Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lurching to the right?

So, phase two begins. After a long period spent decontaminating the Conservative brand, David Cameron has revealed his true colours: a Thatcherite hiding under a touchy-feely exterior. This, at any rate, will be the Labur angle on the recent series of Conservative announcements and interviews. Is there any truth in it?
Dizzy is quite right that Cameron's positioning on immigration is a classic piece of triangulation. Whereas a focus on immigration with regard to its impact on 'Britishness' and 'shared values' and so forth looks like dog whistle politics (and, interestingly, is pretty much what Gordon Brown is doing), Cameron's angle is much harder to attack on 'racist' grounds:
I do think that people have a very real concern about levels of immigration and not because of different cultures or the colour of their skin. I think that people’s concern is about services. It’s the pressure on schools, pressure on hospitals, pressure on housing.
Framing the issue in this way is an excellent tactic. But is the underlying strategy the same? It has always been my belief that Cameron is socially a traditional Tory in the Macmillan/Whitelaw mould, while economically he is very much a child of the 1980s. Much of the work done by the Conservatives over the past 18 months has been in order to win the Tories a fair hearing. There should not, therefore, be too much concern if the Labour Party, as they will, jump to herald all this as a 'lurch to the right'.
That has been the message from the Labour Party consistently for the last 10 years. Whenever the Conservatives speak about tax, crime, immigration or Europe - four of the areas that most impact on peoples' lives - the Labour Party has sought to shut down the debate. If Cameron can neutralise this, either by triangulating or by ridiculing the idea, he will have a great advantage.

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