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This book provides a new and distinctive interpretation on the political strategy of David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. Rather than offering a chronological overview of his leadership, or a policy-based approach, the book assesses Cameronism via two themes – modernisation and manipulation. In terms of the modernisation the book will examine the following. First, how Cameron attempted to detoxify the negative image of the Conservatives. Second, how Cameron sought to delegitimise Labour as a party of government by deflecting the blame on austerity onto the legacy of Labour in office. Third, how Cameron used the Big Society narrative as a means of reducing the perceived responsibilities of the state. In terms of manipulation the book will evaluate Cameronism in relation to coalition government, and the exploitation of the Liberal Democrats will be examined, notably in relation to austerity, tuition fees and electoral reform. Cameronism will also be examined in relation the challenges to the existing political order by considering the demands for Scottish independence, and the rise of UKIP and the case for a referendum on continued European Union membership. Through this dual emphasis on modernisation and manipulation the book will provide an exploration of the key events and issues that defined the premiership of David Cameron, and a clear overview of his successes and failures as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. The book will be essential reading to those interested in British party politics and prime ministerial leadership.
The aim of chapter 7 is to consider how Cameron responded to the challenges to the existing political order. Focusing in on the rise of multi-party politics, the chapter identifies how the increasing electoral support for the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and UKIP threatened the existing dimensionality through which British politics operated. The chapter considers the reasons why Cameron decided to offer a referendum on electoral reform and explains why he was successful at nullifying this threat. The chapter examines why Cameron was forced to offer a referendum on Scottish independence, and explores how it failed to quell the tide of Scottish nationalism, but it did create an electoral advantage for the Conservatives given the collapse of Scottish Labour. The third case study of the chapter identifies why Cameron had to offer a referendum on continued membership of the European Union. The chapter focuses in on how the electoral threat from UKIP, and the infighting within his own parliamentary ranks, could have been overcome with a comfortable remain vote. The reason why Cameron failed is attributed to the weakness of the renegotiated terms of membership, and his misplaced assumption that economic security would trump concerns about immigration.
Chapter 6 considers how the Liberal Democrats were exploited in legislative terms within the coalition. The chapter provides an overview of the coalition in terms of legislative cohesion. Having identifying the high rate of dissent, and the issues that provoked dissent, the chapter will explore how despite this it made little impact upon the credibility of Cameron as Prime Minister – i.e. perceptions differed for him as a coalition Prime Minister experiencing rebellion. The chapter will also provide an overview of the consequences for the Liberal Democrats of binding themselves legislatively to the Conservatives. The chapter will highlight the issue of austerity being in the national interest and not ideologically driven and tuition fees, as examples of how the distinctiveness of the Liberal Democrats was undermined by being in coalition. Having evaluated the conundrum of providing unity to the government versus maintaining their own distinctiveness for electoral reasons, the chapter considers the limited evidence of the Liberal Democrats being seen to have influence within the coalition. The chapter identifies how this amounted to a success for Cameron as evidenced from the gains made by the Conservatives, at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, at the 2015 General Election.
Chapter 5 evaluates the dynamics of the coalition government from the perspective of agenda control. With an emphasis on how the Liberal Democrats were marginalised the chapter will focus on (a) policy and (b) personnel. On policy, the chapter will identify how although the Liberal Democrats secured some concessions in terms of the NHS, education, pensioners and social care, the Conservatives protected their red lines in terms of the budget deficit; defence; immigration; Europe; crime; policing; immigration and justice. The chapter will then identify how whatever concessions the Liberal Democrats did secure were limited, because of the following: (a) tuition fees was a policy area with a real capacity to hurt them; and (b) the coalition agreement made it clear that the trajectory of social policy would be subordinated to deficit reduction. On personnel, the chapter will identify how the Liberal Democrats did well out of the coalition negotiations in terms of the number of ministerial positions secured, but that the Conservatives retained control of the departments that were central to their agenda and identify. Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats were marginalised by the Conservatives in terms of portfolio allocation, which would undermine their ability to influence the trajectory of policy.
The introduction identifies the significance of the political leadership of David Cameron to our understanding of contemporary British politics. It will argue that the politics of Cameronism can be seen through the dual lens of political modernisation and manipulation. In terms of political modernisation, the introduction will identify the importance of the following: first, how Cameron sought to detoxify the negative image of the Conservative Party and promote a more socially liberal brand of modern Conservatism; second, how Cameron sought to apportion blame for the economic crash on the Labour Party to delegitimise them; and third, how Cameron sought to utilise perceptions of economic and social decline to make the case for a shift from Big Government and towards a new narrative of the Big Society – which amounted to a form of depoliticisation. In terms of political manipulation the introduction will identify how understanding Cameronism requires an examination of the coalition relations in terms of policy, personnel and legislative behaviour. It will also identify the challenges facing Cameron caused by the rise of multi-party politics – i.e. the Liberal Democrats and electoral reform, the Scottish National Party and Scottish independence, and UKIP and continued membership of the European Union.
