Analysis: Why Cameron could be a lot better off without Coulsons and Hiltons

There have been too many people, and not enough ideas, in the Prime Minister’s head

Rumours buzzed around last week that Andy Coulson was about to be charged with something, but in the end it turned out to be The Sun’s defence correspondent who found herself arrested by prior arrangement. (No DSK perp-walk for the Newscorpers, note). But then Hattie Madperson accused David Cameron of “not being entirely straight” with us all about his relationship with the Murdoch acolytes – an accusation on a par with suggesting that Judas just might have had something to do with Christ’s arrest. So once more people thought ‘aye-aye’ the way they do. But in the end, it was a resignation that shocked people.

Steve Hilton is taking a sabbatical – so, not quite a resignation, then. For once, he does have a reasonable excuse: his other half gets paid shedloads to work in the US, and that’s where Steve will be sabbaticalising. But the truth behind the move is that Hilton has become fed up of trying to turn Dave into a Tory.

Many see Hilton’s departure as a disaster, but I can’t say I am among them. His advice during the last Election was not great, and he is not enough of a brawler in the Campbell mode to be truly effective as an adviser. His one truly wise piece of counsel he gave along with almost the entire population of media gulch – stay away from the Murdochs – although to be fair, he did say it long before anyone else did….and he was very rude to our dear Chancellor for effecting the introduction to Coulson – a man he loathed, and the feeling was mutual.

But anyway, Steve’s gone. So, it is argued, with the demise of Coulson and the imminent departure of Hilton, what is the Prime Minister to do as a Young Etonian out of touch with both young voters and old backbenchers? Is sharing horses with both the police and Rebekah Brooks a sign of spectacular overhead scissor-kick own-goals to come? I’m not so sure. Perhaps this is a chance -  no, make that the last chance – for Dave to start being himself.

There is no question, for example, that Mr Cameron’s attempts to seem like one of us are dated, diaphanous, and generally risible. He is the kind of chap likely to get onto a London bus and say to the driver, “10 Downing Street please”. He is a toff and, when it comes to our everyday problems, not entirely in touch. But most of the time the voters would be happy with that so long as he seemed to have common sense and a genuinely tough way with Johnny Foreigner, gobby minorities, and the Trades Union movement.

The degree to which the electorate must ‘indentify’ with its leaders is massively overplayed: media and political advisors have over-egged this need for years because, like those who survey potential house purchases, they feel duty-bound to find something that needs to be corrected. Andy Coulson was alleged to have shown David Cameron how to be a bit Essex, but I don’t think Coulson’s background had anything at all to do with the success of their relationship: it was more about ethics than Essex. For me, Coulson doesn’t have any: he’s a devious, unprinicipled, swivel-eyed little runt in the classic Newscorp mould: he was good at was knowing what would ‘play well’, because he’d been plucking at the nation’s baser instincts for years as a tabloid editor.

Going forward – as they say in the Newscorp resignation press releases – the last thing the PM needs to be any more is a man obsessed by image-makers. He is going to find this hard, because it is actually the only trade he ever undertook. But he is capable of listening to his own head: if nothing else, this is demonstrated by the mule-like stubbornness with which he ignores a lot of advice with a touch of sagesse to it. And occasionally, his head is right. Also, conferring with his head won’t take up much of Dave’s time, because there’s not much in it.

Having Andy Coulson around didn’t win Cameron the General Election, and ultimately wound up dropping him into a cess-pit, the smell from which  may never entirely dissipate. Whereas Alistair Campbell was good at suggesting that nothing was something, Coulson spent most of his time persuading people that something was nothing. For both himself and the Prime Minister, he must surely be judged an abysmal failure in that endeavour.

Steve Hilton is undoubtedly, at heart and in his head, a Tory. What most observers get wrong, however, is to assume he has a certain affinity with backbenchers and the Party grass roots. The truth is that the vast majority of both think Hilton to be a cerebral prat: the sort of political version of a management consultant who sounds plausible, but never actually offers a solution. (This was pretty much Coulson’s view too). David Cameron doesn’t need another Steve Hilton to get his rebels onside, he needs somebody who could be what Willie Whitelaw was for Margaret Thatcher. Whitelaw was a human face with a smile, rather than a handbag heading for the temples. That’s not really what Cameron needs, but the parallel is a sound one: in his case, the requirement is for somebody both Tory and Tough – whom the Old Rumblers respect – being seen to be close to him.

