Thursday, 26 June 2008

Cameron Conservatives?

A poll released by Conservative Home about the political attitudes of Conservative party candidates demonstrates the unfinished nature of the Cameron revolution. It is quite clear that there has been a process of creeping Cameronisation but it seems less than wholehearted. This poll is important because, should the Conservative party make large gains at the next election, this cadre of candidates will be MPs in the next Parliament.

How would you describe them? It's a bit of a mixed and sometimes contradictory bag. On issues of family, they are socially conservative: strongly support lowering of the abortion limit, support the tax system recognising marriage, and support the right of Catholic abortion agencies to refuse same-sex partners (this last one was based on a slightly smaller sample.) On issues of security and justice, they face a number of ways: oppose capital punishment even in the case of the murder of a police officer and strongly oppose the extension of the pre-charge detention limit. In all of this, there is nothing that fundamental differentiates them from Cameron is positioned.

Interestingly though, they care much more about terrorism than the environment.

This last point demonstrates the one area where Cameronism has not caught the imagination of his party, even amongst those who want to represent it in Parliament. On the environment the candidates would refuse to tax cars and airlines more even if it means reducing taxes on lower income families.

When you see that 85% of the candidates believe that the party should become the champion of the lower-paid worker by reducing their tax bill, you have to take it with a slight pinch of salt. They would not be willing to do that on the basis of an increase in taxes on cars and airlines. So is this concern for the least well-off just political positioning rather than deeply held conviction?

If I was David Cameron looking at these results, I would be quite concerned actually. My message is clearly getting across and my candidates seem to be going along with it. However, the conviction seems in many critical areas- the environment, welfare- to have a very soft under-belly. When the going gets tough, as it inevitably will, I will face some difficulty here and the welfare/ environmental aspects of my agenda, i.e. the stuff that has returned me to the mainstream, is going to be difficult to sustain. Oh, and that David Davis seems to have struck a cord as well.

To refrain a Labour mantra of a few years ago, a lot done, Mr Cameron, a lot to do.

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