Monday, October 02, 2006


Core Conservatives Don't Accept Cameron in their Hearts

Two articles in my daily newsheet today illustrate the extraordinary fluidity of current politics and the strangeness of the times we live in. Max Hastings asserts 'Cameron knows that Britain is a social democratic country. Only a catastrophe will make it anything else in the foreseeable future.' Max reflects that some elements in Dave's party refuse to fall in line, mentioning the frothing Tebbit, Simon Heffer, Charles Moore and John Redwood who 'has broken away from the the kindly attendants in white coats who accompany him through public life.' These elements he sees as 'baying for raw meat, blood on the carpet, gibbets at Westminster'.

Hastings thinks Cameron's current struggle with his party will be 'decisive for his own future, warning that if he allows himself to be turned by, for example, the No Turning Back Group, 'he will merely become the Tories' fourth losing leader in a row.' Dave will no doubt have this in mind when he deals with those importunate elements in his own party who yearn for tax cuts and a return to Thatcherite certainties.

Meanwhile Jackie Ashley, observes 'Labour pitching its appeal to the centre right' with overtones of 'new immigration controls and an even tougher crackdown on terrorists, hoodies and the workshy.' Strange times indeed. But it is worth reflecting that 'New Labour', a project conceived and created in the latter period of Neil Kinnock's reign, has never really won the heart of party members; rather it has been adopted as an expedient to win back power in the hope that it doesn't really mean what it appears to say.

Blair used to reply to criticism of his proposed New Labour reforms with the words, 'It's even worse than they think, I actually believe in all this'. I suspect the Conservative core vote, still sceptical and still fundamentally 'nasty', will do something similar with Cameron. He seems to be an election winner and as such deserves some standing ovations; but has he won their hearts? Or will he ever? I don't think so.

I can see why people do it, but I think that drawing such parallels between Blair and Cameron grossly overestimate the Tory leader. The Conservatives have yet to have a clearing of the air or clause four moment. Cameron's Conservatism, apparently embodied in Built to Last, has had too easy a ride and remains untested.
Agree basically. The Built to Last 'consultation' was like asking people if they like being happy.
I agree it's far from clear yet if Cameron has the political skills (or stamina) to match Blair but the point is the task facing Cameron is of a different order to that facing Blair 10-12 years ago.

The depth of change Blair had to bring about in the Labour movement (usually symbolised by the 'clause 4' moment) was far greater than the one Cameron is trying to effect with the Tories. Thatcher shifted our political centre of gravity to the right so while Blair may have been trying to hold true to his principles he was essentially forced to abandon specific policy positions which were almost totemic for Labour and had been so for 90+ years (nationalised industry, disarmament etc).

Cameron on the other hand certainly has a job to do in wrestling the party away from the Thatcherite tendency but 30 years ago that tendency didn't exist and he's essentially only trying to return the Conservatives to their One Nation / Paternalistic roots (albiet with slicker PR). There's a significant wing in the Tory party who were always sceptical of Thatcher's fetishisation of the market and sat far to her left - there was never a long-standing wing of the Labour party aching for market reform so where Cameron represents a re-established connection with an older existing wing ofhis party Blair was completely new.

Labour moved significantly to right and accepted they had lost the main economic arguments of the 80's - hence clause 4. The Tories now have a small leftwards adjustment to make and a big overhaul in presentation.
Yes, think you're right on this; less of a mountain for Cameron than faced Blair at a comparable stage in his career. Thanks for the point(which I'll probably drop into my Weds class tomorrow, though not unacknowledged of course).
Cassilis, Skipper

I disagree. I think in their own way the Tory party has an equally long way to go, to get back to the centre, as Labour did. Both the Tory membership and the leadership are unsure of this journey as both have an innate dislike of the people they will have to represent. They only thing they have in common with the journey Labour made is that the membership and leadership of both parties have to be pragmatic and swallow the pill of moderation or continue to be in the political wilderness. Although in the case of the Tory party, I hope it leads them to more in-fighting and division.
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