Sucking up to the Cameroons

There’s only one word for the media coverage of ‘Dave’ Cameron: nauseating. The Tory party has been hijacked by a bunch of refugees from Notting Hill. (The press has already dubbed them the Cameroons.) I keep expecting to find Hugh Grant lurking somewhere at the back of the publicity pictures. So it was nice to find some robustly sceptical comment at last — in this case a splendid column by Jonathan Freedland in today’s Guardian. Sample:

Progressives should start telling the media: enough of the infatuation – it’s getting embarrassing. For a “compassionate conservative”, as Cameron styles himself, is not a new creation. We have seen one before – and his name was George Bush.

He too knew how to talk nice — “No child left behind” he promised in 2000, usually surrounded by plenty of telegenic black and female faces – but once he had installed himself in power, he was as ruthless a rightwinger as any Republican in history.

Cameron is no chum of Bush – and the president is unlikely to alienate Blair by getting too cosy with him now – but the parallel is not entirely bogus. For one thing, Cameron too is surrounded by ideological neoconservatives, his campaign manager and shadow chancellor George Osborne chief among them. Cameron strongly backed the Iraq war while his allies, Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey, last month founded the Henry Jackson Society, named after the late US senator who is the patron saint of neoconservatism.

It’s all of a piece with a new Tory leader who wants to look and sound kinder and gentler, but is actually truer and bluer. Europe hardly featured in the leadership contest, but one of Cameron’s few specific promises was to pull his MEPs out of the European People’s Party grouping in the European parliament – leaving them instead to rub along with a few ragtag nationalists and hardliners on the fringes. Even IDS [Iain Duncan-Smith] rejected that move as too batty.

I’ve always thought that the phrase “compassionate conservatism” is an oxymoron, like “military intelligence”.

Fact: The Henry Jackson Society was founded by a group of right-wing academics in Peterhouse, Cambridge. As I understand it, Gove and Vaizey were just early Parliamentary ‘patrons’ of the outfit. I was invited to join (one of the founders is a friend of mine), but gracefully declined, because I was unable to sign up to some of the Society’s key ‘principles’. I could not, for example: “Support the necessary furtherance of European military modernisation and integration under British leadership, preferably within NATO.”

Nice to see also that Simon Hoggart had noticed young Dave’s curious repertoire of hand signals:

There’s the fly fisherman, casting his line, the University Challenge student suddenly hitting the buzzer, and the pinball wizard working his flippers.

That’s more like it. Why, I feel better already.