Comparing David Cameron to Disraeli, Peter Oborne declared that the new PM has ‘a chance to change Britain, to reshape the political landscape and to turn the Conservatives into the progressive party that New Labour never became.’ His article is indicative of the general impression that Cameron has in some way modernised the Tory Party. Even the perceptive Kammo agreed that ‘he’s completed the task of transforming modern Conservatism and of once again attaining office.’
The argument goes like this. The Conservatives lost two elections that they fought on Daily Mail headlines. Cameron realised this and, as leader, he has tried to reclaim the centre ground from Labour. The easy ride Cameron has had in the media has reinforced the impression that he has indeed made the Conservatives a moderate and reasonable political force. Labour’s cry of ‘same old Tories’ was dismissed as scaremongering from a government scrambling for a propaganda line. A closer examination proves that the image of a Conservative Party at ease with the twenty-first century is just that.
Last week I wrote about Philippa ‘Pray the Gay Away’ Stroud, rightly rejected by the voters of Sutton and Cheam. The blogs and social networking sites hummed with activity when the Observer made this revelation, but no other paper followed it. Twitterers demanded to know why the fact that a prominent Tory candidate tried to exorcise demons from addicts and gay people was met with silence yet when Gordon Brown made a minor gaffe in Rochdale the world seemed to go mad for a second. As Nick Cohen explained, a servile media didn’t want to offend the UK’s new boss.
Yet Stroud is just one visible signifier of the Conservative dark heart. Far from isolating extremists in the Tory Party, Cameron has surrounded himself with them. It’s common yet ignored knowledge that he left the EU’s moderate conservative group to ally with fringe nutters and SS fetishists. The Big Society policy was quickly exposed as the sinister Victorianism that it was. Less attention is paid to his friends in the UK’s Christian right.
Like Islamic Forum Europe, the Christian religious right in this country doesn’t run on its explicit beliefs – it knows voters would reject them. There’s a group called the Christian Legal Centre that generates coverage for high-profile victimology cases like the nurse who wasn’t allowed to wear a crucifix at work. It’s run by Andrea Minichiello Williams, who is also behind Christian Concern for Our Nation, an ally of Tory wingnut Nadine Dorries in her campaign to reduce abortion time limits. According to Sunny Hundal: ‘CCFON isn’t a normal Christian organisation. Williams believes that abortion should be illegal, homosexuality is sinful and the world is 4,000 years old.’
The chairman of the Alpha Course (like Cameron himself, it’s less liberal than it sounds) has given at least £50,000 to the party. Thirty-seven election candidates were members of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, set up by the hugely influential Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home. The Christian Legal Centre even works with the Alliance Defence Fund, the US religious right group, which counts Eric Prince, theoconservative founder of mercenary army Blackwater, among its biggest donors. (The clippings on Blackwater don’t do it justice – you have to read Jeremy Scahill’s essential investigation.)
If religious extremism doesn’t particularly bother you, take a look at the political extremism of the Young Britons Foundation, which trains parliamentary activists and whose research director used to be Cameron’s chief of staff. The YBE advocates abolishing the NHS and sends its members to residential camps that include training in sub-machine guns and assault rifles. As Chris Huhne said (this was before the election): ‘The YBF’s tentacles reach deep into the shadow cabinet and show the influence of the extreme anti-NHS, pro-torture, neocon wing of the party.’
And this is the regime that Nick Clegg is propping up. Shameful.