Conservative Models
American conservatives should eschew David Cameron’s example.

Australia’s Liberal party leader, Tony Abbott


John O’Sullivan

First, a Cabinet minister, Francis Maude, urged the electoral necessity of the Tory party’s seeking support from gays and ethnic minorities. That is incontestable in itself; the Tories, like other parties, should seek support from all social groups. But as Janet Daley pointed out in a Daily Telegraph column, Maude did not appear to grasp that the gay marriage he endorses unconditionally would be anathema to the majority of ethnic Britons who are either Muslims or evangelical Christians. That settles nothing, of course; gay marriage must be either supported or opposed on grounds of principle. But it does suggest the hollowness of an electoral strategy that treats all minorities (and all members of minorities) as interchangeably progressive.

Second, Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, a distinguished political scientist (and, as it happens, an old friend), resigned on Sunday from a official commission established to advise the government on how best to reshape British human-rights law. Should the U.K. regain some legislative sovereignty over such matters from the European Court of Human Rights (as most Tories, perhaps including David Cameron, wish)? Or should the U.K. retain a status quo in which European judges determine such matters as whether convicted terrorists should be deported and whether convicts in prison should have the vote (as all Liberal Democrats and some Tories contend)? Four experts, including Dr. Pinto-Duschinsky, were appointed to the commission by the Tories, and another four by the Lib-Dems, under a supposedly neutral civil-service chairman. Pinto-Duschinsky resigned because, he said, he and others had been marginalized and sidelined owing to his insistence that the wishes of Parliament be respected on human-rights issues. As a Holocaust survivor, he told the Daily Mail here, he was especially outraged when commission members compared parliamentary sovereignty over human rights to Nazism. In effect, the commission was rigged to produce an anti-Tory result.

The third such event is a comic codicil to this. In the same week that Maude advocated gay marriage and Pinto-Duschinsky resigned from the rigged commission, British government lawyers were found to have argued in submissions to the ECHR that two Christian women had no human right to wear crucifixes at their place of work. Comment is surely needless.

Alongside Tony Abbott’s combination of enduring values and flexible pragmatism or Stephen Harper’s gradualist encroachment on power, there seems little that American conservatives should want to copy in the confused, directionless, and easily thwarted record of Cameron conservatism. That may yet change, of course. Until it does, this charming, intelligent, and resourceful natural politician — but oddly passive and detached executive — will find a very compatible ally in the White House.

John O’Sullivan is editor-at-large of National Review.


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