Friday, February 24, 2006

The Fleet Street Nostradamus

A welcome return to form for Nick in the Staggers. That's form as in "good", not as in "something we can all laugh at."
I’m the last pundit on the planet with the right to offer an answer. Before the Conservative leadership election, I dismissed him in the New Statesman as a hopeless Blair clone - “Blameron”, the headline writer called him - who was stuck in the Nineties parroting the exhausted soundbites of Peter Mandelson and Philip Gould. He would disappear without trace, I assured you. The impact of my piece was electrifying. Within weeks, Cameron had won the Tory leadership by a landslide and taken the party to its first consistent opinion-poll lead since Black Wednesday. It is not for nothing that I am known as the Fleet Street Nostradamus.

There are first shoots of something like humour that we've seen for a while. He even spells "Geldof" correctly in the next paragraph. (What would Nick do if Bob Geldof had never existed?) I don't think the conceit (a story about a friend from Oxford, James Lyle, who is now "funding David Cameron") works particularly well. But then I don't trust the New Statesman to offer staggering insights into the Tories.
Yet however wrong I was before Cameron’s election, I still wonder whether it is possible for a Conservative leader to imitate Tony Blair. The first doubt comes from the great ideological convulsion of our time: the defeat of the old left. It is far harder to run an ideologically light Conservative Party in 2006 than an ideologically light Labour Party. Those on left and right who maintain that Tony Blair took control of Labour in a Leninist coup and then forced cowed backbenchers to do his bidding fail to take account of the death of socialism. If in 1997 Jeremy Corbyn had been PM, and the Campaign Group had taken every seat in the cabinet, they still wouldn’t have nationalised the banks and the top 100 companies because the belief that public ownership of the means of production was a viable method of running an economy had just gone.

There's quite a lot wrong with this, as I'm sure the other BB will explain. Two paragraphs earlier, Nick wrote "After the terrible defeat in 1945, the Conservatives promptly accepted Labour's welfare state and were back in office in 1951." That seems to be the epitome of ideological lightness to me.
If you were to take a random selection of today’s Conservative MPs, let alone a selection from the right of the party, and give them a huge majority, however, they would slash taxes and regulation and clamp down on crime and immigration because they genuinely believe in market economics and a strong state.

Except that Margaret Thatcher had huge majorities in 1979 and 1983. Her clamping down on crime initiative flopped. Not all Tories believe in blocking immigration of course: Enoch Powell was sacked by Ted Heath for suggesting such a thing. George Bush hasn't slashed taxes. Regulation they may well get rid of. For some reason, defence is left out.
In 1945, Labour didn't seriously consider nationalising the banks. It didn't even go all the way with the health service. If Labour had won in 1983, it still wouldn't have nationalised the top 100 companies, because the Labour Party has never subscribed to that sort of socialism.
The other trick Nick misses is that Labour, as he well knows, having written books about the Party, would be different in many important ways if the leadership had been different. This "they're all the same really" position doesn't convince me, and I doubt that Nick really believes it himself.
Sadly, he's probably right about authoritarian conservatives voting Labour. Blair has what they want.


Anonymous evil BB said...

It does start well and then fizzle out, doesn't it? But it's much better than anything we've had for weeks. I also don't at all agree with him that what the public really responded to in New Labour was a radical new policy agenda, as opposed to a fresh young face and an opportunity to get rid of an increasingly despised government. But I thought that the lines on Hague were good; he was fundamentally right about the euro, but he decided to dress it up in horrible jingoistic language that didn't fit the spirit of the times.

2/24/2006 06:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Bckword Dave said...

I agree about Hague and I meant to mention that. It is his first in a while about real people as opposed to straw men and at least you can see why he has New Statesman gig in this.

2/24/2006 06:46:00 PM  
Anonymous rioja kid said...

Another Nick factoid query. When Nick says that polling since Cameron began to talkm about Civil Liberties shows that Labouir are "way ahead" he doesn't cite a source. I've been over to polling report to check, and can't find

a) anything that compares them directly on the issue or on issues about it

b) much about national security at all, as a discrete category. There are 2 point majorities for ID cards and 90 day detention, but that's about it.

After his unsourced assertion the other week that people who asked the police to arrest muslim demonstrators waving threatening banners were themselves threatened with arrest, the question must be asked: is Nick making stuff up?

This also goes against Nick's other statement in the Standard the other week that people are sick and tired of being spied on and told what to do.

2/24/2006 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Good question. ICM do the most detailed ones, but I couldn't find anything.

I've asked Anthony

2/24/2006 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Anthony @ Polling Report replied:

"Matt - I can’t find a poll saying that so recently, though I have a vague memory that there may have been one (and certainly there were polls pre-Cameron showing that, so Nick may just have his dates wrong).

Labour’s internal private polling has been reported as saying so, so Nick may have been privvy to that."

As Nick's point was about public polling after Cameron, it only leaves the 'vague memory' one, or Nick's getting a little confused about private polls he has seen reported on, or has actually seen.

2/27/2006 08:30:00 AM  

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