During the media frenzy over whether David Cameron had taken drugs, or, more accurately, when he'd last taken cocaine, many people sighed and said 'Yes, we know he's taken drugs at some point, but what about the policies?' But look at his policies and you begin to realise Cameron's stance on drugs isn't much different to his stance on everything else: as vague as a distant landmark on a misty day. As seen by a mole. Who's just woken up. And has cataracts.
Cameron's final words on the coke issue were that he had not taken cocaine since becoming an MP. He might have done well to clarify this: let's say, just for fun, that Cameron was a bit of a party kid when he arrived at Oxford University in 1985. That's 16 whole years of potential showbiz sherbet abuse before he became an MP in 2001. With a 16-year habit, by this stage Cameron could well have been doing head-and-hand for 10 quid round the back of Kings Cross station every night. Although this is a pleasing image, a more realistic guess at what Cameron's coke use consisted of is that he, like a lot of people, occasionally did a bit of coke in his youth. This fits with what Cameron himself has said - he hasn't claimed his drug use was restricted to his university years, but quite often people tend to stop taking drugs as they get older, particularly if you've got a parliamentary career in mind.
The coke issue is so trivial, and has so little bearing on Cameron as a potential prime minister, that it's easy to see why he'd avoid taking the risk of being too honest or specific about drugs, instead preferring to stay vague until the press got bored, a strategy that seems to have worked. But in the light of his drugs vagueness, look at some of Cameron's policy positions, outlined on his website, www.cameroncampaign.org (The video clips are, we're sure you'll agree, gripping.)
Dave says things like:
'We believe in personal responsibility. But not in selfish individualism.'
'We believe in lower taxes. But not in fostering greed or favouring the rich.'
'We believe in high standards in health and education. But opt-outs and escape routes for the privileged few will never
deliver high quality for all.'
Or to put it another way:
'We believe in X. But not the polar opposite of X. What we really believe might be somewhere in-between. Possibly.'
You could call it the Total Ambiguity Game. Why not try it with your partner?
'I believe in only having sex with the person you love. But that's not to say you can't love more than one person.'
OK, these are slogans, not fully developed policies. But look what happens when Cameron elaborates in his FAQ (maybe that should be Rarely Asked Questions) section:
'What's more important to you: lower taxes or spending more on public services?
[Dave:] A strong economy needs competitive tax rates and good public infrastructure in areas like education and transport. So we should share the proceeds of economic growth between tax reduction and investment in public services.'
Now what the fuck does that mean? At a guess: 'We can cut taxes and the economy will grow so massively we can spend all we like on education and transport AND cut taxes which in turn will make the economy grow even more...' This isn't economic policy, it's the equivalent of claiming to have invented a free energy machine.
Or try this:
'We believe in the family. But we shouldn't preach to people about how they live their lives. We must respond to the challenge of social breakdown by actively supporting marriage through the tax and benefits system. But in a more liberal and less deferential age, we must support all families, for example through childcare, because what matters most is that children are brought up in a stable, loving home.'
Controversial stuff. If, as it should be, a family is loving and supportive, then we all believe in the family. Probably the only person who didn't believe in the family was Pol Pot. Maybe Cameron's slogan should be: 'Vote for me, I'm not Pol Pot.'
Nah, too specific.
You'll probably have noticed that Cameron's bland statement about families is a way of skirting a number of more controversial issues: homosexuality and gay couples, long-term benefits dependency, single mums, teenage mums, working mums, childcare and feckless chavs.
And this is the problem: Cameron's policies as stated are largely totally vague or pure obfuscation. Does he accept that lowering taxes means less investment in public services? Unclear. Does he believe that 'a stable, loving home' can include gay couples who adopt? Again, not clear. For that matter, if we're going to talk about 'stable' homes, do we need to identify unstable relationships? 'Rate the stability of your relationship on a scale of one to 10 and win extra child benefit today!'
If there's one thing that Cameron's website reminds us, it's the bland sloganeering of another well-known group of modernisers: New Labour. And not just the slogans - in many areas Cameron is eerily close to New Labour politically. What an interesting future of political choice awaits!
On this note it's worth pointing out that in the course of surfing for Cameron's policy positions we happened to come across a chat group with the title 'The Tory leadership contest - what do you think?' One comment by Anonymous read:
'i was surprised to see ken clarke go but i couldn't really give a fuck to be honest.'
Quite. With Tony Blair looking increasingly spent, and David Cameron being feted as the new and exciting voice of Conservatism, it's going to be people like Anonymous who really are the future of political debate.