September 7, 2006


Follow the Leader: David Cameron is Tony Blair redux (Tim Luckhurst, 09.07.06, New Republic)

So is Blairism--the unthreatening blend of social justice, market economics, and Clintonite campaign sophistication that revived Labour after 18 years in opposition--now dead? Actually, no, but it has found a strange new home: Traditional Conservative politicians now say that that David Cameron is simply Blair by other means--a new Labour-style politician in a Tory blue rosette who is rescuing their party from the brink of irrelevance by ditching policies they revere.

Superficial parallels between Cameron and Blair are obvious. Like Blair when he took the Labour leadership in 1994, Cameron is young, telegenic, and happily married (to Samantha, a glamorous 34-year-old Baronet's daughter who is cool enough to sport an ankle tattoo). The Camerons have a young family, just as Tony and Cherie Blair did when they first entered Downing Street. And the comparisons extend to education. Blair went to Fettes (the so-called "Eton of Scotland"), and Cameron attended Eton itself. Both are Oxford graduates.

But the interchangeable resumes would not worry traditional Conservatives if it were not for the interchangeable politics. They recall that the prime minister rendered Labour electable by ditching decades of socialist commitments. Now, they complain, Cameron is repeating the trick by betraying the ideological legacy of their heroine, Margaret Thatcher. Cameron, for his part, does not deny his appetite for non-ideological centrist policy. He has told his party, "I want to switch on a whole new generation to the Conservative Party."

To switch a generation on to Labour, Blair defined himself as hostile to a raft of socialist policies, including increased taxation and public ownership. The prime minister quickly learned that standing in opposition to his party's established values enhanced his appeal to voters who perceived Labour as extremist. Cameron has learned the lesson. He seeks to exorcise the ghost of Thatcherism by drawing attention to his own rejection of comparable Conservative shibboleths.

In reality, both--as well as Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and W--are Thatcherites. Though it was difficult to perceive at the time, a couple hundred years from now, historians of the Anglosphere will write of Thatcherism as being far more revolutionary than Reaganism (*).

(*) In a perfectly fair world, Augusto Pinochet and the New Zealanders wopuld get credit for innovating the Third Way that Ms Thatcher adopted. We don't live in one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 7, 2006 1:05 PM

Really good post about this over at Samizdate.

...A couple of days ago some of Mr David Cameron's senior people (Oliver Letwin, David W. and so on) came out with a 'turning point' for the Conservative party, a major policy matter. This was to state that the Conservative party would commit itself to much more taxpayer's money for the 'public services' (i.e. the government education, health and welfare programmes). The "traditional Conservative hostility" to such things was wrong (although the idea that the Mrs Thatcher cut government spending is a myth - in reality its growth was just restrained, but even that is now considered a crime against humanity). Indeed it is "part of being human" to support government spending increases without limit - so anti-government types may look human, but we are really not human at all. Mr Cameron himself took time out from his trip to India to denounce the idea of tax cuts in an interview with BBC radio...

The rest can be found at

Posted by: BJW at September 7, 2006 1:29 PM

Of course being anti-government is anti-human. Government is human.

Posted by: oj at September 7, 2006 1:59 PM


So is the NY Yankees, but I don't approve of expanding that payroll, either.

Posted by: Mike Earl at September 7, 2006 2:49 PM

We'll reduce the payroll as we expand the government.

Posted by: oj at September 7, 2006 3:09 PM