Wednesday, August 29, 2007

David Cameron has more or less abandoned his efforts to win the "middle ground"

Reviewing the front pages at South Mimms service station, I was struck by the Telegraph's ('David Cameron goes on crime offensive') and Daily Mail's ('Crime: Tories finally get tough') favourable headlines for David Cameron.

We have also recently seen Tim Montgomerie praising Cameron's shift to crime and other traditional Tory policy refrains.

This evening Cameron says that Immigration is 'too high' on Newsnight.

Putting aside the point that Cameron's crime initiative is built on fairly shaky foundations, as
Wit and Wisdom points out, there is some reflection to had on the Cameron "narrative" as it has evolved.


When he started as leader it was all trying to woo LibDems with his 'Cameron loves LibDems website' (or somesuch). Then we had lots of touchy feely liberal acrticles by the Camster in the Observer. Then we had the "hug a hoodie" and "let sunshine win the day" speeches. There was praise for gay partnerships at the Tory conference and various other statements geared to break the traditional mould of the Tories, to break the paradigm and make everyone think the Tories had changed.

Except, it didn't work.

Oh dear.

Thunderous complaints from the Tory ranks, climaxing with the Grammar school debacle showed quite clearly that, although Cameron might pretend to be touchy feely, his party was still the hang 'em and flog 'em party we all know and hate/love.

So what does he do?

One would expect him to carry on and try to show us the Tories have indeed changed.


What he did was sack David Willetts, the author of the Grammar schools debacle, from his education spokesmanship.

Big white flag.

Clause Four moment thrown away and lost.

He chickened out.

Then we get tough statements on crime and immigration. We get him saying the Human Rights Act should be scrapped and that the Learco Chindamo case proves that point, which it didn't.

So, for months Cameron was suggesting, through his statements and people like William Hague were confirming verbally, that Cameron would not "do a Hague" - that is start by being meek and mild but then cave in and go all Toryish on immigration, crime etc.

But he has. Cameron has done a Hague.

The most ludicrous example of William Hague "doing a Hague" was when he effectively supported Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer who was convicted following the shooting of a burglar at his home, in April 2000.

Hague started using the case to talk what are called "Rowlocks" in nautical terms:

People who are woken in the dead of the night by a noise need to know that the law is on their side

Bleat, bleat. You could argue that there was some genuine clarity needed in the law on this subject. But it was band-waggon politics at its worst and was emblematic of Hague abandoning all attempts at moderation.

Appropriately, on the eighth anniversary of the shooting of a burglar in Tony Martin's house, Cameron launched his "Doing a Hague moment" when he went ballistic about Learco Chindamo:

The fact that the murderer of Philip Lawrence cannot be deported flies in the face of common sense. It is a glaring example of what is going wrong in our country. What about the rights of Mrs Lawrence? The problem for this Government is that the Human Rights Act is their legislation and they appear to be blind to its failings.

Except that, the Human Rights Act was only a secondary element in the decision about Chindamo. The main legal reference point was an EU directive - nothing to do with the Human Rights Act.

So, whilst Hague had his seminal "Hague moment" with Tony Martin, Cameron had his emblematic "Hague moment" with Learco Chindamo seven years later.

It appears that Cameron is now aiming to repair the internal damage in his party, rather than expand the Tory voting base. To be fair, he is embracing green issues with a parallel initiative alongside all the immigration and crime tough talk.

However, while he may have won back some Brownie points with Tim Montgomerie, The Telegraph and the Daily Mail, it is obvious that Cameron has significantly retreated from his attempts to win over the "middle ground", which must surely put a huge question mark over his ability to make any breakthrough at the polls. Even at the height of his "sunshine win the day" popularity, the Tories were failing to get significantly ahead of Labour.

Now that Cameron has substantially abandoned his middle ground grab attempt, one can only speculate that the Tories are highly unlikely to leap sufficiently ahead of Labour.

That is simply because Cameron has now decided to preach to the converted - i.e people who, more or less, would have voted Tory anyway.


  1. Oh great, just what we need, another ban. Couldn't the Liberal Democrats try to develop some policies which don't involve banning new things? Tax them if necessary, but banning should be used only in really extreme cases.

  2. Oops, that was meant to be an answer to Huhne's carbon plan. I have some technical problems with your blog, I keep getting some pop-up about some java-script problems.

  3. I can't see that Chris Huhne is actually proposing to ban anything actually. Measures to encourage less petrol use and targets, but I can't see a ban suggested.