British Conservatives

I wanted to comment on David Cameron, but then I thought to put it in context to write about British conservatives in general. If only our conservatives were like British conservatives. You need a playbook to come back to power? Drop the silly act and become grown-ups.

I always had a weak spot for Margaret Thatcher. They don’t call her an Iron Lady for nothing. US conservatives like to point out that us liberals only like liberal women in power. To them I say: show me someone with Maggie Thatcher statue and if we still complain – then you have a case. What have you had so far – Sarah Palin? Don’t make me laugh. Condi Rice could have been one and she had intellectual capacity, but she didn’t have the balls to disagree with her superiors, even though I suspect, that she, like Colin Powell knew that the pretext for war was entirely fabricated. Anyway, Margaret Thatcher believed in global warming back in 1989, she supported legal abortion and overall she was a kind of politician you could agree to disagree without name calling and bending of language and meaning of words. She wasn’t an ideologue and even though she was brought up a Methodist – didn’t wear religion on her sleeve. And she had balls – first in winning the Falkland Islands war in a quick and resolute way and then advising George H.W. Bush to “not go wobbly on Saddam Hussein” during the first Gulf War. Current US conservatives could learn a lot from their British counterparts. Brits don’t seem to have an ideological or religious litmus test – David Cameron is “sort of fairly classic Church of England fan”, and Nick Clegg (Lib Dem deputy PM) is self proclaimed non-believer. An atheist like him can forget about political career in the US. Winston Churchill’s religious beliefs are not clear cut although there are many indications that he was an agnostic. Later in life, reflecting on the existence of many faiths he said: “if you tried your best to live an honourable life and did your duty and were faithful to friends and not unkind to the weak and poor, it did not matter much what you believed or disbelieved.”

So now that we put religion aside, what’s my major issue with conservatives? Taxes and the role of government. I think that there’s nothing wrong with progressive taxation and the regulatory role of government, especially in times like these. In addition to that I believe that there’s nothing wrong with cutting spending in times like these. I hear conservatives are very concerned about the deficit and Wall Street role in the crisis, but the solutions that they are offering are more of the same: cutting taxes and less regulation. Which shows that they are beholden to a rigid ideology that is from another era. It might have worked in the 80s but we live in a different world now and need different solutions to problems. The new British government seems to be pragmatists – the kind of ideology I can appreciate. Cut spending in tough economic times. Raise taxes to cut deficit, cut taxes when times are good; regulate when speculation gets out of hand, get out of the way when private sector knows what they are doing. Forgive me to use a poker term again, but life is a game of poker: you don’t always raise or you don’t always fold. There’s no strategy that is always right – you adjust to a particular circumstance. I guess that in addition to religiosity it is this ideological inflexibility that makes me disgusted with our conservatives.

To conclude, I think that this sort of coalition government may prove challenging for UK because of too many factions and there will be some horse-trading, of course. But looking at these two smart and more importantly pragmatic guys – David Cameron and Nick Clegg – gives me hope that reason will prevail.


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