David Cameron’s Tories provide an example of how a conservative party can be modern, electable, business friendly, and yet still show concern for the needy.
Time profiles Cameron and his rise:
As the self-proclaimed “heir to [Tony] Blair,” Cameron did his best before the 2010 elections to remake Britain’s stuffy, traditionalist Conservative party, once memorably dubbed by the current Home Secretary Theresa May the “nasty party,” into an approximation of Blair’s New Labour: a broad church, centrist, business-friendly but supportive of poorer segments of society, socially liberal, electorally potent. If he had managed to match New Labour on that last point, he’d be finding it easier to persuade mutinous Tories on the right of the party to tolerate dangerously modish ideas such as curbing climate change or maintaining Britain’s commitment to aid developing countries or, pass the smelling salts, legislating for gay marriage. Instead, he failed to win an overall majority and is locked until 2015 into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, a party brimming with exactly such ideas. His most difficult balancing act is to give his coalition partners enough to pacify their members whilst assuaging demand in his own ranks for a return to an older Conservative branding.
At this point, however, the Tories are Britain’s Democrats, and the Republicans are Britain’s crazies:
The truth is that despite headline differences on stimulus spending, in several respects, including social attitudes, many British Tories do feel more in common with Democrats than with the G.O.P. Health care is an obvious example. “This is the party of the NHS [Britain’s free-at-the-point-of-delivery National Health Service] and that’s the way it’s going to stay,” insisted Cameron from his podium. Though he aims to push through radical—and controversial—reforms to the NHS, he is pledged to maintain it. The mainstream of the British Conservative party supports a model in which health and other services are funded by taxation, even if they inveigh against “dependency culture” and bemoan inefficiences and unfairnesses. Cameron’s severely disabled son Ivan, who died aged 6 in 2009, was the beneficiary of taxpayer-funded care. As he spoke of Ivan, while lauding London’s Paralympic Games for helping people to see “the boy, not the wheelchair,” his voice broke and tears welled. It was a rare show of vulnerability from a politician more usually inclined to a patrician stiff upper lip.