David Cameron – a man with a plan
He told Conservative party members and the country: ‘We are a united party, united in spirit and united in purpose’.
And that overriding purpose is now to win power in order to fulfil his alliterative promises of ‘rebuilding our battered economy, renewing our bureaucratised NHS, repairing our broken society’.
Tony Blair used the mantra in 1997; Barak Obama uses it today. David Cameron appealed to that democratic imperative – ‘change’ – which is a plea to each human heart to find within it the discernment that we cannot endure ‘more of the same’, but need to look to a different remedy for the treating of the nation’s ills. Certainly, Gordon Brown has experience, but so did John Major; so did Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill. Yet there comes a time when the electorate crosses its boredom threshold and ceases to tolerate the familiar. As Mr Cameron observed: ‘Experience is the argument of the incumbent over the ages. Experience is what they always say when they try to stop change’.
It is a pity he muddled his philosophy when he mentioned libertarianism. Either he does not understand Mill, or his speech writers were out of their depth and Mr Cameron, a PPE graduate, failed to pick this up through the drafting process. He defined the ‘libertarian’ as one who asserts the right to do whatever he or she wants, regardless of the effect on others. This is the antithesis of Mill’s principle that people should be free to do as they please as long as they do not harm others. Conservatism is libertarian - or it should be. There is a dimension of paternalism, and this must be held in tension, but the core philosophy is of the liberty to act according to one’s conscience and one’s will within the law, and the law is not that which grants permissions but that which prohibits, and what the law does not prohibit is permissible. Mr Cameron’s conversion to anti-libertarianism is inconsistent and confusing, especially given his previous pronouncements.
That aside, the UK’s next prime minister talked of ‘unity’, ‘hope’ and ‘belief’, and this did the trick. One wonders of the people will hear his cry and repent. Or if, like Israel of old, they will be deaf to these prophetic entreaties, and continue in the way that leads to death.