Monday, 25 August 2008

The Blue Terror

Oh, if there is one thing I don't like about human nature, it is tribalism. I try to avoid it where it exists in politics: red, yellow, blue, or green; dogged loyalty and occasionally the sort of blind hate for 'the other side' that one would more usually associate with football hooligans.

And yet, and yet. I am getting the fear about David Cameron in a big way. I tell myself that anyone who goes into politics has to be doing it motivated by something good and laudable - a desire to fix something broken. After all, that is how politics has been sold to us ever since I've been old enough to take any notice - the age-old technique of creating a problem and offering a solution, from advertising geniuses to masters of spin in a generation. Maybe I'm being naive in swallowing it. Maybe not everyone in the game has altruistic motives.

Johann Hari is using his column in the Independent this week to give us some chilling pointers about the current Conservative leader's attitude, drawn from that series of interviews published recently by the editor of GQ magazine. And when you consider that this book is clearly meant to be a wholly positive portrait of a great social reformer, who in his own words "ought to be Prime Minister", it's disturbing to see that even here, if you're looking as hard as Hari is, you can see the cracks in Cameron's caring, sharing facade.

What cracks they are, too. Cameron's desired image to "be as radical a social reformer as Mrs Thatcher was an economic reformer" is like crazy paving. Most people who have seen the breaking story have noted the cynical hypocrisy in his holidaying habits this summer: inviting the media to watch him treat his family to a traditional holiday in Cornwall to show solidarity with hard-pressed 'ordinary' folks, then slyly swanning off to a luxury yachting trip on the Turkish riviera. But how many have picked up on the things he has said publicly that show what a huge sham his 'liberal Conservative' ethos really is?

Some excerpts from Johann's column:

    He would stop the £40-a-week given to poor students to stay on to sixth form.

    He will whittle down services largely for the children of single parents – SureStart, Family Credit – to pay for tax breaks for wealthier married couples. He is, Jones notes, a "huge fan" of the Wisconsin model of welfare reform, which cuts off single mothers from benefits for life after two years – whether they are prepared to work or not.

Hardly the model of social conscience there, David.

    He tells Jones he first became alerted to the urgency of [global warming] by Margaret Thatcher in 1989. But why then was he silent about it for the next 16 years, except to mock wind farms as "giant bird-blenders" and demand "a massive road-building program?"

    He delivers a Clarkson-style rant against the pedestrianisation of city centres.

What happened to "Vote Blue, Go Green"?

Almost three years ago, just two days after Cameron became leader of the Conservative party, Johann Hari wrote a compelling piece for political history buffs, in which he asserted that although David Cameron was using Disraeli's rhetoric of One Nation Conservatism, he was actually more in the mould of Lord Sainsbury, the man who "made the Conservatives into a tireless defender of the overdog". I don't think much has changed, but unfortunately I don't share Hari's optimism. This week's column is titled "Cameron is wily but he's beatable". I fear that because of the woefully unhelpful two-party mentality that this country wallows in, Cameron is destined to become Prime Minister at the next general election simply because they are seen as the people to beat the Labour party that the electorate are so tired of. And it scares me.


Laurence Boyce said...

"Most people who have seen the breaking story have noted the cynical hypocrisy in his holidaying habits this summer: inviting the media to watch him treat his family to a traditional holiday in Cornwall to show solidarity with hard-pressed 'ordinary' folks, then slyly swanning off to a luxury yachting trip on the Turkish Riviera."

Yes, and many people have also sadly noted Liberal Democrats buying into this dismal Daily Mirror narrative hook line and sinker. As far as I'm concerned, Cameron can do whatever he likes for his hols. I hope he had a great time.

Steph Ashley said...

Laurence: yes well, I'm none too keen on those low-on-substance 'opposition watch' type blog pieces myself. I merely mentioned it as the most publicly-noted (but totally least significant) of examples of where he says one thing and then does another. I thought it led nicely in to the more frightening areas where it is becoming clear that what he would do in power is so at odds with the image he tries to present in opposition to make himself attractive to the electorate.

jamesshaddock said...

'who in his own words "ought to be Prime Minister"'

As someone once said to me at one of my first Lib Dem events

'Anyone who wants to be Prime Minister is exactly the sought of person who should never be Prime Minister'

Steph Ashley said...

Great minds, James... that very thought flashed through my mind as I typed the words, but I left them out as my appalling sentene structure couldn't stand it. That paragraph was already riddled with commas!

Nick Tregoning said...

Never mind about the 'What Dave (or must we call him David again now that his man of the people persona has been safely put to bed?) did on his holidays' malarkey; was his habit of being tracked by a chauffeur-driven Lexus when he was cycling through his green phase all got up by the nasty media too? The Cameron we 'see' is a PR creation.
If you want an idea of his likely political direction, read the last Tory general election manifesto. He wrote most of it.

By Charlotte Gore said...

To be honest I'm finding myself quite relieved that the cracks are beginning to show in The Cameron Machine.

Most of my life I've been about 12 months ahead of the 'swing voter' curve, finding that opinion polls tend to represent my opinions from the year before, and having been quite positive about Cameron at the very beginning - welcoming the change in focus and direction for the Conservative party - my opinion is once again hardening against the Tory party now they've dispensed with any hints at liberalism.

I really don't think they've actually got any solutions that I care for (stamp duty? married person's allowance? I mean, really!). An increase in Daddy State preaching is the very last thing we need as an antidote to Labour's Nanny State moralising.

It's not really a surprise that most people simply couldn't give two hoots either way - those that care want Labour out on General Principle (quite rightly) but I suspect the only real outcome is that the Tories will tear themselves to pieces in about 5 years, and even less people will vote at the next General.

And, if opinion polls a year from now continue to reflect my current opinions, expect things to be a *lot* closer, with the Lib Dems doing quite well lol