At around 12:15 the Tories on my facebook burst alive with comments proclaiming the return of our beloved Maggie to Government (and I was one of them). I am of course talking about the political banter between David Cameron and Ed Miliband this afternoon at PMQs, during which the Prime Minister rebuffed Miliband’s ‘Children of Thatcher’ comment with “I’d rather be a child of Thatcher, than a son of Brown”. A hilarious comeback yes, but what are the wider implications of his comment? Is Cameron the heir of Thatcher or is his leadership carving a new “ism” for future Tories to worship?
Cameron has come under criticism in the past for not being clear about his admiration for the Iron Lady, both from the public; who believe he was hiding his true intentions and the party; who attacked him for not being Thatcherite enough. So where does Cameron actually lie, is he a Thatcherite or an actual Cameronite?
There are many aspects to Cameron’s premiership which echo that of Thatcher’s; his dedication to rolling back the frontiers of the state and more importantly his tough stance on the economy. The parallels between Thatcher’s early years and Cameron’s current situation are striking. Both resided over the worst recession in a lifetime and have had to take difficult decisions to put Britain back on track. Luckily, Cameron like Thatcher has not wavered on his economic decisions and we are seeing the early signs of growth, as we did in the early 1980s. However, at the same time, the recent activism from students harks back to the confrontational politics of the Thatcher era. Is Cameron taking us back to Thatcherism? Today’s comment was the latest in a long line of compliments from Cameron (since becoming PM), it would seem that he is trying to legitimise himself as Thatcher’s natural successor.
We shouldn’t be surprised really, ever since Thatcher left Downing Street twenty years ago subsequent Prime Ministers have made comparisons between their leadership and that of the Iron Lady, especially Blair and Brown. However, until recently, the same could not be said of David Cameron; throughout his time in opposition he was determined to put a lid on the Thatcher issue, dismissing claims that his premiership would be a reincarnation of Thatcherism.
Where does this leave Cameron and the Conservative Party? On the one hand we hear comments about him being ‘a child of Thatcher’, on the other however, we are assured from the PM that Cameronism doesn’t equate to Thatcherism. In my opinion Cameron is on the brink; he can either follow the Thatcher path, pleasing many grassroot Tories (and BUCF members) but face the potential backlash of such a move, or he can develop a new Leadership style, independent of anything that came before and fitting to the unique circumstances the Coalition has presented. Whether he is on the brink of legendary greatness or political failure is not for me to say, and ultimately, history will decide.