Friday, January 2, 2009
10 Names to Learn: David Cameron
This is the first in a series of ten posts profiling leaders who could blow on to the world scene in the next year - you may know some of these people already, but hopefully most of them will be new to you. You will not find Barack Obama on this list, or any other established world leader. These are the new faces, the people who are likely to emerge (or in one case, re-emerge) from the relative obscurity of their home countries to to become international figures. Some will be bigger than others, but I can almost guarantee that each of them will make headlines at least once in 2009. So, without further ado, let's meet our first contestant.
The Conservative (or "Tory") Party was once a dominant political force in Britain. It provided us with Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and a number of other Prime Ministers. One could have said it was the UK's "natural governing party". That was before Tony Blair.
After taking over the socialist-leaning Labour Party in 1994, Blair drug it kicking and screaming to the political center. It was a bold move, and it worked. "New Labour" stormed to power in the 1997 elections, humiliating Conservative Prime Minister John Major and sending the once-mighty Tories into exile for over a decade. Even though his "New Labour" philosophy eventually became yesterdays news, Blair easily won re-election twice. The Tories looked old, disorganized, out of touch, and incapable of stopping the Labour machine. That was before David Cameron.
At only 39 years of age, Cameron became leader of the Conservatives in 2005 and was immediately compared to the young Tony Blair. Like Blair, Cameron was a moderate hellbent on making his party electable again. However, unlike Blair, Cameron did not change the basic values that the Tories stood for. Instead, he figured out how to make the Conservative message marketable in the 21st Century. Where Blair forced Labour away from it's socialist roots and more toward mainstream liberalism, Cameron continues to talk about low taxes, strong families, and free enterprise - he just does it with a different focus. The old drumbeat of "taxes and national security" has been replaced by a new message based on "quality of life issues" like health care, education, and "social justice" (a left-wing term that has been hijacked as a way of talking about what we would call "family values"). In short, he set out to "modernize" the party, and he has done exactly that. As a result of his efforts, the Conservatives have won a large number of local offices (including the London Mayorship) and Cameron is expected to become Prime Minister in the next general election...and that's the rub.
By law the next general election must take place by 2010, but Prime Minister Gordon Brown could call one at any time...in fact, he probably should have called one last year. Brown gained the PM's office when he took over the Labour Party leadership from Tony Blair, and he has not won a mandate from the British People in an election. Traditionally, such unelected PMs are expected to call an election right after taking office. However, facing probable rout at the hands of David Cameron, the unpopular Brown decided that an election would not be the best thing for his career...I mean...for the country at this time. So, there is a chance that Cameron will have to wait until 2010 to get his crack at power. Still, something tells me that, as soon as Brown's poll numbers show that he can win, he will send Brits to the polls immediately.
Fortunately, "New Labour" has become very tired, old concept - and Gordon Brown simply does not have the charisma that Tony Blair used to prop up the party. Odds are that, in the near future, the entire world will know David Cameron not as the man who brought the Conservative Party back from the brink of irrelevance, but simply as "The Right Hounourable Prime Minister".
So, you've met "The Modernizer", stay tuned tomorrow to see which up-and-coming leader wins the title of "The Enforcer".