synthetic zero

May 20th, 2010

I am in general opposed to Conservatives, and prior to the British election I was, as an American fascinated with Westminster parliamentary governments for some reason, rooting for the Liberal Democrats to win enough support together with Labour to be able to form a coalition. I have to say, however, despite my reflexive dislike for conservative politics, I’ve been surprised and impressed with Cameron’s political moves so far. Unlike Labour and most other Conservatives he seems to really have realized that he fundamentally did not win the last election and had no choice but to depend on the Lib Dems for his government to have a chance at working, and realized he had to go all in or be defeated. This is something I did not expect from him. In the calculus of the aftermath of the election I was arguing that the Tories lost: all Conservative MPs plus all their natural allies together added up to a minority. They absolutely needed the Lib Dems and any move on the Tories’ part to do something unacceptable to the Lib Dems would have resulted in the fall of government, which could well have happened rather quickly, particularly after the budget cuts had sunk in, giving Cameron the chance to be Prime Minister just long enough to lose control of Parliament again.

But instead he recognized, unlike most, that he had lost, and realized he needed to move decisively to bring the Lib Dems on board. And it appears he’s not only done this but he actually seems to relish, for the most part, where coalition policy has ended up. In his first interview on the BBC he spoke with apparent enthusiasm about the fact that the coalition wanted to lower taxes on the poor and raise them on the wealthy, despite the fact that this was in contradiction to his own party’s platform — something the interviewer picked up on, suggesting that the alliance with the Lib Dems was allowing Cameron to pull his party to where he had wanted it to go all along. Perhaps it’s all an act and it will fall apart soon, or perhaps the backbenchers will scuttle the coalition before too long, but so far it’s been interesting and surprising to watch this.

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