David Cameron visited Hereford today and issued a ‘join Cameron’s Conservatives’ appeal to the LibDems in order to “together build a modern, progressive, liberal, mainstream opposition to Labour”.. Here are the points he used to dress up the invitation:
1. Cameron’s Conservatives are representative: “I’ve taken decisive steps to change the face of the Conservative Party. To end the scandal of women’s under-representation, and to increase the number of MPs from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and with disabilities.”
2. Cameron’s Conservatives are reasonable: “I’ve shown how we will be a consistent and constructive opposition. We will back the Government when they do the right thing.”
3. Cameron’s Conservatives are compassionate. I’ve set up a Policy Group “to tackle entrenched problems like persistent poverty, family breakdown, lack of aspiration and drug addiction.”
4. Cameron’s Conservatives are green: “John Gummer and Zac Goldsmith will lead a Policy Group looking at how to achieve strong but sustainable economic growth… they will think radically about issues like transport, energy, housing and the urban environment.”
5. Cameron’s Conservatives are modern: “We’re going to be totally open and transparent. Everything the Policy Groups do will be published online.”
6. Cameron’s Conservatives are localists: “So I say to Liberal Democrats everywhere: we, like you, are on the side of the local community, and want to give local people more power and control…over how their services are run…their neighbourhoods are policed…and their priorities are delivered.”
7. Cameron’s Conservatives are civil libertarians: “Labour’s style of government shows how little they trust people, and how reluctant they are to share responsibility. The spinning, the centralising, the partisan point-scoring, the desire to control and bully. All this is anathema to liberals everywhere. As is Labour’s cavalier attitude to our most basic British values and democratic rights, like freedom of speech and due process of law. Labour are casual about civil liberties at a time when it’s vital they’re upheld, to show strength and resolution against those who threaten our way of life.”
8. Cameron’s Conservatives think the Iraq war is an issue of the past: “My Party and the Liberal Democrats were on different sides of that argument. But I say to Liberal Democrats everywhere: we’re on the same side now. We want to see the same things happen as quickly as possible: democracy established… security guaranteed… and our troops coming home, as quickly as possible.”
Simon Hughes MP, President of the embattled Liberal Democrats, hit back at Mr Cameron by claiming that the Tories had "changed their salesman" but not "their product". Mr Hughes is more of a red book Liberal, than an Orange Book modernizer.
Mr Cameron is surely right to face up to the challenge posted by the LibDems. It is very difficult to see the Conservatives forming a parliamentary majority without either ousting a number of LibDem MPs or forming partnerships with them. But what was his his key aim in this Hereford speech? Was it to attract LibDem voters to a blue rosette with yellow and green edges? Or is he beginning to soften Orange Book LibDem MPs to the possibility of defecting to – or coalescing with – a more “acceptable” Conservative Party?
And – the biggest question of all – where does this leave Conservatives who…
…reject the tomato environmentalism of Kyoto?
…who support Labour on homeland security?
…who think Iraq is but one stage of a war on terror that LibDems have no stomach for?
…and who oppose the quota politics at the heart of David Cameron’s A List?
The And Theory is David Cameron’s best way of keeping the Conservative Coalition together. The danger is that only one half of the And Theory was on show in Hereford today.