Hopefully you at least partially followed the recent U.K. national elections. There is a lot of examining and explaining to be done as to what happened, and why it happened. The day after the election, on a London talk radio program, host Iain Dale took a call from a man named Martin. Martin went on an epic diatribe of voter frustration and disgust. Fortunately for us, the call has been archived and we can enjoy it over here on this side of the pond. Scroll down once you’re on the page and listen to the 9 min 40 sec version of the call. Enjoy!
This column was originally featured at Big Jolly Politics:
By Steve Parkhurst
I look to Great Britain, and I wonder what they stand for, what they would be willing to fight for, and why they do not seem to be fighting for anything.
The unbelievable terror attack in broad daylight near London recently, where a solider was beheaded with a machete and a meat cleaver, was yet another example of suicidal levels of tolerance that have come to pass in the United Kingdom. Prime Minster David Cameron was in Paris when the killing in Woolwich took place. In announcing his return to London after the attack, Cameron said:
“I’ve been briefed by the Home Secretary about this absolutely sickening attack in Woolwich in London. It is the most appalling crime. We are urgently seeking, and the police are urgently seeking, the full facts about this case. But there are strong indications that it is a terrorist incident. Two people at the scene of the murder were wounded by the police, and they are being treated as suspects.”
That is benign enough. Cameron continued later:
“The police and the security services in the UK will get all of the support that they need to deal with this, or indeed with any other incident.”
This sort of comment about “all of the support that they need” is reminiscent of US leaders saying such things after massive weather events or other tragedies. It is starting to become vague and meaningless, it lacks teeth.
Cameron concluded his statement:
“Tonight our thoughts should be with the victim, with their family, with their friends. People across Britain, people in every community, I believe, will utterly condemn this attack. We have had these sorts of attacks before in our country, and we never buckle in the face of them.”
Sounds tough. Sounds like a leader. But is it hollow rhetoric or is it a call to action?
The leader of the UK Green Party promptly condemned the attack, before taking the typical Leftist route of blaming the UK’s foreign policy for the attack, rather than the cold-blooded murderers. This is what Natalie Bennett said:
“It’s absolutely tragic what happened in Woolwich and you’ve got to feel not just for the family of the serviceman but also for the people and bystanders that saw it happen and the emergency services that had to deal with it afterwards. But if we’re going to stop that happening again in the future, one of the biggest things we have to do is stop regarding ourselves as the world’s policeman.”
Such cowardice is typical, but it is also what fills the void in place of a lack of bold leadership, or bold actions. And let it also be understood that when you follow up on the acknowledgement of a tragedy with the transitional, “But,” you are losing the argument, and maybe your country too if you’re not careful.
I like what the Prime Minister tried to do with and continues to work toward with his Big Society initiative. The Big Society consists of re-focusing the efforts of government to be more limited, efficient and effective, and instead encouraging the private sector to take on more responsibility for taking care in their communities via charities, churches, non-profits, schools and the like.
The Big Society was launched once, rather stalled out, then was launched again. While there are mechanisms and speeches and logos and slogans in place, one would be hard pressed to find whether the Big Society is in operation, stalled out waiting for revival number three, or scrapped altogether.
The London riots in the summer of 2011, where the vermin of the country gathered to wreak havoc and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in destruction to various neighborhoods night after night, would have been a great opportunity for the Prime Minster to set a new national standard for decency and a new direction for the nation as a whole. Kit Malthouse, the Deputy Mayor of London, condemned the actions from his position and he also went on the offensive:
“Obviously there are people in this city, sadly, who are intent on violence, who are looking for the opportunity to steal and set fire to buildings and create a sense of mayhem, whether they’re anarchists or part of organised gangs or just feral youth frankly, who fancy a new pair of trainers.”
Sure, the Prime Minister said many of the right things that needed to be said:
“So this must be a wake-up call for our country.
Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face.
Now, just as people last week wanted criminals robustly confronted on our street, so they want to see these social problems taken on and defeated.
Our security fightback must be matched by a social fightback.
We must fight back against the attitudes and assumptions that have brought parts of our society to this shocking state.”
The world watched. The world waited. The Prime Minster waited as well.
Do not get me wrong, there is some good stuff in that speech. If you see the video of that speech, it is tough to believe that Cameron believed any of what he said that day. That is part of the problem and part of where my argument hinges, Cameron may be too carefully scripted for his own good.
In April of this year, with the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, came a unique opportunity for the current Prime Minister to effectively re-launch his term in office. Speaking in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister delivered some eloquent prose in his tribute to Margaret Thatcher:
“They say that cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Well in 1979 came the hour, and came The Lady.
She made the political weather.
