Political Commentary: Barking lurchers
It is ever the case that political insults are mostly aimed at the Right. The Left has a long tradition of smearing anyone with views that differ from their own.
This week’s prime example is the phrase: “lurching to the Right”, which was unthinkingly parroted by David Cameron. Stealing the Left’s clothes is a dangerous game for a Conservative leader.
Naturally, nobody “lurches to the Left”. It hasn’t yet been added to public discourse, for it is a general rule that the Right are less nasty than the Left.
So why did the Tories permit themselves to be dubbed “the nasty party” by one of their own, which encouraged them to adopt a persistent policy of proving they are not. Thus the Conservatives found themselves endlessly fighting on Labour’s ground, claiming to be “more compassionate than thou”. As a result they lost the meaning of conservatism and even their self-image is now at risk.
One of David Cameron’s greatest weaknesses is that he is not reflective. He doesn’t analyse the essence of words and phrases and tends to go with the flow, even those created by Left-wing reactionaries. One can’t “lurch to the Left” because that phrase has not entered the lexicon and would be swiftly trashed by the guardians of Labour’s soundbite soul.
Whatever you think of Margaret Thatcher, nobody denies that she grabbed and controlled the agenda. She even corrected Neil Kinnock’s pronunciation of “Boris” — as in Boris Yeltsin. The Left were constantly on the back foot and reduced to playing catch-up, as the Tories are now despite being in power.
Notice how often Cameron has to make a big intervention to prove himself as a credible prime minister, and how often it burns brightly for an instant before falling apart under analysis. He rarely holds the initiative for long before attempting to justify himself as a caring person who will never “lurch” onto demonised ground — even if it has consistently won his party elections over more than 200 years.
That is why his premiership is now falling apart, along with the efforts of his prime strategist, George Osborne. Obsessive self-consciousness kills political careers dead.
Ultimately, a mind with a First from Oxford should be capable of spotting the weaknesses of a false narrative that more closely describes the Left itself. Cameron is attempting to outflank Labour on the Left as his hero Tony Blair did to the Tories on the Right.
The fatal flaw in that course is that, all things being equal, the British electorate responds more easily to a Rightish analysis than they do to the Left. We are a conservative country. It doesn’t take much to make it Conservative.
The Cameron stance has comprehensively failed. By trying to be Blair in reverse, he has lost credibility and the power of initiative in the eyes of voters.
Being centre-right in the old sense is all we ask of him.