An impression has spread and needs to be questioned. It is that the new leadership of the Conservative Party has slid towards the centre in all things. I believe that in matters of foreign and defence policy the opposite is true. Here, and on Europe, I think the instincts of the party’s new leadership have shifted the Opposition to the right. Those of us inclined to see David Cameron and his friends as moderate and consensual in every sphere, domestic and foreign, may be in for a surprise.In an important article, Parris backs this opinion with quotations from some of Cameron's lieutenants.
Here is George Osborne writing in the Spectator in the summer of 2004:
England is going back to sleep. And little wonder when we’re told every day by sages in our national media that the War on Terror is misconceived, that the terrorist threat is exaggerated, that what we’ve done in the last three years has only made matters worse, and that the Iraq war was a ghastly mistake that is best forgotten ... There are few voices to be heard putting the other view: that the terrorists pose a fundamental threat to our way of life, that fight them we must, that Iraq was part of that fight and that we are winning.Here is a speech from William Hague made in August 2005:
As Parris says, "This stuff is pure Pentagon".
The parallels with the rise of Nazi-ism go further ... If only, some argue, we withdrew from Iraq, or Israel made massive concessions, then we would assuage jihadist anger. That argument . . . is as limited as the belief in the Thirties that, by allowing Germany to remilitarise the Rhineland or take over the Sudetenland, we would satisfy Nazi ambitions ...
We’re all in this together ... standing with those brave democrats in Iraq who are trying to rebuild their nation ... Should representative government ... take root in Iraq, [jihadists] will not only have been defeated in one key battle, they will also find that an alternative path has been established in the Middle East which gives its people the hope, prosperity and freedom they deserve.
And here is Liam Fox speaking on Iran in Washington this year:
It was wrong for the European Union’s foreign affairs spokesman, Javier Solana, to rule out the use of force. It is wrong for Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, to echo him.These quotations suggest that the Conservatives could be vulnerable if foreign policy questions are prominent at the next general election, whether through an American attack on Iran or continuing British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both Tony Blair and David Cameron are at the mercy of decisions made in Washington, because neither wishes to be seen as anything but wholehearted in his support for American policy.
This leaves a large proportion of the electorate open to the appeal of the Liberal Democrats. That appeal does not rest to any great extent on Liberal enthusiasm for world government or European federalism. It rests more upon the old Tory belief that Britain should beware of foreign entanglements where there is no clear national interest involved - an insight that David Cameron's Conservatives appear to have lost.