She made history.
And let this be her epitaph: that she made Britain great again.”
Once again, the words were right. But, the opportunity was missed.
As the gutter rats celebrated Thatcher’s death with signs and celebratory protests, there were many people of all political beliefs who rallied to celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s life and her deeds. She held beliefs that were not always popular. She made decisions she felt were in the best interest of her country. She obviously did not just make decisions to be liked, or to be popular. In some cases, a vocal minority just effectively looked like a vocal majority. Not everyone agreed with her, but most everyone respected her as a woman, and as importantly, as a leader.
A disaster or a catastrophic event is not necessary in order to create a situation where David Cameron could emerge as a leader, or as a hero. David Cameron does not need a President George W. Bush-like “bullhorn moment” on top of a pile of rubble. What I’m talking about is the opportunities that arise. The opportunities that demand a leader take action. The opportunities that can make and shape a nation. The opportunities to be better. The opportunities that turn to regret in the absence of action, and in the clarity of light.
David Cameron has had these opportunities. There is no such thing as knowing how many more opportunities he will have. Will he ever take the chance to grab greatness?
I think David Cameron can be a great and transformative leader, he has already had to take on many reforms and make unpopular spending decisions because of the collapse of the world economy. And as I suggested before, I like some of the moves he has made while being part of a bizarre coalition government between the conservative Tory party and the left-leaning Liberal Democrats. And what I’m talking about is not a piece of legislation, but instead a vocal declaration, a mandate from the top, that shows a path and does not need legislation, just leadership and direction. Given the current economic conditions where there is a limited amount of money for government to spend, leadership without legislation may be exactly what the world ordered.
Isabel Hardman of The Spectator points to some of the eloquence I have referenced with regard to Cameron, especially in the aftermath of the Woolwich killing:
“It goes without saying that when it comes to serious national tragedies, David Cameron is the right man to give a statement from Downing Street. His response today to the Woolwich killing underlined how good he is at producing sensitive and thoughtful speeches which, though written swiftly, avoid any knee-jerk reaction.”
As you can well imagine at this point, I find the phrase “give a statement” both humorous and insulting. There is not really a doubt that David Cameron can deliver a speech. The question is going to be can he deliver anything beyond words at any point. His re-election in 2015 may hinge on such a thing. His country’s fate may hinge on it even sooner.
I continue to wait for Prime Minister Cameron to get tough, to get bold, to set some lofty standards. I continue to be disappointed on that front. Winston Churchill had his moment. Margaret Thatcher had hers. Tony Blair stepped up when terror called. David Cameron is waiting.
But, what is he waiting for?
I think that conservative UK pollster Lord Ashcroft has found some interesting results in the aftermath of Prime Minster David Cameron’s recent EU speech where he offered the voters of the UK an eventual in/out referendum vote. Ashcroft’s findings are detailed and complete, and his analysis is worth review.
The Europe speech has cheered Tories, not moved votes
The policy contained in the Prime Minister’s speech of ten days ago was a good answer to the question “what should we do about Europe?” It was never, I hope, supposed to answer the question “what will ensure we win?” If anyone expected an immediate leap in the Conservative Party’s popularity, the evidence should by now have disabused them of the notion. Polling I completed earlier this week shows little change in the bigger political picture.
As with most of the published polls since The Speech, I found a small increase in the Conservative vote share; my poll put Labour ahead by just to 38% to 33%. Analysis of the numbers shows much of this is down to some 2010 Tory voters. Back in December less than three in five of 2010 Tory voters said they would vote Conservative in an election tomorrow; after the speech that number had risen to two in three. Existing supporters also say they are marginally more likely to turn out and vote this month than last.
In other words, The Speech, and more importantly the policy it articulated, has made Tories feel better about being Tories. This is not to be sneezed at – but let’s not confuse it with having changed anybody’s mind.
One thing it did achieve was a small but measurable boost to David Cameron’s leadership ratings. I found people were more likely to say they were satisfied with him as Prime Minister, and those who were dissatisfied were slightly less likely to say they would rather have Ed Miliband instead. Cameron’s advantage on representing Britain in international negotiations, having a clear idea what he wants to achieve, being able to lead a team and doing the job of Prime Minister overall was enhanced.
Otherwise little has changed. Though the coalition remains more trusted than Labour to manage the economy overall, people are if anything less optimistic about economic prospects than they were at the end of last year. While the Conservatives retain a small lead on steering the economy through difficult times, Labour have edged ahead on helping businesses grow and recover; the Opposition’s lead on getting the balance right between tax rises and spending cuts is, at 11 points, as big as the Tories’ had been in September 2010.
