Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To what extent is Cameron a Thatcherite?

An essay title given to me by my Politics teacher. Here is my essay.

“It’s no wonder that today we learn the Foreign Secretary describes his gang as the children of Thatcher,” Ed Miliband said. “I’d rather be a child of Thatcher than a son of Brown,” replied a chuffed-looking Cameron. Most reacted to this, either cheerfully or glumly, by complaining of how badly Miliband is leading the Labour Party. However, most have ignored the fact Cameron has just admitted his ‘progressive’ party may not be so adverse to Thatcherism. His apparent endorsement of Thatcher may remind the electorate of Norman Lamont’s allegation that “rising unemployment is a price well worth paying”. Perhaps not a clever reminder during these harsh economic times rife with cuts to government spending and jobs.
In one respect, Cameron has made an effort to distance himself from Thatcher. That effort is his now ubiquitous mantra ‘The Big Society’. Thatcher once famously, or rather infamously, pronounced in an interview that there was “no such thing as society”. This flagship policy brings to mind One Nation Conservatism and serves to oppose Thatcher’s PR disaster, both in an attempt to counteract the impression of the Tories being a “nasty party”.
Furthermore, it is difficult to imagine Thatcher willing to form a coalition with the Lib Dems. One may speculate that she would have led a minority government with her head held high. Of course, this is very different to Cameron’s attitude, which The Indie reported as being labelled “defeatist” by Tory grassroots members. He is apparently even contemplating contesting the next election as a coalition, on a joint ticket.
Margaret Thatcher advocated Classical liberalism: free markets, free will of individuals, limited government. The implication of these beliefs was Social Darwinism. However flawed her belief system, at least she had one. Cameron, on the other hand, says he is “not a deeply ideological person”. How insipid.
It seems Cameron is willing to take whichever side, depending on his audience. The problem he faces is convincing the public the Tories have changed, while assuring the Tories they haven’t. This effort at trying to please everyone is encapsulated in the following quote, when Cameron claimed he was “certainly a big Thatcher fan, but I don’t know whether that makes me a Thatcherite”.
Robin Harris, Cameron’s former boss at the Conservative Research Department, made the case when writing for Standpoint that the PM is more of a Majorite than a Thatcherite, “with no clear philosophy but a ruthless streak and a pleasing manner”. Even Rupert Murdoch, the media tycoon that must be attributed credit for May’s muted Tory success, if one can even call it that, has said that Cameron “behaves as if he doesn’t believe in anything other than trying to construct what he believes will be the right public image”.
Some commentators take the view that David Cameron is not as great as Thatcher, whether ‘great’ is being used as a compliment or not. More of a lame duck like Major. He certainly is not as revolutionary, or as popular; after all the Tories won 43.87% of the vote in Thatcher’s first election whilst Cameron could not even scrape a majority. This is quite astounding when Gordon Brown was the most pitied man, if not the most hated, in politics at the time. Effectively, New Labour had handed the Tories a victorious election on a plate, but still they didn’t win.
There are differences, many, between Thatcher and Cameron. For one, the incumbent Prime Minister is a “millionaire stockbroker’s son and relative of the Queen, who was raised by nannies and matrons and sailed through Eton and Oxford into Tory Central Office” as Brian Reade described him. Whereas Thatcher was the daughter of a grocer. Having said this, the question is whether Cameron is a Thatcherite, not if he is Thatcher.

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