When we reflect on a government’s record, what is often forgotten are those opportunities that were squandered through lack of vision, courage, or a combination thereof. This is not surprising given the greater difficulties human beings have in thinking about the abstract versus the concrete. However, such sins of omission are especially important in modern politics, with its tendency towards management rather than leadership. In that context, here are just a few of the opportunities squandered that condemn David Cameron’s term of office.
Failure to govern as a minority administration. Following the 2010 election, if Cameron had had the moral courage to go it alone, he could probably have won outright the second election that would almost inevitably soon follow. To call this a failure of nerve would be overly generous – Cameron was most concerned at assuming the position he thinks his station in life entitles him to.
Failure to make a spirited defence of capitalism. Granted, no one would want that particularly gig after the way – with New Labour’s considerable help – the banksters completely wrecked the economy, but such a defence was desperately needed nonetheless. The government then compounded its error: lacking the courage to make the extremely dubious case for green energy tariffs, it stupidly deflected blame for high prices onto the power companies. As the financial crisis gives way to the entrenched inequalities of the second machine age, is it any wonder that red in tooth and claw socialism is making a comeback, with potentially catastrophic consequences that couldtake decades to repair?
Failure to veto the European fiscal union. As Dan Hannan makes very clear in this Guardian piece, in late 2011 David Cameron had a generational opportunity to improve our terms of membership of the EU. Instead, to quote Hannan: “…we are now in a worse position than we were before December . We have set the precedent that…. means that there can never be any more vetoes – ever.”
Failure to exploit the 2011 summer riots. An oft-repeated truism in politics is ‘to never to let a good crisis go to waste’. That is precisely what Cameron did after the country was deeply shocked by the widespread civil disorder that took place between August 6-11 2011. Cameroncould have very easily – and entirely correctly – used these circumstances ruthlessly to attack political correctness and the more destructive aspects of social liberalism, particularly those pertaining to family structures. Instead, hewent back to chillaxing as soon as the violence subsided. For the first time since the 1960s, a genuine chance existed to put liberalism on the back front and establish momentum behind a socially conservative agenda. It was missed. Can you imagine the radical Left making such a terrible strategic mistake?
Failure to create a significant marriage tax break. The long-delayed and derisory tax break now only just coming into being is probably far too low to incentivise marriage. As such, it may be worse than offering no tax break at all: a clever left wing government won’t abolish it immediately, but instead let it run for a couple of years and then point toits ineffectiveness, thereby rubbishing the policy for the long term. Perhaps that was precisely George Osborne’s intention.
Failure to offer a localist vision. Judging from their 2010 manifestos, localism was an area with real potential for constructive consensus between the coalition partners. Instead reforms have been piecemeal and bereft of any kind of overarching vision or philosophy. The most catastrophic consequences of this failure can be seen in handing the initiative to the malign forces of Scottish nationalism that will now probably destroy the United Kingdom.
To this litany of woe could be added many others, but you get the gist: Cameron has proved the cynical refrain that under the Tories you get to the same destination as with Labour, only slightly more slowly. Neither the broader conservative movement nor the country can afford his style of lazy, reactive High Toryism. He does not deserve another term as Prime Minister.