Cameron….losing respect

Bad calls and falling popularity have the Tory grandees worried.

David Cameron is in trouble. You only have to assess the totality of Coalition under-achievement – and take into account his recent self-inflicted problems – to realise that. But this weekend, there is for perhaps the first time serious doubt in the Conservative Party as to whether the Prime Minister is an asset or a liability. And as ever, George Osborne is playing a shrewd hand.

It’s been an awful two months for Cameron. Not only did he look weak and under the Commons cosh over the Newscorp phone hacking scandal, the Left-leaning press remain convinced that there is far more to come out about Hackgate – and his role in it. Now he finds himself fighting a war on three fronts over Britain’s looting crisis – against Labour on the one hand, his Right Wing on the other, and police fury at his decision to import an American riot consultant.

And yesterday, Chancellor George Osborne knowingly made his problems greater by not only advocating a tighter EU fiscal union, but insisting that Britain must decide how it is going to relate to a more federated neighbour. (Hish job too, shurely? – Ed)

Remove the remarkably successful spin element from the account, and David Cameron has presided over a Coalition history that represents an unmitigated catalogue of error, muddle, U-turns, compromise and ineffectiveness. Army cuts highlighted by a foolish Libyan involvement, police cuts made to look insane after a week of rioting, an NHS reform disaster so enormous nobody can remember the objective any more, a deeply unwise speech in Ankara, back-tracking over Welfare reform while pushing hard on totally unfair pension plans, a hopelessly mishandled programme of University fee increases, arrogance over his hiring and firing of Andy Coulson, lack of discretion about his Newscorp relationships, a dilatory lack of interest in the EU’s implosion….and now, a silly tit-for-tat battle with senior police officers over who succeeded and when in relation to riot control.

Suddenly, Cameron is getting a terrible press across a whole range of issues – from his ballooning weight, to the classic PR’s idea of importing US “supercop” Bill Bratton to advise the Government. But all this is about to get much worse on the European front.

The PM is this weekend under increasing pressure to pledge a referendum on UK membership of the EU. But it was Osborne who – without warning – abruptly reversed decades of British foreign policy by backing full fiscal union for the 17-nation eurozone.

Both the Tory Right (and a surprising number of increasingly eurosceptical Labour MPs) believe that Britain will be bullied into changing its regulatory and taxation policies to conform more closely with eurozone directives once fiscal integration gets going. Predictably, Tory rebels are worried about regulation, and the Left is desperate to avoid a monetarist hegemony spreading to Britain – where (as Simon Hughes again made clear yesterday) they believe wealth redistribution is still the way forward. Desperate times make strange bedfellows of us all.

A few Conservative diehards even fear the UK will get bounced into the single currency, but they’re atypical. However, more feel that a UK so isolated from a centralised EU cannot possibly make sense: the logic (and it’s good logic) is “either get out or get stuck in”. The mess created by Cameron and Hague appeals to almost nobody. Quietly, the Chancellor is exploiting this massive flaw in policy….and beginning to take a lead on it.

The Chancellor’s instincts are much nearer to the Tory Right than those of Cameron. His relationship with its leaders is more relaxed than the PM’s: Malcolm Brady for instance, the 1922 Committee Chairman, resigned after David Cameron ditched the commitment to Grammar Schools in 2007. His own view – that the Tory leader isn’t really a Tory at all – is not unusual among 1992 members.

George Osborne is hugely ambitious and plays a long game. He has been very successful in remaining relatively untainted by any of the Coalition’s cock-ups – despite the fact that he enthusiastically recommended Andy Coulson to Cameron, is closer to Newscorp than he cares to admit, and has been pretty ineffectual in dealing with EU pressure to increase British conformity.

During last year’s General Election, he was privately angry that Cameron and his adviser Steve Hilton played softly-softly on the big issues, and on one occasion chose to air his views on the Andrew Marr show – without discussing it beforehand with Cameron. Relations were cool for a week or two, and indeed the Conservative leader did something of a disappearing act for a number of days that seriously worried senior players in the Party. In private, Osborne allies blame the failure to win outright on Cameron and Hilton.

Similarly, the Chancellor is frustrated by the amount of back-tracking on the cuts programme. Some of the simmering tensions at the top in the Government erupted last week when Michael Gove ripped into Harriet Harman on Newsnight for suggesting a relationship between rioting looters and Government closures. Friends of the Education Minister suggest that he knows how easily his vital reforms could be blown off course if the Coalition implodes; and Nick Clegg has already spoken out against removing benefits from looters as ‘knee-jerk’. (It is in fact stupid: they will simply switch from looting to something even worse).

