Mr Cameron, You're No Barack Obama

New Statesman (1996), March 8, 2010 | Go to article overview

Mr Cameron, You're No Barack Obama


The coming general election has long been touted as the "change" election. Each of the three main parties has changed leader since 2005. Hundreds of MPs from all three parties are standing down this year--many as a direct consequence of the parliamentary expenses scandal. Faced with a Labour government exhausted by 13 years in office, the Conservative Party has seized on the idea of change as a cudgel with which to beat its opponents. "Vote for change" is the rather unoriginal campaign slogan unveiled by the Tories on 27 February--presumably on the advice of David Cameron's "guru" Steve Hilton, who was influenced by Barack Obama's election campaign while living in California.

In the week that Mr Obama was elected in November 2008, the Tory leader rose in the House of Commons to congratulate the US president-to-be and claimed that the change he promised contrasted with the offer of "more of the same" from Labour. So, for the next eight weeks, Mr Cameron's Conservatives, like Mr Obama's Democrats, will stand for "change". And indeed "Vote for change" could be a powerful message, but if the opposition cannot articulate what that change entails, it will continue to decline in the polls.

The deliberate co-opting of Mr Obama could be dangerous for Mr Cameron. As the first ever black presidential candidate, and one who had lived the so-called American dream, Mr Obama embodied the very "change" that so many Americans craved and demanded after eight years of the wretched George Bush and Dick Cheney. As one commentator who has known the Tory leader since his Bullingdon Club days at Oxford has pointed out: "Cameron, by contrast, is a born-and-bred Tory, an Old Etonian, a product of the stockbroker belt. Electing him prime minister seems less like a break with Britain's past than a restoration of the ancien regime."

Mr Cameron would do well to remember that Mr Obama caught the public mood with progressive positions on key issues. …

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