David Cameron Has Caught the Public Mood and Wrong-Footed Tony Blair ; EDITORIAL & OPINION
Anderson, Bruce, The Independent (London, England)
Labour is worried. Tony Blair's political instincts have failed him; these days, they often do. On the family question, the PM misread the public mood and David Cameron seized the initiative. Labour does not know how to respond. Some cabinet ministers are still reluctant to talk about the family, for fear of sounding hostile to single mothers. Others are uneasily aware that most voters are not single mothers - and that Mr Cameron has managed to extol the family without sounding intolerant.
Tony Blair did not go astray because he lacked intellectual arguments. It is alarming that young black drug dealers are shooting each other in south London. There is a law and order problem. But Mr Blair is right; that is only true in a very small area. It does not mean that British society is fractured.
Equally, David Cameron was stretching his case when he said that wealth creation should not take priority over social wellbeing. Why are the two necessarily antithetical? The south London boys may have been running wild because their fathers were never around. This does not mean that the dads were working 80-hour weeks for a hedge-fund.
Yet Mr Blair's arguments are irrelevant. Occasionally, dispassionate intellectualism is overwhelmed by dramatic events. A single incident suddenly symbolises an entire horizon of social problems. It may be that only a tiny minority of youngsters will commit murder. But a much larger number are enduring an upbringing which is defective in love, order, discipline and values. When he talks about this, David Cameron is articulating the anxieties of tens of millions of decent people.
Nor should the Tory leader be accused of opportunism. He has not stumbled on the family. He has spent a year deploying both arguments and body language to lay foundations for a new Tory family policy. The body language was crucial. Mr Cameron is tolerant. He has no objection to homosexuals bringing up children. He knows that there will always be single mothers and that sexual mores have changed. How many people now believe in virgin brides?
Mr Cameron does believe that as many children as possible should be brought up by their two parents in stable families. But he was determined to make that point in a humane way. When they talked about families, some traditional Tories sounded as if they wanted an excuse to denounce sin and deviancy. Mr Cameron emphatically rejects all that, and his political assessment is in harmony with his principles. He believes that oldfashioned Tory prejudice would neither win the argument nor win over the voters.
The so-called "hug a hoodie" speech was part of this new approach. David Cameron did not use those words. Indeed, as he read some philosophy at Oxford, he will not even say, "I did not say 'hug a hoodie'," - because then he would have done.
But he was talking about affection. He insisted that punishment was not enough. We had to try to understand why these youngsters were so alienated and troublesome. In so doing, we would find that the answer almost always lay in fractured family relationships. The hoodie criminals would never have eaten a meal round a table, at a set time, with parents asking about their school day. Most of them would have lived in households which were more like an animal's den, where junk food bought with stolen money arrived at unpredictable intervals, to be gobbled against the blare of television - and no one gave a damn …
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Publication information: Article title: David Cameron Has Caught the Public Mood and Wrong-Footed Tony Blair ; EDITORIAL & OPINION. Contributors: Anderson, Bruce - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: February 26, 2007. Page number: 37. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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