Changing of the Guard

Report from England

The political landscape is altering here in Britain. The major parties are changing their leaders, and the remarkable dominance the Labour Party has enjoyed since Tony Blair became prime minister nine years ago is coming apart. Last December, the Conservative Party elected its fifth leader since 1997. He is David Cameron, who only arrived in the Commons in 2001. He was largely unknown at the start of the party leadership contest, but won handsomely over more experienced candidates after a clever campaign that went down well. He is an attractive figure who seemed electable to the Conservatives, who are desperate to get back into power after so long in opposition. Such was the state of the Labour Party when it chose Blair in 1994, and there are many similarities between the two men-which Cameron has made the most of.

Cameron is bright, energetic, and personable. Just thirty-nine when he became leader, he has an attractive wife and a young family. He is also a compelling speaker who adopts a relaxed, unbuttoned style, and is happy to be photographed cycling ’round London. He is unapologetic about having attended the poshest school in England, Eton (Blair went to the Scottish equivalent, Fettes) and like Blair-and most British prime ministers-he went on to Oxford. He is clearly following Blair’s political tactics.

To appeal to voters, Blair set himself to shift the Labour Party from the left to the center...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Bernard Bergonzi is the author of A Study in Greene, among many other books of literary criticism.