When even the Spectator (£) turns on a Conservative PM you'd think he's in trouble. Blogger, Prodicus speaks for many when he says he's on the verge of leaving the Conservative party, mainly because of a complete lack of faith in the abilities of David Cameron, whom he believes to be something other than a Conservative. This is because of the Euro-sort-of-veto, right?
No, not because of the vanishingly-few attractions of UKIP. I want us out but I am a realist and it's not the first item on today's agenda.Clearly not. hose are my sentiments exactly. Why is it then?
I think David Cameron is too cowardly to lead the Conservative Party as a ConservativeI am not sure the problem is cowardice. Indeed the opposite is the problem. Cameron has battles with a deeply entrenched labour establishment, who is deeply hostile to 'the cuts', reform in Schools, the NHS, and the rest of the public sector where the Conservatives have initiated widespread and radical reforms. On Europe, the mandarinate will seek to water down any tough talk from a mere politician when thrashing out the detail in negotiation. The problem isn't cowardice, more a lack of strategic vision. I think of the NHS, Schools, Welfare, 'the Cuts' and Europe where the Government has battles with the establishment, Cameron has bitten of more than he can chew. Of these issues he can pick 2 or 3 and expect to win, otherwise he risks losing all of them.
He does not think like and does not know how to wear the armour of a national leader. He is ill at ease and reluctant and scuttles sideways when facing both domestic and foreign threats to the nation and its way of life.I think people have forgotten just how dreadful in this regard Brown was. It's true, Cameron does not wear the armour quite as well as Tony Blair, but there have been few politicians more teflon-coated than his Tonyness. Cameron's not embarrassing to the UK in the great councils of the World in a way Brown, with his fawning infatuation with Barry O'Bama was.
He is the heir to the Grocer rather than to Margaret Thatcher.For many Conservatives, any leader who isn't Saint Margaret of Thatcher will always be Pepsi rather than the real thing. But I am not sure we need a Thatcher right now.
The problem is that coalitions just don't work in Britain's political culture. The Liberal Democrat voters didn't really want power for their party, they just wanted to be able to say "Don't blame me, I voted Liberal" at dinner parties. But in order to differentiate themselves from the Tories, you've got Government ministers popping up saying higher rate pension tax-relief should be abolished and the 50p income tax rate shouldn't be. It's not until you read past the headline that this comes from Danny Alexander, chief Secretary to the Treasury, whereas the Chancellor is against these ideas. The same is true of Cameron's Quotas for women on PLC Boards. This is never going to become law. It's Cameron's attempt to reach out to non-conservative voters, not a serious policy proposal.
The most poisonous legacy of the Blair years was the extent that Government was enacted by headline. The difference between Labour and the Tories is that the latter are much, much worse at the media manipulation and so give the impression of a bunch of ferrets fighting in a sack. When you actually look at the legislation, however, you have radical pieces of legislation on Welfare, Schools or the NHS, which whilst savagely opposed by the establishment and bureaucracy in these industries, seem to me in each case to be broadly along the right lines. Millions will be taken out of income tax by the steady rise in the Threshold. This IS a tax-cut.
Above all, this Government inherited a poisonous legacy of criminally incompetent overspend and mismanagement from the last Government. Since they took power, despite chaos in Europe and an unlooked-for war in Libya, the British deficit has fallen from over 10% to around 8%, so the debt burden is still rising. However contrary to warnings, job creation in the Private sector has more than offset job losses in the public, since 2010 by a factor of around 3 times. It is true, it's unlikely that the deficit will be eliminated "within this parliament", and employment growth is not yet enough to reduce unemployment but does anyone, really, think Ed Balls' plan to spend until we're Italy and call it "neo-endogenous growth theory" was going to work better? 'The cuts' were always going to be disruptive at first. Economic chaos in Europe has seen the UK, thanks to the Governments commitment to deficit reduction (and 3 rounds of QE) the markets have kept the faith, seeing 10-year gilt yields fall to 1.8%.
I would like to see more supply-side reforms. I would like to see the end of the 50p rate. I would like to see less 'banker bashing'. I would have liked Cameron's veto to mean the EU did things differently. But while the disagreements between and within the parties of Government give the impression of chaos, the actual legislation affecting how we live appears to be vastly, infinitely better than the legislative diarrhoea of the last administration. I rather like the fact that we see disagreements in Government. It reassures me we live in democracy, compared to robotic non-entities mouthing identical soundbites which characterised the last Government.
Cameron is no Thatcher. Thatcher removed warships, which some saw as a green light to an Argentine invasion. Cameron's hinted about nuclear subs and sent the world's most capable air defence destroyer. Which is better? I think too many Tories (& Labour...) hanker for ideological certainties of the 1980's and forget just how ghastly Gordon Brown was.
I still think this could be a great government, and history will be kinder than the news if they're successful in any more than half of their agenda. I think Prodicus should keep the faith for a while longer.