Thursday, August 02, 2007


Cameron's Critics Should Read Peter Riddell Today

Readers of this blog will know it is not wholly objective- I've never thought that academic impartiality is either honest or especially effective as a teaching mode- but I have to say that my truly unbiased view is that the Conservative party has been just a little beastly to its leader. I advise its members-especially those head-banging Tebbitt types- to read Peter Riddell in today's Times.

Riddell is possibly not Fleet Street's most eloquent scribe, but in my view, he is by some distance its most shrewd and wise. He points out that Cameron suffered from being over-hyped when he arrived, just as he is being over dumped-on now that the gloss has worn off. All leaders of Opposition have down periods when events, luck and the polls do them damage:

Mr Cameron has the correct basic strategy but winning power was always going to be a long job, just as it was for Labour in the 1980s and 1990s. It depends both on the governing party coming apart, and yourself becoming appealing.

Cameron's recent travails have been the result of Brown's surprising debut:

Whatever doubts exist about his blizzard of initiatives, Mr Brown looks and behaves like a prime minister... The underestimation of Mr Brown, and his capacity to change, has been the Tories’ single most serious failure.

Riddell is clearly correct here: the Tories set up a straw man pre Brown accession- a dour, unsociable, unimaginative, lumbering Old Labour dinosaur- and couldn't wait to dismantle him once he came to power, when they found someone else occupying Gordon's body. I can't really blame them as, to a degree, I shared some aspects of these expectations on the basis of what we then knew. But now Cameron has to regroup and rethink. Riddell advises that:

'the only thing that matters for Mr Cameron is to define himself and his party... Unless, and until, the Tories say how they would alter the size and role of the State, talk of cutting the tax burden (as opposed to cuts in individual taxes) rings hollow.

So the Tories should indeed keep their nerve, lay off their leader, and accept that the natural ebb and flow of politics puts you behind for a while, as well as in front. They need to keep their heads down and work at becoming electable as Labour did for so many years. I don't want to see Cameron as PM- heaven forbid- but I'd settle for him sooner than some crazed idiot who thinks the spirit of the sainted Margaret can be exhumed, preserved, and somehow breathed back into the body of the Conservative Party.

Well said Skipper.

I might be slightly more amenable to Cameron as PM than you but share your revulsion at the extremes in either political tradition. I suspect there are many on the centre-right like me who would sooner tolerate Brown as PM than the sort of loony right-wing character Camerons critics are urging him to become.
How nice to hear from you again! Yes, the eighties were when my antipathy to blindly dogmatic right-wingers was born and my nightmare is that those days might return.
I’m flabbergasted a how the Tories have behaved. But it is up to Cameron to lead.
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