Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Good, Bad or Indifferent....Which is Cameron?

The consensus view amongst the commentators - who, of course, bear little if any relation to, you know, actual people who vote - is that Cameron has worked wonders in changing the image of the Tory Party, but has of course got nowhere with policy. You can almost hear the snigger. Image is easy - especially with a highly paid PR man, who just happens to be an old Eton mate, at your side (step forward Steve Hilton). But policy....well, that's a whole new ball game.

In fact, it isn't true that Mr. Cameron has been entirely policy lite. He couldn't change the image of the Tory party without dealing with its recent ideological heritage, much of which he has felt compelled to dump. BBC Online's Nick Assinder admitted as much in his article:

" So he is for the environment, bicycles, windmills and internet blogs. He supports the NHS, the poorest in society, minorities of all sorts and even misunderstood hoodies.
He is not any longer for tax cuts before public spending, "privatisation" of the health service, or offering vouchers for education, for example.
And he is a liberal, not neo-Conservative who may look as much to the Guardian's Polly Toynbee for advice on welfare as to Winston Churchill."


Although to be fair on that last point, Cameron did distance himself from la Toynbee in his Sunday Telegraph interview at the weekend. He's just interested in her one interesting metaphor, he suggested.

The real problem for the Tory leader lies in the polls. After an initial surge when he first became leader, his poll ratings have been frustratingly static. He has yet, it seems, to make a big impression on the public in terms of their determination to vote for him. I suspect the polls tell only part of the story. It has been enough so far for Cameron not, at any rate, to be hated, and to change the impression everyone has of Tories. Armed with the clear, 'gritty' policies he says he will have (see this BBC article) and put him up against the dour Scot, and he starts to look much more electable. And it may be anecdotal, but I'm losing count of the number of apolitical acquaintances who say they will probably vote Tory next time....after three elections at the shrine of Mr. Blair!

8 comments:

C H Daly said...

I wouldn’t read too much into the “close acquaintance” poll that you conducted. Edward Heath will testify I am sure. As for the lack of real policy making (aside from the fact I couldn’t agree more) then if we take Cameron’s plat du jour: the environment, then we can see just how far he has been outclassed by Brown.

Brown has established a consistent commitment to Kyoto (Europe has gone further towards completing their targets than any other state/country). Following his condemnation of polluting 4x4’s, sales have fell 15% in the last month alone and second hand prices are crashing. Labour is spending more and more money on research and construction of renewable energy sources and power stations. Alongside further proposed fuel levies and CO2 emission ‘vouchers’: a Britain under Brown is looking greener and greener. I’d argue that these sort of long-term plans have (and will) have more effect than few glossy magazine covers of Cameron “doing his bit” and a photo opportunity of him cycling (we all know how that story ended). But, if you’d care to differ?

Lestaki said...

I agree with Con (playing it safe here), for once, in that anecdotal evidence is generally worth about as much as a funny story you tell over dinner time. However, I don't think it can be denied that Cameron has done much to make his party electable again. It's a long time to the next election, and so much could happen in that time. However, what he's done so far is good in that image really is quite important in politics, something my friend above seems to ignore- I'm enlightened by his points on Gordon's green achievements, and I suspect that it'd be news to the electorate as well.

He tells a story, and it's a story that people like to read- more anecdotal evidence, but I'd describe my general inclinations as leftist while having a lot of time for Cameron. That's to a degree irrational, of course, but that doesn't make it less true. So Cameron is a good thing, I think, for the Conservative party, though whether he's good enough has yet to be seen- with policy still up in the air it's anyone's call. Everything hinges on when that creeps out of the woodwork.

GM said...

Well, well, Conor, so Brown's the bestest, greenest chancellor ever, eh? Such has been his long-term commitment that one graph shows the miserable paucity of his environmental comments until Cameron became Tory leader, when suddenly, Mr. Brown became very green-conscious! The graph is at http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/1288/553/1600/gordon_hot%20air.gif - have a look!

Comments on 4x4's are all very well, but I notice that his pre-Budget statement showed no intention of actually doing anything. Actually, George Osborne today made a good point about Brown's record, which is worth reprinting:

"He lets it be known with nods and winks that he will end the spin and eye-catching initiatives of the Blair years. But let there be no mistake; they were his years too - the Blair-Brown years. The years of the clunking fist - the hospital cuts were his cuts, the failing schools are his failures, the pensions which were destroyed were destroyed by him. The truth is this: Labour can only be new once and if the public want change they're going to have to vote for change."

Finally, lestaki, my funny stories told over dinner time are worth quite a lot!

Lestaki said...

Just as long as they don't include impressions.

matthew h-s said...

I think that Cameron has made the Tories the new Lib Dems. That is to say, they are the new second-best. When Labour seem to be messing about, but you still don't think the Liberals have got it yet, the Tories have now overcome the stigma they have spent so many years building up, which put many off considering a Tory vote, and now are a viable alternative. That's how i feel anyway. I'm sure many won't.

But what has become clear, as you say and was discussed on Newsnight a day or two ago, is that Cameron really is holding back on releasing anything to do with policy, but does this possibly reveal the thin strings trailing upwards? Is it possible that it is in fact George Osborne pulling them, working up a big show of neo-Conservativism and liberalism only to break the facade come the election results?

A mere whim, but you never can tell. Once a Tory, always a Tory.

Simon said...

The most important thing for Cameron to be worrying about is the thought provoking point that Andrew Neill made in his excellent speech.

Labour opinion poll lead of 10 = majority of 166

Conservative opinion poll lead of 10 = majority of 1

I am in favour of the FPTP system but this seems ridiculous.

Chris Wotton said...

"Once a Tory, always a Tory."

Always been my favourite motto, that. Can't go wrong with it.

On a different matter, what's he on with his spurt on families? See my comments on the BBC News site:

http://newsforums.bbc.co.uk/nol/thread.jspa?sortBy=1&threadID=4947&start=60&tstart=0&edition=1&ttl=20061212211547&#paginator

Anonymous said...

Here here *waves papers excitedly*.