Jay, I’ll take your word for it that there was “not much joy in Rightville over the Conservatives’ smash victory in Britain last week”. Speaking for myself, however, I was delighted.
As I noted on election night, Cameron’s victory was “a remarkable achievement, made all the more enjoyable” by the defeat of Galloway and a few other ne’er do wells.
On Cameron’s record, we disagree somewhat. I largely agree with you about his achievements, some of which are very impressive indeed, but I think his failures (as I see them; he might disagree), from energy policy to immigration, to the EU, to Scotland, to overseas aid, to defense, to free speech, to freedom of the press, to making a mess of the 2010 election, have to be put in the ledger too, and those are not failures that irritate only the hard right…
You were brave enough to admit that you had said “over and over, churlishly, that [you would] rather have Blair than Cameron”. I will say that’s not something I have ever thought for a second! Admittedly the fact that Blair proved to be one of Britain’s more destructive prime ministers makes that something of a low bar, nevertheless…
We both agree that the Conservative Party, for all its faults, is all that stands between Britain and the Labour Party.
That’s why, back in December, I wrote this:
[I]f UKIP wins some seats and racks up an impressive tally of votes across the country, it will send a useful signal to the Tories (and to Labour, too). Seen from that perspective, the euro-skeptic Right should vote UKIP in the few seats where UKIP has a real chance of winning and in the many where the Conservatives have no hope of prevailing. Elsewhere, vote Conservative.
But that doesn’t mean that the Conservative Party could not do better, or that it could not benefit both intellectually and electorally by being nudged somewhat to the right.
As to whether Cameron is some sort of Burkean, let’s just say that I am a touch more skeptical than you, but for now I’ll just repeat what I wrote yesterday:
With the excuse of coalition gone, Cameron now has to show what he’s made of. A few examples come to mind, and there are plenty more where they came from. Will his new government persist with the same ruinously expensive greenery or will it move towards a saner energy policy? Will Nanny be told to take a hike? Will Cameron give self-government to the English as well as the Scots? Will he continue to pretend that Britain’s role within the EU can be renegotiated into some safe place or will he, at last, recognize the legal, economic and political reality that it cannot—and that there is no decent alternative to Brexit?
To ask these questions is, I suspect, to answer them, but it’s only fair to wait and see. Wait for how long? Well, in the past Cameron has often shown himself to be dangerously complacent (thus his reputation for ‘government by essay crisis’) but that may be a luxury that a small majority—and the power that it gives his backbenchers— will deny him. There’s also the little matter of the nearly four million votes that went UKIP’s way (12.6 percent of the total, more than four times UKIP’s share in 2010). Whatever lies ahead for that party, the significance of its vote ought not to be overlooked by any politician who is paying attention.