John Lloyd has profiled ‘Project Cameron’ in today’s FT magazine (subscription required).
I’ve picked five highlights from the feature:
David Cameron and God. On the day that Tony Blair is in trouble with The Independent for admitting (shock! horror!) he prayed before the Iraq war, the FT feature mentions David Cameron’s visit to the Open Doors Christian charity – a charity that promotes freedom of Christian worship. (Editor’s note: "The wider cause of religious freedom should be a great cause for the Conservative Party to champion"). Mr Cameron describes his Christianity to John Lloyd:
"Yes, I’m a little more than an Easter and Christmas Christian. I go to church about once a month – so I’m a typical Church of England, slightly laid-back Christian."
The language of Built To Last is, as I come to think of it, very similar to that of a typical Church of England social responsibility document:
"We will share the proceeds of growth between public services and lower taxes…"
"We will enhance our environment by seeking a long-term cross-party consensus on sustainable development and climate change – instead of short-term thinking and surrender to vested interests…"
"We will support the choices that women make about their work and home lives, not impose choices on them…"
‘Sharing’, ‘cross-party’ and ‘not imposing’ are all very Anglican concepts.
An end to Punch & Judy. David Cameron: "I grew up in 1980s politics when there was this massive division between Labour and Conservative politics, by its nature very confrontational. Politics has changed since then. Now, genuinely, the Labour party has changed and the parties are closer together, so a more reasonable dialogue makes perfect sense."
The breadth of the Cameron project. David Cameron: "Post-Thatcher, the Conservative party allowed itself to be painted into this corner of lacking compassion – which I think is unfair. The change in the country and people’s aspirations go to the agenda on quality of life and environment and globalisation and global poverty. People’s concerns have got much broader."
A first class team. John Lloyd: "Cameron may indeed be changing the Conservative party, but he remains an indisputable member of the British upper class. He and his political circle are formidably bright and posh. If measured in terms of elite education and achievement, they are the brightest and best-bred leadership group of any British party since the last war. Apart from Cameron himself (Eton and Oxford), there is the shadow chancellor, George Osborne (St Paul’s and Oxford); the MP Ed Vaizey (St Paul’s, Oxford and the London bar); the policy review chairman Oliver Letwin (Eton, Cambridge and London Business School); the shadow education secretary David Willetts (Oxford, Treasury, head of a think-tank) and the shadow housing minister Michael Gove (Oxford, Times columnist, chairman of a think-tank)."
"I talked to Portillo on the telephone as he was travelling on a bus, his method of travel itself a sign of his new persona – open, liberal and concerned about the living conditions of the poor. He has even tried to experience these conditions, in a 2003 television programme in which he lived for a week on the state benefits of a "single mum" in Liverpool. Portillo told me that modernisation had been a suit cut for him. "The strategy we developed after the 1997 [election loss] was really all the things you have seen Cameron do," he said… Portillo and his allies – who included Francis Maude, now the party chairman – thought William Hague, John Major’s replacement, was on their side. But "he kept being pulled back by the right," said Portillo, and resigned as leader after the 2001 election defeat. (He is now the shadow foreign secretary.) "The whole thing," said Portillo over the roar of the bus, "has been sitting there waiting for the right person – pretty fully tailored, waiting for someone to wear it. It was in the cupboard."