Biography and Introduction
Hello to anybody who reads this! My name is Ted Yarbrough and I am an American who resides in Dallas, Texas. I am 25 years old, am about to attend my third and final year of law school and I am avid anglophile and British political junkie. Below I will give my brief and weak credentials to have an opinion on British politics and then I will proceed to give a “bullet point” overview of Cameron’s job so far.
I have been an avid follower of all things British most of my life. I memorized the monarchs of England dating back to Edward the Confessor when I was about 10 years old (I could never remember the Danish Kings or early Anglo-Saxon Kings names for whatever reason) and I would immerse myself in British history by reading all I could, from attempting to read my father’s book on Gladstone (I believe written by Simon Jenkins) to my favourite book even to this day, The Last Lion a biography by William Manchester on Winston Churchill. Regrettably, being in law school I have not found the time to sit down and read the third installment of the biography released in December. However I did buy my father a copy of it so maybe he will let me read it soon. I visited England in 1999 and very much enjoyed it, even seeing the late Baroness Thatcher in the House of Lords by pure luck. From there my interest only continued to grow.
As for British politics specifically, I started watching Prime Minister’s Questions when it would air on C-SPAN on Sunday nights in America shortly after I returned from the UK in 1999. Back then, in the early days of New Labour, my Tories were a pretty sad bunch headed by the now Foreign Minister, William Hague with only 165 MPs. However, to an American boy seeing Prime Minister’s Questions for the first time, the raucous House of Commons was absolutely thrilling and I loved it when Hague or another Conservative could hit Blair with a zinger and then I was disheartened when Blair would ramble off his cooked up statistics about how perfect the world was under New Labour back at them. You could imagine how even sadder I was to watch the 2001 BBC general election returns on CSPAN to discover the Conservatives’ gain to only be one seat. But even in this low point of politics in Great Britain it was more exciting than America’s at its Bush v. Gore height of closeness. This is because, as I discovered, there is more of an exchange and defence of ideas and frankness of debate in Britain. In America, adversaries rarely confront another, merely instead giving vague overarching campaign speeches to supportive crowds rather than confronting their adversary “head on” to argue their case.
I really started knowing about the British media world beyond BBC during the Iraq invasion of 2003. Back then I was for the war (and actually admired Blair for his determination in supporting it, whether it was right looking retrospectively requires a whole other blog post) and was pretty sickened by the bias of BBC’s coverage. From my searching I then discovered the Daily Telegraph, The Times of London, The Daily Mail and The Sun with a political bent more to my liking. It was the Daily Telegraph in particular that I found to be the most insightful and I have been reading it avidly ever since. I particularly enjoy waking up to Benedict Brogan’s Morning Briefing and reading it to start my day and I love reading Boris Johnson’s hilarious and spot on commentary on current events. I find most of the “Torygraph” to be to my liking politically, however I am not only a Telegraph reader. I read the Times on my phone because of their screwy pay subscription system and I usually enjoy their Leaders and Tim Montgomerie. However I find The Times’ Metropolitan Eliteism’s (particularly of Matthew Parris) to be a bit nauseating sometimes & I can’t help think it must have been a Times Conservative who called Conservative activists “swiveled eyed loons”. I find the Daily Express to be ideologically agreeable for the most part and I do like that they are not quite as trashy as a tabloid as the Daily Mail or the Sun. I like Trevor Kavanagh but think the Sun is a little too low brow for my taste (funny how Murdoch’s papers occupy both extreme ends of the class spectre) and I find some insight in the Daily Mail, at least more than the Sun, however I do find them a bit too sensationalist. I hate the Guardian (a favourite of American left wingers to quote) and the Daily Mirror, I think the Independent is too goofy and modern. However, I do find it fun debating leftists on the “Politics UK” page on facebook which frequently peddles left wing media stories. It is truly amazing we live in an era where anybody can read the great English national papers from anywhere on the Globe. As for regional newspapers, the only one I’ve read much of is London’s Evening Standard, whose editorial board I find to be slightly (not much more) better than average as well as there paper.
Lastly, I’d like to mention I wrote my senior Thesis at the University of Dallas on Thatcherism’s affect on British Culture and was a British history major. I am an avid Thatcherite (as many Americans are or pretend to be) and so my blogs will come from a generally Thatcherite-Tory slant.
David Cameron’s job so far Three Years in.
