Friday, 16 April 2010

The Hollow Man

On last night's first TV debate, David Cameron was empty of anything to suggest he should be a Conservative Prime Minister. The fact he chose to accept the script of his US advisers, rather than talk straight Conservative policy to the British electors, is poor decision making itself. But I'm now left with the suspicion that without his script he would have had nothing to say at all.

In my last blog, I observed how the style stasi at CCO were now directing Cameron in the same disastrous way they had ruined the aspirations of the last two Tory leaders. After watching Cameron's peformance last night – Hollywood-style to a T – I put the blame not just on the advisers but on the man himself.

It is Cameron who has chosen to make this election a presidential race rather than a policy one. He has long sought to present the Conservative party as almost a one man band. But US Presidential races are about style not substance. In contrast, the problems in Britain are simply too great to believe they are for one person to solve. We have always had a cabinet government system, albeit the power of the primus has waxed and waned among the pares. But a cabinet of various talents offers observable strength as well as the confirmation of a team of like-minded conviction.

Cameron has sought to offload his one man responsibility for fixing the country by inviting us all to become members of the government. This ties in well with Conservative philosophy of personal independence and smaller government, but the public still need leadership, direction—and policies.

Last night, Cameron failed to elucidate Conservative policy on any question. Although the party has just issued a thick manifesto (which voters will never read), at this great public opportunity Cameron failed to illustrate it at all. Which suggests he is still too scared to reveal Conservative policy to the voters (i.e. his lack of conviction) or he really is just a hollow man and doesn't have Conservative philosophy in his bones.

The rise of Nick Clegg in the TV debate, illustrates another flaw for Cameron in adopting the US Presidential style. US elections are bi-partisan, enabling two contestants to fight each other and be compared directly. The three-way format negates the opportunity for Cameron simply to be compared with Brown on style. Put Mohammed Ali, Frasier and Foreman in the ring together and style would not be the winner. The revealing factor from Clegg was that he showed himself as a conviction politician. Even Brown, is his boring way, seemed to believe in much of what he said. Only Cameron remained aloof, refusing to really engage with the solutions he was offering, and restricting his answers to single well-rehearsed examples of the points he wanted to make. It must be the way they do it in the United States!

There are more debates to come and more pitfalls to fall into for each contestant. I hope Cameron learns that he needs to engage with the public as a potential Prime Minister rather than as a distant President. Sacking his American presentational advisors might be a good first step on this path.

Left as it is, Cameron's leadership of the Conservative party appears ever more like an exercise in management rather than of political conviction. I hope I'm yet to be proved wrong on this. If Cameron goes on to win his election, and becomes a good party leader and prime minister, I'll support him all the way. But at the moment, my doubts are rising.

P.S. Naturally, I will still be out on the doorsteps supporting my local candidates—parliament and government is a collective exercise.

1 comment:

Paddy Briggs said...

Excellent summary...