Fraser Nelson

Responding to the New Statesman

Responding to the New Statesman
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All of us in 22 Old Queen Street are admiring the New Statesman this week, guest edited by Alastair Campbell. He’s evidently put a hell of a lot of work into it and ransacked his contacts book: diary by Sarah Brown, interview with Alex Ferguson (Pete, a dedicated Man Utd fan, says it’s one of the best he’s read), Danny Finkelstein on the theory of the left waking up to the net (except they’re not, but it’s a good read) and Anthony Charles Lynton Blair on his new friend, God. While the Spectator is evidently on the other side of the fence to The New Statesman we’re not really rivals, insofar as very few people stand at WH Smith and go “eeny meeny” between the two of us. I very much doubt that CoffeeHousers read the New Statesman as a matter of course. But you should today: it’s a genuinely good read. Campbell has missed his vocation.

Anyway, it’s a special honour for yours truly to be given a mention in such an issue, and in the opening paragraph of the political column no less. I am introduced as a “Cameron cheerleader” (remember that next time you’re all slating me for being too cruel to him) and the writer, James Macintyre, gives a fascinating view of the Tory Party from planet zog.

The CoffeeHousers who despair at Cameron’s lack of radical policies would do well to read this piece, as it will cheer you up immensely. Cameron has adopted a “state-slashing, neo-Thatcherite agenda. While Cameron claims to be committed to spending increases, he is backing “spending cuts and tax cuts.” Rather than declaring Europe to be a low priority, Cameron “presides over the most anti-European parliamentary party in Tory history”. He has apparently reversed his plan not to expand grammar schools (damn, I missed that story) and, even better, William Hague is now a neoconservative. Result! Macintyre can also reveal Tory plans to “penalise single mothers.” He doesn’t give details. Perhaps he’s saving that for next week.

Macintyre, of course, is just giving the view of the Tories from the hard left – and it’s no less valid that our view of Labour from our vantage point, the fair-and-balanced right. But I would like to answer the point he made, taking off from a Radio Scotland debate we had a few months ago. “Challenged by this correspondent to name one single significant change Cameron has made,” he says, I “merely said they were ‘too numerous to mention’”.  The implication being that I couldn’t name any.

I’ve never met Macintyre, but assume he thinks that anything stopping short of the nationalisation of the means of production is a capitalist plot. So he was unlikely to be convinced by my explanation. But here are five for starters.

1. Cameron has embraced the social justice agenda, and has fully grasped what previous Conservative governments only dimly perceived: that Labour policies are entrenching poverty.

2. He has explicitly dedicated the party to the real victims of Labour policies: those in the benefits trap, or whose children are condemned to sink schools. The aim of the Cameron government is to give the poor the same choice as the rich have. And my, how Labour hate it.

3. His welfare reform proposal was so radical it was copied by the government.

4. He has developed a language that is not open to the misinterpretation on immigration and on crime. Hugely significant.

5. Given the party a mass appeal – now has a 20 point lead over Labour.

On Macintyre’s claims about Tory cuts, let’s hope he turns out to be right. I suspect Cameron will have no choice but to take these lies and make them true somehow (as George Michael so memorably put it*) and eventually scrap his proposal to keep spending more each year. But as for the rest of it, Cameron being wedded to old-style Tory policies? If only.

UPDATE: Macintyre rebuts my rebuttal - he obviously didn't get the George Michael reference . And my response? I've been beaten to it - Conservative Party Reptile says it all.

*We had a debate in the office as to whether the George Michael reference was too obscure to use. For the curious, it’s 2’07 into the below clip:


Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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