Certainly, the Prime Minister needs to develop his appeal to the rainbow audience inside and outside his Party, because the next three years will be like none other in British history.

For my money, the problem in the Tory Party is that quite a few of both the old boys and the young turks think the movement has been hijacked by some crypto-socialists called Camerlot, and a few wooly LibDems with too much influence. This is a mess derived largely from the counsel of ‘advisers’ to David Cameron before and during the 2010 General Election. In the media, the situation is even worse: the Telegraph’s owners fear the good ship Coalition, and take every opportunity to try and torpedo it. All the other titles are either tepid in their support or openly hostile, and the Guardian hates everyone who isn’t a backbench Labour MP fighting to be a torchholder for Justice. Huge swathes of the CBI are wet about the Chancellor’s austerity strategy, and those working in the public services (especially health) think the entire Cabinet to be incompetent and untrustworthy. With one or two exceptions, I’m inclined to agree with them.

In short, as I first observed in late-Autumn 2010, the Cameron Coalition is either suspected or disliked by almost everyone, and retains what support it has purely because the alternative is (for the majority) too ridiculous to even contemplate. Unfortunately, the majority is split three ways between the Conservatives, UKIP and the LibDems. The latter two may seem unimportant, but in a country as divided as ours is in 2012, such a split is potentially disastrous: the 40% directly or indirectly with a stake in more Labour Government remain pretty solid in their support for the Ed Miller Band, even if the bloke in charge is a dork, his deputy comes across like Juan Franco, the power-broker is a radical feminist, and beneath them there are at least two factions having a pillow fight.

In that context, Dave will not be well-served by plonkers with neatly-arranged pencil cases, or BBC lightweights drivelling on about consensus and acceptability. My own view is that the medium-term chances of Mr Cameron’s survival remain slight, and more of the same will simply seal that. But if he appoints an admired MP from the Right with communication skills – and begins himself to throw more caution to the winds – there is just a chance a Cameron-led Conservative Party could win through.

I think he’ll dismiss that as a political impossibility (it would mean scrapping Camerlot itself for one thing) and so things will go another way. As regulars here know only too well, my own preference is for the old Party loyalties to collapse in favour of an organisation the voters will respect. But things will have to get much worse before that happens. Meanwhile, the Old Labour ideas are smouldering back into life across the EU, with the Fuhrerine and Dr Strangelove in Berlin fanning them into life for all they’re worth. Right now, the future is looking very confrontational.

65 thoughts on “Analysis: Why Cameron could be a lot better off without Coulsons and Hiltons

  1. You touch the tip of the iceberg.
    Many , indeed most of the senior establishment have not done much with their lives, have little or no real life experience of problem solving or vision for the future. Look at how many televisions are claimed on MP’s expense allowances, and trust me, it’s a very big lot of them, and you begin to understand that most of what they know about today or yesterday was learnt on tv.
    Ask about tomorrow, and you get that blank ‘no service’ look.

  2. You obviously don’t read The Guardian and nobody should blame you for that. But if you did you would know it backed the Liberal Democrats at the lat election, did not disown them when they entered coalition with the Conservotives and has not switched to Labour since. A funny policy for a paper only interested in Labour backbenchers.

    • It doesn’t really matter which Party the Grauniad offically supports, it’s stuffed full of progressive socialists.

      One such person is Grauniad journo Zoe Williams, who said on TV the other night that she believes it is wrong to expect unemployed young people on Welfare to do some work in return for their weekly benefit. Thus, she supports the SWP attempts to undermine the Govt policy of them working for (eg Tesco) by calling it as “slave labour”.

      • For any business entity to take on “the unemployed” under such a scheme should mean there is work to be done and that needs doing.

