SUPERCAM! after the Stunning Election Victory, an Eminent Historian Argues David Cameron Can Be a Greater Prime Minister Than Even His Own Political Hero, Harold Macmillan - and Become

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), May 10, 2015 | Go to article overview

SUPERCAM! after the Stunning Election Victory, an Eminent Historian Argues David Cameron Can Be a Greater Prime Minister Than Even His Own Political Hero, Harold Macmillan - and Become


Byline: ANDREW ROBERTS JOURNALIST AND HISTORIAN

HISTORIC is one of the most misused words in the politician's lexicon, employed whenever they mean 'significant'. Yet it is worth considering where David Cameron stands in terms of British history, now that he has pulled off one of the most extraordinary, unexpected electoral victories of modern times.

History certainly matters a great deal to Cameron himself: he is a voracious reader of it, his speeches - especially those delivered abroad - are peppered with references to it; his firstclass honours degree in PPE at Oxford depended on a thorough grounding in it.

The books in the mini-library he is donating to Chequers - as all PMs traditionally do - are almost all works of history and biography. He naturally sees his career in terms of his predecessors; indeed it could hardly be otherwise since every time he climbs the stairs at No10 he passes dozens of their portraits.

The statement Cameron made immediately after winning the General Election last week - 'We will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom' - was not a mere soundbite. It was what he has always been waiting to say from the steps of No10 after an electoral victory.

For it roots him firmly in the One Nation Tory tradition that he sees as going back to Benjamin Disraeli, Winston Churchill and most recently his ultimate political role model Harold Macmillan, whose portrait he brought with him to Downing Street. Cameron believes that Britain is essentially a One Nation Tory country, and that the Conservatives are the natural party of government. Harold Macmillan was the last Old Etonian to win a General Election, more than half a century ago in 1959, but that was largely expected, despite the traumas of the Suez Crisis of 1956 and Anthony Eden's resignation the following year.

By total contrast, Cameron has pulled off a coup that was not predicted by any polling organisation and almost no political commentators. The headline in Matthew Parris's Spectator column of May 2 - 'The British Public is about to make a Big Mistake' - spoke for pretty much every pundit.

The shade of Supermac must be smiling down on his successor - let's call him Supercam - in whatever Valhalla Tory ex-premiers inhabit; he would have loved the sheer drama of stealing a victory from Labour in this way.

When Cameron declared his clear majority 'the sweetest victory' - superior even to Margaret Thatcher's 188-seat majority in 1987 - most people will forgive him his elation. Beyond the numbers, however, he has a point, because that sweetness comes in the very unexpected nature of the win.

This was the British equivalent of the American Presidential election of 1948, in which President Truman pulled off an equally surprising victory: the Chicago Daily Tribune even printed a headline stating 'Dewey Defeats Truman' which Truman showed to the cheering crowds.

It also proved the truth of the comment by Benjamin Disraeli - whose novel Coningsby inaugurated the concept of 'One Nation' Toryism - that 'England does not love coalitions'. It was largely due to English voters' detestation of the idea of a Labour-SNP crypto-coalition that so many English electors voted Tory. (Of course this has been put down to 'scare tactics', as though Labour's allegations about Tory plans to privatise the NHS were any different.) Cameron's phrase about governing as a party of 'one United Kingdom' was almost as important as his reference to 'one nation'. As a highly historicallyliterate politician he is aware that, far from being a new phenomenon, the presence of a large nationalist voting bloc in the House of Commons that wants to break up the Union is almost as old as British democracy itself. …

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

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 ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

SUPERCAM! after the Stunning Election Victory, an Eminent Historian Argues David Cameron Can Be a Greater Prime Minister Than Even His Own Political Hero, Harold Macmillan - and Become
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
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.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, 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." (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

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.