The 34-point leads the Conservatives enjoyed four months after the last election on tackling abuse in the welfare system and dealing with immigration have been cut to 6 points and 10 points respectively.
The Conservatives are no more likely to be seen as united, or to have clear plans to deal with Britain’s problems, than they were last autumn. Not surprisingly, given all this, the promise of an EU referendum has not unleashed a desire for an overall Conservative majority. Just under a third (32%) of voters told us last weekend that this would be their preferred outcome of the next election – a proportion unchanged since last November. A Labour government remains the most popular choice, with 38%; 17% would rather have a Labour-Lib Dem coalition. Another round of what we have now is the least popular choice, with 13%.
None of this is to say that The Speech was in any way undesirable. The issue needed to be dealt with, and it has been. It showed David Cameron as a strong leader, taking the initiative and enhancing his credentials as a Prime Minister who stands up for Britain. But the lack of movement in overall perceptions of the party is instructive.
The effect of the referendum policy on attitudes to Europe has been interesting. There has been a small boost in the numbers saying they feel positive about Britain’s EU membership (from 18% to 22% since December). However, a substantial fall in the numbers saying they feel negative about EU membership and that Britain would be better off out (from 34% to 26%), and a smaller decline in those saying they are negative about it but we are better off in (by 1 point to 19%), has been accompanied by an increase in the number with no strong views either way (from 28% to 33%). While most Conservatives are excited by the in-out part of the policy, others have registered the negotiate-and-decide part.
In debating the question in the coming years we must remember that there is only so much oxygen in the room. Most people do not pay much attention to politics at all; when they do, let’s make sure they hear something that changes their view of the Conservative Party, not just of Europe.
Find the original article here.
Prime Minister David Cameron delivered what is being hailed not only as a great speech, but easily his best speech since he became Prime Minister in May 2010. You can see (picture below) some of the love that the London papers (left, right and center), have heaped upon the Prime Minister in the aftermath. Britons will now have the opportunity to vote themselves out of the European Union.
Conservative Home is a great website that I really enjoy. I wanted to post in its entirety, this entry by Tim Montgomerie, as he hits upon the highlights in the coverage of David Cameron’s historic day.
David Cameron will enjoy this morning’s newspapers
Yesterday I argued that Cameron’s Europe speech would bring four benefits to the Conservative Party. One of those benefits was a better relationship with the centre right press. There’s plenty of evidence of that this morning. Here are key quotes from Britain’s five centre right/ Eurosceptic newspapers:
- Daily Mail: “This was an historic day, which could yet mark a turning point in this country’s relationship with the EU. For the first time in the 25 years since Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges speech, a British Prime Minister openly called into question the founders’ ambition to forge an ‘ever closer union’ among the peoples of Europe.”
- The Telegraph: “Many of the arguments in yesterday’s speech were made in another keynote address, delivered by Margaret Thatcher in Bruges in 1988. She, too, bemoaned Europe’s insularity, its lack of accountability, its drift towards federalism, all of which have accelerated since. What even she did not offer, however, was to let the people decide whether they wanted to stay in. In proposing that they should, Mr Cameron has taken an audacious and momentous step, and one deserving of the highest praise.”
- The Express: “This newspaper has had its criticisms of the Prime Minister and would much prefer the in/out referendum to take place before the next election rather than two years after it. But nobody should deny that yesterday David Cameron did something genuinely bold. The question that many non-aligned voters will be asking themselves between now and polling day is why on earth they should trade in a Prime Minister who has shown high-level leadership qualities for an Opposition leader who has not? The fact is that Miliband isn’t even up to the job he’s got, let alone the post he aspires to fill.”
- The Sun: “WHO should decide Britain’s future in Europe? David Cameron finally answered the question yesterday and promised us a referendum. He was immediately condemned by Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Europhile grandees like Tony Blair. They do not want the people to have their say. It wouldn’t be in the national interest, they claim. But the truth is they do not trust us to come up with the “right” answer. Mr Cameron, by contrast, said the people must decide.”
- The Times (£): “Mr Cameron is correct that the EU has become bloated and inflexible in a global marketplace where the penalties for such failings have grown, and that newly emerging nations will leave the European economies behind unless there is change. This was a speech with Europe’s interests at heart, not only Britain’s; and framing his argument in such a way gives the Prime Minister a chance of building an alliance inside the EU.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has issued a New Year message. I think the Prime Minister’s statement “we can look to the future with realism and optimism”, is an interesting sentiment and I think it is well said.
We’re posting the video and the full text of the statement.
2012 was an extraordinary year for our country. We celebrated our Queen with the Jubilee. And with the Olympics and Paralympics we showed beyond any doubt that Britain can deliver. It was a great year. But, if we are honest, it was a tough one too.
