Conservative. Dave seems alright. He’s got a ‘team’, he’s young (ish) and energetic. He wants power, he’s motivated enough to feel that he deserves it and that when he gets it he will operate its levers with efficiency, drive and purpose. He will have to do almost everything that Brown would have to do in terms of cuts, cuts, more cuts, taxation and more cuts, because our economy is so burdened with debt that there is no other way out. Those who are predisposed to conservatism might hope that he will roll back the frontiers of the state and destroy the culture of Health and Safety, Political Correctness and liberal relativism that has, they think, mired our society in nanny-state dependency, but it has to be said there are no such claims made in his manifesto. He claims to believe in multiculturalism, gay rights, the national health service and the welfare state even though many of his supporters in the press and in the real world manifestly do not. I do not actually believe that he will dismantle any of the major elements of that welfare state any more than Labour did, but I expect those who fear he will make huge cuts in the arts and other ‘sacred cows’ of the ‘liberal elite’ are right and that the climate under Cameron will be less friendly to much that they hold dear. He may bring back hunting with dogs, he may (especially if he has a small majority) be forced to give full rein to some of the Christian oddities and other shudder-worthy nuts in his party, but then Blair and Brown have had to placate the weirdos in the Labour back benches too. Under a Cameron administration will crime go down, will the ‘war on drugs’ be won, will the troops come home from Afghanistan, will pensions be safe and standards of education rise? I don’t know. I more than faintly doubt it, but I doubt whoever gets in power will solve those problems. Cameron is not as ideologically motivated as Thatcher was which might allay the fears of some floating voters as much as it irritates some red-meat Conservatives. It is a vote for the same car, as I have suggested, but in the hands of a different driver. Up to you to decide how well you think he will steer it.
There is one thing that cultural commentators in our press cannot convincingly mimic, much as they may try, and that is the rhetoric of the Right across the Atlantic. The Sarah Palin world of ‘hockey moms’ and ‘Christian virtues’ and ‘family values’ simply does not play in Britain. We writhe in discomfort at any hint of religion, hence the embarrassment of Tory supporters at that peculiar Philippa Stroud woman, a candidate for Cheam who may or may not have officiated or assisted at ‘gay demon exorcisms’ at some time in the past as part of some ludicrous evangelical sect of which she is or was a member. The British resent strongly the idea that a politician has any business telling us how to love or behave in private or which ‘values’ to cleave to. The thought of Christians or any other religious group having influence over policy is something party leaders know they have to hide rather than parade. In America, the Right routinely calls Obama a member of the ‘liberal elite’ – it is hard to know quite how this rhetorical distortion first got into the political vocabulary. America has a self-made myth of plain-speaking wiseacre folk which deprecates complexity, ambiguity, difficulty and nuance. There is a long-held distrust in the United States of verbal fluency, wide reading, historical knowledge, interest in the arts or intellectual curiosity. All those things seem more often than is comfortable to dispose people towards agnosticism and liberalism, therefore they are characterised as urban, un-American, European and ‘elitist’. It is hard not to wonder if the ideal American citizen is no more than a god-fearing, family consumer who never questions that while bankers and financiers may be sophisticated and clever and educated and wise, anyone else with those qualities should be religiously tarred and righteously feathered.