Thursday, August 30, 2007


Cameron Retreats to his Comfort Zone

I can't help but agree with Seumas Milne today that Cameron is clearly shifting rapidly to the right. It happened with Hague, with IDS and with Howard- all of whom knew they had to move into the centre to win votes-who all moved back towards the sainted tenets of Maggie, once the polls showed voters' credibility was being strained by the notion of 'compassionate Conservatism'.

Cameron has painted himself as a politician of the centre ground but only two years ago he wrote Michael Howard's manifesto emphasising immigration disguised within the cleverly insidious slogan:'Are you thinking what we're thinking?'. So we now see the pattern being repeated: Tories fear their core vote is beginning to crumble and so shift right to shore it up. Cameron must know this is directly opposite in the direction in which he must move to have any chance of winning power. But Gordon's bounce has unnerved them and Cameron is playing the immigration card.

To some extent I sympathize with those red in tooth and claw Conservatives. They must feel rather as I would as a Labour supporter if the government announced it was going to abolish the NHS: what would be the point of belonging to a party which was ripping up the key elements of its central beliefs? Cameron's problem is that he might have seen the need to change, but he is probably in a small minority. Milne quotes a 'veteran Blairite':

"His[Cameron's] instinct is right, but he's on his own, there's only a few of them committed to his project."

The other practical political point in Cameron's defence is that he cannot continue with his re-education of his troops from the disadvantage of a poll deficit. Blair enjoyed- probably thanks to Major's 'sleaze'- a healthy poll lead during his 'conversion' of his party to 'New' Labour and this bolstered the faith of the mainstream party, whilst restraining the ire of his Old Labour opponents.

I have always genuinely welcomed the Tory conversion to the centre ground-while deeply suspecting its validity-and just hope Cameron is 'feinting' to the right to recoup support lost to his right and that with unity restored, he will continue down the only road leading to electoral success for his party.

What strikes me most about the undoubted shift is not Redwood's report on deregulation, or the tighter (albeit woolly and obfuscated) stance on immigration (which was predictable, given the 2005 manifesto), or even the tenacious proposal to abolish inheritance tax.

Instead, most sriking is Cameron's obsession with families - and "strong families" at that. What is a strong family? My partner mentioned something about the Nazis' Aryan ideal. It's hyperbolic, but I'm inclined to agree.

To be fair, Cameron has banged on about families from the start. What's surpsising is that he's kept on banging on. He actually believes this stuff.

However, it's a mistake to call Cameron right-wing. He's something much worse: a Christian paternalist. He disguises his distrust of non-Christian cultures by using "careful language" (for which read obfuscation) and saying that immigration puts pressure on public services, and actively propounds that married parents are inherently better than non-married ones.
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