Solidarity in the West has been impressive post-January 7th. The surge of the far-right has, so far, not been as scary as I had feared. Nigel Farage’s comments on the matter were rightly jumped all over, by all sections of the press, as being opportunistic and a bit nasty. Nigel had to take his brand of pub bore philosophy to American news channel Fox News, where xenophobia and indeed Islamophobia are always welcome.
Cameron has used the crisis well. His appearances with Obama have made the Prime Minister seem statesman-like and measured. The message is getting through: in times of trouble, do you want me at the helm or that serial panic merchant Miliband?
So yes, Cameron’s relationship with Obama will almost certainly do him credit electorally. There was an attempt by some in the media a few months back to frame the president addressing Cameron as “bro” in the same light as George W calling Tony B over to his table with the memorable line, “Yo Blair!” But people are more capable of understanding human interaction than that: the problem with the “Yo Blair” moment wasn’t its informality but what it seemed to say about the Bush-Blair relationship. It felt like Bush looked at Blair as a sort of lap dog, one he could simply call over to his ear somewhat disrespectfully whenever he chose.
By contrast “bro” seems to suggest a measure of warmth and, most importantly, trust between the two men. In other words, it seems to say that Obama sees or at least treats as Cameron as an equal.
But back to Charlie Hebdo’s aftermath: in times of fear, the Right always has the advantage. The Left found this out in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Convinced that the crash would demonstrate undoubtedly that capitalism in its current form had failed, there was surprise on the Left when people at least partially embraced austerity (although there is still a massive amount of denial about this from large sections of the Left, of course). When things seem uncertain, most people’s conservative side comes to the fore. They are more scared of outsiders, more insular generally in fact; less willing to share the spoils, such as they are. Protection of those close to them from the dangers of the world becomes more present in the mind.
Therefore, I think what has happened since the events in Paris have probably been slightly to the Tories advantage. The more uncertain the world feels, the better it is for the Conservative Party. Events all round actually seem more and more to be conspiring to create a Tory general election win. In fact, if it weren’t for the electoral system being stacked against them, that’s probably what I’d predict at the moment. As it is, they will probably end up the largest party in a hung parliament.
There’s still time for the Tories to louse it up, of course; the way the leaders debates debate keeps hanging around might give the Conservative’s enemies space to hope. But not much space, let’s be honest. Cameron looking leader-like beside the president of the United States is worth a hundred “Please invite the Greens or my toys will be deposited outside of the pram” style goofs.