As an overview, I would argue David Cameron has done a mostly good job as Prime Minister in my opinion. Now, having said that, I probably have made enemies with the UKIP leaning Telegraph commentors I see on every single article whether it is about politics or the weather, but I think viewing things from an American Conservative’s perspective I am thoroughly impressed by much of his government’s accomplishments, especially noting the complete incompetence we have governing in America. So below I will list what I see as the “positives” and “negatives” of Cameron’s premiership and then give my recommendation on what I would like to see him do going forward.
- Cutting the Deficit by a Third. In America deficits never get cut. EVER. Our national debt is at $17 trillion dollars and escalates every single day without stopping. Our deficits have been over $1 trillion dollars for every year of the Obama administration. Thus, I think George Osborne deserves praise for cutting spending even when it is not politically popular. However, it is David Cameron who I think deserves the credit for getting the Lib Dems to go along with the spending cuts, and I think in future years people will look back and thank the Cameron Conservative led Coalition government for doing what Labour would not: for starting to tackle spending.
- Keeping Taxes Down. In America, the top rate of income tax was during this time of economic hardship raised due to pressure from our leftist President and his message of class envy. Those voices of class envy have also been heard loud and clear in Great Britain but the Cameron government has been right to resist them. I applaud the British government for cutting the top rate of tax, for taking millions of taxpayers out of income tax altogether, for cutting corporate tax rates to be globally competitive (unlike America who keeps the corporate tax rate in the 30s then wonders why companies go offshore), for cutting the pint tax at pubs and for resisting calls for a stupid, pointless mansion tax that some Lib Dems and Labour have advocated for. To be able to do this while still cutting spending and reducing the deficit is admirable.
- Reducing Immigration by a Third. Labour let immigrants pour in by the millions at the expense of British taxpayers and sometimes British workers. Labour, like the Democrats in the United States, sees poor and uneducated immigrants as potential voters. Immigrants can and often are an advantage for a society because they often bring new innovations and in Britain’s case they bring better food. However, with Britain being a smaller country than the United States and having the free NHS, British taxpayers cannot be on the hook for building poor immigrants new housing and paying for their free healthcare. They also cannot be expected to respect un-British institutions like Sharia law in their own midst. Theresa May I believe recognizes this problem and has worked hard to alleviate the amount of people getting asylum in the UK. She also is right to want to pull out of the EU convention on human rights because the EU human rights treaty has become a way for hate preachers to stay in a country.
- Offering the British people a choice on the EU. In fairness, I do not believe that Cameron would have offered the British people a vote on EU membership were it not for the rise of the UKIP. However, a sign of an admirable leader, and a trait that has been integral to the Tory party since the time of William Pitt the younger, is to be flexible and pragmatic. Mr. Cameron listened to the British people on Europe and is right to offer a referendum on membership. If I lived in the UK, I certainly would vote out. However, he is right to at least attempt to restore the organisation to a free trade common market like it was originally intended to be, although I absolutely respect and under the views like those Lord Tebbit wrote in The Times a couple weeks ago that negotiations are fruitless at this point. Nevertheless, I think Cameron understands that he is unlikely to be successful in re-negotiating a fair agreement with Europe. Just this morning I read that the EU is wanting to force the UK to confer benefits on migrants coming from eastern Europe by stripping away Britain’s residency requirements to receive benefits and want to even tell people how much power they can use when vacuum their floor. EU bureaucracy is out of control and I believe if Cameron and the Conservatives win the 2015 election (hopefully an overall majority this time) they will argue for “out” and the people will vote likewise. I am ashamed for my own country that the US has tried to bully the UK into staying in the EU.
- Combating the Welfare Culture. While the biggest amount of praise in this arena goes to the former party leader Iain Duncan Smith, Cameron should be applauded for appointing IDS minister for Work & Pensions. Besides reducing the welfare roles, I would applaud IDS and the government for cutting benefits for those who don’t deserve it and for having the courage to state that there are 1 million people on disability who are capable of working. I loved when IDS went to poor public housing in Scotland and after a resident shouted to him that Tories don’t belong there IDS responded “& Look what your support of Labour has gotten you!” That courage of IDS, the government standing firm in support of abolishing the spare room subsidy (called “bedroom tax” by lefties) and the message of supporting those who want to get on in life is a wonderful message and one I support whole heatedly.
- Reforming Education Michael Gove should be applauded for introducing free schools managed by parents as well as vouchers to help parents choose the best schools for their children. He should also be admired for re-introducing faith and prayer in schools and presenting every school with a copy of the King James Bible, something absolutely prohibited in America. However, he should most be admired for taking on vested teacher union interests and raising educations standards so that Britain can improve its dismal (but better than America’s) educational performance. Michael Gove is another example, along with Theresa May, IDS, George Osborne and Philip Hammond of Cameron putting the right ministers in place despite being in a coalition with the Lib Dems.
