December 08, 2005

You used to be the future


If I can be allowed for a moment to speak of politics in the Capitalist-Parliamentarian-Spectacular sense...

As a sequel to my post about what the Tories must do to win the next General Election, I have to observe that, contrary to many expectations, the party seems to be doing all the right things to return it to power. I think that David Cameron's victory in the Conservative party leadership election yesterday marked a sea-change comparable to Blair's rise to the top of the Labour Party a decade ago.

Incidentally, perhaps it is only with Cameron's election (by a clear majority, 68%) that Blair's only significant Leftist achievement can be apprehended: the destruction of the old Tory Right. We all know that Blairism was an extension of Thatcherism, but Blair's successful appropriation of Thatcherite ideology has at last, it seems, prompted the Tories to abandon their default comfort position, to go beyond the pleasure principle, the compulsion to repeat that has led them to catastrophic defeat at three successive elections. There's little to be celebrated in Cameron's 'reform' agenda, but at least it isn't the nasty authoritarian ha ha populism Howard, IDS and Hague all found themselves hawking. It remains to be seen whether the Tories will, self-destructively, revert to type, but there are reasons to believe that they won't do so this time.

Firstly, even the most hidebound Tory traditionalist must recognize that another reversion to the tired old certainties may bring about a self-destruction from which there is no recovery.

Secondly, Cameron and his team seem to be a much more wily group of strategists than their recent predecessors. The tendency has been for Tories to elect a leader who promises modernization only to fall back, or be forced back, onto the old territory when the going gets tough. But, as is demonstrated by his universally-celebrated performance at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday, Cameron is not about to fall into the trap of routinely denouncing Blair. His recent promise to abandon 'Punch 'n' Judy' politics wasn't only a concession to realpolitik, still less a gesture of gentlemanly magnamity, it was a well thought-out tactic. Howard allowed himself to be forced into a corner by opposing Blair on everything, with the result that the Tories were perceived as both opportunistic and negative. By contrast, Cameron and Osborn aim to exploit and exacerbate fractures in the Labour Party by supporting Blair in his reform programme, winning back the centre ground for the Tories while isolating the recalcitrant rump of the Labour Party behind a Gordon Brown they will paint as a stick-in-the-mud 'roadblock to reform'. It might just work.

Posted by mark at December 8, 2005 01:09 AM | TrackBack