Cameron’s progressive conservatism masks his appeal to the Tea Partiers

Our guest writer is John Halpin, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C.

As an American progressive, I found it heartwarming to hear Tory leader David Cameron praise President John F. Kennedy’s call for national sacrifice and his brother Bobby’s warning about the inadequacy of GDP as an indicator of national well-being.  Cameron’s defense of the NHS in the face of American right-wing slanders of the British system during our own health care debate was an admirable concession to sound policy, history and public opinion.

To an American liberal ear accustomed to the incessant rants of Fox News and commercial talk radio, Cameron sounds like a conservative you can live with. Not a Reagan-Thatcher ideologue intent on privatizing government or a whiny Glenn Beck-Sarah Palin media creation cashing in on constant cries of victimhood but rather a reasonable communitarian who understands the proper role of government in advancing human freedom and opportunity.

My Labour friends have tried to dissuade me from this lofty opinion of Cameron saying it is merely the result of living in a peculiar political environment in the U.S. that encourages old people on Medicare to scream about socialism.

I was skeptical until I read Tim Montgomerie pitching Cameron’s conservative credentials to the Tea Party-loving crowd at The Corner – the popular blog of the right-wing American journal, the National Review:

“Cameron will not be to the liking of every U.S. Republican, but he’s much closer to American conservatism than the ruling Labour Party or the third party, the Liberal Democrats. The Conservative leader promises to abolish inheritance tax for all but millionaires. He will recognize marriage in the tax system. He promises to vote for tighter abortion laws. His most radical policy is a policy of school choice that will end the monopoly of provision currently misused by local government. He also plans to produce transparency in government — publishing state contracts online so that taxpayers can see how their money is being used (or should that be “misused”?). He also pledges to introduce a U.S.-style system of elected police chiefs so Britain gets the kind of zero-tolerance policing that transformed New York City.”

For those of you unaware of the ideological brilliance of the current National Review crowd, the journal of William F. Buckley and once respectable conservatism has turned into a freak show of bizarre rants against “fascist” progressives who love Europe and advocacy for everything from torture and the bombing of Iran to deregulation of the financial sector and repeal of the health bill.

Cameron may quote John and Bobby Kennedy but Britain better watch out if the Tory leader appeals to the Tea Partiers.  Behind a “progressive conservative” mask may be a Sarah Palin-wannabe plotting ways to help “real Britons” fight death panels, avoid taxation and dismantle the state.

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