May 2, 2005


TONY AND TORIES: A little excitement on the way to Blair's third term (John O'Sullivan, May 9, 2005, National Review)

It was very possible, indeed easy, to spend a recent Sunday afternoon walking around west London without ever bumping up against the May 5 election campaign. It was a warm, sunny, and wind-free day. London positively glittered with prosperity. Half of the world seemed to be on vacation here. And I would hazard that more people were interested in the report that, according to 500 international chefs polled by Restaurant magazine, London now has more world-class restaurants than Paris and New York combined than in the IMF's criticism of Britain's budgetary "black hole."

Britain has now enjoyed uninterrupted economic growth for 13 years — and economic growth in 21 out of the last 23 years in all. It shows not only in the capitalist sheen of renovated London, with its biscuit-colored buildings that used to be black, but also in public attitudes. Politics is less important in people's lives. They look more to work, enterprise, education, and their own efforts for prosperity.

Insofar as they consider politics, they credit Labour with the good performance of the economy. That is not exactly false, but it is vastly oversimplified. The last recession ended in 1992, when the Tories had five years more to go in office. Britain's long-run economic recovery is the result of the Thatcherite reforms of the 1980s, the fiscal stabilization introduced by Tory chancellor Norman Lamont in 1992, and Labour chancellor Gordon Brown's granting of independence to the Bank of England in 1997. In that order of importance. Whatever the economics, however, the politics favor Labour, which now enjoys a 20-point lead over Michael Howard's Tories on the question of economic competence. That is a disastrous reversal for the Tories, who had hitherto been regarded as the "sound economy" party. [...]

A second cluster of issues that might have been expected to influence the election includes immigration, crime, and the cultural transformation of Britain. Opinion polls show unmistakably that the Blair government is vulnerable on these issues and that Tory policies — for instance, more effective control of immigration — have overwhelming popular support. Events have come to the Tories' aid as well: The case of an Algerian terrorist who killed a policeman after twice escaping deportation seems to support the Tory claims that crime is rising and the immigration system is in chaos. Even the media have helped by treating the Tory policies as "controversial" and thus keeping them, rather than health and education, on the front page.

Some Tories are despondent because none of this has produced much movement in the polls. If anything, there has been a slight movement toward Labour. Such a reaction is premature: Polls may not tell the full story, especially on issues such as crime and immigration. First of all, where the media and other cultural institutions all send out the message that support for immigration control is "racist" or "nativist," respondents are likely to keep their opinions to themselves. In recent elections, moreover, the Tories have significantly outperformed the polls. Second, the populist Tory pitch for "more police" or "controlled immigration" runs up against the fact that in recent years traditional institutions have been colonized by political correctness. "More police" was a better slogan when the police were tough on criminals and respectful to the middle class. Today, it sometimes seems as if the cops have reversed those attitudes. So the Tories have to persuade the voters that they really mean it — that they will embark on a much broader reform program of restoring common sense to the public sector rather than simply hiring more "police community coordination officers."

Such a broad reform program, however, would require serious intellectual investment in both shaping new policies and transmitting them to the voters — and not just on crime, immigration, and cultural change. What has handicapped the Tories is not the vigorous populist campaign they have been waging in recent weeks — that's the Left's self-serving analysis — but their timidity over policy formation in the last eight years.

On the central election issues of the economy and public spending, their policy has been scarcely distinguishable from Labour's.

The GOP grasped whjat the Tories seemingly can't, that in the midst of twenty-five year economic expansions you turn to cultural issues to win elections. The President's first acceptance speech was especially profound in this regard, Governor George Bush's Acceptance Speech (Republican National Convention, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Thursday, August 3, 2000):
This is a remarkable moment in the life of our nation. Never has the promise of prosperity been so vivid. But times of plenty, like times of crisis, are tests of American character.

Prosperity can be a tool in our hands -- used to build and better our country. Or it can be a drug in our system -- dulling our sense of urgency, of empathy, of duty.

Our opportunities are too great, our lives too short, to waste this moment.

So tonight we vow to our nation ...

We will seize this moment of American promise.

We will use these good times for great goals.

We will confront the hard issues -- threats to our national security, threats to our health and retirement security -- before the challenges of our time become crises for our children.

And we will extend the promise of prosperity to every forgotten corner of this country.

To every man and woman, a chance to succeed. To every child, a chance to learn. To every family, a chance to live with dignity and hope.

For eight years, the Clinton/Gore administration has coasted through prosperity.

And the path of least resistance is always downhill.

But America's way is the rising road.

This nation is daring and decent and ready for change.

Our current president embodied the potential of a generation. So many talents. So much charm. Such great skill. But, in the end, to what end? So much promise, to no great purpose.

Little more than a decade ago, the Cold War thawed and, with the leadership of Presidents Reagan and Bush, that wall came down.

But instead of seizing this moment, the Clinton/Gore administration has squandered it. We have seen a steady erosion of American power and an unsteady exercise of American influence.

Our military is low on parts, pay and morale.

If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report ... Not ready for duty, sir.

This administration had its moment.

They had their chance. They have not led. We will.

This generation was given the gift of the best education in American history. Yet we do not share that gift with everyone. Seven of ten fourth-graders in our highest poverty schools cannot read a simple children's book.

And still this administration continues on the same old path with the same old programs -- while millions are trapped in schools where violence is common and learning is rare.

This administration had its chance. They have not led. We will.

America has a strong economy and a surplus. We have the public resources and the public will -- even the bipartisan opportunities -- to strengthen Social Security and repair Medicare.

But this administration -- during eight years of increasing need -- did nothing.

They had their moment. They have not led. We will.

Our generation has a chance to reclaim some essential values -- to show we have grown up before we grow old.

But when the moment for leadership came, this administration did not teach our children, it disillusioned them.

They had their chance. They have not led. We will.

And now they come asking for another chance, another shot.

Our answer?

Not this time.

Not this year.

This is not a time for third chances, it is a time for new beginnings. The rising generations of this country have our own appointment with greatness.

It does not rise or fall with the stock market. It cannot be bought with our wealth.

Greatness is found when American character and American courage overcome American challenges.

When Lewis Morris of New York was about to sign the Declaration of Independence, his brother advised against it, warning he would lose all his property.

Morris, a plain-spoken Founder, responded ... "Damn the consequences, give me the pen." That is the eloquence of American action.

We heard it during World War II, when General Eisenhower told paratroopers on D-Day morning not to worry -- and one replied, "We're not worried, General ... It's Hitler's turn to worry now."

We heard it in the civil rights movement, when brave men and women did not say ... "We shall cope," or "We shall see." They said ... "We shall overcome."

An American president must call upon that character.

Tonight, in this hall, we resolve to be, not the party of repose, but the party of reform.

We will write, not footnotes, but chapters in the American story.

We will add the work of our hands to the inheritance of our fathers and mothers -- and leave this nation greater than we found it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 2, 2005 12:04 PM

May 5 is coming up awfully soon...let's pray there's no Madrid pre-election plans in the works.

Posted by: b at May 2, 2005 5:56 PM