Saturday, August 22, 2009

David Cameron -- Uncertainty Principle?

In 1927, Werner Heisenberg, a physicist, stated the Uncertainty Principle, i.e., that it's impossible for an observer to know both the location and the velocity of a subatomic particle.

David Cameron, the odds-on favorite to be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, is a whole lot bigger than a subatomic particle. But, to some extent, the Uncertainty Principle seems to extend to him.

His velocity is known. As I described here, he has moved up the political ladder at something approaching the speed of light. But many consider it difficult to pinpoint his position on the political spectrum.

This commentary from Lynne Featherstone, a member of Parliament (MP) from the Liberal Democratic Party, is typical of the other parties' statements about Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party (the "Tories"). She seems to share my penchant for thought-provoking trans-Atlantic comparisons.

On the surface at least, Cameron has put forth a more modern image for his party. For example, he has got himself photographed bicycling, to establish his Green credentials. That probably addresses a large part of his party's problem in its recent years out of power, which has been an issue of image as much as substance.

The "New Labor" concept that Tony Blair brought in when he became prime minister in 1997 was largely a continuation of the policies of Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative prime minister who rolled back British socialism in the 1980s. The parties have differences over issues such as taxes and labor unions, but the divide seems to be much narrower than at certain times in the past. Nothing like 1945, when Labor successfully campaigned to impose socialism on the country, while Winston Churchill accused them of preparing to form a Gestapo to enforce their system.

One issue that the Tories have pushed, with little apparent gain, in the post-Thatcher era has been Euroskepticism, a desire to limit Britain's integration into the Continental European system that is centered on the European Union (EU). The Euroskeptics range from those who would remove Britain entirely from the EU, to others who want the UK to have limited European involvement, certainly avoiding, for example, the Euro currency.

It seems as though a large share of the British electorate is skeptical about the Euro, and about an overly close involvement with the EU bureaucracy in Brussels. I suppose their rejection of the Tory message in recent years was based more on a perception of extremism, and of the Conservative Party as a one-trick pony, than a fundamental disagreement on the substance of the issue.

Now, as the British seem poised to allow the Cameron family to live at 10 Downing Street, questions continue to be raised about whether the potential prime minister is merely a repackaged Thatcherite, or is really more of a centrist than his recent Tory predecessors.

That question is based in part on what I see as being a flawed premise. Many Britons toward the center and left of the political spectrum tend to classify Thatcher as a right-wing extremist. But she never challenged the existence of Britain's National Health Service, a government-run system that is even more socialist than President Obama's proposed government-run health insurer. She was pro-choice on abortion. And she accepted much of the EU's system of economic regulation, which I don't think would be acceptable to the American body politic. If someone walked into any Republican meeting in the U.S. and advocated those positions, without identifying herself as Margaret Thatcher, she would be tossed out the door.

As with anyone in his position, we won't know how David Cameron will govern unless/until he becomes prime minister. But I consider it a safe bet that his government would not be as different from those of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as campaign rhetoric would suggest.

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