James Forsyth

The old gray lady on Cameron

The old gray lady on Cameron
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Christopher Caldwell’s New York Times Magazine profile of David Cameron has finally been published; Caldwell first interviewed Cameron for it last year. I expect the Tories will see it as an important non-electoral milestone for them, a sign that the American establishment expects Cameron to be the next Prime Minister.

The piece is, as you would expect with a Caldwell article, well written and, as it is written for an audience that knows little about Cameron, offers a good overview of the project. Caldwell proposes that there are two types of modernizers.

“There are really two strands of modernizers in the Tory party. There are the green-friendly, diversity-oriented, welfare-state-defending ones — the ones who simply want to move the party to the left. And there is a smaller group, centered on the former party leader Iain Duncan Smith, that is equally troubled by the Thatcher era’s undue focus on economic matters but that has a very different idea of what the party’s real focus ought to be. Heavily influenced by American conservative Christianity, this wing of the party often speaks of “compassionate conservatism.” Tim Montgomerie, a former Duncan Smith aide, distinguishes between libertarian “Soho modernizers” and charity-oriented “Easterhouse modernizers,” after the Glasgow housing project where Duncan Smith laid out the philosophy behind his approach. Much of it is inspired by faith.”

I’m not sure that the division is as clear cut as this. As Caldwell says, Cameron straddles both camps—and I’d say the same goes for most of the other key people in the project.

PS One point Caldwell makes that I’d be interested in Coffee Housers’ take on, is this:

“As elites have become more meritocratic, the Tory Party is no longer their natural home. A result is that having a toff as leader now worries the Tories less.”