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The next UK election and David Cameron February 25, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics.


Watching BBC4 tonight there was a repeat of Michael Cockerell’s Dave Cameron’s Incredible Journey.

It was actually pretty interesting, and I hadn’t caught it the first time around. With a near instinctive aversion to the Conservative Party but a long term interest in party politics the actual process by which Cameron came to power and his near fanatical desire to avoid the mistakes of his predecessors made for some intriguing television.

I can’t tell whether his rise is a case of style over substance. I’m still not as impressed by his near unscripted speech to last years party Conference as I’m apparently meant to be. I’ve said this before that it’s hardly unheard of for public speakers to manage that particular trick. And it’s a bit like a magician. To know the trick is to have it spoiled. Moreover on the policy front I genuinely can’t see what the fuss is about. He appears a trifle more emollient in his use of language, which I suppose is some sort of an improvement. But, he remains, for all the spinning, a fairly typical Conservative. As the BBC piece above notes:

To attract mainstream voters, he deliberately stopped talking about traditional Tory issues – like immigration, Europe and cutting taxes – and he started talking about education and health and especially the environment.

Hilton came up with a classic political rebranding slogan: ‘Vote blue, go green’.

The Tory leader and his spinmeister used the most graphic images to get their message across: hence hug-a-huskie and hug-a-hoodie.

Perhaps it is churlish, or simply stupid, to expect better, but it really does seem to be the definition of manipulative. And it’s most curious considering we’ve just seen off ten years or so of precisely that sort of stuff, to see potentially another ten years of it, and as Cockerell notes: David Cameron is a child of the media. He spent much of his early career as a PR man for a TV company and advising top Tories on presentation. Still, one thing that really fascinated me was the roundup at the end when various figures who had been interviewed throughout were asked whether he would be Prime Minister. It really seemed to divide 50:50 with clear antagonists such as Kelvin MacKenzie and Simon Heffer absolutely convinced he wouldn’t be while Michael Portillo seemed to think it might take another election or so before he would make it.

I find this interesting, if only because I had thought, considering the series of recent polls, that the Conservatives were doing rather well. This pessimism – which may indeed be well founded – was something of a surprise. What do others think?


1. smiffy - February 25, 2008

I didn’t see much of this, but caught a couple of snippets (the stuff with Simon Heffer, mostly). What was fascinating was the way in which both the criticism and the praise of Cameron parallels that heaped upon Blair just after he assumed the leadership of Labour.

We had Heffer complaining about Cameron abandoning the core Tory vote, focussing the party on trying to capture floating voters. This group, Heffer suggested, would prefer a genuine centre-left party to a party trying to appear centre-left. Similar to the left-wing criticism of Blair for moving Labour to the right at the expense of the concerns of Labour traditionalists?

By the same token, Portillo noted that Cameron’s strategy had been to move away from policies traditionally associated with the Tories, like immigration and Europe and took up non-traditional issues such as transport and health. Shades of the Blair strategy of prioritising crime, community, the economy and other issues the Tories tended to be seen as strong on?

Of course, the parallels only go so far. Blair took over a party which was already headed towards an electoral victory (although the extent of that victory may not have been quite as dramatic) and in opposition to a Conservative party in meltdown since Black Wednesday and tearing itself apart over sleaze, sex and Europe. Cameron, effective as he might be, has a far greater mountain to climb if he’s to be the Conservative Blair, rather than the Conservative Kinnock.


2. CL - February 25, 2008

Cameron has hailed Britain’s NHS as one of the great achievements of the 20th century and has promised to fully fund it. He appears to have stolen some social democratic clothes from the Labour Party and perhaps the electorate will opt for the real thing rather than the Tory imitation. Social democracy in the area of health provision has triumphed in the U.K. (a cheer or two for Clement Atlee). But in Ireland and the U.S. its still an area of contestation, due to weakness of the left.


3. WorldbyStorm - February 25, 2008

It is astounding how closely Cameron appears to parallel Blair, and as you say smiffy, even or perhaps particularly, in the nature of the attacks on him. But reading between the lines I take it then that you’re suggesting (indeed as CL sort of does too) that the Conservatives are far from a shoo in and are likely to lose?


4. smiffy - February 25, 2008

Far from a shoo-in, I’d say definitely. I think ‘likely to lose’ might be too strong. At this stage, it’s too early to do anything more than guess wildly, but if I had to put money on it, I’d say that Labour will retain its majority, but only barely. Whether that would mean that Labour will find itself as hemmed in as Major’s government did in the latter years of its term remains to be seen, though. Not a win for the Conservatives, but not a huge loss either.


5. Craig - February 26, 2008

Apparently a recent poll gives the Tories an 11% lead. If the election were held tomorrow, they would probably win.


6. WorldbyStorm - February 26, 2008

Interesting isn’t it how previous history, i.e. Labour in 1992 has made everyone very hesitant about predicting a positive outcome for the Tories… poll leads not withstanding.


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