Slugger O'Toole

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Can Cameron get beyond “jejune policy and serial incoherence”?

Tue 8 May 2012, 10:18am

I offer this as an addendum to Turgon’s piece… First, Matthew Parris in the Times on Saturday…

To Mr Cameron’s critics first. Spare us, please, every sentence with the words, “bedrock”, “core”, and “traditional supporters”, abiding values or “traditional conservatism” in it. What do these words mean – what in terms of doable legislation that this government is not already enacting or committed to?

Many of the opinions or attitudes we are won’t to attribute to “core Tory supporters” are simply the unforgiving and sometimes ill-thought-through attitudes of the majority of voters, Consrvative, Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrat alike: attitudes that politicians of all those parties have to respect, but warily, and up to a point.

Phrases like “Northern voters” or “core Conservative voters” are really ciphers for something that is not tied to region or or party: populism. Populism, like the sea, has to be navigated: it cannot be swallowed whole. Mr Cameron would be unwise to allow this week’s drubbing to beat him back to some imagined Tory heartland. These simplicities are not available; they belong to a century that has passed. [Emphasis added]

Well, maybe. He goes on to warn Labour not to think (as some do of Francois Hollande’s victory in France, that all is forgiven and socialism can now come home [Like Trotsky's coming home in Greece? - Ed]…  But from a guy who’s sympathy has always transparently (and mostly intelligently) been pro Cameron, his message is a somewhat sparse: “Common sense is a coherent strategy. Moderation is a belief”.

In the Telegraph Iain Martin clears his throat by putting the blame on the distraction of holding together a coalition, but then more surgically points the finger directly at the Chancellor:

…who loves nothing more than discussing strategy, was fond until recently of saying to colleagues that, for the Tories “the economics are terrible, but the politics are great”, meaning that even though the economy is in the doldrums, there is no sign that the party’s opponents are capable of exploiting the situation. Thanks to recent events, both the economics and the politics are now terrible.

The opposition bounce, which we’ve not seen since before Blair, is clearly worrying for the Tory PM, who is not, and perhaps never wanted to be, captain of his own ship.  But Martin is on to to something here. One largely non political friend noted a couple of years back that one of the Cameron Conservative’s biggest problems is that if they do understand macro economics they are very poor at articulating it.

They may also be experiencing a degree of cognitive dissonance between the story they used to defenestrate Gordon Brown, “it’s all his fault” with the intractable reality that it was the micro shredding of debt was behind Britain’s “non boom” and since 2007 has given rise to a “not quite bust”…

By way of trying to indicate a way forward, Matthew d’Ancona in the Sunday Telegraph pinpoints reasons for Boris’s counter cyclical victory in London (albeit by a much closer margin than predicted):

Boris is cited as a noble example of how to stick to “core Tory values” instead of wasting time on trendy causes.

The Mayor is indeed a Conservative to his finger-tips. But he also banned an anti-gay bus advert in London last month. And as for greenery: he was hugging huskies, metaphorically speaking, long before the Cameroons. As Mayor, he has pursued a plethora of programmes to encourage bike-riding, sustainability, the reduction of carbon emissions, and recycling.

As long as I have known him, he has argued passionately that Tories need to make liberal Conservatism palatable to ethnic minorities, women and the less affluent. I suspect his Wodehousian hackles would rise at the label of “moderniser”. But neither is he a desiccated, Gradgrindian Right-wing ideologue, grumbling about Polly Toynbee over his bar charts.

I’m pretty sure Gradgrind would have signed up to the Whigs rather than the Tories of the time.  Though to hear most post Thatcher Tories, you might struggle to believe it. Ironically, from an historical point of view, it’s the reason the Cameroons found the company of modern day Liberal Democrats so much more convivial than having to deal with their own backwoodsmen.

Except Boris, has virtually no power, nor any real responsibility. Nothing went substantially wrong on his watch, despite Ken’s best efforts to suggest otherwise. And the offer of a dozen more Boris’s was firmly rejected in most of the big cities (with the exception of Edmund Burke’s old one term haunt, Bristol) that were offered one.

One fears that Mr Cameron, now in office, is simply going to suffer the fate of all those in charge as the system crashes and fall foul of the same capricious fate it appears awaits all political incumbents when, as Yeats famously wrote, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”

“Mr Milliband, are you ready for your close up?”

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Comments (2)

  1. Mick. Up until the budget it was considered unthinkable that the LDs would cut the feet from under the tories since the theory went that Cameron would then be returned with a comfortanble majority and LDs would be pulverised, but now it’s no longer far fetched that Clegg could cut and run as Labour would replace [in spite of Miliband]the coalition in Power again. I don’t think this term will now run to 2015 any longer Cameron has been found out.

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  2. Greenflag (profile) says:

    With the UK in recession again and projections for increasing unemployment for the next 5 years Mr Cameron is going only one way and that’s out of office -The Lib Dems will be FF’ed and Labour have no answers . Banksters rule will continue until feudalism is restored .

    The Conservative ‘con game ‘ is coming to an end.

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