Thursday, November 26, 2009

David Cameron and Michael Gove: Two faces of Conservatism

David Cameron's early success as Conservative leader was built upon the emphasis he put upon the more appealing aspects of Toryism, such as conservation and localism. To a large extent he is a traditional aristocratic Tory, seeking power to ensure that those who are doing well out of the current system (notably D. Cameron) maintain their position.

This kind of Conservative seeks power in part to prevent anyone else winning it. Similarly, you sense that stopping Labour was the chief reason for Boris Johnson's standing as Mayor of London. It was not so much that he had great ambitions of his own for the post.

But there is a different kind of Conservatism these days. It is far more explicitly ideological and has its roots largely in North America. Many of its concerns, such as a strong support of Israel, are rather alien to traditional Toryism.

A good example of this sort of Conservative is Michael Gove. And it was Gove who clearly inspired David Cameron's attack on the government over Islamist influence in schools at prime minister's questions.

That attack came over badly - and not just because Gove's office does not appear to have done its research properly. Cameron needs to decide whether he wants to appeal to the liberal-minded voters who have deserted his party since 1992 or to Conservative activists and bloggers, among whom the Goveite wing of Conservatism is well represented.

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