That’s enough pointing-and-laughing at the British National Party for a while. Now for a bit of pointing and laughing at the Tories…
I’ve never had much time for Cameron and Clegg, with Cameron modelling himself on Blair, and Clegg on Cameron. But what the election campaign is bringing out is the extent to which Cameron was only ever offering the most fraudulent impersonation of Blair, and that it’s because of this that the Clegg-as-Cameron strategy is working out so very nicely for the Liberal Democrats.
The reason Blair was far more successful as a centrist politician than Cameron is managing to be is that he went out of his way to humiliate the Left of his party in public as a part of his move to the right. He chose to pick fights that he really didn’t have to fight, with the result that it made it all much easier for former Conservative voters to think that it was safe to vote Labour after all.
Cameron, by contrast, has made a lot of centrist noises, and he’s done various things that the Tory headbanger tendency doesn’t much like (stuff on the website about tackling homophobic bullying in schools, running more women candidates or candidates from ethnic minorities in winnable seats, banging on about the environment, usw), but he’s never seriously tried to stage a meaningful fight with the party’s Right, to lure them out into the open, and to slap them down in public. Bullying Norfolk South West into having Liz Truss as their PPC just doesn’t count, and when the Right tried to bully him, making it a condition of its support in the leadership campaign that he pledged to quit the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, he was happy to fall in line. And one consequence of this kind of thing is that voters find it harder to take his centrist pretensions especially seriously.
And this is why Clegg is doing so well. Cameron’s strategy has been to try to bring centrist-minded, middle-class, non-lunatic voters into the Conservative orbit, and to fight the election as if this is the key demographic, but if you’re a C-M, M-C, N-L voter, and you want to vote for that kind of thing, there’s no good reason not to vote for the real thing (Clegg) rather than the dubious fraud (Cameron). Cameron’s only pretending to be Blair, and that’s what’s making it easy for Clegg to be what Cameron would like to be, but can’t, a politician operating entirely comfortably on the terrain of what we might call the centre-centre-right of British politics.
So we have the happy result that John Major won 31% in 1997, William Hague won 32% in 2001, Michael Howard won 33% in 2005, and David Cameron’s ‘decontaminated’ Tories are heading for, um, 34% in 2010. At this rate it’ll be another quarter century or so before they’re in spitting distance of a parliamentary majority. Happy days.