Sunday, June 03, 2007

 

No End of a Lesson For the Tyro Tory Leader

That wise old media manipulator, Sir Bernard Ingham, once said that if a no new developments had occurred in a negative story after nine days, you could consider it over. By this yardstick I fear Cameron's handling of the 'Grammars'item-see my post on Monday 28th May- must go down as a pretty hopeless defeat. It's true that he did not choose the issue and that he and Willetts said no more than than had been said before by the party, but suddenly there the problem was, with three front bench spokesman joining the revolt. He screwed up by fudging, insulting his party critics and then appearing to retreat.

As Andrew Rawnsley says in The Observer today:

there are three useful rules for a leader who wants to take on his party. Commandment number one: do not start a fight unless you know where it is going to lead. Commandment number two: do not start a fight that will turn off the voters. And the most crucial of all, commandment number three: do not start a fight unless you are absolutely confident that you are going to win it. I think it is fair to say that none of these very basic rules of political engagement has been followed by David Cameron in the great Tory quarrel over grammar schools.

It's fairly clear that the muddle and uproar caused by this ancient issue has been badly mishandled. Alone it might have been nodded through, but on top of everything else the party feels it has had to swallow from eschewing tax cuts to hugging hoodies and marrying gays it caused the bubble of Tory intolerance and indignation to explode: on this theme see also Riddell's simply brilliant cartoon opposite the above article. Derek Conway, the former Conservative whip commented that while the party had given Cameron 'huge leeway for what he is doing to modernize the party ... they feel the price does not have be selling their souls.'

I'm fairly sure that some of the fallout from this political ineptitude is reflected in the ICM poll published in The Sunday Telegraph today. This shows that Brown has a 25 point lead over Cameron on 'competence' and he also trails on key issues like the economy, tax and combating terrorism. Cameron could yet take them all on and emerge, bloody, smiling and victorious- you might have bet that Blair would have in similar circumstances- but with MPs furious, constituencies buzzing with anger over being called 'delusional' and newly installed council leaders howling their dissent, you would not risk a punt on Dave pulling off such a stunt right now.

Comments:
"...on top of everything else the party feels it has had to swallow from eschewing tax cuts to hugging hoodies and marrying gays it caused the bubble of Tory intolerance and indignation to explode."

- Almost word for word what some of the comments on Conservative Home have been saying!! Are you sure you're not a closet Tory, skip? But I think I agree that this current row does not offer optimism about Cameron's leadership, which should certainly worry Tories!
 
GM
No, not a Tory, closet or otherwise and never likely so to be. But I think there are tipping points in politics and this was one for Conservatives. Another was when Blair supported US policy re allowing Hizbollah to be destroyed by the Israeli army last August. That was the blue touch paper to the attempted 'coup' against him. So Dave, you had better watch your back!
 
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