Cameron has courage for core challenge

Taking issue with Peter Stead, Nick Bourne says David Cameron has the right vision for Britain

While reading Peter Stead’s two reaction pieces to the recent UK leaders’ debates on ClickonWales I struggled to understand why he takes such a dislike to David Cameron. Stead’s confused critique suggests he wouldn’t be able to answer this question.

David Cameron’s vision for Britain is clearly encapsulated in the recent manifesto for Wales – An invitation to join the government of Britain. It is a prescription suited to Welsh needs. Conservatives would like to see an economy, a society and public services that are built on the effort, skill and ingenuity of the population, supported but not hindered by government. We want to get to grips with the core challenges that past governments have failed to address, both in Cathays Park and Whitehall.

We know that the people of Wales will make a difference – and not big government or high spending that we have seen in spades under Labour. If this is an ‘unrealistic vision’, as Stead argues, then what does he propose to do? We cannot go on as we are.

Stead says that Cameron’s politics are rooted in ‘aristocratic guilt’. By the way, Stead’s recent Agenda column was titled ‘Time to overcome tribal loyalties’. Physician, heal thyself! Stead’s recent columns are a cri de coeur to return to substance, to big issues and to courage in politics – and amen to that. But on none of these counts is David Cameron lacking.

Who had the courage to draw attention to the root problem in our society, at the time of the biggest economic recession since World War Two? Who had the courage to say that immigration has, in recent years, been ‘too high’ to sustain and needs to be managed? And who had the courage to grasp the nettle of cuts and start to set out, sensibly and sympathetically, how these can be made?

The truth is that other parties are distracted. Labour is clinging to office and is reduced to inventing lies about Conservative policy, despite having been in office for 13 years. Liberal Democrat policies are unravelling under scrutiny, as we saw starkly during the ‘Chancellor’s Debate’ on the BBC’s Daily Politics show recently.

And Plaid Cymru remains committed to independence, at a time when the might of India and China is growing and the world is becoming more interconnected than ever. And while reform of Barnett is due – David Cameron has acknowledged this – it is no silver bullet to the challenges facing Wales.

The truth is that Wales has the highest unemployment rate of any UK nation. 96,000 of our children live in severe poverty. Our homegrown business birth rate is among the lowest in the UK. Even before the recession Wales was struggling with economic inactivity and tens of thousands of young people are not in education, employment and training. Our health service and education system still need vast improvements to catch up with UK standards. And many of our streets are marred by alcohol-fuelled crime

At the root of all of these problems is a weakness in the capacity of society – in education, engagement, trust, opportunities and self-belief. And of the three leaders on show last Thursday, only David Cameron was prepared to tackle this.

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