Crines, Andrew (2012) Rhetoric and the Advancement of Progressive Neoliberalism. In: 62nd Political Studies Association Annual Conference, 3rd - 5th April 2012, Belfast. (Unpublished)

As fundamentals, the combined art of rhetoric and oratory enables effective political communication. This communication can be used to advance policies, ideas, philosophies, and ideologies. Combined, they can have the potential to shift the political dynamic from one end of the spectrum to another whilst retaining the same support base. Such is this impact, that the study of both is vital. The focus of this paper is the first prerequisite of effective communication, that of rhetoric. Without rhetoric, there can be no oratory; without oratory, rhetoric remains uncommunicated. The importance of both is key, but for this paper, a focus on oratory is out of scope. This paper focuses of the rhetoric and ideologies of the coalition government. It will evaluate the impact of chosen rhetoric and the ideological heritage of both parties towards constructing a definition of progressive neoliberalism.

From a dispassionate perspective, the coalition appears ideologically nebulous at best. Although it consists of two distinct parties, the ideological construction is far more diverse, comprised of one nation Conservatives, Thatcherite Conservatives, Post-Thatcherites, Orange Book Liberals and a few social democrats such as Simon Hughes thrown in for good measure. This leads to the perception of a melting pot of conflicting ideologies, united together in government.

It can hardly claim to be a government with a single ideological location or objective, either progressive or neoliberal, so what holds the coalition together? How is it able to govern effectively, and what is the glue which binds this current administration?

To answer such questions we need to relate how carefully crafted rhetoric relates to ideological constructions. This is coupled with the central ballast of coalition rhetoric, that of 'the national interest'. Such crafted rhetoric is vital in order to prevent an acceleration of governing degenerative tendencies, so common in parties of government, to garner sustainability and credibility.

Importantly, a full evaluation of the definition of rhetoric itself is out of scope for this paper. The work of many leading scholars have provided analyses of how rhetoric functions both in government and in opposition, as individuals, and how it can and does relate to political science more broadly. For this paper, rhetoric shall be used to draw upon key dynamics within the coalition, how the partners inter-relate ideologically, and the potential importance of rhetoric in ensuring governing longevity.

This paper also treats the coalition parties as separate ideological entities. Despite sharing a core advocacy of ideological individualism, it is appropriate given the distinctive historical narratives of both. Each showcased differing policy positions prior to the formation of the coalition government, thus their shifting ideological construction is relevant.

This paper will argue that through carefully balanced rhetoric the coalition government is able to appease the remnants of social democracy within the Liberals whilst simultaneously adopting policy positions which only the most dogmatic neoliberal dare dream of in the 1980s. Both are tied to the rhetoric of modernisation and progress, enabling the advancement of a new oxymoron in British Politics, that of progressive neoliberalism.

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