BHHRG

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The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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The Force is with Cameron
HITS: 2713 | 17-06-2004, 22:36 | Commentaire(s): (0) |
 (Votes #: 0)

Ignoring the Harry Potter comparison, two ex-Tory MPs, Matthew Parris, now a Times columnist and Michael Brown now of The Independent both preferred a Star Wars reference when interviewed by Alistair Stewart on the ITN news channel. For them the essence of the Cameron phenomenon was that the “Force” is with him.[1] They saw the irresistible rise of Margaret Thatcher and then of Tony Blair as precedents.
On this model the “Force” is a tidal wave of media opinion which swamps any other consideration. However, both before 1979 and afterwards, Margaret Thatcher never enjoyed anything like unanimously favourable media coverage. Quite to the contrary. The media establishment, including in large parts of the Tory press, was condescending at best and dismissive at worst of the “Iron Lady.” Even eleven years in power never brought her a consensus of respect let alone admiration.[2]
Tony Blair, by contrast, was swept along by “The Force” of media adulation. Spin-doctors were seen as admirable acolytes after 1994 as the Blair candidacy was born aloft by an uncritical press. Recently things have begun to change. One war too many and far too few WMDs have cut into the prime minister’s popularity and undermined respect for a self-proclaimed “pretty straight sort of guy”, but it is striking that the original high priests at the Blair shrine are now intoning the Cameronian mantra.[3]
Cameron’s unfortunate rival David Davis, is a die-hard supporter of anti-proliferation wars and regime change. In one of the more grotesque exchanges during their “good-natured debates”, neither Cameron nor Davis could name the president of Iran but they thought action would be needed to stop Iran getting the Bomb![4] Yet Davis has neither charm nor class. If another war is needed a natural NCO like Davis won’t have the gravitas to foist it on the public. Posh is needed to sell tosh about the threat of WMD. Davis hasn’t got class, just attitude.
Davis was therefore ruthlessly rubbished. Blackpool audiences were shown snoozing through one of his speeches. (A BBC journalist was – unidentified and not a household name – shown eyes shut in the focal centre of the shot!) Oddly enough, on the eve of the results of the leadership poll, Newsnight showed drooping eyelids at a Cameron speech to the Centre for Policy Studies – with Cameron admirer Bruce Anderson doing a very good impression of a man soothed by Cameron’s charm into deep sleep.[5]

Why bother? What’s the point?

Although Cameron’s backers emphasise that his candidacy is “re-engaging” politics with the public and reaching out to the previously apathetic, there are good grounds for doubting whether the mythical youth vote will flow to a man whose background and manner must seem more remote to them than Anthony Eden, the last “glamour boy” to lead the Tories.[6] But the claims about Cameron’s appeal to non-Tories and non-voters are the point.
What Cameron’s backers want is a continuation of Blairism under a new face. Blair’s triumphs have coincided with a catastrophic fall in voter turnout, something which even Britain’s fraud-friendly polling arrangements have not been able to disguise. Apathy not engagement is the key to the success of the Blair-Cameron policy agenda. If people turn out to vote, they might not choose it.
Two years ago, Nick Cohen set out a deadly analysis of how New Labour served the financial interests of the wealthy by killing off both left-wing politics and marginalizing the unreconstructed right. Back then Blair’s dominance seemed assured, but a less than glorious and victorious little war has shown how worm-eaten were the popular roots of Blairism. In 2003, Cohen could still write about how “the stock market crash and the robbery of the middle classes which followed has produced a country in which the majority… no longer benefit[s] from the deregulated markets and regurgitated policies of the bubble world.” But since Blairism’s “greatest success… was to disable the only vehicle for change, the Labour Party… anger is directionless and the new elite can carry on as if nothing happened.”[7]
Now as a failed occupation eats into public respect for Blair and at home his mad cap devotion to public expenditure to promote private profits out of the NHS and state schools raises the likelihood of mass revolt on the Labour benches in the House of Commons, what Cohen calls the “new elite” is looking for a new leader or certainly for reinforcements for Blair. This is where David Cameron rides to the rescue.

Cameron has made much of his non-confrontational style. He has rejected “opposition for opposition’s sake.” No more “Punch and Judy politics” for him.[8] Unlike David Davis who helped manoeuvre Tony Blair into a humiliating defeat over his plans to hold terrorism suspects for up to 90 days without charge, David Cameron offers support in the war on terror and the war on socialism. Cameron has made it clear that Tory MPs should not expect him to lead them into the division lobbies against Blair’s bills on so-called health service and education “reforms.”
As with his schemes for the tax-payer to fund private drug counsellors, so Cameron backs directing tax- payers’ money from the health service and state schools into private balance sheets. George W. Bush’s disgraced brother Neil and the refugee Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, have been touting such new world order education policies around the New Europe.[9]
Although Cameron is routinely touted as the nemesis of New Labour, it seems at least as likely that he will be its saviour. Not only is he closely associated with its most unpopular policies which he has promised to back in Parliamentary votes even before putting them to the public as his own programme at the next general election, but his “fresh face” will be ruthlessly promoted by a pliant media as an alternative to the very policies which he has publicly backed! This “never mind the track record, vote for the vowel sounds” approach may well prove popular with a dumbed-down Harry-Potter loving Britain, but for how long?


[1] ITN News (1040am, 5th December, 2005).
[2] Cameron’s attitude to Margaret Thatcher was perhaps revealed when he told a journalist that his favourite Smiths’ track was “Margaret On The Guillotine” from their Viva Hate! album with its amusing line: “The kind people have a wonderful dream:, Margaret on the guillotine.” BBC2 Newsnight (5th December, 2005),
[3] For an account of New Labour’s self-assessment, see Nick Cohen, Pretty Straight Guys (Faber & Faber: London, 2003),
[4] SKY News (3pm, 24th November, 2005). Perhaps this ignorance puts both men “in touch” with “target voters” like the contestant on Who wants to be a millionaire? who wasn’t sure of which country Belgrade was the capital city, “But I know we bombed it.”,
[5] BBC 2 “Newsnight” (5th December, 2005),
[6] Speed seems to have been Eden’s drug of choice or prescription and his mood swings over Suez in 1956 were in part a reflection of his intake of uppers,
[7] See Cohen, Pretty Straight Guys, 266. Ironically, Cohen who skewered the self-serving economics of Blairism is a last ditch defender of Blair the warrior leader,
[8] As he insisted in his acceptance speech, ITN News (6th December, 2005),
[9] For the pedigree of education reform, see
http://www.baltictimes.com/hot1.php?art_id=14067.

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