Fraser Nelson

What’s it all about, Dave?

What's it all about, Dave?
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This morning, I drove past one of the Cameron adverts - “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS” - and that Bacacharch & David song came into my head: "What’s it all about, Alfie?" It’s been in my head, in fact, ever since his Oxford speech last weekend. Just what is the Big Idea? We seek to answer the question in this week’s magazine with four pieces. James Forsyth says that any hunt for Cameron’s ideology will be in vain, because he doesn’t really have one. He doesn’t like –isms and there will never be a Cameronism. David Selbourne, one of Britain’s leading political philosophers, has written a scathing piece. (“I’m afraid this is merited” he said in the email, when his sent his piece). Peter Oborne has written a brilliant piece in robust support of Cameron, saying he stands in a firm and honourable Tory tradition. Pete Hoskin and Neil O’Brien have joined forces to explain what, exactly, is meant by a post-bureaucratic age. Thanks to the snow, all the articles are available free to everyone on the website now.

As Tim Montgomerie says, I doubt our cover illustration (Christian Adams’ first for The Spectator) will have gone down very well in CCHQ. So what’s our game? Is The Spectator now gunning for Cameron, for some strange reason? Hardly. The above package is not exactly a hatchet job. But we can't really applaud Cameron for “protecting” the NHS budget if we condemn Brown for doing the same. It’s the intellectual concessions that dismay me the most, the way key elements of Brown logic (to care = to spend) are enthroned in the emerging Tory manifesto. Are Brown’s ideas supposed to look so much better with a blue rosette? What’s so bad about a bold and distinctly conservative solution to the NHS, as radical as the policy on schools is now?

The problem with Britain is not the men with red rosettes, but the intellectual poison of Gordon Brown’s ideas. That is what needs to change. I really hope Cameron returns to form, makes an education speech (which he hasn’t for two whole years) and starts to clarify what he’s about. He did it in the last conference, but has allowed the fog to descend again. When it does, his poll ratings slump.

At The Spectator, we wish him well – I genuinely regard him as potentially transformative Prime Minister. He could change Britain as much, if not more, than Thatcher. Or he could lose confidence, be cautious - and do nothing. The Spectator’s mission: to encourage Cameron to take the former path. It means praising him when we agree with him, and saying so when we don’t. There are plenty pro-Tory websites around that will fall in line with the party as the election nears. But we’re wedded to The Spectator (1828) manifesto here, and will be judging the Tories by it.