Friday, October 14, 2005

The next British Prime Minister?

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After this brooding Scot of course...

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For those unaware, in the UK we are currently in the midst of a Conservative party leadership contest, the most remarkable aspect of which has been the unusually impressive caliber of the candidates. Ken Clarke: popular former Chancellor... David Davis: right winger with an almost Presidential physical stature... Liam Fox: thoughtful, articulate, and principled MP from the religious right of the party. But, the most notable candidate has been the one pictured above, David Cameron, a young, modern centrist, and a sincere compassionate conservative.

I will be a Labour party supporter until the day I die, and yet, I can't help but feel satisfied with Cameron's inevitable leadership victory. For this reason...

From my 7/16 post on consensus politics:

In the UK, the last twenty six years has seen four successive Conservative terms in office, followed by three successive Labour terms. The reasons behind this are that 1) the respective parties in power both attained a high degree of success in implementing their policies, and 2) their respective opposition parties struggled to drag themselves back from the political extremes on the left and right... where, notoriously, the British electorate rarely dwell. What good is it for us to simply sway between competing political visions, like this?

Well, for me, I believe it's about progress through consensus. The Conservative party liberalized the British economy dramatically in the early 80's which transformed our society for good and bad. The test of their accomplishment, or of any political accomplishment in my opinion, is the response the opposition takes to regain support and power, and of course, what it does when it gets into power. Margaret Thatcher's reforms had so many positive benefits that slowly but surely the Labour party was required to reposition its economic vision. The Labour vision remained distinct and unique, with elements of increased taxation, and more gov't activism, but they were suddenly forced to acquire a pragmatic conviction in the positive benefits of free markets domestically, and abroad.

Progress through consensus. The public's recognition of what constitutes progress redefining the electoral landscape.

David Cameron's ascendence in the Conservative party, while quite possibly dawning a new era of success for his party, marks undoubtedly, a dramatic shift in the political landscape of Britain. The success of New Labour, under Tony Blair, has been to define the public discourse in terms of progressive values, the quality of our schools, hospitals, lifting people out of poverty, and intervening in society for the benefit of those who require a helping hand. Margeret Thatcher famously said "there is no such thing as society." Finally, that abhorent, divisive notion that had such a negative impact upon my country has been put where it belongs, on the extreme periphery of British politics.

David Cameron will soon be elected Conservative leader, and, in spite my many disagreements with him, I recognize that when this happens British politics will have taken a huge step forward.

UPDATE: Oh bugger... Cameron embroiled in drug scandal. I still think he'll win.

Official Site: Campaign for Cameron
Daily Telegraph: Cameron stakes his claim
BBC: David Cameron profile

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Doug said...

Graham, we may need to borrow Cameron. Sorry I missed your time in LA and thanks for a gracious comment.

Graham said...

Hey Doug, thanks for commenting. I'm just watching George Allen on C-span and to be honest, he's the only viable guy in the current Republican field who really worries me, although I'm not sure if he has the requisite stature. Cameron has an approach to Conservatism which is very appealing, but he has a base which isn't quite as vociferous as in the US, and who are also desperate for a winning candidate after losing badly in three successive elections.

You have a great blog Doug :).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words on my blog. :-D

I took the political test that you have in your sidebar and I came out a Centrist as well.


Graham said...

Hey Beth :),

Thanks for the comment. Yeah, that test is pretty fun... I was actually a little shocked it summarized my views so accurately, lol. Thanks for dropping by :).

zandperl said...

Do the terms "conservative / liberal" mean the same thing in UK politics as they do in the US?

Graham said...

Hey zandperl,

Strictly speaking they do, but the political landscape is very different here. We have a broad progressive consensus in this country. At the last election 37% voted Labour, which is traditionally a left wing party, 22 % voted for the Liberal Democrats that is traditionally a centrist party, and 33% voted for the Conservative party which is traditionally a right wing party.

However due to Labour moving towards the center under Blair, and the Liberals filling their space on issues like increased taxation, and the Iraq war things have slightly shifted.

The other big difference is that Liberal does not mean left wing nut case here, like it does in the US. We have real left wingers here, of the kind you never see, lol. In this country, and in Europe we have very socially permissive societies anyway, so there is not a cultural battle like in the US. Left wing here means socialism, and is often expressed in quite harsh authoritarian tones that really don't even begin to relate to what it means to be liberal.

And, as it stands, after three election defeats, unlike in the US, "Conservative" is the bad word opposed to being a "Liberal," in the UK. Which has brought that party kicking and screaming, hopefully, back to the center ground. Although, in spite of my prediction of Cameron's victory this is yet to be seen.

Hope that helps Zanperl, thanks for the comment :).

Mr. Smithereen said...

It helped me some, I was wondering the same question. Of course I'm drunk, so I can't come up with a good comment. Thanks for the comment on my blog Graham it is appreciated!

Graham said...

Okay, just to make it clear. David Cameron is moving the Conservative Party towards the center, which I perceive as a victory for the policies that New Labour and Tony Blair have implemented over the past nine years that they have been in power. That's why I'm enthusiastic about the prospect of Cameron winning. It changes, and in my mind, elevates the level of political discourse in the UK.

You're welcome Mr Smithereen, it was a very funny picture/tag line. Thanks for the comment :).

Neil said...

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Graham said...

You know, even I have to admit that's a pretty good piece of spam. If only there were more spammers like you chelsea, deleting comments wouldn't be such a chore. Blogger will delete your profile in... hmmm... my guess is two hours.

Susanne said...

Hey Graham, thanks for the comment. Very informative blog. :)

Graham said...

Thanks Susanne :). Thanks for commenting too.

Gert said...

Hi Graham,

You're rather abbreviating the old iron bag of bones, the actual quote is:

"There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women and there are families."

This actually neither divise, nor abhorrent, unless you misinterpret it.

What she meant was that no group is really all that coherent and homogeneous, as the example of a group with fairly shared values, the Conservative Party, shows. It's internal divisions have seriously hampered aspirations to power.

The history of British politics, from the emergence of parliamantary democracy and before, is nothing but the expression of individual views, with political movements splitting of from other ones, forming new ones, more fractioning etc.

No social group, whether it be a club, political party or even the family itself, is ever that undivided: individual viewpoints make any group virtually a battlefield. And in free societies, the Self tends to become more important that the Collective.

Any social group in fact usually shows a more or less Gaussian distribution of individual opinions.

New Labour is no different although the use of spin and whipping may make it look more homogeneous than it actually is.

Forcing homogeneity has led to many killing fields, from Stalin's purges to Pol Pot. Careful...

Graham said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly and fully embrace the notion that we are all but individual men and women... and our collective constructs, and communal ideas should never fundamentally define us. I get and dig her sentiment. I'm a liberal after all :).

But, in terms of its real life political implications it equated to undermining the principle that gov't activism can lift up people, and seek to rectify the inadequacies of the free market. It represented, symbolically, that if we all just entrusted the market, alone, to organize our lives, eventually things would correspond to a meritocracy of sorts.

This, while progressing the UK in the right direction, was a divisive notion that caused a great deal of harm for 18 years IMO. I think most Conservatives agree hence the slew of books, and speeches from their party stating "There is such a thing as society."