The fundamental problem with the Prime Minister is twofold. First, he makes some mind-bogglingly bad calls – as I’ve posted before, often through talking to the wrong people. But more importantly, he is not built for the era that is approaching. Ultimately, he is not so much a pragmatist as a tactician without a strategy. His latest soundbite – that Britain needs to “put on a fresh face” in the time remaining before the 2012 Olympics – sounds risibly empty given a context of profound socio-economic problems.

The nearest thing he has come to in defining an objective – the Big Society – seems also at one and the same time so dense and vague that it simply doesn’t resonate with anyone. The truth is that the near future of Britain – global slump, EU implosion, police unrest, Union truculence and an Underclass convinced of its special entitlement – will be easier if we have a Winston Churchill at the helm rather than a Stanley Baldwin.

There isn’t anyone even approaching a Churchill waiting in the wings: Boris Johnson sees himself as this sort of leader, but the timing is very bad for him right now….and he has lost a lot of his shine following the London riots. If nothing else, George Osborne probably offers a far higher chance of uniting the Party behind a more focused strategy. Last week, an Ipsos Mori poll showed a massive popularity swing away from the Prime Minister; and I understand from industry sources that his standing has plummeted following the perceived mishandling of the riots and their aftermath.

In discreet private rooms, those at or near the top of the Conservative Party are taking all these factors into account. Sources suggested yesterday that senior Tories remain as ruthless as ever: they have already calculated that Cameron falling as the result of the riots would be infinitely preferable to his demise as a result of yet murkier involvement in the Hackgate scandal.

The next two weeks at most will be telling for David Cameron. If there isn’t an improvement by then, something will happen to force his departure. Nobody is clear about exactly what that might be; but today, the Toff is closer to being ditched than he has ever been.

Related: Cameron ignores good advice

The Big Society is a non-starter


  1. Whiskey and revolver? I suppose they would have to ask a ‘yardie’ for the latter, as all legal ones have been removed from circulation.


  2. Better to have a directionless puppet twitching in every breeze or a clear thinking strategist taking me in a direction I’ll hate?


  3. We know Churchill was a great leader because he told us all about in six volumes.

    We know Cameron is a poor leader because he lost an election that was all but unloseable and has never recovered.


  4. If there’s one reason why I believe Cameron is hopelessly out of touch, its his recent remarks regarding police ‘zero tolerance’. On the face of it, like most sound-bites it seems a good idea for about 30 seconds until you start to examine the realities involved.

    The term itself relieves officers of discretion & common sense which is never is going to be good thing. The practicalities of such a policy aren’t going to work with present numbers and funding.

    Within the first hour of parading for a shift, the few cells that each station has would be filled with minor public order violators, litter droppers & pot smokers, this is without time consuming traffic processing for non-seatbelt wearers and 33mph drivers. For the rest of the shift, the local blackberry owning, baggy-jeans-halfway-down-the-arse gangs will be happily filling this void kicking in the local Argos. Great idea robo Cameron!

    Is Cameron going to listen to the Dennis Hopper look-a-like from LA because if he does, he ought to consider a huge budget increase for the police or overhaul the entire criminal justice system. How likely are these in the current economic climate?

    Cameron is either very poorly advised, naïve or just plain stupid, or as I prefer answer ‘D’ all of the above.


  5. What amazes me is that the Tories didn’t see Cameron for what he is, an empty PR suit, when he was missing all those labour own goals before the last election. Britain is in an awful and unsustainable mess. Nothing he has done yet has made a jot of difference and despite his PR background he blunders from public error to public error. Why castigate the police in public? We know they Met is hopeless but the unelected idiots from APCO shot back with considerable effect, and they didn’t even mention the money! Doesn’t Dave have any experience of public debate?

    And why be the most generous donor of funds to corrupt third world leaders and their cronies when an average size of gift would be perfectly OK for a country that is in sharp decline?

    The sooner the Tories throw out this poser, the better. If they can’t find anyone better, then we are doomed.


  6. If some of your other recent posts are as spot on about Cameron as this one, then a well-timed weekend visit to Chipping Norton could get Plod and the Nation out of this particular difficulty quite quickly!


  7. As a point of interest, ACPO are a private company and thus aren’t subject to the FOIA, even though they are publicly funded! Not a lot of people know that!


