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Obamania comes to Britain

Friday, 25th July 2008

“Mania: noun: a mental illness that causes a person to be in a state of extreme physical and mental activity, often characterized by a loss of judgment”. Cambridge Dictionary of American English.

When I was in business, we had a saying. “You hire an articulate manager, and after six months you realise that all he can do is to articulate”. Well Obama is top-notch at articulation. He is a great orator. He is perhaps even in the class of JFK or Martin Luther King. His soaring cadences lift our spirits. He promises hope and change, and heaven knows we could do with some of that. But perhaps we should recall that “change”, like the left’s other favourite buzz-word “progress”, is a value-free zone until we start talking about just what change, progress to just which destination, we have in mind. Remember that one of Tony Blair’s favourite words was “modernisation”, which someone rather cruelly characterised as “alteration for the sake of novelty”. Gordon Brown is just discovering what ten years of modernisation gets you — disastrous bye-election results.

Obama appears to be starting to talk about policy. He wants to fight terrorism, and global warming. He wants America to make friends and influence people. He wants the troops home from Iraq. He wants to sort out North Korea and Iran, and put a stop to nuclear proliferation. Above all (it seems) he wants to solve the Israel/Palestine problem. In fact he wants to do what just about every other politician wants to do. Success depends not on having great objectives, but on having solid, realistic, credible plans and policies in place to achieve them. And there, Obama is keeping us in the dark. Maybe that’s because he expects to make great, detailed policy announcements in the coming months — but I suspect not.

We know what Democrats do in government. They start from the assumption that governments, not people, solve problems. They love big government and high taxes. They believe that welfarism solves social problems. Like New Labour, they are soft on crime, soft on the causes of crime. OK, so Bush maybe has failed to do many of the things we think a Republican President ought to do, like reducing tax and spending. But who thinks that Obama will be better?

I am frankly shocked that some Conservative politicians who should know better appear to be taken in the hype. A significant number say they would like to see Obama in the White House. I am afraid I can’t join them. Conservatives for Obama? It makes about as much sense as Conservatives for Gordon Brown.