Will Conservative Revolution Succeed in Britain?

Posted: 13 Oct 2010

Conservative Party Conference last week in Birmingham, United Kingdom, stood out with a very clear understanding of the political elite that difficult times call for serious reforms. It is a conservative revolution in the making and only history will judge whether it will be a success in the country’s political history.

The omnipresence of Margaret Thatcher’s spirit in the Hall was undeniable and she will certainly encourage the young Prime Minister David Cameron today, October 13, 2010, when he will congratulate her with her 85th birthday on Downing Street 10.

The extent of change in mentality and policies brought about by the Conservative Party is outstanding. That is due to an extremely difficult legacy left by the Labor Party and due to the inability to form a majority Government that forced Conservatives to establish a coalition with the Liberal Democrats which was not viewed favorably by the Party right-wing members. Moreover, this coalition has required some concessions from the Conservatives, the most significant being on electoral reform on proportional representation (though it is not yet known what political price will be paid by the Liberal Democrats for their cohabitation with the Conservative Party).

However, as the Prime Minister Cameron himself mentioned in his energetic speech www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2010/10/David_Cameron_Together_in_th... : "But a minority government would have limped through Parliament unable to do anything useful for our country. The voters left us with a hung Parliament and they wanted us to respond responsibly, to do the right thing, not play political games. So I set to form a strong, stable, coalition government."

Defending the coalition in the eyes of his own party and the Conservative’s electorate was the first basic element of the Conference’s slogan "Together in the National Interest". The second element, which is not less important, is the need for a broad political support for the extraordinary austerity measures that are required in order to address the budget deficit and reform the institutions. Social benefits will be substantially reduced, as noted by George Osborne, Chancellor for Treasury, at the very beginning of the Conference, starting with allowances for children in families where one parent earns more than 43,875 pounds. Conservatives plan to cut public spending by 83 billion pounds by 2014 and social benefits will be reduced first, although this target can’t be achieved without a wage freeze, a greater contribution of workers to fund pensions, etc.

Extremely unpopular measures are presented as the only solution for the national revival, for the rebirth of the country. Cameron was dexterous in presenting the coalition as being in the interest of the whole country (not because the Conservatives haven’t won the majority). Paradoxically, the difficult economic situation is also helping him to create an image of the Father of nation, comparable only to the periods of war or great economic depressions (though the last edition of “The Economist” argues that David Cameron can not be both a radical and a father of the nation. On the other hand, actions such as exposing publicly the indecently high salaries (including those received by high officials), reducing salaries of ministers and ministries in general, lower taxes, imposing restrictions on banks so they also reduce the benefits to top managerial staff and credit more conveniently the small businesses, etc. – represents an efficient popular base (with some populist tendencies, to be correct as well). Moments of crisis provide for outstanding opportunities for leaders who find themselves at the helm of the nation - David Cameron has a chance to earn a place in Britain's history along with Margaret Thatcher whom he will congratulate today with her birthday. Moving beyond the respective symbolism, it remains yet to be seen if the conservative revolution will succeed.

© 2019 Iulian Fruntaşu
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