The British Right

by John O’Sullivan

In one of those interesting coincidences that seem more than that, two former Tory MPs turned commentators have pieces in today’s papers advancing the same argument: that David Cameron’s Conservatives give the impression of not seriously hoping to win the next British election. In the Telegraph, George Walden suggests that the consensus-minded Cameroons have no really serious differences with New Labor on how to govern the country and so find opposition a more pleasant way of passing the time than struggling with foot-and-mouth disease, floods, etc. He’s half-right, it seems to me: They are indeed consensus-minded (a.k.a. risk-averse) on policy but they would love to be struggling with the nation’s problems from the comfort of official limousines and large Whitehall offices. In the Independent, Michael Brown suggests that the once-Tory respectable middle class is warming to Gordon Brown because with his dark suits and sombre manners he looks much more like a serious national leader (of an old-fashioned conservative sort) than does the mod Cameron with his bicycling, gimmicks and tielessness. Brown is, as Balfour said of Gladstone, “a Tory in everything except essentials” and we live in a superficial age. Cameroons can hardly complain about this, however, because they elevated the gimmicks, including the tielessness, to a level of high political strategy. I was seriously told by one Cameron admirer last year that I would have to abandon my own tie when Cameron entered Number Ten since his example would make tie-wearing a symbol of stuffiness and out-of-touchedness. My response was to suggest that Cameron might have second thoughts when he wanted to conceal a growing middle-aged menopaunch. But nemesis has arrived even more swiftly than that–and more directly