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‘Dave’ Cameron has been very clear indeed

The Daily Telegraph ran a story titled Blow for Cameron as poll lead is slashed, with this as the leader article on the front page. However the analysis struck me as very strange indeed.

The poll will increase the pressure on Mr Cameron to use his conference, which opens in Bournemouth tomorrow, to counter charges that he is “all style and no substance”.

[...]

YouGov says that 54 per cent agree with the proposition that “it is hard to know what the Conservative Party stands for at the moment”, while 60 per cent agree that Mr Cameron “talks a good line but it is hard to know whether there is any substance behind the words”.

That makes little sense. Dave Cameron has been both consistent and explicit about what he stands for and anyone who thinks “it is hard to know what the Conservative Party stands for at the moment” must be hard of hearing. It stands for regulatory statism, high taxes and Euro-Federalism. In short, if you want to know what the ‘Conservative’ Party stands for under Dave Cameron, you have but to look at Britain for the last nine years under ‘Tony’ Blair. The Tory Party stands for continuity with Blair-ism, just with a fresh set of managers with their snouts in the trough hands on the helm.

If you like what Blairism (or ‘radical centrism’ if you like) has done to Britain but want a fresh Blairite in control, Dave Cameron has made it crystal clear that he is your man.

20 comments to ‘Dave’ Cameron has been very clear indeed

  • I wish that I could disagree. The hopes of all freedom-loving Brits ride on the leader of HM Opposition being as much a liar as the appalling man he’s trying to replace. That’s sad.

  • I think that the confusion on the part of the public is that most people are used to Tories being Thatcheresque heroes standing against the tide of creeping global government and nanny statism. That David Cameron belongs to the same party as Thatcher is as absurd as the idea that todays statism fanatic Republicans belong to the same party as Ronald Reagan.
    Under Reagan, I became a Young Republican in 1980 at the age of 12. By 24 I was a Libertarian, having experienced the inside of government via the USAF, and from the outside seeing Bush I’s miserable presidency. The Republican Party of today is unrecognisable compared to its 80′s counterpart, at that time so infused with Friedman, Rand, and Hayek in principle.
    Cameron is merely a British George Bush.

  • guy herbert

    We’ve rehearsed this enough, but I think you misunderestimate him.

    No British political party has a chance of government in the forseeable future, perhaps ever, offering policies or presentation that are anywhere near anti-statist enough for Samizdata writers or most of the commentariat. Viewed from a great distance they may look close together to you. But they aren’t. The culture of Tories and Labour could still not be more different. One is clearly preferable to the other.

    Policies, even in practice, do not matter much to the voter in modern democracy. Blair has run the most centralising, most bureaucratic, most regulating, most taxing, administration in British history (at least since Atlee). He has conducted a constitutional revolution. He has added more than half a million employees to the state payroll. He has created agencies full of commissars with arbitrary power to control established institutions. By the measure of actual policy, which bears little resemblance to political promises, this is a markedly more statist administration than Harold Wilson’s, in that it has done more to shift the balance of power towards the state. And still poll after poll has shown that the voter on average places him on the right, well to the right of his party, and somewhat to the right of the average voter.

    If Cameron wants to occupy that successful image and capture the heart of the voter, then fine. That’s actually his job. But if he is only as right-wing as the public thinks Tony Blair is, that would be a marked improvement. Even if he were more left-wing than the public thinks Tony Blair is, that might be an improvement (though nothing I know of him or his coterie suggests he is). It is inconceivable he – or any other PM for now – should be in the same position to drive to the left as Blair has. Should a Tory (implausibly) try it, his party would stop him. Should Gordon (say) try it, the voters would notice. And it is entirely possible that Cameron, having managed the Blair trick of seducing the voters will duplicate the Blair trick of governing and gallop unnoticed in the opposite direction.

    In short, he cannot be as bad as Blair – though being as bad as Blair would be an impossible act to follow – and that he looks like Blair to the dim punter really ought not to fool you.

  • Guy, I don’t think anyone here seriously expects any British political figure to be a full-on libertarian or a minarchist or even (in the current intellectual climate) a classical liberal.

    But, that said, is it too much to expect the leader of the opposition to at least make some stab at presenting a marginally different agenda from the one we have had to live with for the last decade?

    I suppose it is, sadly.