We are still dealing with debts that built up over many years. And for many families, making ends meet is difficult. So to anyone starting this New Year with questions about where we are heading and what the future holds, I want to reassure you of this: we are on the right track. On all the big issues that matter to Britain, we are heading in the right direction and I have the evidence to prove it.
This government inherited a huge budget deficit that was dragging our country down. Well, this New Year, that deficit is forecast to be £13 billion smaller than last New Year, down by one quarter since we came to office.
We inherited a welfare system that was frankly out of shape, that paid people not to work. So we made some big changes, and this New Year almost half a million more people are in work than last New Year. That is real progress.
We inherited an education system where too often mediocre was deemed good enough and discipline in many schools was slack. We said we need more discipline, tougher exams and more academies because those schools consistently get better results. Well, this New Year we’ve got more than 1,000 academies open than last New Year. The numbers studying science and languages are going up. And teachers have more power over discipline than they’ve had for years. This is, quite simply, a government in a hurry. And there’s a reason for that.
Britain is in a global race to succeed today. It is race with countries like China, India and Indonesia; a race for the jobs and opportunities of the future. So when people say we can slow down on cutting our debts, we are saying no. We can’t win in this world with a great millstone of debt round our necks.
When people say we’ve got to stop our welfare reforms because somehow it is cruel to expect people to work, we are saying no. Getting people into good jobs is absolutely vital, not just for them, but for all of us. And when there is a fight on our hands to change our schools, we are ready and willing to have it because having a world-class education is the only way our children are going to get on in this world.
And we know what we are doing all this for: not just to get our country up the rankings in some global league table but to get behind anyone who likes to work hard and get on in life. It’s for those people that we made changes to our tax system in 2012, cutting the income tax bills of 24 million workers. It is for them that we have frozen the council tax for three years in a row, to keep bills as low as we can.
And we did the right thing by our pensioners too, in 2012, bringing in the biggest ever increase in the state pension. This is what this government is about: making sure Britain succeeds in this global race and, above all, helping our people succeed, the people who work hard and aspire to a better life for their families.
So this is my message to the country at the start of 2013. We can look to the future with realism and optimism. Realism, because you can’t cure problems, that were decades in the making, overnight. There are no quick fixes and I wouldn’t claim otherwise. But we can be optimistic too because we are making tangible progress. We are doing what’s right for our country and what’s best for our children’s future. And nothing could be more important than that.
So Happy New Year and best wishes for 2013.
During that time, Gordon Brown resigned as Prime Minister, he then left 10 Downing Street to head to Buckingham Palace where he gave the Queen his resignation. Then, within minutes, David Cameron went to Buckingham Palace where the Queen asked him to form a government, he agreed, and with that a new Prime Minister made his way to Downing Street to get to work.
Upon arriving to 10 Downing Street, Cameron gave this speech, with no notes and no teleprompter.
The dynamics of the election last week and some of what led to the changes today, will be stuff of history. We’ll be reading about it for years to come I’m sure. One of the people who had led Obama’s campaign in 2008, Anita Dunn, was a key player in Cameron’s campaign. It’s no coincidence that “change” was part of the Conservative Party logo and message this year.
As I touched on before and will write more about later, the Cameron campaign was a conservative model that we should look at following parts of here in the United States going into 2010. From the “contract with young people“, to their “contract for jobs“, to their “quality of life manifesto“, I think the Conservative Party put forth one positive proposal after another and they earned the trust of the people of Britain (yes there is a hung parliament, but the number of seats that changed hands was overwhelming).
One thing we must understand, and learn to live with, it that in those proposals, people may not have agreed with the Conservative Party 100% on each idea in each proposal. However, the party itself was bold enough to say “here is where we stand, where does the other side stand?”. I think when you make the choices that clear, people will always follow the logical options and the ones based on the most common sense
I’m ready to call next week’s Prime Minister election in favor of Conservative party candidate David Cameron. Prime Minister Brown’s recent gaffe, is such a clear example of the difference in political systems between the U.S. and Britain. While it used to be true that “what happens in Europe eventually happens here”, the Prime Minister candidates are having live television debates this year, for the FIRST time ever. Something we started doing here in 1960 with the infamous Kennedy vs. Nixon debate.
There had been quite a bit of speculation about a hung Parliament, but the gaffe by the guy at the top of the ballot, may influence enough independents to empower the Conservative party.
I’ll have more later on about the impact of the Conservative party on the national elections in Britain. I think the party has done many things right. David Cameron presented what became known as a “Green Manifesto”, which addressed environmental issues from a more sensible, rational point of view. Stay tuned.