David Cameron led Conservatives to power by moving to the center
New UK Prime Minister David Cameron led his Conservative Party out of the political wilderness by moving his party to the center -- and further away from their American cousins in the Republican Party.
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The largely white, heterosexual male face of the Conservative Party was also transformed. More women and ethnic minorities were added to the party's electoral slate, and uneven progress was made in reaching out to gay constituents.Skip to next paragraph
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Seeking to overturn a traditional left-right paradigm, the party also pitched itself as the champion of green issues, unveiling eye-catching environmental policies such as green taxes and other measures designed to create a low-carbon economy. Cameron made high-profile visits to glaciers threatened by climate change while the party logo was changed from a blue torch to an oak tree incorporating the party's traditional blue and a new color, "Conservative Green."
But while successfully moving toward the center, the result has led to some disconnect between the man who will now lead Britain and his party's traditional base.
While ostensibly still defenders of the monarchy and the constitutionally established position of the Church of England, Cameron's Tories have taken a number of positions that make staunch traditionalists uncomfortable. “In many other ways, it is ill at ease with much of what it was meant to believe,” says Dr. Vinen.
He recalls how a documentary crew followed Cameron around for a period of time, eliciting informed and voter-friendly comments from the young Conservative leader on everything from his favorite pop group (The Smiths) to more serious social issues. "When he was asked something like: ‘Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected?’ he replied, ‘now you’re just being silly,’ ” says Vinen. That the comment caused hardly a ripple within the party is a sign of how much the UK has changed.
The Tories have sought to court conservative-minded, if not traditionally conservative-voting, ethnic minorities. For British Muslims and Sikhs, perhaps in the case of the US, think US Latinos. While both Republicans and the Tories have reached out to minorities in recent years, the effort has been more focused in the UK, analysts say. Nevertheless, results have been mixed.
“I think that we [Republicans] can do more to reach out to certain groups such as Hispanics, whose values on things like the family are in line with Republican values, and the party is already striving to do so,” says Stacy Hilliard, a Texan adviser to Philip Davies, a Conservative MP. “It’s very similar in relation to the Conservative Party reaching out to the Asian community here. Traditional Muslim values are very in line with conservative values, for example.”