The conservative party leadership of David Cameron: Heresthetics and the realignment of British Politics
In the aftermath of defeat at the general election of 2005 under the leadership of Michael Howard, Andrew Taylor suggested that the Conservative party was ‘locked into a systemic crisis’. In the aftermath of the general election of 2010, and the forming of a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, Andrew Gamble argued that David Cameron had stalled the possible realignment of the centre-left and created a realignment of the centre-right. Although such assertions demonstrate the progress of the Conservative party between 2005 and 2010 under Cameron, much of the existing literature focuses on themes such as modernisation or ideological and policy renewal at the expense of analysing the importance of the party leader in terms of strategic positioning. This article examines the party leadership strategy of Cameron in terms of the logic underpinning coalition entry and how this relates to realignment and attempts to construct and occupy the political centre-ground. It situates his leadership strategy within a theoretical framework by arguing that his actions can be seen as an attempted act of political manipulation consistent with Riker’s work on heresthetics. The article considers the key criteria for heresthetics as a means of showcasing Cameron as a possible heresthetician. Debates on portfolio allocation, electoral reform and key policy areas such as fiscal readjustment and tuition fees are considered in relation to attempted manipulation of the political agenda and political dimensions, as well as strategic voting and the politics of deflection and binding.