Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sympathy For The Devil ?

Say what you like about David Cameron, but he’s certainly changed one thing: it used to be that it wasn’t until the new PM took office that we got nostalgic about the old one, but even in less than a fortnight, Cameron has made Tony Blair look like a political giant.

Tradition dictates that it’s the former PM’s biggest weakness that suddenly appears as a strength once the new guy gets to work. Lady Thatcher’s refusal to acknowledge even well-founded criticisms of her polices looked great compared to Major’s government by opinion poll. The Major government’s collapse into chaos and petty corruption didn’t look so bad compared to the well-organised, industrial scale corruption of the Blair years. Now Cameron’s nihilism makes even Blair’s messianic delusions seem like a positive.

True, there is something deeply creepy about the way Blair always seems like he can’t hardly pass a mountain without wanting to give a sermon from it. More seriously, when Blair decides to bring peace to Africa, reform the EUSSR or cure cancer, it always seems to involve Joe Public catching it in the wallet. Yet, the sick truth is that there is a genuine streak of altruism in Blair. He really does think the world would be a better place for having him run it.

This is both the central insanity, and the central corruption, of Blairism. Nu Lab’s belief that they have a moral duty to rule allows them to justify almost anything to themselves. The corruption, the sleaze, the intimidation – all can be justified by the greater good of perpetuating and extending their power. Indeed, for all the frantic triangulation in other areas, Blair has been remarkably consistent in increasing the reach of government into the lives of the citizenry.

Yet, for all that Blair worldview is totally deranged; it does have at its core that slither of altruism. He really does think he’s helping. Cameron has the same sense of entitlement to power, but completely lacks the moral justification. Cameron wants to be PM because he wants to be PM. There is no wider context to his desire for the job, no sense of vocation, he just wants a promotion. Of course, there’s a lot to be said for politicians who don’t want to remake the world, but there is no evidence of any small government tendencies in Cameron, no obvious desire to reverse any of Blair’s measures. Cameron offers the worst of both worlds: elephantine government, combined with an attitude of quietism (at best) shading into social Darwinism (at worst) on social issues.

This is why we had the farce following his election, whereupon he gave a speech full to the brim of nothing and announced the setting up of a whole bunch of panels designed to spend the next 18 months trying to find him some policies. Even the selection of staff for these committees revealed the sheer vacuousness of Cameron’s ideology. Selecting a legatee with £100 million in the bank to berate working folks about the futility of seeking economic growth ? Choosing the country’s chief apologist for the EUSSR as head of the democracy taskforce ? These are not appointments that any man with any serious interest in policy could make.

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