Does the British Prime Minister love the West or loathe it: Will the real David Cameron please stand up?

At times, David Cameron has spoken like the greatest defender of Western values since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. At others, he has sounded like a multi-culturalist, desperate to gain approval from the liberal-establishment.

Cameron at Davos in 2010
The Commentator
On 17 April 2011 04:57

It takes a brave politician to stand up and talk about the dangers of excessive immigration. The left-leaning media is always ready to pounce. Accusations of pandering to racism are inevitable. And if you’re heading a coalition with a junior partner that has practically defined itself in terms of the soft, mushy platitudes of modern-day multiculturalism the career risks could rise to the level of the existential.

As it happens, Prime Minister David Cameron appears to have ridden out the storm following an outspoken address last week in which he called for "good immigration, not mass immigration" and gave voice to widely held concerns among the British public that uncontrolled immigration had changed many local communities beyond recognition.

Nonetheless, it could have been very different. Mr. Cameron knew the risks, yet he still had the guts to confront liberal-establishment prejudices head on. And not for the first time.

As a typically incisive piece of analysis in the American Thinker noted in referring to his speech at the Munich Security Conference in February: “David Cameron said more about Islam… and he said it with greater insight, sensitivity, and realism than you'll find in virtually all of the platitudinous speeches on the subject delivered by all other Western leaders since 2001 combined”.

Among the highlights of Mr. Cameron’s speech were the following:

“At the furthest end [of the Islamist community] are those who back terrorism to promote their ultimate goal: an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of Sharia… Move along the spectrum, and you find people who may reject violence, but who accept various parts of the extremist world-view including real hostility towards Western democracy and liberal values”.

And there was more. Referring to the shallowness and denial so prevalent on the liberal-left, he argued:

“They lump all Muslims together, compiling a list of grievances and arguing if only governments addressed them, this terrorism would stop… But let's not fool ourselves, these are just contributory factors. Even if we sorted out all these problems, there would still be this terrorism”.

That could have been written by Mark Steyn or Melanie Phillips, placing Cameron firmly in the camp of the ideological right’s most vociferous critics of Islamism and the multiculturalist ideal.

But there is another David Cameron. Consider his now infamous remarks on a recent trip to Pakistan. In an aside on the bloody conflict in Kashmir, he said: “…as with so many of the world's problems, we are responsible for the issue in the first place.”

As the Wall Street Journal was quick to point out: “To this, the Guardian swooned and the Telegraph erupted”.

And what of his anti-Zionist outburst on a trip to Turkey last year where he described Gaza as a “prison camp”?

Put all this together, and it just doesn’t add up.

Part of the problem, of course, is the same issue faced by analysts the world over in trying to distil a coherent world view out of disparate remarks and speeches, some of which may have been written by aides, some of which may be the authentic product of the politician in question, and some of which may bear the imprint of both.

Although in some cases it is possible to find out – The Commentator is reliably informed that the Gaza remarks were penned by an official in the prime minister’s office and not by him – most of the time it is impossible to be sure.

One way of dealing with the conundrum is simply to say that there is no conundrum at all. A political leader has a corporate as much as an individual identity. He or she is a figurehead for the broader government, party or movement they represent.

David Cameron Inc. is thus the sum of a veritable multiplicity of different views and interests. What comes to the fore will depend on the priorities of the day, and the particular audience he is addressing: if it’s a group of hawks at a security conference in Germany he’s in full-on defence of the West mode; if it’s a nation of Muslims baying for a round of Israel baiting in Turkey, or one-time colonial subjects in Pakistan, he’s back in bed with the multiculturalists. It’s a one man double act, and for now, at least, it’s keeping him popular.

So much for David Cameron Inc. But there is also David Cameron the man who will go down in history, and history will not be kind to him if he fails to speak with greater coherence on what many of us regard as the greatest challenges of our time.

Of course, we know that even “conviction” politicians have to make compromises. But when they do, their occasional opportunism usually comes across to careful observers as the exception that proves the rule.

The worry among his critics on the right is that for David Cameron the opportunism is the rule and that he is starting to be defined by the contradictions that his opportunism generates.

We’d like to believe that that isn’t fair. We find it plausible that some of his aides have been leading him astray. And, given the time and effort that must have gone into it, we suspect that it was in his ground-breaking speech at Munich that he told us what he’s really about.

But one man and one man alone can silence the doubters. So, will the real David Cameron please stand up?

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