Monday, November 07, 2005

Remember what happened to the last "two Davids"?


It's comforting, in a way, to see that neither of the contenders for Tory leader really has a clue.

David Davis (so good, they named him twice) has stated that he wants to woo the 'wristband generation':
I want to win the wristband generation for the Conservative Party. This is the generation who wears the 'Make Poverty History' wristbands. They display their intolerance of racism with their white and black bands. The blue bands have raised money to highlight awareness of bullying. This generation wants a government that hates injustice as much as it does. I will deliver that government for them.

Leaving aside the irony of blue wristbands as a campaign against bullying (not to mention the unfortunate fact that these wristbands ended up encouraging bullying... oh, and of course the fact that Davis himself handed out blue wristbands at the Tory party conference as part of his campaign - prescient, perhaps?), it's almost touching how naive is his belief that the 'wristband generation' will want anything to do with the party that promotes globalisation. Or, rather, I should say the other party that promotes globalisation. Anyway, I'm not sure that "hating injustice" is confined to a single generation - if he meant "young people" why didn't he say "young people"? Hopping onto the tacky wristband craze bandwagon merely confirms his total lack of awareness of the constituency he says he's trying to attract. He could only have done a worse job by making his speech wearing baggy jeans, copious amounts of bling and an iPod. Still, I supose it doesn't matter, since he's going to lose anyway.

Speaking of iPods, what of the ultra-trendy candidate, the one who (let's be honest) is going to be the youngest leader of the Conservative Party since, er, William Hague? Well, in typical fashion he's clutched at the musical analogy, too: "If we play the same tunes, we end up with the same song, we'll end up with the same position in the charts - second," he said at the weekend. This has been Cameron's mantra: "We must change, we must change." (He has been coy about detail.) The more he repeats it, the more the poor, battered Tory Party member begins to believe it. Yes, we've got to get into power somehow, we're desperate, we'll try anything. The very first item in the menu on Cameron's campaign site is "The case for change". It doesn't say much that isn't obvious:
We persist in losing elections because our culture and attitudes are out of step with twenty-first century Britain. We need to change our policies, and our presentation – but most importantly we must transform our party. It must look, feel, think and behave like a completely new organisation.

So where do we start? We start with our values. We must ask ourselves why we are Conservatives, and then ask why so many of our fellow citizens think they are not – even though they share our values. And as we unflinchingly confront this painful question, we inevitably come to the conclusion that it’s time to recast our values according to the spirit of the age and the challenges of our times…

So, what does 'recasting our values' (there's consultant-speak if ever I heard it) mean? Clicking on the relevant link leads one to an impressive-looking page of pledges and ideas. But when you look at it closely, it's all waffle, an attempt to be all things to all men (and, presumably, women):

We must [support] marriage through the tax and benefits system. But in a more liberal and less deferential age, we must support all families.
The challenge is to deliver equal access to first-class public services without burdening today’s generations with higher taxes, or tomorrow’s generations with higher debt.
We believe in limited government. But rolling back the state must never mean the weak are left behind.
We believe in national sovereignty. But not in isolation and xenophobia.
We want oranges for all. Except for those people who prefer lemons, who must not be left out.

All right, I made the last one up (yes, only the last one). But doesn't this smack of the poor-quality psychotherapist who tells his patient: "you have to accept that you have to change." The patient replies, "OK, I accept that. How do I change?" The psychotherapist responds, "you have to think about things differently, and then do different things." The patient replies, "Er... yes, I got that. So I need to completely revolutionise my entire world, is that it?" The psychotherapist looks panicked: "Oh, no, no, not at all. You shouldn't do anything you're not comfortable with."

Cameron will win not because he has the best ideas. Certainly not because his "change or die" slogan conceals a genuinely radical agenda which will transform the fortunes of the party. He will win because his party is so sick of losing that they will turn to a leader with good presentational skills, whose campaign platform masks the fact that he has no practical ideas of substance. Sound familiar?

Anyway, the good news (actually, it's very bad news, but let's run with it for now) is that Gordon Brown would beat either of the two Davids in a General Election.

[EDIT: Guido usually has some good inside info from the two contenders' campaigns.]


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