Thursday, December 15, 2005

Not one of us

National Review's The Corner has an Anglo contingent, whose mandate includes assuring American readers that their brand of conservatism is alive and well in the land of Churchill. So there is much scrutiny of new Tory leader David Cameron's credentials. As we argued recently, the strategic similarities between Cameron & Bush are considerable, but there's still the question of policy. Hence alarm bells ring at the Corner, picking up an item from The Spectator's blog:

'Last Tuesday, as Cameron prepared for his coronation, one of his top aides, Nick Boles, addressed a private meeting of right-wing think tanks and campaign groups at the Adam Smith Institute.While the hope of many Conservatives has been that Cameron is “really” on the Right but would use better PR to sell a Thatcherite agenda, Boles made clear to the audience that they would be disappointed. The issues of tax cuts and school choice were raised. Mr Boles said that they would not campaign for vouchers and “choice” was not their priority.

In reply to questions about tax, he said that tax pledges and guarantees had been tried before in previous elections, they had failed, and they could not commit themselves to cut taxes beyond the current aspiration. Mr Boles said to the audience that, just as Blair said that he won as New Labour and would govern as New Labour, so – “Dave has run as a compassionate conservative and will govern as a compassionate conservative”.'

Now, Cameron probably had to say that. Given how leaky such meetings are, telling its attendees that he had some double secret plan to rule from the right would not have been very clever, but there's no doubt that some of the mood music (and appointments) coming from the new team is somewhat discouraging.

Several angles here. First, the Spectator blog says that they altered the original post following complaints from Boles -- in particular, an allegation the word centrist was used appears to have stung. Note nonetheless the vague Dubya-like commitment to 'compassionate conservatism' despite the aversion to a pledge to cut taxes.

Second, it's a small world. Nick Boles is a friend of Time magazine's house blogger Andrew Sullivan, and in fact was a victim of the Curse of Sully in his own bid to be the MP for Hove. But it surely goes part way to explain Sully's enthusiastic reception for Cameron, having his chum as one of his top aides.

Third, a supposed meeting leak like this has to seen in the context of past blow-ups about Tories have secret plans to place their rhetoric at the center but govern from the right -- as George Bush has done. In another pre-UK election post, we recounted how exactly such a statement had cost Tory MP Howard Flight his job, with another Nick (Herbert) being drafted in to replace him.

Anyway, the apparent claim that Cameron is not a radical, whether well-founded or not, does give Sullivan and the Corner something else to feud about, besides torture. In an unrelated issue, Sully also plays the old Tory card in a side remark about the War on Christmas:

Moreover, the only people actually to have banned celebrating Christmas in the past were ... Christians. Some early American Puritans banned it; so did Cromwell in England during his religious dictatorship.

Note the innovative packaging of Cromwell as the English Taliban.

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