  • John K

    In short, he cannot be as bad as Blair

    I’ve heard of damning with faint praise, but that’s ridiculous.

    Anyhow, it is now reported that Dave saved Andrew Roberts from death at the tentacles of a poisonous jellyfish. The charge sheet just gets longer and longer.

  • Guy Herbert wrote:

    Policies, even in practice, do not matter much to the voter in modern democracy.

    I have some concern that this is because those who choose to vote for policies, rather than persons, have been lied to so much that they have become non-voting.

    Given that the Tories need to deliver to the polling booths those non-voters (rather than just those who have previously voted for New Labour), should they not consider carefully the size of these constituencies that might be persuaded to change their vote/non-vote to Tory?

    Blair has run the most centralising, most bureaucratic, most regulating, most taxing, administration in British history (at least since Atlee). …

    For the avoidance of doubt, and the fair attribution of responsibility, could we please make that Blair and Brown.

    Best regards

  • Where you are wrong Guy is that whilst Dave Cameron might not have introduced many of Blair’s policies himself, he has made it clear that he will not be a ‘new broom’ who will have the political will to take on the institutional power and vested interest of the countless state and quasi-state institutions that have grown under Blair. The Tories will not roll back the state one iota and (perhaps) the best that can be said about Cameron is that it will probably not grow much beyond it current entirely unacceptable level, though I fully expect a raft of new ‘green’ taxes under Cameron.

    I do not expect a libertarian revolution or even a return to Thatcherism. I could live (for now) with just a promise to return to levels of state intrusiveness pre-Blair. Cameron has made it very clear that is not on the cards. The institutions created by Blair will survive under Cameron and the message that there is only one set of political values (intrusive statist centrism) that are even up for consideration will be the settled reality upon which all ‘sensible’ political discussion is made.

    THAT is what makes Dave Cameron so toxic.

  • Midwesterner

    I think Mike has it.

    Expecting to hear one thing, then hearing something entirely different and unpleasant, a generous person’s first assumption is that there is a communication breakdown.

  • None of this makes any sense. Thatcher proved that if you enunciate principles unequivocally the people will follow. Camoron is the bugler sounding the uncertain cry….

  • Colin

    But surely you can be just a little bit pleased that he firmly said no to ID cards?

  • Colin,
    Hell, saying no to ID cards is supposed to be the left thing to do. Here in NH, when US Senator Gregg was asked by Bush to strongarm our state senators into killing our anti-REAL-ID bill, and he did it, we had unanimous support from the Dems for our bill. After the conference committee voted to accept the feds filthy lucre for REAL ID, it took Democratic Governor John Lynch to choose to refuse the funds and the program (who said that not a single governor in the US is for REAL ID).

    Now, the party of Reagan would have been adamantly opposed to REAL ID, as would the party of Thatcher to your own national ID program. That Cameron retains support for one issue in common with Thatcher is a rather thin area of overlap.

    niconoclast is correct here: he lacks significant support because he is a bodger of a bugler, and doesn’t have the courage to be a real Tory (just as whoever is running the Whigs is off on a moonbeam somewhere) . You need a new Great Communicator or Iron Lady (as we need one over here). The problem is the political process today drives such folks out.

  • Howard R Gray

    Debating the virtues, or lack of them, of the Cameron leadership is frankly, all but pointless, though very interesting. Dr Chris Tame is quite right, it will take more than a generation to change the course of the body politic. The very existence of Samizdata.net is an essential component of that process. I would like to thank those who run it. A daily read of it and the commentary makes dealing with the dross of party politics and Islamo loonies palatable. The future has to be ours, one dare not contemplate the alternative.

    On second thoughts, debating it isn’t pointless, it just depends on where you are debating it.

  • Derek Buxton

    The problem is that there is no debate except for blogs like this. Cameron has an agenda and it will not be good for this Country or it’s people. High taxation and high spending……. green taxes on top of everything else and so on. Meanwhile, defence and education will continue the downward spiral because he has had his education and knows nothing about the services. Strangely it does not seem to have taught him much. As to the EU, he’ll love it, all that lovelly money.

  • Derek Buxton

    The problem is that there is no debate except for blogs like this. Cameron has an agenda and it will not be good for this Country or it’s people. High taxation and high spending……. green taxes on top of everything else and so on. Meanwhile, defence and education will continue the downward spiral because he has had his education and knows nothing about the services. Strangely it does not seem to have taught him much. As to the EU, he’ll love it, all that lovelly money.

