But well done that man. Watching David Cameron speaking before 10 Downing Street, I realised what a long way has been travelled since 2005. For a long time I didn’t think it could be done.
Of course, I’m talking about myself, and my achievement of being able to look upon another Tory prime minister without despair and loathing. Five years ago, I exulted at the defeat of the Conservatives -how I hated that ‘are you thinking what we’re thinking’ stuff! – and actively relished the idea of them tearing themselves to bits. I readily dismissed criticisms of Labour, thought little of the Lib Dems, and saw the Conservatives in only negative terms.
Now I find myself looking at Cameron and feeling admiration for what he has achieved. Of course, all this detoxification will mean nothing if the policies are wilfully nasty.* And much of their new liberalism may be a result of pressure from their newfound electoral partners. And, yes, their willingness to contemplate reforms and compromise may reflect powerhunger and a terror of the disunity that more opposition would have brought.
But like Paul I find it very hard to dislike the man, and see plenty to admire in his recent conduct – in particular if Matthew D’Ancona is right and Cameron is as enthusiastic about this ‘new politics’ as I am. I hope there is truth in what D’Ancona sees here:
Though he may not pull off the big deal, Cameron’s conduct in the past three days has done more to transform public perceptions of his party than anything in the previous four-and-a-half years of his leadership. The images of Conservatives such as William Hague and George Osborne trying to broker an understanding in the broader public interest has done the party more good than anything it did during the campaign, and will serve the Tories well in office, even if they now have to fall back on the daily uncertainties of minority government.
When the Lib Dem Fed Ex votes the right way, my even greater praise goes to Clegg, who has dragged his party up from 14% in the polls to sharing power. But in the meantime, well done David Cameron (and me).
* which must be distinguished from ‘forced by fiscal necessity into being tough’