THE BLOG

In Defence of David Cameron

24/06/2013 12:24 BST | Updated 23/08/2013 10:12 BST
AP

David Cameron has had a rough time of being Prime Minister. He first had to undergo the ignominy of not winning the 2010 General Election outright, which was to anger the Tory ultra-right-wingers, who assume that he could have gained more support by endorsing minority opinions held by a die-hard core of his most socially conservative members. To this ludicrous proposition, Mr. Cameron could always remember the polling statistics which consistently demonstrated that he was more popular than his fractious and divisive party. He could always bear in mind that his personal approval ratings were higher than all of the other major leaders.

For the first time in years, both of those statistics no longer hold true. Cameron is now officially less popular than the party he leads, a considerable feat, seeing as they are still bitterly divided on Europe, and are suffering a major image problem in the face of non-existent "cuts" to government spending. The 'Alternative Queen's Speech', put forward by a group of rebel Rightists (dubbed the rather terrifying "Tory Taliban") contains such gems as a Burka banning Act, an Act to bring back the outdated and authoritarian concept of National Service, as well as an Act to scrap all government aid to that awful bogeyman: anti-Climate Change action, in the form of renewable energy sources.

They envisage a Britain where fresh-faced youths, free from all foreign headgear, can joyfully tear down windfarms while in neatly pressed military-style uniforms. This is as realistic an image as John Major's disastrous 'Back to Basics' speech, and betrays both a hidebound obsession with imagined former greatness. Of course Ukip are at least partially to blame for all of this and their quirky brand of silly pop-nationalism and sound-bite analogies have seduced some of the stupider sections of the electorate. The example of boring wordplay which frightens top Tories is the uninventive 'LibLabCon', to describe all parties which are not Ukip.

While it is no real masterstroke of classification, and few outside Telegraph Blogs' comments are likely to be bowled over by this collective noun, the Conservative Right wing are running scared from this threat. They think that the only way to beat Ukip is to imitate them, and so seem more than happy to indulge their own crypto-fascist fantasies and really tone up the rhetoric on gays, and migrants and foreigners.

There was much outcry among the loons of the Tory grassroots when they were correctly identified as such by a senior aide in Number 10. But this action does not mean that there is any disconnect between party members and the leadership, as all political organisations have their fair share of nutters, and Ukip cannot claim immunity from that.

But Cameron needs defending, as he has had some major achievements in his premiership, especially considering the constant difficulty of having an uncooperative and petty Liberal Democrat coalition partner to outmanoeuvre. His actions have not been perfect, certainly, and his inability to actually cut the deficit, and thus the National Debt, has been disappointing. Similarly, his revelling in the cut of net immigration by one third - a direct attempt to sate the slobbering Ukip beast - has proven to win him little support, and still cause us economic harm.

Otherwise, he has broadly acted with humanity and some skill in his actions as Prime Minister, and deserves more credit than he currently gets. His action in Libya, against the popular isolationist mood of the nation, demonstrates a conscience as well as a calculating political brain. In acting to support freedom and the overthrow of tyranny in the Middle East, he has proven his commitment to democracy across the world, and in the future, regenerated nations such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia may develop and help in the expansion of world trade, to the benefit of all. Similarly, his action towards supporting the Syrian rebels is politically courageous. While his plan to potentially arm some rebel groups may seem too gung-ho, it is the only way, short of "boots on the ground", in which we can be sure to help the Syrian people bring down a monster - seeing as Assad is now armed by both Iran and Russia, as well as drawing huge support from the terrorist elements of Hezbollah.

His brave decision to safeguard the International Aid budget, too, against the forces of the uncaring Right, also presents the image of a PM who is not content to press every populist button if it means that African or South East Asian families will go without food or water because of our national second-thoughts. His views on the EU are pragmatic and sensible, and his commitment to a referendum safeguards the British democratic mandate on Europe whilst concurrently securing all the possible benefits to renegotiation. The planned EU-US free trade area could be the most important action of his tenure, it could revitalise economies on either side of the Atlantic. We ought to hope for a successful outcome.

His support of Michael Gove's overdue reforms in Education, and Ian Duncan Smith's overhaul of welfare are both principled decisions, as well as running the risk of serious opposition. Finally, his support of marriage equality, against the intolerant religious, and the dogmatically anti-gay lobby, showed great commitment to the case of a group who still face prejudice and undue mistrust in some quarters.

What Cameron has managed to do is to make the Tories more socially tolerant, and liberal. He has restored the idea of cultural acceptance to its rightful place in the Conservative vision, as well as battling for freedom of others at home and abroad. His premiership is not an unmixed success, and he needs to focus on tacking the deficit, rather than merely appearing to do so. Once he has made a concerted effort to regain control of the nation's finances, then we will be able to properly evaluate his legacy. And I, for one, think that he will be remembered fondly by those who value equality, educational rigour, international action with a moral compass, and a sensible working relationship with both of our biggest neighbours.