Thursday, November 8, 2012

For Cameron, Obama's win is a warning

The prime minister might end up learning the wrong lessons from the US president's re-election, argues Adam Bienkov.

As it became clear that Barack Obama had won, David Cameron immediately congratulated the man he called "my friend" and said that he looked forward to working with him for "the next four years."

For Cameron, Obama's victory proved that incumbents can win, even when unemployment is high and growth low.

It proved that he can win despite his opponents promising all gain and no pain.

And it proved that after a long, messy time in government, voters won't necessarily hand back control to the people who caused the mess.

But if David Cameron believes that Obama's victory guarantees his own re-election, then he is in for a nasty surprise.

Because what Tuesday's result really shows is that time is running out for the conservative movements both in the US and the UK.

"Their remaining supporters are overwhelmingly pale, male and stale"

In America, the Republicans have lost the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections.

Their remaining supporters are overwhelmingly pale, male and stale, amid an electorate that is more diverse by the year.

In the UK, the Conservative vote is also in steady decline, with non-whites, northerners and the young, increasingly less likely to vote Tory.

Government cuts and controversial reforms to the NHS have also damaged trust in the party.

Meanwhile Cameron's hopes that a review of parliamentary constituency boundaries would cancel out bias against his party were dashed by the Lib Dems, in revenge for the Tories refusing to allow House of Lords reform.

And just as the Tea Party forced Mitt Romney onto marginal and unpopular positions, so too have the Conservatives forced Cameron onto issues that most people don't care about.

While the public worry about jobs and growth, the Conservative Party obsess about abortion and Europe.

"The Conservatives are pushing Cameron eyes-shut, arms-folded into the abyss."

Cameron failed to win a majority against Gordon Brown, largely because he hadn't done enough to change this perception.

Winning after five years in government now looks even more difficult.

But in order to stand a chance, the Tories need to drastically change their image, and they need to rapidly retreat from the margins of public debate.

Both of these look increasingly unlikely to happen.

Just as Republicans are using Romney's defeat as an excuse to go even further right, so too are the Conservatives pushing Cameron eyes-shut, arms-folded into the abyss.

Of course Ed Miliband is no Barack Obama, and the Conservative Party have not descended to the extreme positions taken by the Republican right.

But if you want a picture of Cameron's future, then don’t imagine him standing victorious in front of a stadium full of screaming fans.

Instead just think again of that guy called Mitt Romney. And imagine him explaining to his supporters why once again they have fallen short.

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