This cuts right across Cameron's "One Nation" view of politics. Although he venerates Harold Macmillan-in opposition placing a picture of him above his desk-his approach owes as much to an earlier Tory prime minister who was also a coalition man.
Like Stanley Baldwin, Cameron is interested in the notion of the classes coming together in an effort to moderate social division — hence his "all in it together" rhetoric about deficit reduction and happy-clappy Big Society invocations. It helps explain his failure to identify with what Thatcher termed "our people" the strivers, the aspirational. Even the statist Macmillan — once he lost his seat in Stockton in 1945 and transferred to the upwardly-mobile Bromley in Kent —understood the importance of aspiration and getting on.
It is those strivers who are most likely to start the new small businesses that the country so badly needs. They will also be most receptive to strongly conservative messages about responsibility and effort being rewarded. Thatcher understood this instinctively and Blair found a way of mimicking her. Cameron — who failed to break the crucial 40 per cent barrier with the C2s at the election — acts as though such Britons don't exist and shows his "inner conservative" only when pressed in a crisis.
Can he change? Blair-style transformations — in his case from consensus builder to foreign policy fanatic and evangelist for choice in public services — are rare. Leaders tend in office simply to become more exaggerated versions of their original selves. Often the characteristics that initially made them attractive turn in time into weaknesses that are their eventual undoing.
Thatcher's against-the-odds determination was hugely appealing during the Falklands crisis and when she was defeating the unions, but it became an unshakeable conviction that she was always right and could afford to scorn her colleagues. She had learnt that she had to be daring to succeed (although it was tempered in her early years in power with a sense of realism about what was possible).
In time that hardened into what Nigel Lawson described as recklessness and a belief that having gambled audaciously and won so many times before her bets would always pay out. The result was the poll tax experiment and an aggressive tone of voice on Europe that alienated important sections of her party. Incidentally, recent events in the Eurozone have illustrated that she was absolutely right about the substance of the issue, in particular spotting ahead of her colleagues that the Exchange Rate Mechanism and moves towards a single currency were a mistake of epic historical proportions.
Cameron is very different. His great strength when he won the Tory leadership was supposedly his pragmatism and ideological flexibility. Now that looks like being nowhere near good enough.
What should trouble the Tory leader most is that significant parts of his party are concluding regretfully that they already know he cannot grow. Instead, their thoughts are starting to turn to what a more authentically conservative future might look like.
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