The Magazine

Not Your Father's Tories

The Cameron conservatives look like winners.

Dec 3, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 12 • By REIHAN SALAM
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Having recognized that Brown has a solid reputation for economic competence (a reputation that, to the delight of the Tories, has taken a severe beating of late), Cameron and his advisers have focused on the ways in which economic life shapes family life, and vice versa. To fight poverty, Cameron is arguing that the state needs to strengthen families, not weaken them, even if that means special tax treatment and other forms of affirmative support. Indeed, there's been much talk of importing Wisconsin-style welfare reform, one of the great (if expensive) triumphs of American conservatism. Cameron's managed to suggest this without sounding divisive or in any way "nasty." The so-called "Cameroonians" are in a sense the true heirs to the American neoconservatives of the 1970s. They are sensitive to the role culture plays in perpetuating poverty. They are cautious about the power of the state and yet not allergic to using the state to meliorist ends. Perhaps most important, they enthusiastically embrace modern Britain and not Britain as it was in 1950.

Reihan Salam is an associate editor of the Atlantic Monthly.