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Learn From Cameron?

April 15, 2009

By David Gratzer

Are these not conservative thoughts?

Refusing to use these words - right and wrong - means a denial of personal responsibility and the concept of a moral choice.

We talk about people being “at risk of obesity” instead of talking about people who eat too much and take too little exercise. We talk about people being at risk of poverty, or social exclusion: it’s as if these things - obesity, alcohol abuse, drug addiction - are purely external events like a plague or bad weather.

Of course, circumstances - where you are born, your neighbourhood, your school, and the choices your parents make - have a huge impact. But social problems are often the consequence of the choices that people make.

There is a danger of becoming quite literally a de-moralised society, where nobody will tell the truth anymore about what is good and bad, right and wrong. That is why children are growing up without boundaries, thinking they can do as they please, and why no adult will intervene to stop them - including, often, their parents. If we are going to get anywhere near solving some of these problems, that has to stop.

They certainly seem conservative to me.

British Opposition Leader David Cameron delivered these comments last July when campaigning in the Glasgow East constituency during a by-election. The Tory leader spoke specifically about the broken society that is evident in that part of Scotland and elsewhere in Britain – communities plagued by violence, welfare dependency and “social breakdown.” Mr. Cameron outlined an alternative vision. Yes, he spoke about educational reform (through choice), ending welfare for able-bodied men, and getting tough on crime (with mandatory sentences). But he also spoke about the need for personal responsibility and morality.

Mr. Cameron’s party lost the by-election – not surprising given how socialist Scotland has become. Now sitting comfortably in the polls, he seems destined to win the general election next year. (A good description of his rise to popularity can be found in the left-leaning American Prospect.)

Some right-of-center commentators are skeptical, if not hostile, to the party’s Cameron-led rebirth. Kimberley Strassel, one of my favorite Wall Street Journal columnists, argues vehemently in an op-ed that: “The Tories Are No Example for the GOP.”

Among Ms. Strassel’s criticisms: the Cameron Tories have hired an adman to better their image. (What’s next, speechwriters?)

Ms. Strassel continues that modern British conservatism only tells the public what it won’t do: “It won’t dismantle a failing national health-care system. It won’t disavow failing public schools. It won’t resist higher tax rates on the ‘rich.’”

Mr. Cameron has outlined policies in these areas, including dropping the micromanagement of the NHS in favor of paying for outcomes and allowing greater parent choice in schools. On the economy, the party favors tax cuts, but not in light of massive deficits.

No one would suggest that Mr. Cameron is perfect. And it’s also clear that he’s had an easy job as of late: he has the luxury of spending the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression warming the opposition benches, free to give speeches as opposed to dealing with collapsing banks.

It’s a good time to be out of government. With economic turmoil, shaky housing markets, and depressed stock values across the Western world, an opposition politician riding high in the polls today seems about as surprising as Detroit considering a new GM restructuring plan.

But Mr. Cameron’s party has held the lead for many months – yes, before AIG became an extension of the Treasury Department.

He has taken over a factious party, prone to constant infighting, and united it. He has refurbished the party’s image, put forward a slew of new policies, and taken his party to the cusp of power. This has been no small feat: the Tories have been out of power for a dozen years now, and had to contend not simply with exile but absolute hatred – when pollsters asked Brits about a hypothetical policy, it would poll well until they found out it was a Tory policy.

Sound familiar?

Undoubtedly, part of Mr. Cameron’s success reflects luck. He faces an exhausted Labour Party, prone to scandal and led by a weak leader.

But he’s also a natural political talent, perhaps the greatest of his generation – at Question Period last year, Prime Minister Brown cut short a member of his own party before he asked his question (and who was blaming British economic problems on foreign countries). “It’s a wonderful thing,” Mr. Cameron noted. “You don’t have to finish a planted question to get a planted answer.”

And part of his success reflects good planning and policies. He speaks about communities, the environment, and society’s forgotten.

For American conservatives, the rise of Mr. Cameron would seem interesting. Britain isn’t America, but are there lessons to learn?

There are. Mr. Cameron represents a new type of conservatism, one unafraid to touch issues typically ceded to the left while still courting center-right voters. Reagan Republicans learned from Prime Minister Thatcher. I suspect that soon his intellectual descendents will once again look across the Atlantic for ideas.

Original Source:



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