The Locker Room

Good news, bad news in the British Conservatives’ success

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:49 AM

Pundits still consider Britain’s Conservative Party the most likely winners in next month’s general election.

The following quote from a TIME profile of Tory leader David Cameron suggests that outcome would be better for Britons than continued Labour Party rule:

The economy should be the key battleground in the election. But Britain's bloated budget deficit, standing at 12% of GDP, gives the parties little room to maneuver, leaving them to squabble only over the speed and delicacy with which they'll slash government spending. Tory plans to start cutting right away have been attacked by opponents who say this would threaten the fragile recovery. Cameron dismisses that. "The danger facing the U.K. is not dealing with the debt. It's not dealing with the debt that's the danger. …"

But the news isn’t universally good:

There's a huge gap now between American conservatism and the touchier-feelier variety promoted by Cameron's Conservatives. Thatcher, a hero to many on the U.S. right, laid the foundations of a long British boom that has only recently ended. But Thatcherite economic reforms came at a social cost that earned Conservatives a reputation — in the phrase of a party chairwoman — as "the nasty party." So Cameron has been at pains not to embrace Thatcher's legacy but to rid the party of it. Launching the Tory manifesto on April 13, he promised a return to an inclusive "one nation Conservatism" in place of the polarized and polarizing ideology of the Thatcher years.

To the extent that Cameron and his colleagues run away from Thatcher, the United Kingdom is likely to suffer. As Nicholas Wapshott explained in his book on Thatcher’s relationship with Ronald Reagan: “Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France both enjoyed electoral success by being directly compared to Thatcher, and many countries were left wondering whether they would ever be blessed by electing a Margaret Thatcher figure to liberate them from a poorly run economy, high taxes, and creeping state control.”

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