December 4, 2005


Try winning for a change (IAIN MARTIN , 12/04/05, Scotland on Sunday)

[T]here is about this week's result, if it goes as widely expected and as polls predict, a wholly different feel from any Tory leadership election since 1997. They look set to elect a leader who may not be a total dud in the eyes of the electorate and who might, just might, recast his party and make it to No 10 in the next decade. The climate has changed, a new era begins. [...]

He moves into the second phase, which can be summarised as making enough of Britain warm to him as a man of sound instincts. This is where his refusal to commit himself to on-the-spot policy makes sense. Instead he emphasises his character and judgment. The voter wanting to ditch Blair, but still wary of the Tories, might be tempted to reconsider if they trust and respect the man delivering the message.

If he is still standing by that point, he can put together a coherent policy programme which emphasises sensible reform of the public services and the tax and benefits system. Swing voters might tolerate radical ideas from a man who has established himself as likeable and a winner.

However, it is one of the oddest aspects of this 214-day-long Tory race that suspicion of Cameron is greatest among many of his own MPs and others on the right in think-tanks and the media. It might be thought an exciting moment in recent British political history: the Tories are about to elect their first leader in opposition who stands a chance of winning, but the spirit is one of distrust and nervousness. "What on earth does he believe in?" an academic of note, with impeccable free-marketeering credentials, asked me in London.

Cameron appears to believe, like Tony Blair before him, that there is not much point in being ideologically pure if you lose every election. In the 1980s it was the left who demanded purity, now it is the right.

It's a cliché, because it's true, that politics is the art of the possible. So, while David Cameron might not be able to deliver, right now, stage two of the Thatcherite revolution, he might have the potential to deliver 50% of it if he gets into power.

All of this is dismissed by some Conservative MPs as a sell-out. Opposition has provided a comfort zone for many - leaving them able to attack Blair but forgetting that Margaret Thatcher was quite a pragmatist in her own way. "It is historical amnesia," says an MP close to Cameron, who goes on to point out correctly that the right's heroine did not stand on a platform of privatisation and ultra-radical reform in 1979. If she had, she might well have lost.

It has to be comforting to Mr. Cameron to know that he's most hated by the Right, like President Bush, and as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair are most hated by the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 4, 2005 9:20 AM

Orrin, You've made this point before. What on earth makes you say Clinton is hated by the left? He's adored by the media and held up as an icon by his party.

Posted by: erp at December 4, 2005 2:08 PM


Posted by: oj at December 4, 2005 2:14 PM

Round the four corners of the globe.

Posted by: erp at December 4, 2005 5:28 PM

Dems love Bill Clinton, OJ, it's the DLC they abhor.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 4, 2005 9:22 PM

What DLC? As soon as he was goine they reverted to liberal form.

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2005 9:50 PM

I take your point about Clinton (although it is increasingly clear that much of the hard left is basically agnostic about him), but it's a stretch to say that even Pat Buchanan "hates" George Bush more than Robert Scheer, Molly Ivins, Mary Mapes, Paul Krugman, Jonathan Chait, Chris Matthews, or Markos Moulitsas.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 5, 2005 12:49 AM

No, Pat loves him, but can't acknowledge it. It's the nativist/libertarian crowd that really hates him.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2005 7:53 AM