Beware of British conservatism, Republicans

Mr. Cameron came to power in 2005, promising to transform the party. What he did was indulge a particular British paranoia that Tories are viewed as the party that doesn’t care.

Thus Mr. Cameron drafted advertising guru Steve Hilton to “decontaminate” its image. The Conservative leader purged pinstriped members, replacing them with minority and women candidates. He instructed the party to do “social action” projects (say, helping renovate youth centers), to show it cared about ordinary Britons. He flew to a remote island, where he was pictured on a dog sled, to show his worry about global warming.

As for political philosophy, the Cameroons describe their new agenda as one of promoting “social revival,” the idea that government should attend to people’s general well-being rather than their wealth. This has required them to embrace government — and anything else they think the public might like.

Much of the Tories’ “modern conservatism” consists of reassuring voters about what it won’t do. It won’t dismantle a failing national health-care system. It won’t disavow failing public schools. It won’t resist higher tax rates on the “rich.” Beyond this bold agreement with the status quo, the party has refused to articulate its own agenda, lest any part go down badly with voters.