I have no doubt the 2009 will be the year that makes or breaks David Cameron. The economic situation is likely to get much worse and as it does the Conservatives will no longer be able to get away with leukwarm policy proposals. The public will be looking to them not only to provide the opposition… but to provide the alternative. As the year passes we will creep ever closer to the date when the election must finally be called and the battle lines throughout the next year will be clearly defined. This election I believe can and will be fought on the premise that after 10 years New Labour has, in all intents and purposes, broken Britain.
Whether it is in our economy or our society Labour has systematically dismantled and divded this country in ways that, despite the fury of the left, Thatcher never did. What makes New Labours time in office and overall legacy all the more abhorrent lies in the fact that the mistakes made during the administration of Margaret Thatcher were a sad neccessity, Labours aren’t. She had to tackle issues that had been long ignored. Like a cancer the longer you leave it, the more it spreads and the harder it is to recover from.
Like a surgeon she cut the cancer out of Britain which caused great initial pain but ultimately reversed our long slope in to decline and provided the blueprint for economic recovery of the next 20+ years. But what cancer have Labour had to cut out? Why have they divided this country so much? Why have they bankrupted us so much? What have they had to deal with that comes close to what Thatcher had to deal with? They didn’t have to take us from one type of economic system to another, they didnt have to take us out of an economic slump, they weren’t operating within the confines of the cold war, they haven’t had to face off with a dictator invading sovereign British territory. Indeed when Labour came in to office our economic recovery was in full swing and by following Conservative economic policy they were gifted 3 terms in office! Yet when Labour leave, it it is likely to be the worst economic legacy left by any government in our history, our society will be broken and dangerous and our international reputation, so restored under Thatcher, will be back in bits. Labour will therefore be summed up by two words: squalor and squander.
However Cameron is not home and dry yet and we must not take the next election for granted. He will have to tread a very fine line this year and once again, like it or lump it, how he deals with ‘the Thatcher question’ will be an important part in determining his future. This May marks the 30th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power and there is already talk of a number of national events to mark the occasion which given Thatchers frail health could be her last major milestone. Both Brown and Cameron are keen to play front line roles. Now Gordon Brown has shown many times since becoming Prime Minister that he isn’t afraid to bring Margaret Thatcher in to his fold. He knows that Camerons seeming coolness towards her has not been warmly recieved by a large swathe of his party or indeed understood by much of middle England.
The fact she was voted greatest Tory at last years conference and is consistently voted the countrys most popular Prime Minister cements the fact Cameron must be enormously careful when dealing with Thatcher. He has made a number of efforts in this area of late, constantly reffering to her as Britains ‘greatest peacetime Prime Minister’, acknowledging ‘she saved the country’ and even attempting to incorporate her in to his current message by claiming ‘I will fix the countrys social ills the way Thatcher fixed our economic ills’.
Brown will undoubtedly use all the tools at his disposal to use the Thatcher anniversary to attempt to humilate Cameron, after all hes done it before. The growing economic disarray that coincides with the anniversary may serve as a reminder that Labour governments always come close to bankrupting Britain and Cameron, like Thatcher before him, could be seen as the one to reverse our decline. Having said this any nostalgic sympathy for the Iron Lady may not necessarily be in Cameron’s electoral interests. Despite the policy advances the Tories have made on his watch, he still does not command the political stage like his predecessor did when the “winter of discontent” was in its last throes.
Therefore any comparisons between the two may prove unflattering for Cameron, which Brown is sure to exploit, unless he presents firm concrete policy proposals,. Furthermore I know that many on the right of the party want to use this major milestone as an oppourtunity for Cameron to embrace the party’s 1979 manifesto which warned that “the balance of our society has been increasingly tilted in favour of the state at the expense of individual freedom”. This is largely due to the fact that after ten years of Labour mismanagement this theme is just as relevant today as it was three decades ago! Indeed a revival of some parts of the 1979 manifesto could prove popular with the public.
The 1979 manifesto did not say, however, that taxes would have to rise to pay for Labour’s extravagance – a lesson from history that contradicts the tax-cutting promises being made by George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, who cuts an even less impressive figure when compared with Geoffrey Howe, his predecessor in 1979. Having said this while public feeling may be sympathetic and nostalgic toward Thatcher in this milestone it will undoubtedly invoke memories of the economic fallout that occurred under her premiership and subsequent revolution.
While many welcomed her drive and determination, others believe the Conservatives betrayed working class communities – and they will never forgive Thatcher for this. As such, Cameron will need his wits about him if Margaret Thatcher is not to hand an inadvertent propaganda coup to Gordon Brown, the man to blame for so many of this country’s economic ills. So a word of advice Cameron: be careful.