Yesterday I posted on the YouGov/ Channel 4 poll which suggested that David Cameron was seen as more centrist than his party (us) and that Gordon Brown was seen as about 30% to the left of Tony Blair. Left and right are less meaningful than they once were and I thought it might be interesting to think of other scales that could capture the differences between the two men. I can’t say that I have spent hours and hours thinking about the positioning of the two men but here some instinctive thoughts on ten axes. I’ve also added ConservativeHome to each axis…
I have put ConservativeHome as the most ideological (our ideology being the ‘And theory of conservatism‘) and then Gordon Brown. His commitment to a big state (through his record as Chancellor rather than his rhetoric) makes him pretty old Labour. Cameron is pretty pragmatic – with a Blairite view on favouring ‘what works’.
Brown is undoubtedly the great centraliser and control freak of British politics. The Treasury interferes in every Whitehall department and he has consistently resisted Blair’s public service reforms. I’ve put Cameron on the localist side of the divide but only just. He talks the talk but his appetite for controlling candidate selection and his opposition to the freedom of Catholic adoption agencies is a warning that he might instinctively find decentralisation hard to embrace when in government. ConservativeHome is sold on the localist agenda so ably promoted by the Direct Democracy group and The Telegraph.
I’d like to have put David Cameron solidly in the authentic camp but I
can’t say that I’m convinced on almost any issue other than his
commitment to social justice. I’d really believe him on the
environment if he didn’t take so many domestic flights. He’s much less
of a spin merchant than Mr Brown, though. The Chancellor’s overspun Budget and his thirteen year association with the New Labour project puts Mr Brown deep into the spinners’ camp.
Regular readers of ConservativeHome know that this site is firmly in
the interventionist camp – supporting intervention in Darfur and Iraq,
for example, and hoping that – one day – we won’t leave it to the
LibDems to question things like the BAe-Saudi affair. I’ve put Brown
and Cameron at the centre of this scale. The Chancellor certainly
believes in an active international development policy but he has
starved the armed forces of money and probably doesn’t share Blair’s
support for Sierra Leone/ Kosovo/ Iraq-type interventions. David
Cameron was always cautious about the Iraq war and has said little
about Darfur. Many of his foreign policy advisers are old school FCO
folks. We’ll have to wait and see what he believes about
interventionism. We probably won’t know until he (hopefully) becomes
If there is one area where Cameron is encouragingly and definitely the ‘heir to Blair’ it is in his optimism. The ‘let sunshine win the day‘ line at last year’s Party Conference was awful but he is right to be Reaganesque in his positivity and his talk, on Sunday, of being progressive
was an uplifting new framing of conservatism. Brown does not exude
positivity and he’ll probably try to win the next election with lots of
scare tactics against the Tories.
When it comes to establishment versus anti-establishment I’ve put both
men on the establishment side of politics. Brown is more establishment
– defending the welfare state and centralism – but Cameron’s support
for the BBC, European levels of taxation and only cautious public
service reform puts him on the establishment side of politics.
Is Brown mildly Eurosceptic as I suggest? Was his opposition to euro
membership a principled thing or an attempt to frustrate Blair in one
of his great ambitions? My prediction is that he’ll certainly style
himself as Eurosceptic over the next few months in order to curry
favour with the Mail and Sun. Cameron – burnt by the ERM in his
defining political years – is certainly more Eurosceptic but has disappointed on the Common Fisheries Policy.
The control freak Brown is probably one of the most closed people in British politics. Just ask Charles Clarke. This week’s ‘Speak Up’ internet initiative suggests that David Cameron is willing to be more open although most MPs find his private office pretty inaccessible.
Gordon Brown is likely to continue the Blair-Reid-Blunkett approach to
civil liberties. David Cameron is an instinctive libertarian on these
issues (as is David Davis). To the horror of regular readers of this
blog, I’m much more open to proposals such as extended detention
without trial if the security situation demands it. I certainly fear
Labour is closer to public opinion on these questions than we are.
David Cameron is more socially conservative than socially liberal
because of his strong support for marriage but he’s not a traditional
social conservative. On drugs, gay rights and abortion he is a
moderate. We’ve put Gordon Brown just to the conservative side of the
scale because of his upbringing. On pro-life, family and drug issues,
ConservativeHome is positively socially conservative.