How much creedence can we put behind two Tories leading a challenge against our "preoccupation with materialism"?
"Increasing material gain can become not a gift but a burden" if the environment is degraded. So reportedly will say the Quality of Life policy group, led by the unlikely duo of Zac Goldsmith and John Gummer, of the Conservatives today -it's now up on the Party's website. Such a viewpoint, quite unheard of probably even six months or a year ago, lead the group to question airport expansion, to consider parking charges for supermarkets and high taxes on gas guzzling cars. Radical is the word, and even if David Cameron spools back from making them manifesto commitments, one feels that we are on the cusp of a real change in political philosophy.
Gummer and Goldsmith are clearly challenging a political consensus in wanting economic growth. The report will apparently claim our "preoccupation with materialism" is damaging, hence capitalism as we have known it needs to be rethought. On tax there is a middle way struck by the group. "There should be no tax increases," John Gummer said in an interview on Today. "But there should be a shift in taxation so as to make it easier to do the right thing and more difficult to do the wrong thing."
Is this just whistling in the wind, with the proposals being quietly hidden away in a cubby-hole in the Conservative HQ in Millbank never to see the light again? It's difficult to see Cameron sticking to all of them given his struggle against an until now assured Gordon Brown. But in some sense Gummer and Goldsmith have let the genie out of the bottle here. They and the Liberal Democrats, whose proposals on climate change issued last month have gone largely unnoticed, are now voicing some brave thoughts on actions rather than just rhetoric, which has largely come from Labour.