That is the question exercising a number of newspapers today and there are at least five answers on offer. They certainly don’t amount to a comprehensive account of what people Cameronism might be but they are all worthy of mention…
DEFINITION 1 – PROVIDED BY CCHQ
- The "moral obligation" of fighting global poverty;
- "The right test for our policies is how they help the least well-off in society";
- Tackling global warming by, in part, "stand[ing] up to big business";
- Improving the NHS for everyone – not by helping "a few to opt out";
- Reforming the police – "the last great unreformed public service";
- "Economic stability" – "the first duty of any government".
In an article for the Mail on Sunday (not online) Mr Cameron identifies two values at the heart of his Conservatism – "trusting people and sharing responsibility":
"I believe that the more you trust people, the more power and responsibility you give them, the stronger they and society become. Headteachers, hospital managers, police chief inspectors – they know more about what children, patients and the public need than any government official. So we should trust them more.
And I believe passionately that we’re all in this together – individuals, families, government, business, voluntary organisations. We have a shared responsibility for our shared future. For example, we need a united front against crime: not just more effective policing, but better parenting; not just more efficient courts, but a more civilised culture.
It’s a world away from Labour’s approach. Instead of trusting people, Labour tells them what to do. Instead of sharing responsibility, Labour instinctively reaches for government solutions."
"If there is such a thing as "Cameronism", its core concept may turn out to be "economic empowerment". It has long been orthodox in the Conservative Party to argue that the best weapon against poverty is economic growth. Mr Cameron does not dissent from this. But he argues – crucially – that growth is not enough. "We used to say that a rising economic tide lifts all boats," he said in a lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies last November. "Well, that obviously isn’t true." A central theme in his leadership will be the quest for fresh mechanisms by which the poor can be lifted out of poverty: "Social Action Zones", less complex bureaucracy, greater incentives to work, less means-testing, more creative use of the voluntary sector."
Read Mr d’Ancona’s full article here.
"CRUNCHY CONSERVATISM" OR "THE FREE MARKET IS NOT ENOUGH"
DEFINITION 4 – PROVIDED BY ROD DREHER IN THE SUNDAY TIMES
An American writer uses an extended essay in The Sunday Times to welcome David Cameron’s emphasis on quality of life issues. Mr Dreher argues that the "libertarian philosophies" of Thatcher and Reagan were right for their times but have run their course:
"A society built on consumerism will break down eventually for the same reason socialism did: because even though it is infinitely better than socialism at meeting our physical needs, it also treats human beings as mere materialists. It cannot, over time, serve the deepest needs of the human person for stability, spiritual idealism and authentic community. We should not be surprised that all our freedoms have led to a society in which too many people see, as the London stage play had it, “shopping and f******” as the highest ideal to which we should aspire."
Mr Dreher welcomes a number of themes in Mr Cameron’s conservatism that understand this mood:
- A concern for the environment;
- A desire to protect children from consumerism;
- A suspicion of big business;
- A hunger for identity – in local and cultural forms.
"MAKE [TRUE] CONSERVATISM HISTORY"
DEFINITION 5 – PROVIDED BY FRASER NELSON IN SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY
And, finally, a much less positive definition.
Mr Nelson begins his provocative analysis by asking whether Mr Cameron has "come to revive Conservatism or to bury it?" His article notes the embrace of the tomato environmentalism of Kyoto rather than the technology-led blue environmentalism – favoured by Bush and John Howard (the world’s two most successful conservative politicians). He notes the retreat from school choice and from a liberalised healthcare system. If you’re interested in a battle of political parties Mr Cameron has made your life more interesting but the battle for ideas has not been helped by the new Tory leader’s early tactics, Mr Nelson suggests. His article concludes:
"It remains very early days. But the deep blue of the Tory logo is being accompanied by streaks of red and green – all emblazoned on a new political wristband which may very well make Conservatism history."