Tuesday, March 06, 2007

From the Iron Lady to the Irony Lad

Have I mentioned that my opinion of David Cameron isn’t entirely positive? Well, perhaps I’ve been too harsh on the boy. He proved at the weekend that he truly understands the core of the British national character: irony. Because there’s really no other way to explain his recipe for political success:

“You must have an analysis - a deep and serious analysis - of what the country needs.”

Deep? Serious? From a former Bullingdon Boy turned media PR man turned new Tory? But hold on – don’t mock him until you’ve read it:

“We are clear about what we want to do: we want to improve the quality of life for everyone in our country. And we are equally clear about how we will do it. Not through Labour's idea of state control. But through our idea: social responsibility.”

Are you clear about that? Life will be better for everyone, and the “deep and serious analysis” of how to achieve this is by means of social responsibility.

What? You want more? A two-word slogan (neither of whose words is a verb) isn’t an adequate explanation of how to transform society? Shame on you. Well, alright, but I should warn you that only the most intelligent of you will be able to follow the subtle intricacies of his thinking:

“if we are to bring about the social revival that is our aim, if we are to deliver those lasting improvements to people's quality of life, everyone will have to play their part. Government, of course. But also individuals, families, businesses, communities, charities and social enterprises. Everyone has their part to play.”

I hope your breath is sufficiently taken away and that your brain isn’t overwhelmed to the point of embolism. This kind of insight is gold dust. But lest you form the impression that Mr Cameron is the fount of all wisdom, he cautions:

“But at the same time, let's not pretend that politicians have all the answers.”

It’s kind of him to say that, because for a minute there, I really did think that he had all the answers! Silly me!

Let me treat you to some more policy detail, getting to the heart of it – some of the “grit” that he promised to reveal this year. You might want to take notes:

“We need to change our culture too, so we value families more. … In particular we need to create the right social pressures… It is not something that can be delivered by government. It is a personal responsibility, and a social responsibility.”

You see, the very core of his programme for government is something that government can’t do. And that’s the postmodern beauty of Cameron’s vision for Britain: it can be fulfilled without him actually being in government! He can stay in opposition and do his whole persuade/cajole/exhort routine to spread a culture of familial niceness without having his precious time wasted with distractions such as governing.

But after I read this, I started to think that I’d got it wrong. It crossed my mind that his vision might actually be superficial drivel. But how could that be, coming from an intellectual colossus such as him? So it struck me that I’d missed the masterful irony of his speech. Shallow sloganising as a “deep and serious analysis”? Hand-waving blather about everyone “playing their part” as “clear”?

Oh, this boy’s sharp. (You’d not get that kind of dry, understated wit from certain dour statist politicians!) Because he couldn’t possibly literally have meant this:

“Just as once we transformed Britain's economy by applying Conservative ideas and Conservative values, so today we can transform our society in just the same way.”

Clearly he learned a lot about Tory economic success while working for Norman Lamont. So what’s the social equivalent of two recessions, mass unemployment, an unsustainable boom, tax cuts for the rich, ballooning poverty, a forced devaluation, broken tax promises and a massive budget deficit?

What a joker. He should definitely give up the day job.

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