Thursday, December 08, 2005

A uniter not a divider

The Wall Street Journal Europe (subs. req'd) claims to be unimpressed with new Conservative Party leader David Cameron: "Pardon us for not joining the David Cameron love-fest just yet ... Mr. Blair, however, wasted no time in branding the Cameron era as the "new consensus" -- a mocking reference to the "socialist consensus" that another Tory leader, Ted Heath, embraced in the 1970s. Repeating that history is in no one's interests, certainly not the Tories'."

But there is more to encourage them than at first appears. In particular, there are signs that Cameron is basing his bid for power on the model of George W. Bush. Three indicators. First, the choice of education as an area to establish reforming but populist credentials, just as Bush did building his reputation as an education reformer in Texas and then hyping his No Child Left Behind Act as evidence of cross-party politics when in the White House.

Second, the elevation of Iain Duncan Smith to an influential role designing social policy -- which brings in Smith's alliance with US Senator Rick Santorum under the rubric "social justice conservatives." Policy suggestions here will doubtless mirror Bush's favourite substitution of government programs by religious groups. And finally, Cameron has continued to use the phrase "compassionate conservatism," which is of course a direct borrowing from Bush.

And we know we said three indicators above, but here's a fourth: the return of William Hague to the shadow cabinet guarantees favourable US coverage from Time magazine's house blogger, Andrew Sullivan, who approvingly notes the elevation of his "old college friend" -- a designation that normally carries the Curse of Sully.

The links between the Conservatives and the US Republican party frayed with the Iraq war. But it will be useful to watch for increased signs of strategist traffic between them, especially after Tony Blair leaves.

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