From a distance, David Cameron looks like one of the world’s most successful conservatives. He brought his party back to power, ending its 13-year spell in the wilderness. His politics, he once told me, were about achieving “liberal ends through conservative means,” and on schools and welfare those means have been undeniably radical. He preaches about the danger of debt, and is winning the argument, with a majority of Brits persuaded of the need for austerity. From a distance, this charming and charismatic 45-year-old might seem like the perfect conservative poster boy.
Then there is another view: that Cameron is in fact a flake, who for all his talk about “dealing with the debt” is increasing it almost as much as Barack Obama (whom he adores). That, much as Cameron likes using the military, he is making massive defense cuts and spending the saved money on overseas aid projects. That he is lazy and unserious, and has surrounded himself with cronies, making his government closer to Friends than to The West Wing. And that his election was not a triumph of Conservatism, but of spin over principle.