Commenting on today’s cabinet changes Robert Peston has said: “To repeat, this is a HUGE reshuffle – total remaking of government. Massive political, cultural and social shift by Theresa May”. The scale of the changes and people waking up to the reality that this is a fresh lurch to the far right belies the idea that May represents continuity ‘moderation’ and stability. It also undermines the basis of the argument that she can dispense with a new general election.
But as one fresh hell emerges today, here’s some more reflections on the era that’s just at a close:
“David Cameron was formed by seven years of training at the hands of one of the most formidable operators in England. These were not his years spent at Eton, at Oxford, or as a special advisor to Normal Lamont. They were the years from 1994 to 2001 when he worked for Michael Green at Carlton Communications. By all accounts, Green was a ruthless operator who amassed a fortune but left no legacy of value. Cameron was a product of modern public relations, its pursuit of influence and money by manipulating regulation to cash in on expanding markets.
It gave him his professionalism, his ‘hinterland’, his media network, his know-how. The latter was not the entitlement of an Etonian but the discipline of a manipulator. The history of modern London power is a history of the way its political-media caste displaced the old country-wide Establishment. A key moment in this was Thatcher’s ‘Big Bang’ that destroyed the gentlemanly networks of the city of London in the mid 1980s, another her support for Murdoch and the commercialisation of the media. The shift was fully delivered by Blair and Mandelson with Campbell as their gofer. Their success inspired David Cameron – this was the politics at which he could succeed and for which he was trained.
His period in office was marked by a trail of statements reversed without friction, as he believed in nothing but success. In this he was amazingly successful until… the gap between his political-media caste and the populace became too great because they broke the contract of consent and respect between rulers and the people that the old Establishment had carefully and ruthlessly protected (by war if necessary). It was poetic justice that Blair and his heir went down within days the one thanks to the referendum the other after Chilcot. Cameron personified the failure of a venal order of government. Scotland has found a way of replacing it, England-Britain has not.” – Anthony Barnett, Founder, openDemocracy
“When David Cameron arrived in office, 61,468 people relied on foodbanks. Today, as he prepares to leave, that figure sits at 1,109,309.” – Miriam Brett
“This week, we have the departure of the self-styled “heir to Blair”, in the form of David Cameron. Blair forced the Tory party to modernise and be led by someone almost in his image. Certainly David Cameron did not reverse that many of the changes wrought by Blair, but replaced this with a Blairised Toryism that infuriated traditionalists and residual Thatcherites.
Nick Clegg was another Blair-influenced politician and shared power with Cameron in the coalition. Indeed the fact that Cameron, together with Theresa May, brought in gay marriage is a testament to the cultural shift wrought by Blair in British politics.
It could be argued that the Thatcher era ran from the monetarist policies instituted by Denis Healey in 1976 at the behest of the IMF that saw unemployment start to rise as industry overmanning was reduced until the start of Blair’s second term in 2001, a quarter of a century later, as Gordon Brown started to flex his muscles and ramp up the state’s share of GDP.
However, there was an overlap, with Blairism gripping the country from the accession of the man himself in 1994 until this week, 22 years. He was a rock-star politician from day one as leader and set the standard for telegenic leaders that was imitated by Cameron. Blair was the also first true post-Cold War PM.
Thatcherism was economic and political, dedicated to removing socialism from the wealth-creating sector at home and defeating it abroad. Blairism was cultural and social, trying to make a fairer society without the punitive redistributions of wealth that discouraged wealth-creation. 9/11 and Iraq represented distractions from the Blair project in my opinion, but I contend that Blair acted little differently to these events from what a Conservative government would do. Thatcher had an effect on Blair as much as Blair had an effect on Cameron. Blairism is over. What the next era will be called is a matter for debate. Brexitism seems logical. May be.” – Paul Horgan
“The man who took is out of Europe and made resisting immigration the big issue in English politics. They say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, but I don’t think he’ll be missed. I’ll be glad to see the back of that Flashman style arrogance that reduced every political exchange to a public school josh. Cameron exudes the arrogance and sense of entitlement that only the English ruling class can deliver with panache. I hope the more plebeian May will exhibit slightly more reverence for the seriousness of the issues under discussion.” – Tommy Sheppard MP