Monday, January 16, 2006

Interests maketh the man

This is my 'why David Cameron is not a liberal' post previously on Missing Shade of Yellow. It's here for symmetry - my next (extended) post is 'why Tony Blair is left-wing' (unless anything more interesting intervenes).

[NB: Since I wrote the bulk of the article, David Cameron has demonstrated he's not a 'gut' liberal with his 'nanny state' enthusiasm to save the British people from the attack of the cut-price chocolate orange segments. Once you start trying to believing people are so stupid they need government intervention to save them from nefarious confectionary (which doesn't move anywhere on its own, has no ill-effects if combined with sufficient exercise, and isn't an intoxicant) then by extension politicians should put pressure on retailers of other highly threatening objects such as watering cans (739 accidents a year). It's a scandal that these can be freely bought over the counter in that bastion of middle-class living, Homebase. And did you know - curtain pelmets (123 injuries a year) are sometimes reduced in price and MORE SHOCKINGLY STILL are openly on display?! It's a disgrace! And what about the irresponsibility of promoting activities that DO involve moving objects like driving, skateboarding, football and skiing?].


It seems a eons ago now that David Cameron claimed to be ‘the real voice of liberal UK’ and informed us that:

‘There is a new home for Liberal Democrat voters - and so a real prospect of a change of Government - because today we have a Conservative Party that: believes passionately in green politics, that is committed to decentralisation and localism, that supports open markets and that is prepared to stand up for civil liberties and the rule of law, and which wants Britain to be a positive participant in the EU, as a champion of liberal values.

So I believe it’s time for Liberal Democrat voters, councillors and MPs that share these values and this agenda to come and join the new Conservative party.

If you join us, we can together build a modern, progressive, liberal, mainstream opposition to Labour.’

Since then, the Tories have been talking about local accountability for the police.

So – is Mr Cameron a liberal? Or is he opportunistically claiming to be in favour of civil liberties and the environment for electoral gain? You’ll be surprised to find that the answer is quite possibly neither.

His voting record seems impeccably liberal – he voted against the third reading of the ID cards bill, against the introduction of control orders, against the HE funding bill, to abolish the offence of blasphemy and against an all-appointed House of Lords. It would be cheap to add ‘when he turned up’ given he attended 47 % of votes in parliament placing him 611th out of 645 MPs. Does this make him a politically liberal radical within the staid and crusty ranks of the Tories? Well, no. David Cameron barely rebelled against the Conservative party. Interests maketh the man and in this case they make David Cameron a conservative. The giveaway is that David Cameron didn’t just vote against an all-appointed House of Lords, he also voted against an all-elected House of Lords. Why he appears so politically liberal is that faced with an radical authoritarian government then small ‘c’ conservatives will vote exactly the same as a Lib Dem but to retain structures such as the right to trial by jury that have existed since the Magna Carta. The difference comes when presented with the opportunity for reform. Faced with the option of completely electing the lords, a political liberal will vote for and a small ‘c’ conservative will vote against.

So David Cameron isn’t, in fact, a political liberal. He’s a conservative in opposition to a seriously radical authoritarian government. So is he a social liberal? He sounds like one. But then, just how many well-educated urbanites under the age of 40 are against equality for women, rights for homosexuals or ethical minorities? It suggest the Conservative party have cottoned on to the fact that appealing only to little old ladies isn’t going to have them storming into government… and that’s about it.

So does David Cameron’s rhetoric on the environment make him a progressive? In November, someone rebuked Bush on climate change telling him “So many people throughout the world look to the US for a lead on the most crucial issues that face our planet and indeed the lives of our grandchildren. Truly the burden of the world rests on your shoulders.” The same person has a range of organic food that you can find in all good Sainsburys. Yep, it’s that well-known member of the liberal elite, Prince Charles, always welcome at Islington dinner parties. Reactionary conservatism has a strong vein of environmentalism running through it. It’s all about the romantic harkening towards the green and pleasant motherland, pre-industrialism and the rural idyllic, blah… The Lord of the Rings was textually analysed to death as an example of this phenomenon, although most people (myself included) didn’t bother looking for nationalist overtones and just enjoyed fantasy types going on a quest and hitting one another.

Summary, David Cameron isn’t a liberal. He’s a non-freakish conservative under the age of 70. And he’s been voted in by lots of conservatives over the age of 70. It’s worth mentioning that David Cameron’s acceptance speech wasn’t held in conjunction with the nuking of Tunbridge Wells so all those Tory councillors who believe long hair on men is the end of civilisation as we know it are still out there buying copies of ‘Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of Everyday Life (or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door)’. Bearing this in mind, we distinguish ourselves from David Cameron not by saying we arrived in the 21st century first or that we have differences on a few marginal ‘issues such as the Iraq war, university tuition fees and the environment’ but by devising measured policies to reform rather than retain.


  • At 12:16 pm , Blogger LibertyCat said...

    You forget tea cosys. 40 hospitalisations a year due to tea cosy related injuries, apparently.


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