatism is progressive, but only in particular, less commonly used, ways – not as a rediscovery of social justice.