        If that is the case why can not the person concerned be employed properly even if it is for a very short period and thus at the SUPPOSED MINIMUM wage for employment

      • @Richard G:
        I agree with you, but nevertheless private companies have taken on some of the unemployed youth under this scheme. Perhaps they have expanded their headcount to help government out, or whatever. And some of the participanats have spoken highly of the scheme, so you might see it as an addition to the local Job Agency. Work experience is important to a lot of youths who have no idea what work involves.

        I should make it clear that I have some misgivings about the scheme. I’d prefer these unemployed people were doing useful work in the public sector but that would have brought the union barons out on the streets in their droves. They’re just waiting in the wings, ready to stir mass revolt.

      • The kids could, of course, be paid by their short term employer and not receive benefits – what is wrong with that?

    • Hi David
      I saw you leaving a similar thread yesterday. You’re right of course, but don’t you feel that the Guardian simply doesn’t support the Ed Miller Band – rather than ‘Labour’?
      They’ve been running a steady Mandelson/Blairite stream of negative stuff designed to reinstall the vacuous suit dept of Labour to my mind – but it’s an interesting debate to continue. There’s a clique round Rusbridger now whose censorious nature gives me the same anxiety attacks as hearing Hattie go off on one.

      • I think you’re wrong on this one, John.
        The Guardian has been fairly anti-Labour for years, criticising it for not being leftwing enough during most of the last decade. How they square that with refusung to give up on the Libdems is never adressed.

        I get the impression Rusbridger and martin Kettle have driven the pro-libdem policy, and feel their in too deep to back down.
        Whether they matter at all is questionable, as the paper will likelly fold over the next few years anyway.

  3. My secretary said to me yesterday afternoon..
    ”Isn’t it about time you rode rebecca’s horse again”
    I got it immediately, and we took the early evening flight to our love nest in the mountains.

      • Why do you suppose anyone puts up with it? Risky business for a leader to be commonly perceived as getting more than the usual allotted share of poontang. But been done before though. Old as Solomon’s mines at least, I guess.

    • Tony Blair was never a Tory. The Authoritarian Left (which is what he is) has little in common with right of centre politics. That is simply a myth propagated by the BBC and MSM.

      • Oh I don’t know. He went to war, started privatising the health service and education, started charging for Universities, kept the UK out of the Euro, sucked on the US tit. In fact his only weakness as a Tory PM was a sad lack of ruthlessness in not sacking McBroon

      • Blair did virtually none of those things except fail to sack Brown on May 2nd 1997! If you want to vaguely align Blair with someone else, try Mussolini.

        I understand where you’re coming from but far too many people wrongly align authoritarianism and anti-liberty with the Right wing of politics. Whereas history tells us that is invariably the Left who go down that road. I blame the misunderstanding on the BBC and Left wing educational establishment, among others, for this.

      • @BT

        I agree with you about the Authoritarian Left absolutely but as it happens I don’t think that any of Tony’s ‘achievements’ is particularly authoritarian. Bringing competition into the NHS and freeing education from the grasp of Local Authorities and the Teachers’ unions is long overdue. I’m not quite so sure that charging people up to £9k a year to do Media Studies at the University of Luton is a good thing but then no-one’s forcing anyone to waste their money in quite such an obvious way. On the other hand £9k a year to go to Balliol doesn’t sound too bad although I will admit to being grateful not to have had to pay for my education.

        Tony did go to War and he did suck on Dubbya’s whatsit but no more that the Blessed Margaret did on Ronald’s. He did go to Public School and he did have friends in low places, again, par for the Tory course, I would suggest. And we didn’t join the Euro despite the consensus for it amongst Labour. Perhaps we might have to thank the one-eyed one for that. God forbid!

        As for Mussolini, just a fat fraud I’m afraid with pretensions to grandeur. Made a pig’s ear of Abyssinia, couldn’t even invade Greece properly and was given the South of France by Adolf. The trains didn’t even run on time – they fiddled the timetables – which sounds familiar.

        Tony even sold peerages and lesser honours, remember Bernie (Ecclestone) and too many others to mention.

        No I’m sorry, his subsequent earnings, if nothing else, mark him him out as a gold-plated Tory – as for the Tory Wife!!!!!!!!

