The Tories’ lead is much depleted since last autumn, but David Cameron’s self-belief seems not to have faltered. Does he lead a new breed of visionary reformers, or are he and his clique a bunch of dissembling snobs? Prospect has hosted a wide range of political arguments over the past twelve months and, as the parties start their campaigning in earnest, we look back at some of the best analysis.
Ed Howker was thoroughly impressed with how Cameron handled the expenses scandal, but former Blair speechwriter Philip Collins and Demos director Richard Reeves found the Tory promise of a caring-and-sharing “big society” dangerously disingenuous. Slogans weren’t the only things up for scrutiny at Conservative HQ. Constitutional expert Robert Hazell set out how electoral promises like shrinking parliament, the “British Bill of Rights” and a local government shakeup could give the quondam “nasty party” some headaches. Meanwhile, the Guardian‘s Julian Glover looked at Tory backroom policy, and Dan Hancox went to see some toffs go wild at the Conservative Future Christmas party. “Red Tory” Philip Blond’s first essay for Prospect suggested what “compassionate conservatism” might look like. He followed it up in April 2010, warning the Tories not to fly to policies of the 1980s to shore up waning support.
Having trailed in the polls since late 2007, Labour is set to lose its parliamentary majority in May. The expenses scandal tore a chunk out of Blair’s touted “purer than pure” party, as Richard Reeves was quick to point out. Gordon Brown himself made the case for his party in Prospect’s September issue: after the economic disaster of 2008, you need someone responsible at the helm, he said. Meanwhile, David Aaronovitch and John Harris debated what the future held for the British left. Is egalitarian, public-spirited socialism still possible? There’s a small matter to clear up first, wrote Prospect’s James Crabtree: when Labour do get voted out, the only way to ensure a swift return will be to show some contrition for their mistakes. Not to say they haven’t had their successes—the praised and pilloried Lord Mandelson was behind many of them as he established himself as the eminence grise of Brown’s government. Edward Docx tried to get to the bottom of the Lord of Darkness.
It wasn’t just about the parties. Sam Knight went out…