I gather there’s not much joy in Rightville over the Conservatives’ smash victory in Britain last week. Well, there’s much joy in my heart (which is usually the equivalent of Rightville).
My favorite Election Night story of all time comes from David Pryce-Jones. The Conservatives won an unexpected victory, years ago. At an eating establishment — probably more like a drinking establishment — Kenneth Tynan was very gloomy. Kingsley Amis was jubilant, jumping onto a table and dancing a kind of Spanish dance. “Show the shaggers! Show the shaggers!” he said. “Five more years outside the barbed wire!”
Yes, five more years outside the barbed wire. Ultimately, the only thing standing between Britain and socialism is the Conservative party.
For five years I have observed David Cameron at No. 10, and for five years I have experienced a dichotomy between what I see in Britain, with my own eyes, and what I read in the conservative blogosphere here at home.
In our blogosphere — may it live forever — Cameron is a squish, a moderate, a wuss. Olympia Snowe with an English accent. But did you ever watch Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour versus Conservative, Miliband versus Cameron?
It was a classic Left-Right battle. Week after week, “Red Ed” screamed across his dispatch box that Cameron was a dog-eat-dog right-winger, making orphans starve and killing off the old and handicapped. Cameron retorted across his dispatch box that Miliband and Labour were out to Sovietize Britain, and they would break up the country to boot, given their flirtation with the Scottish separatists.
In our blogosphere, Cameron is no conservative. But let me suggest something: If you said to the average Briton, “David Cameron is not a conservative,” said Briton would at first be confused, then back away from you nervously.
He is not pur et dur, the way we like it, but he is a classic conservative — a classic conservative in the way I am not. I’m more like a radical liberal. A Reaganite, a Thatcherite.
Cameron is a conservative whom Edmund Burke — supposedly our patron saint — would have blessed and adored. Commonsensical, pragmatic, mature. Patient, steady, competent. Tradition-minded, patriotic, history-minded. Gradualist, incrementalist, non-radical. Daring when the moment or cause is right, otherwise content to keep his powder dry, and wait for a more advantageous day.
By virtually every measure, Britain is better off than it was five years ago. The economy is robust. Government spending is curtailed. Employment is way up. Welfare dependence is way down. Entrepreneurship is encouraged. Crime is in check. Educational reform has been bold. London is the capital of the world.
And so on. (I might add that the people will at last have a referendum on EU membership. The vote may not go the way we Brexiters would like, but the people will have their say.)
I believe that British voters liked what they saw between 2010 and 2015 and chose to have some more of it. Also, Englishmen were nervous about an alliance between Labour and the Scottish National Party. As Cameron put it, Miliband wanted to “slither into Downing Street on the coattails of Alex Salmond” (the SNP’s unloveliest face).
In the recent campaign, Cameron spoke of the dignity of work and the importance of the family. These are longstanding conservative themes, and Cameron can sound them in a manner that does not scare the horses.
Is he the conservative of my dreams? Oh, for heaven’s sake. Grow up, as the late Joan Rivers said. I’m a wingnut. I’m America’s biggest fan of Ted Cruz, with the possible exception of Heidi. But I also know what’s realizable and admirable.
I find the churlishness of the American Right toward Cameron a little weird. I was always against him. I was for the other David (Davis) in the leadership race. I said over and over, churlishly, that I’d rather have Blair than Cameron.
But I have watched him in office, and he has, well, shown the shaggers, including me.
What Cameron offers, principally, is good government. And we righties are a little suspicious of that. Good government smacks of compromise, reaching across the aisle, “management,” and all that stuff. Cameron does not provide psychic or emotional satisfaction.
But, you know? We should be wary of looking to politics or government for psychic or emotional satisfaction.
Still, I am delighted with the results of the U.K. election. I say to my fellow conservatives what Margaret Thatcher said to the press, after the retaking of South Georgia in the Falklands War. The press wanted to carp, and, having none of it, the PM said, “Just rejoice at that news.”
I’m sure I’ll have plenty of occasions to criticize David Cameron in the coming years. I’m giving him a few days off.
Let me leave you with this, since I’m being the turd in the blogospheric punchbowl: The one UKIP MP, Douglas Carswell, is a big ol’ marshmallow on immigration. If our Right knew about him, or cared about him, they’d give him the Jeb Bush treatment (or the Marco-of-old treatment).