Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990) was one of the leading conservative intellectuals in the English-speaking world during the post-war period. Born into a Fabian socialist milieu, his own conservatism seems to have arisen from the political crucible of the 1930s, in reaction to the dual horrors of Nazism and communism. According to Oakeshott `modern governments are not interested in education, they are concerned to impose `socialization' of one kind or another upon the surviving fragments of a once considerable educational engagement."
He saw the job of the state as simply to stay afloat, rather than heading off in some idealistic and utopian direction; and of education, to engage the young, and not so young, in a conversation with our heritage, and a conversation between certain different modes of thinking and being that would give them a life of freedom and even of adventure:
"men sail a boundless and bottomless sea, there is neither harbor for shelter nor floor for anchorage,…
Government borrowing is going down (ie. although the UK is still getting deeper into debt, the process has slowed).
Unemployment levels in the UK look set to reach a 44-year low.
500,000 people have come out of poverty since 2010.
Net immigration is falling (although people are still pouring in, they're pouring in more slowly).
All of these facts correspond to old promises made by the government.
So instead of congratulating the government, the left-wing press finds other things to gripe about : Rises in "relative poverty" or complaints about the wage levels of all the new jobs that are being created, or longer waiting lists for psychological services in the NHS (the example quoted by Radio 4 the other day was the long waiting lists for gender reassignment counselling ...).
Of course these gripes are certainly areas that highlight hardships for certain groups. But it does not help the cause of democracy to keep moving the g…