  8. You are correct John, there is no one in the wings worthy of doing a job which needs to be done. Our politicians just do not want to offend anyone, but at the same time end up offending the majority. I think Libya was a bad idea but it was his answer to Phony Tony’s Iraq. Wars make you popular: look at Maggie and the Faulklands..oh dear me! Syria anyone? I like to sit back and let my mind fester on the mindless non sense eminating from this Government.
    Drastic cuts to be endured by the long suffering public
    = add on another war
    = try and keep up appearances by supporting other wars
    = EU AID Increasing
    = International aid increasing ( Mugabe and terrorists loves us)
    = give bankers billions to divvy out between themselves (a worthy cause)
    = parents who left a child unattended who went missing millions to review a case? and we dont get to hear the outcome.
    = olympic games ( who wanted them apart from those interested in sport) performed by druggies who cheat.

    THANK God ( or otherwise known as world cup scammers) we lost the world cup. I vote we should also increase the license fee by 300% to keep up with the rising ‘talent’ and keep in line with fuel rises. My Thinking behind this is : if i have no money left they can’t take anymore…. damn I was so wrong!! THEY take it before I open my wage slip … silly me.


  9. Could you furbish me with more info on this please. I had a serious debate regarding public funds being used to prop up private companies, this was denied and was denounced as unethical.(?) This would be most helpful. Thank you.


  10. Brilliant analysis, however, personally I take umbrage at your smirking remarks about Thatcher and the Falklands war. She went in because it was necessary to protect the Falkland islanders from the marauding Argentinians; it was done swiftly and efficiently. Unlike all the other wars we’ve been involved in (nearly 10 years in Afghanistan with no end in sight) the Falklands ended in a resounding victory and the whole country was supportive; Maggie didn’t do it for the same egotistical and narcissistic reasons Blair did, she felt it was necessary to protect a British territory and did just that.


  11. The whole lot are on a knife edge as far as I can see. We don’t need people who talk a good fight we need people who can fight a good fight, in others words some backbone somewhere.

    Cameron will take to the smelling salts soon enough but if the Tories put their faith into Georgie Boy God help them, talk about limp the guy looks positively out of touch not playing some Machiavellian game plan. As for Gove ripping into Harriet, what was Skinners timeless remark, ‘like getting savaged by a sheep’; I think that’s doing a disservice to sheep in this context. Haig should spar with Red (thought he had his nosed fixed?) Ed in a private room somewhere as both are as nasally challenged as each other.

    No wonder the county is disintegrating, there’s no one with any bollocks at the helm!


  12. This is what comes from political parties picking a leader because he looks good on TV, rather than having any real experience. As a result they have to learn on the job. Most people have an image of Tony Blair as being a smooth operator. But does anyone think he would be doing any better then Cameron now? He got out while the going was good. Cameron doesnt have the luxury of flaunting government largesse, with mana from heaven public spending projects. He’s just been left with the bills.


  13. I can’t imagine how they can possibly believe Gideon would be able to cut it as PM. Unless they are considering some kind of balkanization policy with Osborne becoming the new leader of the Principality of Buckinghamshire.

    George Osborne is unlelectable as PM of the United Kingdom. Any sort of grubby palace coup at this time will sink the conservatives


  14. Yes there is, Chris Bryant for National Government PM, that guy has reall bollocks, with The Slog at his right elbow as Chief Advisor.
    Hear Hear tom donald!


  15. Yes, they are a private company wholly financed by grants and subs from the police forces, that is, the taxpayer’s money by one route or another. A kind of quango trade union for top cops, owner of the DNA database among other things. They are in some trouble with the FOIA and are wriggling around trying to avoid having it imposed on them, private companies being exempt.

    If they are publicly funded, they should not be in politics. We elect politicians for that. If they are a private, self-financed entity with no public funds, then fine, they can spout all they want.


  16. As an indication of Cameron’s poor judgement it would be interesting to compare how much the English police budget is on an annual basis and the cost of the climate change act alongside his wishes for further reductions in carbon dioxide output. I suspect the gulf between the two is massive and any savings from the proposed cut in the police budget amounts to a tiny percentage of the cost of destroying what industry we have left in the UK.
    Figures anyone?


  17. interesting. i can’t see osborne being able to replace cameron any time soon, he’s not ready for it.

    but cameron is just all over the place, one minute he’s being all liberal and the next all right wing tory. but he doesn’t take the best part of both ends of the spectrum, he seem to adopt the worst. anyone can see that removing the benefits of people involved in the riots, is going to encourage them in committing crimes, not stop it. he just manage to get everything wrong!


  18. Indeed, as soon as this sanctimonious, duplicitous charlatan shows his dimpled baby-face on TV, I find myself reaching for he remote.


