Sunday, November 26, 2006
Where is Cameron Going?
It's been a busy week, as ever, for David Cameron. While one of his policy 'wonks', and an MP to boot, raises the prospect of Polly Toynbee as the new Tory pin up girl - thus sending dozens of Tory majors into heart attack mode - he himself has been visiting Darfur, out-Blairing Blair (on his own foreign visit to Afghanistan) in the compassion stakes and getting more front page pictures.
Where is he going? What is his strategy? We still see little sign of concrete policy, but we see lots of imagery and hear tantalising little sound bites that keep indicating a genuine sea-change in the position of the modern Conservative party. Well, the Sunday Times today carries an interesting 'Focus' report on the new Tory Boy. It concludes that Cameron is carrying out 'triangulation' - a deliberate attempt to be counter-intuitive in order to challenge preconceptions about the Conservatives - and it parallels his journey with the one that Blair took prior to the 1997 election. Just as Blair radically challenged existing notions of the Labour Party by cosying up to the City and hanging around with celebrities, so Cameron has identified the same need for the Tories.
The slowness of the policy groups, meanwhile, may indicate that he is anxious to emerge with policies that will both link up with his triangulation stategy and that will withstand serious scrutiny. One Tory front-bencher last week outlined how, after a year of careful thought and analysis, he had indentified a key social problem. Asked for the solution, he said it would probably require another year.
The lesson from Blair's own highly successful triangulation strategy is that there is a danger of promoting style over substance, and becoming uber dependent on shallow image fixes; perhaps the much criticised slow gestation of actual Tory policy indicates that they don't intend to follow the Blair strategy to the letter. One can only hope.