A few years ago, I suggested, with a healthy dollop of skepticism, that conservatives in this country might look to their Tory counterparts in the U.K. for an education in how one modernizes a political party. The more David Cameron speaks, though, the less convinced one becomes that his vacuous incantations about the need for "change" amount to the proper prescription for what ails Britain, much less this country. To be considered a loyal Republican, a true conservative, presidential material, one must demand that Ronald Reagan (peace be upon him) wasn't just a great president, but that he was perhaps the greatest American since Audie Murphy. And while Lady Thatcher is deeply admired by Conservative Party members and Tory grandees, the "Thatcher years"—invoked by every two-bit punk musician, every fool in bondage pants that ever wandered onstage during a Red Wedge concert, when asked what motivated their carefully crafted angst—haven't undergone the sort of revisionism that the Reagan administration has enjoyed.
So while Cameron told an interviewer in 2008 that he would "be as radical a social reformer as Mrs Thatcher was an economic reformer," as he unveiled a bust of the Iron Lady at the "rather new, open-plan, modern" Conservative headquarters, calling her the "greatest peacetime prime minister" in British history, he has been careful to distance himself from the "nasty party" that ran Britain in the 1980s. And it enrages members of the Conservative old guard, the Thatcher partisans who fought—and temporarily buried—the previous generation's Tory "wets," to read in The Guardian that the new leader, who claims to be a Smiths fan and hired former Obama adviser Anita "Mao is my favorite philosopher" Dunn, has "buried the Conservative party's Thatcherite past [and]…promised to steer clear of a confrontational '1980s-style approach' in cutting public spending."
And now, with his lead over incumbent Gordon Brown shrinking, Cameron is again assuring voters that there will be no battles with flying pickets, no wars with Argentinian despots, and no thundering denunciations of socialism during Prime Minister's Questions.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the Conservative leader explicitly turns his back on the more "divisive" policies associated with Baroness Thatcher's government in the 1980s.
Instead he will use the unveiling of the Tory manifesto on Tuesday to urge the country to "join together, act decisively and move forward with optimism" to defeat Britain's economic, social and political problems.
Optimism, change, and more money for the health services. A vaguely familiar whiff to that strategy. So I recant my half-hearted advice to conservatives in this country. There is, after all, no sense in Republicans learning from the New Conservatives when the New Conservatives are stealing all their tricks from the Obama campaign.