The Re-Toxification of David Cameron

by George_East on May 9, 2012

David Cameron was supposed to be a different kind of Tory.  One who had learnt the lessons of three election defeats.  One who knew that Theresa May’s description of the party as the ‘nasty party’ resonated because it was fundamentally true.   He wanted to position himself as the ‘heir to Blair’ and paint Gordon Brown as outside of the mainstream of British politics.

This was, as Ray North noted on Sunday, always bullshit, but the typically credulous British media bought it because David Cameron had a very different demeanour to Michael Howard, Iain Duncan Smith, William Hague and Margaret Thatcher.  He came across, as a result of a carefully managed PR offensive, as caring and compassionate in the way his predecessors did not.  But unlike Blair , David Cameron never made his own party tackle their own prejudices and preconceptions.  He never had his ‘Clause 4’ moment.

The true test of whether a politician is really of a ‘different kind’ to what  went before is what they do in a crisis.  This is when their true instincts are likely to be revealed.  It was the financial crisis which first demonstrated the lie that David Cameron was a different kind of Tory.   As soon as it  occurred, the Conservative Party reverted to failed Thatcherite supply side shrink the state nostrums, even though the problem was a lack of demand.   This of course was not something which the Westminster Village noticed, they bought into the necessity of austerity economics and it became conventional wisdom.  Disastrous conventional wisdom.

However, the crisis that has been washing over this government since George Osborne’s gob-smackingly inept budget (the one that David Laws described as ‘a strategic masterstroke’) has served to emphasise the true David Cameron.   Under pressure from his own right wing (the part of the  party that lost the Tories elections in 2001 and 2005), he has rather than faced them down, shown himself to be one of their number

There have been three examples in the last few days.  Firstly, in the wake of the Tories mauling in the local elections, David Cameron penned an article for the Daily Telegraph in which he said this:

“I loathe with a passion the bankrupt, high-taxing, something for nothing society left behind by Labour, and I am in politics to change it.”

No attempt to woo back the voters who backed Blair here  and voted Tory  or failed to turn out for Labour in 2010 – instead a simple and purely ideological disavowal of the New Labour years.  The emphasis is squarely on reducing taxes.

The second came in the ridiculous Basildon Factory Dave and Nick show yesterday in which David Cameron said in response to a question about the direction of government economic policy from the BBC’s Nick Robinson: ‘you call it austerity, I call it efficiency’.    This is a fundamental and revealing shift in the government’s position on their austerity measures, which has hitherto been sold (dishonestly) as a series of necessary if painful policies to clear up the mess that Labour left behind.   Nick Clegg obviously wasn’t on the circulation list for the memo, because he was still whittering on about the government having no choice and it not being ideological.   The clear implication of Cameron’s comment is that the policies are just about economic efficiency.  Austerity is not a policy that has been forced on a reluctant government but is a prudent economic choice that should always be pursued.

Finally, we have today’s interview in the Daily Mail (I’m not going to link to it, if you have the stomach for it, it is easy enough to find).   In the interview he disavows much of the approach of the coalition, blaming its mealy mouthed centrism on Nick Clegg’s baleful influence.  Without the Lib Dems, David Cameron makes it clear he would be pursuing a right wing Conservative agenda, including the abolition of the Human Rights Act, ‘reform of workplace rights’ (for which read implementation of the Adrian Beecroft report which proposed the effective abolition of all substantive employment protections) and ‘support for marriage’.

All this has revealed for those who have not previously noticed is that David Cameron is just a second rate Margaret Thatcher in the disguise of a third rate Tony Blair.

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