What's the Tory? David Cameron, Conservative Chameleon

By Gray, Freddy | The American Conservative, February 23, 2009 | Go to article overview

What's the Tory? David Cameron, Conservative Chameleon


Gray, Freddy, The American Conservative


NOW IS THE WINTER of Republican discontent. It is widely agreed that the party needs to reinvent itself. It is also apparent that nobody knows what that means. For all the exhausting conservative introspection since the Democratic sweep of Nov. 4, there has been scant inspiration.

Yet one argument is gaining momentum. The Grand Old Party, to avoid being out of power for at least a generation, should imitate the modernizing example of the British Conservative Party under David Cameron.

This idea is hardly novel. On Jan. 1, 2006--less than a month after Cameron's election as Conservative leader--Rod Dreher enthusiastically identified the new-look Tories as fellow "crunchy conservatives." Writing in the London Times, Dreher commended the "conservative truth" in Cameron's concern for the environment and Britain's "broken society." "Get on with it, Cameron," he wrote. "Many of us American conservatives ... are watching and hoping you can pull this thing off."

More recently, and perhaps more ominously, a number of Right-leaning Atlanticists have also embraced the Tory strategy. At a Hoover Institution lunch in December, former Bush speech-writer David Frum, deftly repositioning himself as the GOP's intellectual savior, suggested that American conservatives could profit from the example of their British--and Canadian--counterparts. On Frum's new website, "New Majority: Conservatism That Can Win Again," one contributor praises the "diverse policy areas" of Cameron's agenda.

In May 2008, the Cameron model even received the imprimatur of David Brooks, who wrote in his New York Times column, "It used to be that American conservatives shaped British political thinking. Now the influence is going the other way. ... The Conservatives have successfully 'decontaminated' their brand. They're offering something in tune with the times. ... The only question is whether Republicans will learn those lessons sooner, or whether they will learn them later, after a decade or so in the wilderness."

Most pundits admit the obvious weakness in their analogy: America is not Britain. Yet they still underestimate the gigantic cultural and political--not to mention physical--differences between the United States and the United Kingdom. It is infinitely more difficult to "rebrand" a party, as the Conservatives seem to have done, in a country as huge, populous, and diverse as America. In the U.S., for one, there is no equivalent of the BBC telling everybody what to think. (That may seem churlish, but it is hard to exaggerate the pervasiveness of the Beeb in British life or the extent to which Cameron's message has been tailored to appeal to the corporation's journalists.)

Yet the parallels between the current predicament of the American Right and the recent history of its British cousin do bear consideration. In 1997, British Conservatives, like Republicans last year, were defeated by a seemingly unstoppable political force. Tony Blair, like Barack Obama, instilled a mood of delirious national optimism. He also dominated the political middle ground, outmaneuvering the Conservatives at every turn. The Tories were reduced to being the "nasty party," distrusted, reviled, and ridiculed--much like today's Republicans.

In 2005, however, the Conservatives, having lost several general elections, changed course. They elected the young and dynamic Cameron, who adeptly recast the party's image by focusing on climate change and social injustice. He wore Converses and quoted Gandhi. He dropped his opposition to gay marriage, along with some of his vowels. In short, he tried to become more Blair than Blair--or, as he is reported to have put it, "the heir to Blair." The ploy seemed to work. Under Cameron's leadership, the party's position in the polls dramatically improved. And after Blair resigned in 2007, with the eminently unlovable Gordon Brown taking his place, Cameron's stock rose higher still.

It is not hard to see why many Republicans--their popularity greatly diminished, particularly among the young, by eight years of George W.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

What's the Tory? David Cameron, Conservative Chameleon
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.