Conservative Diary

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By Christmas we should have a clear idea of Cameron's character

By Tim Montgomerie
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I'm filling in for Matthew d'Ancona in tonight's London Evening Standard. I reflect on my fear that the national mood to do something big in response to the recent riots - big in both policing and social terms - might be passing. I urge Cameron not to lose this opportunity. I warn that "we risk consigning another generation of marginalised people to the scrapheap and we risk more, possibly greater social explosions in years to come."

The Liberal Democrats are particularly keen to stop Cameron using the riots to toughen penal policy, strengthen family policy and review human rights laws. They are using their weapon of choice, 'the policy review';

"The junior partner in the coalition Government has studied the Prime Minister up close for more than a year now. Like many others who've had a ringside seat during Cameron's leadership, they've concluded that the Prime Minister is a master of the big occasion but is more hare than tortoise. He'll dazzle when the curtain is raised for the matinee performance but, backstage, Cameron doesn't put in the hard yards to prevail over ministers, civil servants and other interest groups that exist to protect the status quo. Nick Clegg's advisers talk of a two-week window from when a big idea enters Cameron's head to the moment he has moved on to another subject. If they can prevent him from instituting policy change during that period they are confident they have prevented it altogether. The Liberal Democrats' weapon of choice is the government review. The review into the NHS gave them an opportunity to mobilise every powerful lobby against Cameron's ambition to modernise the health service. They are confident that the review into human rights laws will do the same. They are also optimistic that the reviews announced last week into Government social policy can also be run into the sand. Every day that passes is a day further from the sense of urgency that gripped Cameron at the height of the riots crisis."

By Christmas we'll know if Cameron has used the review process to bring Liberal Democrats on board for his social mission or if they've used the review process to kill the possibility of radical action. We'll also know if the growth hawks have forced a more radical approach to supply side reform or if we're still in the land of half measures. These next three months will be crucial for assessing whether this government can rediscover its early radicalism.


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