  19. I don’t see it. All the possible replacements are hopeless, except perhaps Derek Davies, and I’m sure he is not acceptable to the grandees although he might make it with the troops. It goes to the familar problem of the political class, they are bland nobodies no longer having any connection with real life. The depression of the next decade will undoubtedly have severe economic and social consequences and will result in real changes in the political class. But that is not tomorrow.


  20. I think you mean David Davis-and yes he is popular with the troops.
    He’ll probably be popular with the grandees if they believe that he can save them-a forlorn hope.
    The Tories quite simply cannot win another election.


  21. You are confusing ‘talk’ with ‘walk’. Don’t pay any attention to what he says, just concentrate on what he does.


  22. Chris Bryant, let’s not even go there Liz! Suffice it to say that would be the same as JW emphatically endorsing the Gordon Brown school of economic management allied with the Cameroooon style of government!
    Plus I don’t want to be accused of anything ending in ‘ic’.


  23. The errors, PR mistakes and own goals scored by this Coalition pale into insignifiance when compared to the Tory’s complete failure to nail the blame for the appalling state of this country’s economy/public finances and our broken society where it rightfully belongs: on the last 13yrs of socialist Labour Govt, and on Tony Blair & Gordon Brown in particular.

    It is precisely that failure that allows the likes of Hattie Hatemen, Red Ed Milipede and Marxist Balls to tour the TV studios to continue their lectures and pontifications about how to govern this country. That is what will cost the Tory’s the next election.


  24. hear hear! If they had done that in opposition they would have won with a major landslide. I could weep when I think of the next election… who is there to vote for? will we have another minority- majority? will greenpeace and BNP get a landslide COALITION? God help us we are domed , DOOMED I say. And although I hate to admit it (really,really hate it) the newold Labour are better in opposition because people have forgotten already what they did ie ALMOST LEFT US BANKRUPT. Great PR, did I mention we are Doomed?

    Does anyone have a Plan B?

    PS Thank you Carys for that information. I will pester… errm lobby my MP about it.


  25. No, not David Davies. He could send Gordon Brown’s glass eye to sleep.
    Daniel Hannan, if he could find a safe seat?


  26. Quite so Miss B Having. The last time Labour wrecked the economy was under Healey and that kept them out of office for 18yrs. Blair’s & Brown’s destruction was far far worse but nobody has nailed them for it.
    It beggars belief they’ve been allowed to get away with it by a Tory Party scared of its own shadow and living in fear of being called ‘nasty’.


  27. David Davis has principles; is not scared of unpopular policies which will ultimately bear fruit; rose through the ranks on his talent, hard work and not his connections; doesn’t aspire to be Tony Blair.


  28. Totally agree. I seem to remember that during a party political broadcast just before the council elections Mr Balls gave a half hearted `sorry` about how they controlled the economy during their period in power. I thought he was about to burst into a schoolboy chuckle half way through the sorry bit. Dread the thought of him as chancellor. He should have been nailed by the Conservatives for the broadcast but I did not pick up on any criticism. Likewise they are never pushed far enough on what cuts they would have made had they been in power. Always brushed off and accepted.


  29. Monte Carlo or bust.An early general election would put the problem where it should be,do you want A.Ed M as PM B. More Coalition government,compromise over tough choices or C.A majority government.


  30. So is the Bank of England, The Courts the various police forces and pretty much every institution you can think of ! They are all listed at Company House.


  31. Hey , Dat Cameron, he like a two headed snake- he look dis way, then he look dat way. Ahh, George , he come along in wagon, and he shout loook out-
    Dat Cameron , he no decide which way to go, he now gone for busho, yeah, hello Little George money man, yeah , what yah want , hey?

    Keep on truckin’!


  32. From the Daily Star 3rd of Auguest 2011

    THE mum of jailed student fees rioter Charlie Gilmour has moaned about her lad’s treatment in prison.

    She complained the son of Pink Floyd star David Gilmour was locked up for 23 hours a day at Wandsworth Jail.

    And Polly Samson, 49, also Tweeted that her boy had been offered pick-pocketing lessons from a fellow lag.
    Astonishingly, Polly urged other yobs to don masks in future protests to avoid being identified.

    She wrote: “I would advise anyone who’s thinking of protesting to wear a balaclava. Is so unfair that only one side gets to wear armour.”


  33. The NPIA have got the DNA database (I was part of the project that moved it). That’s not to excuse them, they are just as bad with incompetence being the cultural norm, no business sense and senior police officers using it to top up their pensions


  34. Pingback: HACKGATE DAY 217: Newscorp back on front pages as James Murdoch & Andy Coulson shown to have lied. | The Slog

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