Friday, December 09, 2005

David Cameron: the right wrong man?

Anatole Kaletsky: The Tories have chosen the right man – and what a disaster that will be.

What is this new belief the defines Cameron Conservatism? Like all great heresies the Cameron credo appears in many guises — that the Tories must be the party of public services, not tax cuts; Mr Cameron is the natural heir to Tony Blair and new Labour; Labour under Gordon Brown will veer to the Left and abandon the political centre ground — but all these erroneous beliefs stem from one fundamental misconception: the idea that the Tories will be returned to government on the basis of what they look like, rather than what they stand for.

Mr Cameron and his supporters believe that the Tories keep losing elections because of their nasty, old-fashioned image. Their strategy, therefore, is not to fight actively for power by offering a clear alternative to Labour, but to minimise political differences and emphasise their superior manners and style. Mr Cameron represents the victory not of Blairite ideology but of Mandelson-Campbell spin: the ultimate triumph of style over substance.
First, while it is true that Mr Blair swapped many old Labour policies for new ones from the Tories, he was careful about which clothes he stole from the Tories. The policies Blair jettisoned, such as nationalisation and favouritism for trade unions, were manifest failures; while the ones he adopted, such as privatisation, were ones that had been shown to work. Mr Cameron, by contrast, is rejecting the Tory policies that are potentially most attractive, such as tax cuts and small government, while adopting the parts of the Labour programme that are about to be rendered obsolete: most importantly, the dogma that the three fastest-growing sectors of the 21st-century economy — health, education and pensions — should continue to be financed and dominated by the State.

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