        I rest my case.

      • @James Murdoch:
        Fair enough, so you don’t think Blair’s relentless anti-liberty laws, his ID Cards, a huge growth in CCTV surveillance, taking of DNA and holding it unlawfully, huge growth in size of govt, placing a security cordon around Parliament to keep the mere people well away, endless PC laws/regulations and his own words “we asked the police what powers they wanted and we gave them what they wanted” were authoritarian? hhmmm. Most people think otherwise. He was regularly accused of turning Britain into a politicised police state and at least one newspaper produced a weekly column of his antics. Some called it the nanny state. I’m not exactly sure how much real competition he brought into the NHS nor how he freed education from the teacher’s unions. Most of his NHS changes were little more than PR stunts and fiddling of stats. The NHS was no better after Labour’s 13 years. Education remains dominated by Lefty unions. No success there I’m afraid.

        I never once heard Blair express any desire to reduce the size and power of govt, far from it.

        Still, you’re right he did go to war but what is not Left about that? Hitler and Mussolini also went to war, both fascist-socialists. The list of Hard Lefties who went to war is very long indeed. Public school? So did Britain’s commie traitors of yesteryear. PS has little to do with Left or Right. You say that Mussolini was a fat fraud, well maybe he was. but he did invent the Italian Fascist Party. Fascist is socialism.

        You have the view that anybody who is interested in making money must by definition be a Tory. Sorry, Robert Maxwell was a newspaper tycoon and also a Hard Left supporter. In fact he was a classic corporate fascist. Sorry, you are wrong. But you share your wrong understandings with some other people, it’s the result of educational propaganda in Britain, supported by the likes of the socialist BBC.

        Peace.

  4. the last thing the PM needs to be any more is a man obsessed by image-makers.

    Isn’t that actually one quality (or otherwise) of every MP that is ascending the ranks at the moment

  5. As was clearly shown to Cameron yesterday in Brussels, the power is some where else. He does nothing and can do nothing to change anything.

    • Actually he could do rather a lot, just look at Rajoy in spain he has said that they will not come up to Germanys demands so sucks yah boo.

      Fact is the EU has no mechanism to kick anyone out so Cameron could do what he wants if he had the balls to do it

  6. I agree with much of that, John. I suspect that DC and his managers are relying on the electorate voting for him next time round because they’ll think that under Labour it would have been at least 10 times worse.
    That’s a dodgy strategy for winning IMV. We already know there are huge numbers of voters who get all or some of their income from the State, and it takes little account of the ability of socialists to reinvent themselves and once again campaign offering more largesse from the treasury at someone else’s expense (aka buying votes).

    DC is simply not a reformer and whichever major department of State I look at, I see virtually no serious action being taken to sort them out and return them to being lean and mean public services. Except the NHS which has been mishandled.

    As you allude, it’s likely that DC is on the Left of the Conservative Party and by nature is a sort of Tory Liberal.

    • DC is simply not a reformer …

      Exactly. So how did he get the job after 13 disastrous Labour years and all that ineffective opposition? Reform is really, really needed. We have to find someone quite a lot better than Cameron.

      • “So how did he get the job after 13 disastrous Labour years and all that ineffective opposition”

        Simple: the Tory rank-and-file convinced themselves, on the basis of very biased BBC coverage during the leadership election (such as the questionable enthusiasm for his speech at that party conference), that he could get a Conservative government in power. “At last, the BBC don’t hate us any more…”

  7. I’m afraid Cameron is doomed, and probably the Tories, too. PR is a vacuous activity, rather like marketing only without a discernible product to plug. Cameron is PR personified just as Cherie Blair is politicised law. When I see people writing about ‘how well it will play’ I immediately switch to defence against bullshit mode. I don’t want to be manipulated by politicians, salespeople offer enough of that already. Or by those who think they are both. You are right, JW, it’s high time for some substance to be visible in Cameron’s activities. Just spinning around in Number 10 is a waste of opportunities and after a while it becomes downright annoying. Let’s hear what he has to say – though I suspect it will be nothing. Underneath his invisible thinking processes lies the fear that the Coalition will split up. That is preventing many a worthwhile reform, and cancelling even those he tries to implement.

