Wednesday, January 04, 2006


'Wet' Cameron faces discordant voices on the right

David Cameron has had little but good press so far for his debunking of hallowed Tory tenets. As he casts out rightwing favourites connected with education, the health service and immigration and promises to redistribute wealth he is feted; each item thrown overboard receives a cheer. He is the darling de jour of Fleet St, his every utterance and movement a news story. But dismantling one's party's ideology does not happen damage free. Two examples suggest just a little of the backwash which must be disturbing the sand on Tory beaches. Firstly, in the Daily Mail, on 2nd January, Melanie Phillips complained that Cameron had left:

'Millions of natural conservatives effectively disenfranchised-and, even worse, demonised as dinosaurs by the party that is supposed to represent them, but is now telling them to go hang while it tears up everything they believe in.'

In the Guardian today I note that heavyweight rightwing economist Irwin Stelzer- someone who has spoken very warmly of Tony Blair- accepts that unpalatable rightwing medicine requires a 'spoonful of sugar' to help it go down, just as Ronald Reagan prescribed so successfully. Cameron offers the sugar, Stelzer allows, but what of the medicine? Instead of the 'low tax, less regulation, unambiguous defence of the realm' from the Gipper's medicine cabinet he sees a drift back towards insidiously soft consensus:

'An ever expanding state; money taken from high earners, risk taking entrepreneurs and the hardworking middle classes to support that growing state... sympathy for measures that raise the cost of doing business, getting tough on the cops instead of the crooks, pushing green measures whether effective or not, sucking up to celebs-if that sort of consensus doesn't bring Britain down to the level of struggling European economies, I don't know what will.'

How long before such mumbling in the back rows begins to gather some force and be heard in the still jubilant front rows of the party? 'What is the point of being a Conservative'one can hear many a blue rinse matron complain, 'if all it does to get into power, is become indistinguishable from Blairite New labour?'

Something which George Osborne and Alan Duncan might finds takes the fizz out of their champagne mood since December 5th, is thae fact that a fair slice of the Conservative Party is still pretty Thatcherite and dead set against endorsing policies which their famously combative former leader dismissed contemptuously as 'wet'.

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