  • RAB

    Derek, what do you mean by
    “All that lovely money”
    It’s mainly Britain’s money that the goddam EU is spending now!

  • Ryan (Canada)

    Viewed from a great distance they may look close together to you. But they aren’t.

    Wrong! New Labour and the Conservative Party of Britain are so close ideologically that it’s harder and harder to tell the difference. Just look at this map of the two parties on the political compass. Looks like the best bet for an end to the police state is the Liberal Democrats, or even the Greens. I would love if more libertarians sided with the Greens and turned them into a coalition of pro-Freedom people. We can disagree on economics, but we need to work together to put a halt to the police state.

  • This ongoing argument by the Greens for Libertarians (who are the larger party), to subsume themselves to the Green Socialist agenda is one of a long running series of dialectical tactics in trying to peel off “useful idiots”.

  • Paul Marks

    What Guy Herbert seems unable to understand is that it is not possible for a Conservative party to campaign for statism (and yes Guy I will use the term) in opposition and not follow statism in office.

    In the late 1970′s Mrs Thatcher’s people did indeed mostly keep away from detailed policy (although some of them did not) – but the mood music was clear, roll back the state. This was in order to gradually get the British people used to the idea. These days just as many people understand that vast increases in government spending and taxes have failed as understood this in the late 1970′s.

    And yes it is true that Chancellor Howe greatly INCREASED taxes and spending (the spending by going along with Labour government promises made before the election and the taxes by such things as increasing V.A.T. from 8% to 15%) when the Conservatives came to power in 1979 (he is praised by Mr Cameron’s people for doing so).

    However, this was a terrible mistake – this (and the failure to do anything serious about labour market reform for the first few years of the Conservative party government) meant that Britian had the worst recession in the Western world and MILLIONS of people were tossed on to the scrap heap of unemployment.

    Confusing the success of the later years of Mrs Thatcher’s time in office with the policies of Howe (at the Treasury) and Prior (at the the Deparment of Employment) in the early years of the time Mrs Thatcher was in office (as if the latter laid the foundations for the former) shows that Mr Cameron’s people have about the same level of knowledge as the cats who shit in my back garden.

    The Conservatives were only saved from being turned out of office in 1983 by the Labour party going mad under Mr Foot (this was the period in which the Labour party campaigned to turn Britain into sort of Eastern European place) and the Falklands war (although, by 1983, Mrs Thatcher was starting to turn policy around).

    Anyway the policy line of Mr Cameron is plain. Taxes will go UP if this needed to finance the vast INCREASE in government spending the “Conservtatives” are planning (the Shadow Chancellor repeated this on Monday’s B.B.C. Radio 4′s “Today” programme. There will be no powers taken back from the E.U. (indeed even more power may be given, after a vote, to the E.U. – in spite of the fact that most new regulations are aleady E.U. orders now) – this was confirmed today (by nice Mr Hague)

    The idea that Mr Cameron and co will turn all this around in office is bullshit (see the Yale philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s essay “On Bullshit” for why it is correct to sometimes use this word).

    Mr Cameron is also a great liar. I do not know whether he really saved Andrew Roberts from the evil jelly fish or not – but it is odd that is similar to a story told about Mr Blair by his people (and comes out a couple of weeks after the death of the Australian Steve Irwin). However I do that he promised not to use his children for P.R. (especially the badly disabled son) and has broken his word again and again. And I know he promised (again and again) to take the Conservatives out of the European Peoples’ Party group – and has not done so.

    Take the “A list” – if Mr Cameron really wanted to increase the number of women or “ethnic minority” candidates he could have laid down “pick a women or an ethnic minority person – or both”. But he has an “A list” instead. In order to restrict the choice of candidates even more than it was restricted already. The “sex and race” thing is just a cover.

    As for “restoring honesty in public life” what about Mr Cameron’s time working for Mr Green at Carlton television “we are not using shareholders money to prop up On Digital, and if you report that we are I will have you sacked”.

    And what about appointing Francis Maude as Chairman of the Conservative party? Francis Maude is a liar and a crook – and everyone knows it.