  8. Believe it or not, the people still value principle and politicians should be made to trust the people. Tory MP’s should force an election now, see the lib dums decimated and start again. I think it is criminal that there is no recourse after maybe a year and also wonder whether there should be mandated primaries for party leaders

    • On the contrary, the Tories need the LibDems need to be protected as much as possible, since if the LibDems crash and burn all their votes will go to Labour.

      • Will they tho, if Camerloon did some right things such as

        1. Hitting bankers bonuses
        2. Building social housing
        3. Closing tax loopholes
        4. EU disobedience
        5. Actually stopping immigration dead
        6. Making people apply for visas in own country
        7. Stopping all translation
        8. Repatriating failed asylum seekers

        He would win

      • @MP
        add to your list
        actually collecting all the back tax and other monies that HMRC have bees seen to have written off and not even that which has so far been legally avoided

      • @mark polden

        ~the only boost to Camerloons popularity was when he pretended to tell the EU where to get off ! Although not high on ‘lists of peoples concerns’ when asked. People instictively know that the EU is a major player in the demise of this country.
        Until he realises that this important issue must be dealt with (before he can address most of the other of peoples concerns) – he does not stand a chance of achieving what needs to be achieved for this country and its people.
        He got nearly elected based on weasel words and misleading many of the voters as to his true intentions. He painted a self portrait based on a picture of someone else ! People have seen through him and the only way he can get enough support now is to grab the short chance he has left and do what he pretended he was going to do.

        There is very very little chance of that happening ! He has neither the courage, nor the integrity to explain the situation and why it must be done in a (now) believeable and understandable way.

  9. You do seem to make one rash assumption, John. I am not too sure Cameron has any original thought or belief of his own, let alone to guide him. He reminds me of a manager I once had, he had not a clue about anything within the factory, he had absolutely appalling human management skills but he excelled in the political infighting within the higher management of the group as a whole and had an amazing capacity for manipulating group managers and directors. He originally surrounded himself with very capable departmental managers and let them run as they would, to the great success of the factory, increasing product range and investment. As time went on he fell into the usual trap and, as those exceptional managers moved on, replaced them with yes men who proceeded to destroy everything that had been built up. The analogy doesn’t quite hold in the case of original capable managers, but I am sure you get the gist.

    As to the suspicion of crypto-socialist control, I think there is a simpler explanation, there are basically two Tory parties, a rumpish natural Tory party and a majority New Social Democratic Conservative Party to which Cameron is fully signed up. It believes in the importance of business and finance (but doesn’t understand it), but it also believes in Big State, Big Government, Big Regulation, Big Spending, Big Welfare (even considering their current ‘attack’ on the welfare state, more akin to a mouse attacking a wolf), more EU integration, One World Government and that a little bit of a police state is a GOOD thing.

    • Just read over on the Grundiad that the government has plans to privatise the police. Wonder how that will pan out?
      ‘For 999 calls press 1,
      For all other information, press 2,
      Sorry, all our personnel are busy right now, but we will call you back when someone is free’.
      We really value you as a customer

  10. So, Sloggers….. who do we think JW has in mind to be Cameron’s Willie Whitelaw?
    I would like to recommend John Redwood, or possibly Peter Bone.

  11. So, steady as she goes, then. As JW ruminates over the barely concealed efforts across the Channel to fulfill the bankers, I recall prior to the 2010 election noises from the Cameroons about the £50bn or so annual interest payments that had accrued from the reckless McBruin’s scorched-earth poison-the-wells drive-into-deficit gerrymandering on a scale never before seen in history. Has that stopped? Of course not. Will it stop? Of course not. The game plan (on the BIS website) is double decadal.

    But if there is the paradigm shift from left/right politics to authoritarian/libertarian politics is fed by other events, then those bets are less certain. The UK is economically decoupled to an extent from events in Europe by sterling independence. But conversely it is over-coupled politically with Stirling. I am therefore watching (as I note the Cameroons are too) Alex the Salmon. It’s clear to me that Cameron intends to avoid the West Lothian Question for as long as possible; IMHO that will be his undoing.

