When David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, he was everything that the centre-left despised. Unlike Brixton’s John Major, Cameron was the full-on ‘Tory born to rule’ package. Privately educated, posh and privileged – he was able to wind the left up just by breathing.
The political theories, ideas and policies of the left would have been known to him – but he wouldn’t have spent much time discussing the finer points of democratic socialism with any in his circle in years. Certainly not since the debating days of Oxford. And rather like most politicians – and many voters – his peers have been generally of his own ilk, cut from the same cloth.
But here’s the thing. Over the last five years, the very same David Cameron has been forced to discuss democratic socialism every single working day, due to his Coalition with the Liberal Democrats and Nick Clegg as his Deputy Prime Minister. In fact, he has implemented reforms and pursued left of centre policies throughout the last five years. And so have the senior people around him. For every tax cut for the rich suggested by millionaire George Osborne, Danny Alexander was on hand to force tax thresholds up to help the poor, and so on.
So we have been left wondering; is today’s David Cameron the same one we saw first entering Downing Street in 2010? What has a daily dose of Nick Clegg done to make Cameron reflect on some of his traditional political instincts? And having been forced to think differently about politics, policies and people, will this have changed (or further confirmed) his world view for the long-term?
We’ll know the answers soon enough as the new Parliament progresses. But it is worth contemplating that a more politically rounded Cameron could be one of Clegg’s most lasting legacies. And if Cameron and his advisors remain alive to it, they could do little better than thinking: “what would Nick Clegg have said about this?” the next time they are looking at contentious policy ideas – or at ways to wrong-foot Labour.
If it is true that many people voted last week on the government’s record – and thus forgetting/not understanding the Liberal Democrat successes of it – then Cameron could occupy the aspirational centre ground for a very long time to come, just by adding a touch of Clegg into the mix. In short, he could give the voters the government they thought they’d had – and keep Labour out for years.
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January 21, 2021