OFF THE GRID

Have the Brits Declared War on the US?

Jul 2, 10 | 7:59 AM   byMichael Wolff
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My estimation of David Cameron when I interviewed him last February and then wrote about him for Vanity Fair was that, above all else, he was a consensus builder. That’s what he did best, quelled conflict, appealed to better instincts, sugar-coated.

And, in fact, he does seem to have, in his short time as British prime minister, helped create agreement among the rest of the crown heads of Europe and, at least bought himself quite a bit of good will at home. The only thing is that this sense of good feeling is for just about the most fractious and audacious and possibly dangerous change in the direction of liberal government since Margaret Thatcher.

Amid Cameron’s niceness and greenness and yuppieness and metrosexualness, I had found it hard when we spoke to understand just exactly what his conservative hankerings were. He seemed, to me, most of all to want to be Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. But it turns out he and his chancellor, the 39-year-old George Osborne—with the sense about him of a prep-school troublemaker—are something else all together.

Just as government these last 18 months, at least in the US, seemed to become larger and more overreaching and more the last-ditch chance for incompetence and scoundrels everywhere, Cameron and Osborne come along with another effort at small is beautiful. The effect of their operatic spending and debt cuts will make their government vastly lesser. The Guardian claims, on the basis of leaked Treasury numbers, that the public sector will lose 1.3 million jobs; the Cameron government says it’s only half that much. Either way, it’s vast. Cameron and Osborne say, however, that, in classic Reaganomics, a public sector made healthier by a small government will add 2 million jobs.

There hasn’t been this much of a divide between London and Washington since the days of British socialism.

I chatted with both Cameron and Osborne last night at the annual summer party of the Spectator, the Tory-loyal magazine (a party that Margaret Thatcher used to reliably turn up at, but which hasn’t been in much favor with the government since). I said the Obama guys seemed not to know what to make of you Brits. “Well…hmmm…yes…quite a different approach…but different approaches are good…there’s room for different approaches,” said Cameron, quite aware—I thought I caught a Cheshire grin—that his different approach could well double-dip the US and doom the Obama government.

Osborne, for his part, said he was having lunch with Larry Summers today. I’d like to be a fly on that Dover sole.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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