“Thatcherism gilded with piety”

David Hare’s description of Cameronism.

Writing for the Guardian, the playwright David Hare hits the nail on the head:

At the end of this decade, we hit a perfect storm. A financial crisis, precipitated by banking malpractice, coincided with the moment at which New Labour had diluted the principles of social democracy to a point where its founding ideals ceased to be recognisable. When organised finance and the public interest came into direct conflict, the left had neither an analysis nor a coherent plan beyond firefighting. Into this vacuum stepped David Cameron.

In one sense, he's a traditional blame-the-victim Thatcherite. But his special gift is to gild Thatcherism with piety: not just "do this", but "do this, it's good for you". Margaret Thatcher at least had the courage to despise the poor. Cameron befriends them by sticking hymn sheets in their hands while rifling their pockets. She adored the rhetoric of class war; he indulges the blokey pleasures of exhortation. He is a man who because he cannot imagine chooses instead to preach. Internationally, he is null.

Michael Forsyth was asked on Question Time whether the economic crisis wasn't providing visceral Thatcherites with the perfect cover to fulfil their dream of destroying the welfare state. "No, no," he said, "this is economics, not ideology." Cameron was asked whether, when the crisis was over, he planned to restore the familiar provisions of public service. He said not. Somewhere between the hypocrisy and the realism of these two irreconcilable positions lies the future of Cameronism.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.