Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

David Cameron

The cartoons say it all. From the moment David Cameron appeared out of nowhere to win the leadership of the Conservative party in 2005, through the 2010 general elections and for most of Cameron's subsequent time in Downing Street, cartoonists have depicted Britain's Prime Minister as a bit of a softy. Since he returned from Brussels on Dec. 9, brandishing his refusal to commit the U.K. to joining the other 26 members of the European Union in a Franco-German plan for further integration to stabilize the euro, those same cartoonists have depicted him cross-dressing. But he's not shown wearing just any woman's clothes or bouffant blonde hairdo. Cameron is being hailed — and drawn — as the new incarnation of the Iron Lady. Like Margaret Thatcher three decades ago, he's raising hackles in continental Europe. Like Thatcher, he's basking in the approbation of Conservative euroskeptics. His stock has risen with British voters, with one poll showing the Conservatives nosing ahead of the Labour opposition — an extraordinary feat since Cameron is also forcing the U.K. to swallow great quantities of bitter-tasting economic medicine as he presides over a controversial, tough austerity regime designed to reduce its structural deficit. Amid forecasts of a new recession, the highest unemployment rate since 1994 and arguments about whether the medicine is killing the patient, his newfound popularity may not last. But his determination to pursue policies containing at least as much iron as Thatcher's seems likely to endure.