    “But you see Paul, Mr Cameron and co being liars means they can turn things round in office” – no Guy, a liar is not the sort of person to start doing GOOD things when in office (a liar tends to be a BAD person).

    As for it being impossible for a Conservative party leader to be as bad as Mr Blair – this is also bullshit. See the record of Edward Heath. Price and wage controls, nationalization, vast increase in government spending, three day week, destruction of traditional counties that went back centuries, insane administrative reorganizations, ardent friendship with Mao at the time the Chinese Communists were murdering millions of people (Heath, unlike Nixon, was not doing this for tactical reasons – he was a great admirer of Mao, the greatest mass murderer of human history), and entry into the E.E.C. – now E.U.

    Rather worse that Mr Blair. And, of course, Mr Heath’s people were never really got rid of by Mrs Thatcher and some of them are still about, “Hezza” is in charge of urban policy, and “Ken” Clarke, a fanatical hater of the House of Commons and supporter of the E.U., is in charge of “strengthing democracy” especially the House of Commons – a nice touch of humour from Mr Cameron. Only last week Mr Cameron announced (flanked by “Ken”) that ways would be sought to strip Parliament of any power over the pay of M.P.s and to strip the elected government of any power over the honours system.

    Of course this will not mean that M.P.s are paid less (the “great and the good” are hardly going to decide that) and of course it will not be mean that the honours system is any better (it will just mean that there is no chance at all of any nonstatists getting an honour – for example no more of the sort of free market people that Mrs Thatcher sometimes put into the House of Lords).

  • Paul Marks

    Conservative party members tend to know everything I have said about Mr Cameron (and some of them know things I have not said).

    This is why there has been (according to Conservative H.Q. stats) a 10% decline in membership in the last six months or so and why only 1 in 4 bothered to vote on Mr Cameron’s statement of “principles”.

    The Conference (which ended a couple of hours ago) shows this again. Francis Maude (party Chairman) and Bernard Jenkin (who has taken a job in candidate selection in order, he says, to make the process slightly less disgusting than if it was totally left to Mr Cameron’s people – thus ignoring the fact that local Conservative party members should be the people picking candidates) were treated with contempt by the people who went to their meeting (see the report in “The Times” [of London] a couple of days ago).

    One only had to look at the despairing faces of the people who sat through Mr Cameron’s “big closing speech” to know that the party members understand the truth. Whenever they thought the television cameras were not on them, the members looked as if they wished the ground would open up and swallow them.

    “The old policies are not comming back” – Mr Cameron seemed to define the “old policies” as any real effort to control government spending or reduce taxes, so as these “old policies” are not comming back neither will the millions of people who used to vote Conservative and now sit at home (it is a myth that the Labour party vote went up – it is exConservative voters who stayed at home over the last few elections, because they correctly believed that the Conservatives could not be trusted on either taxes or on bringing powers back from the E.U.).

    So why the wild clapping?

    Tribalism – if Mr Cameron had said “gas everyone with blond hair” or even “one, two, three, four” there would still have been wild clapping. And members would have been found, for the B.B.C., after the speech saying how “caring” they thought the plan to gas the blond people (or whatever) was.

    Like association football club supporters tribal “Tories” will stay with the party regardless of how bad it is – they proved this with Edward Heath.

    But these group of tribal party members (who stay in for social reasons, because their friends are members, or for family reasons “my father and grandfather were members”) are not enough to win a General Election.

    Indeed they are the PROBLEM – for as long as people cling to “Cameron’s Conservatives” (as the new party blurb has it – as if Mr Cameron owned the party and the members members were his slaves) it will be hard to build a successful alternative to statism in Britian.

    If “Ken” Clarke had won the leadership election (perhaps by the M.P.s refusing to allow there to be more than one candidate put to the membership) most party members would have left at once and the Conservative party died on the spot – perhaps this would have been better.

    As I was active in the leadership campaign (although not nearly as active as I should have been) and (stupidly) regarded Mr Clarke as the main danger, I am partly to blame for the mess now (if only we had seen the danger of Mr Cameron and had attacked him from the start).

    What looks like happening is a long slow death for the Conservative party, rather than a quick (and humane) kill.

    Various Conservative party members (including a couple of M.P.s) have told me there is still hope – there is talk of photographs (of various drug and sexual activities) that will finish Mr Cameron. However, I do not believe it – if such evidence against him existed it would have already been made public.