December 15, 2005

Stormy Seas for the Boy-King?

Here's some evidence that Helen's pessimistic take on the new British Conservative leader David Cameron may be prophetic. Will this lead to a walkout of the Eurosceptic activists into a new party? Premature speculation at this point, but the possibility can't be ignored.

One thing may prevent the emergence of what could essentially be a more telegenic John Major* is the emergence of a British blogosphere. The activist base now has better tools for self-organization, and this may make a difference from times past. We shall see.

Watson: John Major? Who was he?

Holmes: Exactly, Watson. You take my point.

Posted by James C. Bennett at December 15, 2005 06:21 PM


The link for evidence goes straight to the article citing it. This must be the definition of a circular argument.

Joking aside, I heavily suspect Cameron will be another non-descript Tory leader. It is worth remembering that the Republican Party elites wanted to stop Ronald Reagan because he was "unelectable", favouring Ford or Bush Snr (both one-termers).

As for Helen's point that he would win over the Lib Dem voters, I am not sure about that. The LDs are very good constituency MPs. People will only vote against them if one of the major parties offers something bold at a national level. I know this because I live in one of the Tory seats that went yellow (the Liberal's colour of choice for non-British readers).

Moreover, the reason the Conservatives had to campaign on negative issues is because they had no real positive reforms to offer. By avoiding debate on the way we deliver health and education, DC is cutting off our only positive issues.

I do really want to get behind the new Tory leader but I find it hard. I'm not partisan and I don't really care which party is in power so long as they espouse the right ideas. Frankly, Cameron doesn't deliver.

Posted by: mark at December 16, 2005 04:57 AM

I have every confidence that Cameron will deliver. His Shadow Cabinet appointments and pledge to withdraw from the EPP set a great tone whatever the communication otherwise.

I think we must be careful not to confuse the moralising right-wing that Thatcher espoused with the economic right-wing that Nick Boles espouses. I am a right-wing economic Tory and a left-wing social Tory (not left-wing, but left in the party on issues such as homosexuality and freedom of speech) and I think Cameron will suit those definitions of a modern Tory well.

Posted by: Gavin Ayling at December 16, 2005 01:44 PM


If I were a Tory member I would certainly be watching the EPP situation like a hawk. I am anyway, because of my eccentric belief that what happens to the UK is important to the US. Let's hope he delivers as promised.

It would be nice if he also delivered on the economic conservatism. However, I have a hard time seeing how he can keep the UK competitive interationally without confronting the issue of EU regulation. Certainly in the IT field I see the UK and Ireland growing less attractive as an area for operations year by year, and almost entirely because of EU regulation.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at December 16, 2005 04:43 PM

I predict he'll try and go the Ireland route - trying to boost the economy (or rescue it from Gordo) via free market mechanisms while promising to increase social spending, thereby outflanking Messr Blair's own parade.

I too have questions about his dedication to Atlanticism, but I have a feeling that he'll be eager to repair relations with the Republican Party Leadership, which may tip the balance in our favor.

Posted by: Anton Traversa at December 16, 2005 05:20 PM

For the moment the Boy-King is showing no signs of wanting to boost the economy using free-market mechanisms, so that prediction is more of an act of faith. Nor are his appoinments to the shadow front benches (far too many, making the "payroll vote" very bloated, and rather random) are anything to go by. The assumption is that they are largely temporary and will be changed in the next eighteen months or so, should the Boy-King survive that long.

Focusing on the whole EPP mess - not resolved yet, by the way, merely promised in ever more waffly fashion - at the expense of all other policies is a bit of a mistake in my opinion. There is more to Europe, an issue the Boy-King refuses to address, than the groupings in the European Parliament, of interest only to political nerds. (Yes, of course I am one of them.)

As for the Lib-Dim votes - I didn't say he will succeed in winning them, merely that this is avowed Tory policy, asserted by a number of the leading politicians in the party. Even it were successful, losing the core support would not give the right numbers. And, I agree, it is unlikely to be successful.

Posted by: Helen at December 17, 2005 05:13 PM

I went back and read the Pessimistic Take link, and everything Helen says is depressingly correct. Cameron is smug and shallow and has absolutely misread both the people who would like to vote Conservative and the entire political scene in Britain. He doesn't seem to understand what people loathe about Tony Blair, because he is smugly bruiting the same shallow idiocies around himself.

He thinks Conservative Britain wants more touchy-feelingness. It doesn't. It doesn't want Blairesque platitudes and hectoring. It wants to get out of the EU. It wants education improved so people of 17 aren't leaving school barely literate and barely numerate and utterly ignorant of their own country's history. Cameron is unforgivably smug if he cannot see this.

People want the public sector reduced and an end to ads in The Guardian for Real Nappy Coordinators and Street Football Coordinators - page after page of ads for toy jobs paid for out of the taxes paid by people with real jobs, who create the wealth of Britain.

I have read some of Cameron's speeches - or rather skimmed through them as he is not an inspired speaker - and he seems never to have met a normal person. The love-in at PMQ (Prime Minister's Questions) on his first time out was positively repulsive. I predict that at the next election, the Tories will stay firmly at home again.

Posted by: Verity at December 18, 2005 09:47 AM

The reason for focusing on the EPP issue as a metric is not that by itself it would be all that important (although it's worth comething) but that this is one of the very few things he has made an explicit promise about, and almost the only thing that it is in his power to do right now.

In other words, he's made a promise -- let's try holding him to it.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at December 18, 2005 11:42 AM
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