- Handling Large National Events Well. Cameron has seen quite a few major events happen under his premiership and he has handled them well and with dignity. I felt the Queen’s jubilee went spectacularly and Cameron’s inviting the Queen to Downing Street for a Cabinet meeting was a wonderful gesture. Cameron’s loyalty to the monarch and tradition is admirable. (Although early on he did claim to be for an elected House of Lords. Luckily, and despite Lib Dems hopes, that idea has been shelved). The second area of success was the Olympics. With the initial security firm problems, this had the potential to be an international embarrassment for Britain. However, it succeeded very well and the UK looked great for running a great operation. My only qualm with that is wondering what leftist designed much of the opening ceremony. That was goofy but certainly not Cameron’s fault. Next would be Thatcher’s funeral. Cameron struck the right tone by saying “we are all Thatcherites now” and resisted the temptation to try to appease leftists and not give her the glory she deserved. The funeral was beautifully run and Parliament’s 4+ hour tribute was particularly appropriate. Lastly, I feel Cameron spoke the right message about not appeasing terrorists after the beheading of Lee Rigby about not succumbing to terrorism and he should be admired for coming straight home when the news broke. Those who say he should have cancelled his holiday after the events are being foolish and unfair in my opinion.
- Standing Up for the Falklands: Lastly, I would like to applaud Cameron for his stance in defence of the Falklands against Argentina especially with the US revoking its support for the self-determination of the Falklands. It’s important to stand up for British interests overseas, and unlike Labour, the Conservatives understand this.
- Gay Marriage. I am not giving a comment here about the morality or justness of gay marriage. That could be a topic for a future blog. I just would argue it unnecessarily divided the Conservative party at a time some deep divisions were beginning to heal after his EU referendum speech. Further, passing it against the majority of his own party and then giving it a re-vote and not shelving it after being sent back from Lords was counter-productive for party unity.
- “Fruitcakes, Loonies and Closet Racists” Cameron spoke with too much harshness early on about the UKIP without knowing much about them and that has come back to hurt him not only with their party’s rise but among his base. Cameron is doing a better job now reaching out to Conservative activists, as his letter to them I felt was heartfelt and sincere, and was very welcome. Early on however, when his party modernisation was in full swing he alienated some very staunch Conservatives. Hopefully that continues to change, I do like him calling Ed Milliband a “champagne socialists” and Labour “Not the Labour party but the welfare party”, those are the insults that really should be leveled.
- Too much Defence Cuts/Stretching the Military Too Thin: While cutting budgets is important, I feel Whitehall’s has been unnecessarily too large. This was probably done to appease the Lib Dems but if Cameron is going to be supporting the overthrow of Qaddafi and Assad as well as maintaining troops in Afghanistan another year the military cutbacks might be better to be smaller and more targeted. I do admire Philip Hammond for fighting this and IDS offering to send money from his department to defence to avoid cuts.
- Vince Cable as Business Minister: Vince Cable is a loudmouth and is not supportive of the coalition in many instances, such as there stance on immigration, the EU and the mansion tax. He does not send the right message to businesses. Vince Cable needs to be somewhere else, preferably not on the front bunch and another Lib Dem or a Tory such as David Davies would be better for that position.
- Not enshrining marriage in the tax code/help for working mothers but not stay at home mothers: The Conservatives had promised in their manifesto to include tax benefits on married couples and to support stay at home mothers. The Conservatives have still not done so. I know this is probably because of Lib Dem opposition. However it is a fight worth bringing to them, families are important and are really suffering right now in Britain and across the anglo and western world.
Overall I’d say Cameron has been a good Prime Minister who has had to overcome the hurdle of governing a coalition and appease a rebellious party base. They have achieved remarkable results. Would Boris Johnson or Theresa May be a better PM? Probably, or at least more to my ideological liking and maybe one day they will be. But as for now, I feel Cameron has been a strong, pragmatic leader who has achieved good results for the country. I think by 2015 his government will be popular, the economy will be recovered (or quickly on the road to it) and he will win re-election. I thank anybody who read this & really would like to discuss it or anything British politics if anybody wants to comment! People in America almost never give an opinion on British politics and almost never have a clue about it. If you have any questions, just ask! Thank you so much to the Telegraph for having the My Telegraph site, I hope to update my blog weekly!