09 February 2010

When will Cameron start to become the Prime Minister-in-waiting

David Cameron is more comfortably ahead in the polls than the headlines suggest, and yet he is still making mistakes.  Take his speech yesterday on reforming parliament.  It was full of holes and ill-thought out proposals.  Three examples.

First, we had his plans for petitions that was rightly demolished by Paul Waugh.  Second, Cameron urged the media to give MPs fairer coverage.  Iain Martin and even Tim Montgomerie were cynical about that happening.  Third, his proposals on lobbying, which Guido Fawkes is dismissive of.

On the other hand, Ben Brogan believes Cameron can do no wrong.  Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?

These may only be small matters that will quickly get forgotten, but the personal attacks on Gordon Brown, although toned down in Cameron’s speech, will be remembered and repeated many times by the Tories during the election campaign.

This was all too much for Hopi Sen, who made these points on his blog:

First, It undermines David Cameron’s carefully constructed “nice” image. Cameron sometimes does this at PMQs and it makes him look sneering -and sometimes even braying. That’s OK in PMQs, but doesn’t work on its own. Cameron is supposed to be about a new politics. This feels like the same old mud wrestling.

Second, It comes after a relatively bad couple of weeks for the Tories, so this looks more like lashing out than considered assault. A personal attack also allows Labour to respond with high-minded disgust, and given that no party emerges well from expenses, it’s dodgy ground to fight on.

Finally, the general rule is for the leader to set out the positive vision, and for someone else to do the man marking. It’s like the difference between a centre forward and a centre back*. Why not let Grieve, or Osborne, or Grayling do the crunching tackle, then let Cameron run up the field with the ball? Doesn’t he trust them to get the job done?

  This lead to the following exchange:


Agreed, but the point is why is Cameron making so many mistakes. I have argued on my blog that it’s because he doesn’t have a strategy, but I am beginning to think it maybe something else. Any ideas?

Hopi Sen:

I think it’s because the Tory top team are very tactically flexible, but have no core message on big issues. So they need to keep attention on issues like Chilcot, Expenses and so on, because they’re worried about what happens when they move off.

Combine this with the argument that people are outraged about expenses (which they surely are) and the view the PM is personally unpopular, and you have a good justification for a personal attack.

I think it’s the wrong ground, the wrong style and the wrong person.

Now lets move to what Coffee House reported last night:

‘We just need to ram Gordon Brown down the electorate’s throat’ one Tory staffer said to me today when talking about how the party could get back on the front foot. The unspoken thought was that the prospect of five more years of Gordon Brown would be enough to send voters into the welcoming arms of David Cameron.

As has been discussed, almost on a daily basis, Brown is the wrong person to lead the Labour party at the election.  The Tories are right to exploit Labour’s weakest link, but Hopi is correct; he should be leaving it to others.

Cameron will loose credibility and respect with the electorate if he continues with these personal attacks, even if the country doesn't want “five more years of Gordon Brown”.

Cameron has got to prove to the voters that he is the Prime Minister-in-waiting.  To date, as his speech demonstrated yesterday, he has failed to do this.

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