Thursday, March 22, 2007
Much blood has been spilled over the reputation of Gordon Brown.....did I say blood? That damn Stalin analogy - gets everywhere. Of course I meant much ink. Regardless, Brown is just one of the two likely principal protagonists at the next election, so what about Cameron. I am indebted to the ever eagle eyed Conor Daly for drawing my attention to a major Guardian feature on 'Team Cameron' - the people surrounding the Tory leader. One got the impression that this was meant to be a pretty devastating expose of an extraordinary and mysterious clique. Understand it, was the implication, and you'll never look at Cameron in the same way again. Alas, no such luck! Over four pages of G2, this was pretty thin stuff.
The main conclusions were that Cameron is surrounded by a young-ish team; they all went to Eton; they are polite to journalists; they may be young but they're not novices and...er...that's about it. The Guardian's real gripe, I think, is the Eton one. How dare the aspiring leader of a modern egalitarian democracy come from an elitist school and then use his school-mates as advisers! Eton's always been divisive, but it's hardly a killer point!
More significant, I think, is the political pedigree of these advisers. For all the veneer of Tory progressiveness that provides the nice sheen on the surface of Project Cameron, his closest supporters hail from a right-wing, euro-sceptic past that has no more relationship with traditional Tory One Nation-ism than Blair does with working class socialism. They understand modernisation in terms of public perception and high-profile political campaigning on 'triangulation' issues. But there is no heart or passion to what they are doing. The Guardian reporter got that bit right - they want power, but to what end?
Tomorrow a film called 'Amazing Grace' is released. It follows the extraordinary political crusade of eighteenth century Tory MP William Wilberforce as he fought to abolish slavery. Of course, Wilberforce was inspired by his Christian faith to pursue his noble campaign against often enormous odds. The film's title is taken from the hymn by former slave trader turned Christian minister, John Newton, who inspired Wilberforce. But whatever the personal inspiration, such a film might prompt us to ask the question today, 'where are the men of principle and idealism'? In a world of spin, are we no longer capable of producing the Wilberforces and Shaftesburys? Compared to such giants, David Cameron looks small indeed.