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Senator John McCain pays generous praise to David Cameron in an interview (not yet online) for this week’s Spectator, conducted by Matthew d’Ancona. Here are some key extracts:

Green conservatism: "Asked what he likes about the young Tory leader, he lists “his youth, enthusiasm, willingness to embrace new ideas based on conservative policies” – and pays particular tribute to the Conservative Party’s fresh emphasis upon the environment. He sees Mr Cameron (to whom he has spoken at length, but will meet in the flesh for the first time this weekend) as “a breath of fresh air on the political scene”."

Moderate conservatism: "It is not hard to see why the Cameroons have wooed Sen McCain, and why he feels a kinship with them. His politics has long been based upon the principle that elections are won by transcending a party’s core vote – or “base”, as it is called in the US. His comparatively liberal positions on gay marriage, stem cell research and immigration have not endeared him to the Republican Right: he will face stiff opposition in the primaries if he runs. Beyond that, however, anything is possible."

Reaching the great middle of the British electorate: "“It’s very obvious to me that what Mr Cameron is trying to do is what I’ve been trying to do: preserve your base principles and philosophies, but also see how you can shape those policies to attract what is viewed as the independent voter, or the great middle of the British electorate. For example, in the United States our Republican Party basically [has] written off the State of California in the last several elections. Governor Schwarzenegger has just proved that California can be put in play. That’s what I see Mr Cameron and his cadre of very bright young people doing.”"

Hawkish in the war on terror: "Sen McCain’s position on the war is that of an unwavering hawk who nonetheless believes that the methods of the present administration are unsustainable, and will make the battle for hearts and minds – at home and abroad  – impossible to win. In the great US foreign policy debate, he is a Wilsonian idealist, who regards the plight of Darfur as no less pressing an issue than the threat of al Qaeda."… "“He understands that the war on terror is the transcendent issue of our time and that it’s going to be a long hard struggle,” says McCain.  “It’s not only on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq where British soldiers are sacrificing as we speak, but it’s also in the ideological struggle. That’s where the ultimate battle is, because you don’t win the war on the ground unless you win the war of moral superiority of your way of life, our standards, our ideals. Otherwise, you continue to breed soldiers and foot soldiers in the war on terror.”"

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