Rose-tinted Tory glasses

AS the lustre of Tony Blair's early promise fades, Gayle Wade turns her focus on Tory leader David Cameron and asks whether he's just a "Blair by any other name"...

EVERYONE knows that nature abhors a vacuum. As soon as there is an empty space, something will rush in to fill it.

With Tony Blair ineptly trying to create his very own Falklands effect in Iraq, confronting trades unions in the public service industries, dismantling the left wing traditions of equality of opportunity and access in health and education and clawing back Tax Credits from the poor, an opening has been created for a party with a kinder, more caring view of society.

Enter the clean, green Conservatives, as imagined by rosy-cheeked young David Cameron, bike-riding Cameron, the party leader with the wind-turbine on his house and a sturdy young son to prove his virility and family friendly credentials.

Turning his back on the Tory witch hunts of the past, Cameron promises that, not only is the war on single parents over, but `the weapons have been 'put beyond use'. That is not to say that Dads are redundant - on the contrary, they should try to be present at the birth of their offspring and take an active part in parenting.

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Although relatively inexperienced, Cameron has proved he can think on his feet. Having agreed to be interviewed on the Jonathan Ross show, he dealt coolly with an outrageous question about whether he had ever had sexual fantasies about Margaret Thatcher. (The image of the Iron Lady would be enough make the sternest heart wilt, I should have thought.)

Dragging our minds away, with a sound like Velcro, from that image let us move swiftly on to David Cameron's other big idea of last week - scrapping the Human Rights Act in favour of a British Bill of Rights.

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It is hard to imagine how Cameron's proposed new legislation would be drafted to protect the human rights of innocent members of the public while dispensing with those of criminals or suspects. And, of course, scrapping the Human Rights Act would bring us into conflict with Europe - but as many Tories are keen to see Britain withdraw from the EU, that may not present a problem.

One of the big advantages of being in opposition is that politicians can let their imagination run riot and propose the most impractical and sweeping changes without having to have the least idea of how they might be carried out.

Perhaps an even better example of this is Cameron's suggestion that there is more to life than money, and that we should focus on increasing our sense of well-being rather than our income.

The idea that contentment is better than riches is entirely praiseworthy, and one enshrined by many different religions and philosophies - but it sounds odd coming from the leader of a political party which, historically, has supported the rich against the poor.

If David Cameron wanted to lead the party's supporters from the high life to the self-denying Good Life, he might find them less than willing to follow. But if happiness is just another golden promise, held out to convince voters that their lives could be changed for the better, then it might just work.

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