    • There is no PM in office who wants to go down in history as the person who broke up the Union. That it would be better for Scotland AND England if it broke up is not allowed to be a relevant factor in the debate.

  12. Until we rid ourselves of the noxious nexus between politicians, banksters and MSM, all we will get is hot air and hubris. Our expectations, in terms of integrity and common sense, have been so comprehensively lowered over the last 40 years or so that any form of engagement becomes practically humiliating; the fact that politicians feel the need to use PR professionals at all gives the whole game away, I would suggest. We have become so inured to the ‘blathering on ludicrously long on certain key subjects’ (spot the acronym) that our powers of critical evaluation are in danger of being irrelevant. Surely, anybody who employs a reptile like Andy Coulson is quite simply unfit to hold public office in any case?

    • Kentucky
      Not yet, but he will be. Much going on behind the scenes. Much plea bargaining in return for this and that. Much room for naughty goings on by Alex ‘Slippery’ Salmond. Much sitting on the No 10 thunder-box by Dave.
      But my lips are sealed, for now.

    • Yes, committed “allegedly” during the Grumpy socialist’s perjury trial.
      Perjuring himself during a perjury trial. Classy.

  13. With the financial tsunami that appears ever closer, the lack of political talent is ever more concerning.
    Westminster is full of the political classes – all sides of the house suffer the same “professionalism” over substance. Not sure we could find a competent cabinet within all of ‘em let alone one side.
    The difficulties ahead won’t be managed within traditional political lines, it’ll need far more.
    Still waiting for the first signs of any recognition in the mainstream media…

    • I’ve not had the experience of some, but have met a few of these politicians. Most couldn’t run a whelk stall and are walking tallking egos.

      There is in my view a serious lack of talent within the political strata.

      Where is the team with intellect, probity, vision and balls?

      Though usually a crisis will throw up such politicians – though they usually don’t end up doing “getting voted out” particularly well.

    • @ch-ch Still waiting for the first signs of any recognition in the mainstream media…

      You’ll have a long wait. Our media are no more use than their counterparts in the US when it actually comes to speaking out for the countries best interests.

  14. @ CCC This is what really concerns me about House Of Lords reform is that we could end up with an elected house which is the facsimile of the commons. We have too many politicians as it is, 600 + in the commons may have been suitable in the days of horse and cart but in the 21st century is just not necessary. One day if I am bored enough I will do a model of parliament based on 100ish members as I think that is all we actually need. Meanwhile as a balancing situation the Lords should only be 50-100 members and Apolitical, a star chamber full of Wise men and Women as a foil to the commons.

    • The old comment of “society gets the politicians it deserves” comes to mind.
      The decline of our politicos to their current lowest denominator level has been happening for ages. The media has effectively killed debate in cahoots with the party machines.
      The second chamber changes could narrow rather than broaden. Either way we need a far less apathetic public – vested interests rely on mass inactivity to succeed.
      Internet maybe the best chance we have

  15. As regards Steve Hilton I can honestly say that I really couldn’t give a toss about his departure from Government. He seems to be a nasty little man full of his own self importance and well deserving of his arrest in 2008 for Disorderly Behaviour on a train at Birmingham New Street after he was unable to produce a ticket and got all high and mighty with the train conductor. Well done British Transport Police for claiming that scalp.
    He subsequently paid the £80 fixed penalty notice thereby fully admitting his guilt, hopefully fingerprints and DNA obtained and added to the Criminal Records database. We can all rejoice in the fact that there will now be one less criminal in the Coalition Government. Your turn next Mr Huhne?

  16. Politician’s (in all countries it seem’s) are full of themselves.’ From the DT.Twenty-five member states – all except Britain and the Czech Republic – signed a treaty agreeing to a “golden rule” to balance their budgets or face penalties. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said the pact would “last forever”.’
    Forever? What is it with these people?
    Wasn’t there some other German politician -about 70 years ago- who said
    the Third Reich would last forever. Is this where Merkle get her inspiration from?

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