Tuesday, January 03, 2006

David Cameron: What on Earth is his game?

I confess to being somewhat bewildered by the current behaviour of Cameron and the Tory Party. Cameron is obviously staking a claim to the centre ground, and this is a tactically sound thing to try to do. But ventures like Lib Dems for Cameron www.libdems4cameron.co.uk stretch credulity.

We keep hearing things like the party being liberal, green, in favour of redistribution, suspicious of big business. It is hard to believe that the rest of the party isn't choking on its cornflakes every morning at each new announcement.

Try not to be the nasty party, by all means. But deal with the fact that everybody who wants to be in the nasty party is in your party. Become more moderate, by all means, but it has to be plausible that you actually believe it.

It is hard to see why, if Cameron does believe the "New Tory" message, he ever joined the Conservative Party at all. The alternative is that it is what he thinks he has to say to be electable.

Sure, he might be making life a little bit difficult for Blair, Brown and Kennedy. But the Tories will not tolerate so much wetness for such meagre rewards for long. I think Cameron knows this, and he is playing another game. Cameron wants to appear as genuinely nice; genuinely caring, so that when he proposes or implements regular Tory nasty policies, it can be spun as necessary, hard choices. Cares about you and can make tough decisions, the best of both worlds, etc.

But this suggests very strongly that he is approaching the leadership like a game of chess, manipulating pieces and perceptions to gain an advantage on the board. This approach is doubtless very useful from time to time, but if it is all you do, people will see you as cynical and won't identify with your values.

I think the halo effects of youth and good looks have dazzled the conservative party into electing a visionless waffler as their leader. Getting on for twice his age, the Tory party membership somehow thinks he can identify with 'young people'. And worse, he thinks so too.

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