Sunday, October 21, 2012
Gategate Exposes Deeper Problems for Cameron
To cap it all a silly story, which continued the 'out of touch' narrative, suddenly arrived- the wonderfully tabloid entitled 'Great Train Snobbery' where George Osborne seemingly tried to travel first class on a standard class ticket on the train to London. The broadside in The Daily Telegraph by the Thatcherite former Cabinet minister minces no words. Forget about the 'toff' thing, he insists, its about competence
"This dog of a coalition government has let itself be given a bad name and now anybody can beat it. It has let itself be called a government of unfeeling toffs. Past governments have had far more real Tory toffs: prime ministers Alec Douglas-Home and Harold Macmillan, or even in Thatcher's day, Whitelaw, Soames, Hailsham, Carrington, Gowrie, Joseph, Avon, Trenchard and plenty more, without incurring similar abuse."
It came down essentially to whether you believed Andrew Mitchell, the high and mighty Chief Whip or the humble No 10 bobby. Seems nobody believed his protestations of innocence, despite the oddness of the word 'pleb'; I wouldn't have expected someone like Mitchell to have used the word. Add to that the Police Federation's determination to wrong foot the government and you have a possible exaggeration of what actually happened.
But swearing obscenely at policemen- though he had both admitted and denied that charge- is sufficient reason for him to stand down in my view. It also seems the man was so disliked by his fellow MPs that he was an unsuitable appointment in the first place. Dave must have thought a tough disciplinarian was the best way to bring unruly MPs back into line. Oh boy, did he make a big mistake.
Once his spat was publicised there was no way he could realistically rein in recalcitrant MPs. That Cameron failed to realise this when everyone else had, is evidence that he has almost totally lost his grip on this faltering government.
But Tebbitt's main thrust inn his piece today in The Observer, is the lack of competence of this government. The astonishing initiative tken by Cameron over energy costs when he announced all energy companies will have to charge consumers the lowest rate, flummoxed energy ministers who had nothing about it. Former Tory MP Michael Brown must have spoken for a big raft of his former colleagues when he wrote:
."It is utterly hopeless," he said. "The prime minister goes to the dispatch box on Wednesday and says we are all going to get the cheapest tariff for gas and electricity. So, great. But the next day the energy minister appears and he doesn't know anything about the announcement because he is only the energy minister. It is make it up as you go along time."
1. It is sometimes good to back your ministers. But sometimes it is neither good nor smart. As soon as Mitchell disputed the police version, he became an easy target. The fact that most Tory MPs and The Telegraph ("very sound" to quote Sir Humphrey) believed the policeman speaks volumes for Mitchell's standing in the party. The failure to throw him overboard also speaks volumes about Dave's lack of judgement.
2. Presentation counts, and this government is not presenting itself very well. After Nu Labor's obsession and Andy Coulson's still pending legal issues, Spin has a bad name. But this Government lacks any effective kind of news and crisis management. I don't think Osbourne has really done anything wrong, but someone on the scene could have advised him quicker to have avoided this even making the news. It seems that even local journalists chancing on members of the Government are able to have a pop via Twitter or whatever else. Second-rate journalists are kicking the shit out of this government with seeming impunity.
3. Tory MPs are not as pro-government as they should be. Two ways of looking at this. Some would say "they should be". But a lot of Tory MPs don't see this government taking its opportunities. Clearly there is a need to confront Europe, and capitalise on its weakness to regain our sovreignty that was so cheaply given away. Tax and spending cuts have been too slow. Union power is now a serious issue. Some Tory MPs believe that the coalition arrangement is being used as a cover for inaction.
Most informed observers, and even the general public to an extent (plebs if you will), can see that Labour were to blame for the economic troubles we have, and that the current government is doing the best thing regarding the deficit. It seems strange that the government is becoming increasing unpopular in the midst of a recession for things not to do with economics. Dave might be a Patrician, but is not and will not be a strong Prime Minister.
Thank you for your comment. I agree Dave's presentation is not as disciplined as it should be. A piece in the Mail, recently (yes, I do read it at times) accused Ed Llewellyn of being virtually useless at delivering the goods. It seemed well informed and chimes in with other similar things said by columnists and commentators. But the point about the journalist on the train is not valid in my view. A good politician should surely behave as if a tabloid hack is potentially listening in any time of the day or night. Osborne was just arrogantly oblivious to the possibility and paid the price.
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