Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Young David takes on Goliath Blair

Well, didn't he do well! Cameron was quoted this morning by the Guardian- for whose online version dashing Dave used to write- explaining how nervous he was when asking his first PMQ and how glad he was when the ordeal was over. Today was a much sterner test: facing the dominant politician of the day directly after being elected as the new Leader of the Opposition. He must have felt the weight of the benches behind him as literally that. I wouldn't like to have been his throat at three minutes to twelve. But he displayed hardly a hint of nerves- and almost everyone has them; it's how you handle them that counts- and evinced a nice line in teasing interrogation, quoting back at Blair his conference line about needing to be bold as 'you are best when you are bold'.

Cameron was able to express support for Blair's education plans and promised to help him vote them through- this aimed, and no doubt succeeded, at enraging Blair opponents on the left. Blair replied that differences still remained: he did not favour changes in the selection regime and he doubted if the Tories would agree to fund the service at the same rate as Labour: cue Labour jeers. This exchange was interesting as it preseages the line probably to be followed in the spring by both sides when this topic is being legislated. Cameron will try to separate Blair from his party while Blair tries to impale him on a promise to give support which he might find conflicts with party spending guidelines. Alex Salmond probably spoke for many Labour critics when he asked with devastating sarcasm whether there were any remaining differences of principle between Mr Blair and the Conservative Party.

All in all though a very promising start for the young old Etonian: bags of confidence and a subtle line in wit. I suspect though that Blair- who was less than fulsome actually in his welcome to the new leader- was merely biding his time. Cameron has so far dealt in generalities- almost as vacuous as Blair was himself when in opposition- he will find life harder once he has to focus and descend into detailed policy-making. And Blair has crushed Cameron's three predecessors over the last eight years with his relentless marshalling of the facts assisted by his scathing, dismissive wit. The shining faced wunderkind will find he's done the easy bit- the real job begins here.

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