We are also coming to believe that the nanny state is not a fiction of the rabid right-wing media, but a reality. We are all aware that cigarettes damage our health, yet many of us enjoy the solace of the occasional cigarette, and the idea of banning smoking in pubs grates. Similarly, it has come to our notice that driving cars is not an environmentally friendly activity, yet speed cameras, congestion charging and other pieces of anti-driver legislation do little to endear the Government to the law-abiding motorist. More alarming still is the vindictively Calvinist behaviour of the prudent prime minister-in-waiting, with his seeming lack of connection with life as it is lived by any of the electorate.
The politico-philosophical nexus has moved from Islington and from the hard-core, peace protest, brown rice-eating, human rights stuff and shifted to a polenta and hare ragout-based Notting Hill ideology, arranged not around firebrand issues but a compassionate live-and-let-live family-based agenda.
The whole drugs issue is symptomatic of this. Maybe when David Davis was a youngster in the early 1960s, drugs were not a part of the adolescent experience. But for people in their thirties and forties, issues of drugs and alcohol are a part of life. The chances are that Mr Davis would not know what being "in recovery" means, but Cameron is not just familiar with it as a term but knows at least one person who is actually "in recovery". And being "in recovery" is very, very socially acceptable.
Whether they subscribed to it or not, Cameron's generation grew up with the radical ideology of the Seventies and early Eighties (Rock Against Racism, peace camps at nuclear bases and the naming of every park and university common room in honour of Nelson Mandela). For them this has become orthodox rather than revolutionary. Growing up in the Britain of the past 30 or 40 years has brought a change in attitude: what the Thatcherite generation of Conservatives would be inclined to view as "political correctness gone mad" is viewed, by Cameron's generation of Conservatives as tolerance and good manners: those who make disparaging remarks about race, gender and religious or sexual orientation are viewed as ignorant.
There is a social ease and an innate likeability about Cameron, although heaven knows what his "mission" is. It may be clever PR, but he does not seem to try too hard. Take his easy appropriation of the weekend west London wardrobe and contrast it with poor Tony Blair, who has always had difficulty with his casual clothing.
Cameron comes from the post-If generation of public schoolboys. He was at Oxford at a time when colleges were working to disabuse the public of the elitist tag. Despite having what can be construed as a privileged past and a charmed present, he somehow comes close to being "one of us". Could it be that, for the essentially apolitical who didn't much like the Eighties, Thatcher's party is losing the stigma of Thatcherism?
- More about:
- Human Rights
- Kensington And Chelsea
- Notting Hill, London