Chapter 2 considers the modernisation of the Conservative Party under Cameron from an internal perspective, focusing in on the politics of detoxification. It considers the extent to which change within the Conservative Party occurred under Cameron. The term detoxification reflects the perception that the Conservative brand was toxic, and that electoral recovery was dependent on distancing themselves from the negatives that had disfigured them in the post-Thatcherite era. The chapter will chart how Cameron set about (a) restyling the image of party by the promotion of a socially liberal brand of Conservatism; and (b) reconstructing modern Conservatism – or the extent to which social liberalism was accepted by the PCP. The chapter will argue that change did occur, but that there were limits to the scale of change that Cameron could impose upon his party. The chapter will examine the main themes associated with modernised Conservatism and will argue that their commitment to these themes, once in government, was patchy and inconsistent. It will, however, emphasise that progress was made in terms of international aid and same-sex marriage.
Chapter 3 will consider how Conservative strategy towards opposing and undermining Labour evolved during the Cameron era. The chapter will demonstrate how initially when in opposition, the Conservatives set about nullifying the ‘investment under Labour or cuts under the Conservatives’ narrative, which had been so successful for New Labour and Blair in the era of economic prosperity between 1997 and 2007. It will then identify how, in the aftermath of the financial crash, Cameron abandoned this strategy of converging on Labour to neutralise the economy as an electoral issue. The chapter will then explore how the Conservatives set about establishing their narrative of the financial crash – i.e. it was the fault of a profligate Labour government. Apportioning blame was thus central to electoral strategy in 2010, and establishing risk about Labour regaining power was central to electoral strategy in 2015. The chapter will also identify how, alongside emphasising perceptions of economic competence, Conservative strategy also came to revolve around emphasising perceptions of leadership credibility, as Cameron was seen by voters as a more credible political leader than either Brown or Miliband.
Chapter 4 builds upon the discussion in chapter 3 which had focused on economic decline under Labour and how the Conservatives attempted to exploit this. Chapter 4 will identify how this was aligned to a wider critique of Labour based around social decline. It will consider how the broken economic and social policy agendas of Labour were used by the Conservatives to justify a shift away from Big Government, and towards their new governing strategy of the Big Society. The chapter will provide a critique of the Big Society, and the cynicism it provoked within Conservative ranks, before arguing that it should be seen within the context of depoliticisation. Chapter 4 will imply that the Big Society slogan was a rhetorical device for Cameron – i.e. it masked an ideologically motivated strategy to adjust the balance between the state and society. Therefore, chapter 4 will argue that the Big Society narrative should be seen within the context of (a) shifting public expectations of what the state should be responsible for, and (b) limiting the extent to which the state can be blamed.
The Conservative administrations that John Major led were so convulsed by governing incompetence and party infighting that he was an easy target for putdowns. He himself was never to deliver the type of classic parliamentary sound-bites that were used against him by his principal opponents, such as John Smith (‘a devalued Prime Minister of a devalued government’) or Tony Blair (‘I lead my party...he follows his’). He was not a stirring orator who could fire of the emotions of Conservative members, but nor did he claim that he could. His central political appeal, which had propelled him to the party leadership after the leadership cult that was Thatcher, was his status as a team player. Nonetheless, Major was to deliver some notable oratorical moments in his Prime Ministerial tenure, whether at conference; in the heat of parliamentary combat, or through the wider media.
This chapter shows how Hugh Gaitskell used parliamentary debate to identify the significance of Gaitskell to the political thought of the Labour Party. It considers his conference oratory and examines his public oratory in terms of wider media appearances and electioneering. The chapter evaluates his rhetorical methods and the extent to which he drew upon logos (the appeal to reason and logic), pathos (the appeal to emotion) and ethos (an appeal based on one's character). One of the greatest parliamentary challenges that Gaitskell would experience would be the Suez Crisis. Gaitskell was at his most effective in parliamentary terms when critiquing the appointment of Lord Home to the Foreign Office in 1961. His rhetorical methods and style were also a by-product of his times and his own personality. But in the febrile atmosphere of Labour politics, Gaitskell was in policy, ideology and oratory seen as the antithesis to Aneurin Bevan.