Bad Math: CNN's David Frum Encourages Republicans to Mimic Losing British Conservatives


According to CNN contributor David Frum on Tuesday, the best way for Republicans to win is to mimic the actions of the British Conservative Party. Frum's Daily Beast article is bizarrely titled, "Where the Right Is Winning." Except, the right isn't winning in the United Kingdom. As the Wall Street Journal reported on September 30, "The Conservative Party has lagged behind the center-left Labour Party in opinion polls by as much as 10 percentage points or more over recent months."

The sub-headline for Frum's article announced, "In the U.K., the ideologically rigid left can’t keep up with David Cameron’s ruling Conservatives." Also wrong. A YouGov poll from September 27 found that Labour had jumped 13 points, from 29 percent to 42 percent, since 2010. At the same time the Conservatives are hemorrhaging voters, the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has seen its numbers rocket up, from three percent to 13 percent.

Nowhere in the piece did Frum (a former speechwriter for George W. Bush) highlight that the Conservative Party is trailing badly in the polls. Instead, he spun Prime Minister David Cameron's suppoprt of gay marriage and new green regulations:

The greatest vulnerability of the Cameron Conservatives originates not in their cultural modernization—the enactment of same-sex marriage, for example—but in their big, bold gamble on austerity economics. Britain met the financial crisis with a program of tax increases and spending cuts that was followed—as Keynesians would have predicted—by a much sharper economic contraction than in the United States, even deeper losses, and an even slower recovery. Back in 2010, many British Conservatives thought: "If we modernize our party culturally, that will gain us permission to do traditional conservative economics." Today many British Conservatives blame cultural modernization on the political costs of austerity economics.

Yet British conservatism has great residual strengths. It was right about the European Union and right about the euro currency. It was right about the harms of too-rapid immigration. It was right about vigorous policing reducing crime rates—London is now safer than at any time since the 1960s, much safer than self-congratulatory New York. As Boris Johnson joked in his conference speech, even sleepy Brussels now has a murder rate double that of London’s, "presumably carried out with lobster picks."

If Frum wanted to write about a place where conservatism is actually winning, he might have chosen Australia. That country just elected Tony Abbott, a pro-life, anti-gay marriage, global warming skeptic who vowed to end the country's carbon tax and reduce spending. Abbott, unlike Cameron who formed a coalition government, has actually won a majority election. 

But perhaps that doesn't fit Frum's definition of winning conservatism. Last year, he hailed liberal New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a "visionary." Somehow, this is the guy CNN touts as its "conservative" voice?

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's site.